Episode nine of this season gives we viewers and fans another backstory. This time Hen is up to bat and her origin story and evolution into one of LAFD’s finest is truly something to behold.
Flashing back to her early career, Henrietta Wilson is a pharmaceutical sales rep, schmoozing it up with doctors to push her company’s latest drug. After dealing with the smarmy doctors and the hypocrisy of the entire big pharma industry, Hen quits. Right then and right there. It was a lightning bolt to her psyche and when she saves her life coach from a serious heart attack, Hen’s mind is made up. She decides to become a paramedic.
Her initial decision is met with slight criticism from then-girlfriend Eva. After hearing her reasoning though, Eva (a clean and sober Eva!) is on board. Hen proceeds to go through the rigorous and mentally intense firefighter training and makes it through with flying colors (and one lost wig). Her first day at the 118 is…inauspicious. The captain is dismissive, the crew leering. The only one who is remotely friendly is Howie (aka Chimney). But when Howie tries to explain away the then-captain of the 118’s misogynoir as being “old school,” Hen bristles at the notion. The captain is a racist. The captain is a pig. The captain has no business running anything, let alone a firehouse. Her paramedic/firefighting career was off to a rough start.
Her first call is extreme: a mudslide pins a woman under a log inside her home. After Hen has the brilliant idea to create a flow of water to loosen the mud and get her out. When it works, racist captain decides to stick the knife in a wound and tells Hen all she did was allow the woman’s daughter to see her die in real time. He is a giant…lower appendage. Bonus: Hen and Athena meet for the first time and form a friendship that honestly only Black women in a white, male dominated space will understand.
One thing I appreciated: when Howie tries to compare his standing within the company to Hen’s, she put him in his place really quickly. His presence as an Asian male gets him ignored; her presence as a Black woman threatens the white male patriarchy’s very existence. It’s an important distinction.
Hen finds her people with Athena and her friends. Beth the cop and Casey the gay firefighter and also Athena have horror stories about the start and continuance of their careers. It’s the validation and assurance Hen needs to gird her strength and keep on keeping on. When she calls out every, single one of the jerks in her firehouse, she tells them “see me as I see you…a proud member of this department.”
Her second call is just as harrowing as the first: an overturned limo on a twisting road. As Hen tends to the occupants, she notices yellow paint on the limo’s bumper. Her concerns about a second car careening down the side of the hill are ignored by racist/misogynistic captain. Going against protocol, Hen and Howie slide down the hill and find a car submerged in a pond. As they pull a little kid out, the race to save him is critical. After multiple compressions, they finally get a pulse and a conscious kid. And Hen gets a win.
As she’s called into the captain’s office-thinking she’s about to be terminated-imagine her surprise when she’s told racist/misogynistic Captain Gerrard was given the boot. And her eyebrows almost flew off of her face when interim Captain Cooks and Commander Russo told her the other members of the 118 had her back.
She found her purpose and her team in the end after all.
You can catch 9-1-1 on Fox, streaming on Hulu or on demand.