When 9-1-1 returns from its winter hiatus this Monday, the 118 will look a little different. After Chimney (Kenneth Choi) left Los Angeles indefinitely to search for his girlfriend Maddie (Jennifer Love Hewitt), who has been struggling with postpartum depression, Eddie (Ryan Guzman) revealed in the final moments of the winter finale that he was leaving the station—in large part due to his son Christopher's (Gavin McHugh) qualms about the dangers of his job.
"Eddie's story is kind of a fractal of what Eddie's story always is, which is he wants to do the right thing," co-showrunner Tim Minear told TV Guide. "He's got this kid and he wants to live responsibly for his kid, but sometimes, he kind of overcompensates and he's putting a lot of his focus on Christopher when, really, what he needs to look at is what's going on with him."
Monday's spring premiere, aptly titled "Outside Looking In," finds Eddie in a bind: Instead of leaving the profession altogether, the Army-medic-turned-firefighter has begun to work as a public service officer for the fire department, but he struggles with the monotony of a 9-to-5 job, which forces him to ponder questions of identity.
Eddie "has always been a person who is more comfortable acting than talking," said co-showrunner Kristen Reidel. "He likes to just get in there and do things, and that's great when you're a firefighter and you're on a scene. It's a little harder when you're at a desk."
In the second half of the fifth season, Eddie—who has remained stoic despite losing his ex-wife Shannon (Devin Kelley) and finding himself in several life-threatening situations, including being shot and held at gunpoint on two separate occasions in the last year—will be forced to confront years of unresolved trauma. "Eddie is a small storage unit of past trauma. He's got a lot of trauma there, and it just doesn't go away that easily," Minear said.
And while Eddie will be forced to focus on his mental health before possibly returning to the field one day, the members of his (former) chosen family "are involved in his path forward," Reidel previewed. "Eddie finally reaches the point where he has to not only admit he needs help, but he has to be willing to accept it and to embrace it."
For the better part of the last four seasons, Eddie's close relationship with Buck (Oliver Stark) has become a cornerstone of the entire 9-1-1 franchise. And while Buck was initially wary of Eddie, considering him a threat to his own job, the two men have moved past their differences and grown closer personally and professionally by virtue of undergoing more than enough trauma to last a lifetime. In some ways, fans might argue, Buck has become inextricably linked with Eddie and Christopher.
Minear said in an interview last May that Buck and Eddie's relationship has "come up specifically and continuously" in the writers' room. Reidel said that, while the writers' "original intention is never to string anybody along," she doesn't know if there has been a goal about defining their dynamic, even if she realizes the actors who play them "have terrific chemistry." As a woman who has many "amazing, deep relationships with other women in my life that are platonic," Reidel said, "I personally have always seen [Buck and Eddie] as a great friendship."
"But I think the struggle with the Buck and Eddie relationship is, we write a thing and we have an idea in our head of what the scene means and what those lines mean and an intention behind it, and then it goes out into the world," Reidel added. "People may receive it in a way that we had not expected or that we had not planned on, and I'm not gonna tell people that they're watching the show wrong because people see what they see. But I think that they're very good friends, and in a lot of ways, they are family, and I think that's where they are right now."
Over the years, there have been numerous nods to their dynamic—an elf mistaking Buck as one of Christopher's fathers, Maddie teasing Buck about having a "boy crush on Eddie," some social media users saying they think Buck and Eddie would make a great couple, Eddie telling Buck "there's nobody in this world I trust with my son more than you." But in the Season 4 finale, Eddie revealed that, if he were to die, Buck would become Christopher's legal guardian, marking another step in the evolution of their relationship.
Reidel, who wrote that fateful finale, said the episode was based on her own experiences of being raised by a single mother. Her mother's will "named her best friend as my guardian, because she felt that if something happened to her, the best thing for me would not be to be raised by my grandparents—it would be to be raised by her best friend," she explained.
In her mind, Reidel said Christopher already knows about the will, and "he agreed to it when Eddie said, 'This is the thing I want to do.'" But unless there is a major change in either Eddie or Buck's life, she doesn't know if there are any plans to revisit that conversation—but nothing is ever off the table. "You can never say never because sometimes the story just takes on a different direction that you didn't plan on," she said.
"To me, that's kind of an example of, I intend one thing and people see it a different way. And there really is no right or wrong—you see what you see," Reidel added. "So I completely get why people saw that as something deeper and more meaningful. They went from two guys who didn't really get along because Buck was super jealous of Eddie when he got there, and they have become family. And family doesn't always look the way you think it's going to."
And while fans will have to wait to see how that relationship will continue to evolve, the showrunners confirmed that in a teaser published Tuesday, Eddie can be seen holding a baseball bat and breaking down in front of Buck. "Eddie is very tightly wound and eventually he's gonna go off," Reidel previewed, "and that's the moment after Eddie goes off. That's what it looks like after Eddie finally cannot contain his pain and trauma any longer."
9-1-1 airs Mondays at 8/7c on FOX. Episodes are available to stream the next day on FOX Now or Hulu.