Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS ahead for the May 17 episode of 9-1-1: Lone Star on Fox, called "One Day."
9-1-1: Lone Star made a major change to the cast for the second season when Liv Tyler was replaced by Gina Torres as the paramedic captain due to Tyler's departure from the series over hiatus. Torres came into the show fairly fresh off the end of her run as Jessica Pearson over on USA, but she easily slid into playing new and very different character as Tommy Vega. Sadly, Tommy underwent a huge tragedy in "One Day" with the unexpected death of her husband, and the heartbreaking episode proved to me that Torres is the best part of the second season.
In the aftermath of the destruction of the firehouse in last week's episode, "One Day" was much lighter on disasters than most episodes of 9-1-1: Lone Star since the firefighters couldn't race into action. And the episode did manage to introduce an emergency by creating a hostage crisis in the hospital where Tommy and Owen both were, but the emotional weight of "One Day" fell on Gina Torres' shoulders, and she more than carried it in an episode that required a delicate balance.
Tommy spent most of the episode pushing down her feelings of grief and plowing ahead in getting answers, making breakfast for her daughters as usual and not breaking the news to anybody. She didn't even tell her doctor friend that her husband had died, and the doctor only found out when she opened the body bag and saw who she was tasked with performing an autopsy on.
Tommy didn't break down until the very end, but Gina Torres managed to show that Tommy wasn't being cold or unfeeling in her refusal to show emotion in the face of the tragedy. Torres made it clear that Tommy was only just holding on and needed to cut herself off from her loved ones in order to keep moving forward, and it was plain that it was only a matter of time before Tommy broke.
Lone Star focused almost entirely on Tommy in "One Day," and the episode wouldn't have worked at all if Gina Torres hadn't been able to pull off the layers of emotion that Tommy was feeling before finally breaking down. Torres opened up about how Tommy chose to handle her husband's death, telling TVLine:
I absolutely loved it, and I agreed with it. I have absolutely been guilty of doing the same. I’ve lost both of my parents. It’s something that you can’t vocalize, and you don’t want to. It takes so much more energy to share that and manage everyone else’s grief. That’s the position you’re in when that happens to you. You’re not just dealing with your own grief. Because she is a caregiver and a first responder, that’s what she’s wired to do. So you see that training kick in, which I thought was completely appropriate. And it gives the audience another take on how people deal with grief. We don’t all deal with it in the same way.
It became clear early in the episode that Tommy was going to have an unexpected reaction to Charles' death when she came to the conclusion that he had been down for too long to be resuscitated, and reacted by reciting the facts to the 9-1-1 dispatcher and then requesting that the responding paramedics not use the lights or the siren so that the girls wouldn't wake up. It was the beginning of her emotional journey of trying to put up and hold emotional walls, but there were cracks in those walls from the start, and Gina Torres portrayed them so well.
And yes, the hostage situation (such as it was) did deliver enough of a crisis that this was still an episode of 9-1-1: Lone Star, and the end of the episode revealed that the Season 2 finale is going to pit the Lone Star heroes up against the kind of dust storm that the heroes over on 9-1-1 never have to deal with in Los Angeles.
See how Lone Star wraps the second season with the finale on Monday, May 24 at 9 p.m. ET on Fox following the potentially deadly Season 4 finale of 9-1-1. Both shows have finally been renewed for the 2021-2022 TV season, so there's no need to worry that the season finales will double as series finales, which isn't the case for every Fox show.