911 Lone Star Needs To Be About More Than Owen Strand

Since the premiere of 9-1-1: Lone Star — a spin-off of Fox’s flagship 9-1-1 which premiered in 2018 — the majority of the spin-off has revolved around Rob Lowe and his character Owen Strand, the experienced Captain of the newly-minted 126 fire station in Austin, Texas. Along with his son TK (Ronen Rubenstein), Owen’s first task upon moving to Texas is putting together a new firehouse with new employees from various walks of life — Marjan (Natacha Karam), Paul (Brian Michael Smith), and Mateo (Julian Works), for instance. As someone who was on the frontlines when the towers fell on 9/11, Owen is respected and has quite a powerful voice, even though he has just moved from New York City to Austin and is, essentially, starting over. His concerns have almost always been quickly addressed, his instincts trusted, and everyone puts all of their faith in him.

Over the two seasons of Lone Star, practically every single episode has revolved around Owen. He has only not had the primary story in probably two episodes out of 24, which were the episodes entitled “One Day” where Tommy (Gina Torres) mourned the sudden death of her husband Charles (Derek Webster) and the flashback episode of how Grace and Judd met in “Saving Grace”. It’s inarguable that the show has been limited with its unending devotion to Owen, leaving the characters that round out the ensemble completely pushed aside, rarely given stories of their own. When they are given their own stories, the stories are actively diminished in the writing in comparison to whatever Owen is dealing with. Everything Owen is dealing with is given complexity and depth, and the effect it has on Owen is actively shown through his every action going forward.

In every way, Owen has been written as superior to everyone else on the show, which has become quite taxing to watch. Part of what has always made the original 9-1-1 so exciting and comforting is that those characters all feel like they are part of a family. Despite Bobby (Peter Krause) being their superior as Captain of the 118 Firehouse, he feels like just another firefighter. He’s not constantly being referred to as “Captain” (even off-duty), he’s not the only character the others are allowed to deeply interact with on a regular basis, and he isn’t written with an air of superiority around him.

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Bobby is just another flawed human being, trying his best to protect others alongside his team, and doesn’t have the overwhelming majority of time on-screen. The original 9-1-1, from the very start, learned how to balance an ensemble cast and develop their characters in such well-written, well-crafted ways. It felt like so much care was put into every character that made up the ensemble, and they all were given their time to shine. Some episodes focus more on one character, but it’s astounding how beautifully the characters are balanced. 9-1-1: Lone Star is the complete opposite.

Owen eats up most of every episode, leaving just scraps for whichever character the writers decide will get even a glimpse of a story. We’ve watched practically every step since he arrived in Austin, which has been exhausting. Meanwhile, characters like Mateo and Paul, two vital members of the 126, have hardly received any stories of their own. Grace (Sierra McClain), an emergency operator, hardly has any stories outside of those with her husband, Judd (Jim Parrack). Nancy (Brianna Baker), a paramedic who has been around since the very beginning and has been an important member of the crew under both Michelle Blake (Liv Tyler) and Tommy, was only recently promoted to series regular for Season 3.

Carlos (Rafael Silva) has hardly existed on the show outside of his relationship with TK, but even that is primarily developed off-screen. Carlos has hardly had the chance to show off what he’s capable of. Even when his parents were introduced in Season 2, that somehow worked out more in Owen’s favor than his own, as Owen worked with Carlos’ father, a Texas Ranger, to stop a serial arsonist.

The characters individually have suffered because of the writers’ obsession with making everything about Owen, but so have most of the relationships. As I already mentioned, TK and Carlos’ relationship is primarily happening off-screen, even their recent breakup happened off-screen between Season 2 and 3. Grace is barely given the time of day outside of her relationship with Judd, which is utterly baffling, as she’s such a compelling character and the scenes in the call center are often so powerful and lift up the show, as we’ve seen in instances like the call from space in the Lone Star Season 1 finale and with Maddie (Jennifer Love Hewitt) and now May (Corinne Massiah) on the flagship show.

While the 126 is supposed to be a family, we’ve hardly seen this. It feels like Owen Strand and his employees. Owen has the deeper connection with each of his employees, being the one to give them pep talks and help them work through complicated issues they’re facing. It’s not very often where they play a role in each other’s stories, at least not a major role. Owen is the common denominator in their lives, and he is painted as someone superior to everyone else in every way on every given occasion. It’s exhausting to watch the same things play out with Owen in each episode and nearly impossible to look past anymore.

At this point, we’ve likely missed all of the major milestones to help us connect to the characters and relationships. They’ve alluded to all of the important things with the other characters happening off-screen in between episodes or seasons, and now fans are just expected to believe what we’re seeing. No effort is being put in with anyone else, and it’s frankly shameful. Lone Star is incredibly diverse and has the opportunity to tell important, empowering, and proud stories, but the lack of effort has just brought things together to be the Owen Strand show.

If less attention was being devoted to Owen at all times, other characters would actually stand a chance at being developed and having important stories of their own. There would be more time to devote to other characters, like the original so often does. If every character felt like a main character, a true ensemble, the stories would flow better and the series would be more meaningful. And, fans wouldn’t have to hope for their beloved characters to receive a one-off every season. The reasons that people loved the original show have been abandoned, but there is so much potential in the wings with the characters that aren’t deemed as important as Owen.

Based on the Season 3 premiere, which saw Owen sidelined after his pride stopped him from rejoining the fire department, there’s a chance that things might improve after negative feedback from viewers since the series premiered. However, it’s more likely this is just another one-off. It’s a shame that Lone Star rarely lives up to the same potential of the original 9-1-1 show.

9-1-1: Lone Star airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on Fox. The first two seasons are streaming on Hulu.

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Jay Snow (48 Articles Published)

Jay Snow is a freelance entertainment journalist. He lives in the PNW, and enjoys anything to do with witches and superheroes. Follow him on Twitter (@snowyjay) for more on what he’s watching!

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