Picking up where “In A Flash” left off, “In Another Life” takes an interesting spin on a what-if scenario while also nodding to the 1946 classic It’s a Wonderful Life. In this episode, Oliver Stark’s character, Evan Buckley, is in a coma after a near brush with death.
This episode picks up at Maddie’s house, where Maddie and her mother, Margaret, sit talking and unaware of what has happened out in the storm. They even take the time to put emphasis on the fact that after everything Maddie has been through, she’s finally happy. However, it doesn’t last long though before there’s a knock at the door, and they receive the news that Buck is in critical condition at the hospital. The episode then cuts to the 118 rushing an unconscious Buck into the hospital, still trying to revive him. Once Eddie gets a pulse, they wheel him back into the hospital.
It’s definitely not the first time one of the members of the 118’s life has hung in the balance, but it is the first time that the whole team had to work to revive another team member. This is noticeable across all of them. A normally stoic and calm Eddie even shouts, “Do more!” down the hallway. Bobby, knowing that this is hard for all of them, takes this moment to pull them all into a hug before the episode cuts to Buck waking up in his coma dream sequence.
Not surprisingly, Buck’s coma dream sequence is all about what his life could’ve been if Daniel hadn’t passed away. This was hinted at in the last episode, but it’s also fitting for Buck’s entire character arc. He’s a teacher in this alternate reality and pretty much his parent’s golden son. Maddie is still a nurse, and Daniel is a doctor. In this reality, his parents are fussing over him. They have big family dinners, he has a couch, and everything seems picture-perfect, at least for a little bit.
At the family dinner, it is revealed that Maddie is still married to Doug, and they have a kid together. Also, he’s just as bad in this alternate universe as he was in the real one. This leads to Buck’s first realization that maybe this world isn’t as perfect as it seems and his first real look that getting what he had always wanted may not have ended up how he thought it would.
This realization continues throughout his dream when Hen and Chimney are the only remaining members of the 118. Bobby sadly passed away, and Eddie lost Christopher in a nasty custody battle with his parents. It’s a testament to Bobby and Buck’s relationship that Buck goes into respiratory failure in real life just as he hears that in his dream. He’s hooked up to an ECMO machine in real life, and the coma dream keeps going.
In a heartbreaking turn to real life, Carla and Eddie manage to sneak Christopher into Buck’s hospital room, where Christopher has an intense moment with him. To quote Christopher directly, he says, “wherever you are right now, you have to come back.” There’s not a dry eye in the hospital room (and probably nobody’s living room either), with a normally stoic Eddie letting out a few tears and Hen doing the same.
Back in the alternate universe, it’s fitting that the man who has seemed to sit at Buck’s bedside more than any of the others is the one who helps him finally come back home. In the alternate universe, Buck finds “ghost Bobby” after traveling to the hospital to hopefully find some answers. Buck is asking Bobby about what he needs to do, but instead of giving him a precise answer, Bobby just shows Buck a window where he can see into his own hospital room. Buck explains to Bobby that he feels like he matters to his parents in this alternate life, and he finally feels like his parents actually see him. Bobby replies, “If what matters to you most is how other people see you, then you haven’t learned a thing.”
Real-world Buck is successfully removed from the ECMO machine, and the doctors explain to his parents and Maddie that this next step is all his. He has to be the one to breathe. Cutting back to the alternate universe, Bobby makes a comment about how Buck can’t fix everything, to which Buck responds that he fixed Bobby. His exact words were, “I think you spent so much time trying to make sure that I didn’t get myself killed that it made you remember what it is to live.” To which Bobby responds, “So basically, you were Buck.” It’s at that moment that it seems like Buck finally realizes being Buck is enough, and he doesn’t need to be anything else.
The next scene is filled with emotion as Buck runs through the hospital to go back to his life. He runs past Chimney, Christopher, his parents, and even his brother Daniel. He shares a moment with his parents where he says that he will always love them, and he understands they did the best they could, a stark contrast from their storyline in season 4. He also shares a scene with Daniel where he lets him know that he loves him, but he needs to go back to his real life. When Daniel explains that Buck finally has the family that he’s always wanted, Buck is quick to say that he has a family. It’s not the same one, but it is a family who needs him. Daniel soon morphs into an evil version of himself, spewing negative thoughts to try and get him to stay in the alternate universe. Eventually, he says that he’s a firefighter, and he breaks through the glass to make it back to himself. Also, major props should be given to 9-1-1’s music department for their song choices in general, but especially this one. “Fix You” by Coldplay playing as this all unraveled was a perfect choice.
The episode ends with the whole team showing him love, with special emphasis on Bobby and his family. A heartfelt conversation over cards takes place while Buck is telling Bobby about his coma dream. He leaves the specifics out of it, choosing to say that Bobby was just Bobby, helping him through everything rather than giving him all the details. His parents continue to show that they’re at least trying to change, and they offer to buy him a couch since he lives in a loft. The episode ends with Buck looking on happily while watching his parents in his kitchen, with Maddie wrapping her arms around him.
The episode was important as a whole, but watching a character who has been known to struggle with seeing the worth in his own life CHOOSE to live has definitely been one of my favorite moments in the series. Buck’s journey has been about finding happiness this whole season, and this is a pretty big push in the right direction. Hopefully, he finds the answers he needs on the other side of this, all with the family that he chose.