Station 19 didn’t pull any punches in its winter finale as the show tackled police brutality and the overlooking of black women when they go missing. Our core group of firefighters found themselves in a legal quandary when they found a mother hysterically screaming outside of Mya’s (Danielle Savre) neighbor’s house, because he had the mother’s daughter and her best friend locked inside his house.
Even though our crew was off duty, they spent most of the episode trying to help the woman calm down and gather evidence to make a case for going inside the man’s house to look for the missing girls. Without badges or even uniforms, it proved much easier said than done. When the police eventually arrived and took the homeowner’s side, it became obvious the firefighters would have to get creative in order to see justice served. In the meantime, the girls — who truly were locked in the basement — managed to start a small fire, giving Dean (Okieriete Onaodowan) and Sullivan (Boris Kodjoe) enough reason to go inside the house.
They rescued the girls, but when their alleged kidnapper insisted they broke into his house and started the fire unbeknownst to him, tensions flared. Dean charged at the man and surrounding police officers, prompting them to tackle him to the ground and arrest him. When Andy (Jaina Lee Ortiz) tried to intervene, she was shoved to the ground, prompting Sullivan to get involved. Guns were drawn and he was also put in cuffs. The episode ended with Dean and Sullivan being taken away in the back of a squad car.
TV Guide chatted with Barrett Doss, who plays Vic on the series, about the tense episode and how this is going to change things for the entire station heading into the second half of the season.
What was your reaction when you first read this episode?
Barrett Doss: When I read this episode, I felt two sort of conflicting things. I was thrilled that we were getting the opportunity to discuss some of the inequities and some of the very real issues that exist in our culture and in our country, with regards to police brutality, with the exploitation of Black and Brown women and girls, and to draw some attention to that and shed some light on that issue. But also, of course, it’s painful to walk in these characters’ shoes, and to know that as everyday heroes that they are not immune to the racism that permeates our society. So when I look at, obviously, what happens to Dean and Sullivan, for example, not to mention Joyce and Shanice, the two guest starring characters, the mothers, and of course, the girls too, that essentially when we’re out of uniform, we’re all in the same boat. We’re all Black people, and with that comes a specific type of vulnerability and a specific type of risk.
There was some fear going into it having to walk in the shoes of these characters and experience this trauma. Playing the scene, we actually have to watch it happen. So it was incredibly emotional. It was very tense on set, not in a negative way, but just in honoring the truth of the events, it was an intense experience. I was anticipating that when I read it, it did not disappoint in that sense. But it was exciting and also uncomfortable.
What are you hoping people take away from this episode?
Barrett Doss: Well, I hope that they see that no one is immune to the the racist systems that we exist in, that the characters that we know and love are just as vulnerable as anyone else. I think that that could be surprising to some of our audience in part because we haven’t had such a blatant discussion of the consequences of systemic racism and the relationship between Black people and the police. I think it’s scary to challenge those systems. It’s scary to show that to people, but I think it’ll be certainly very challenging, I think, for people to see Dean and Sullivan on the wrong end of a weapon, and in a very vulnerable position. And to see all of our team members have to watch that, and then process the aftermath of that trauma.
It also didn’t occur to me until the end of the episode that Dixon is now head of Seattle PD, so Dean and Sullivan are in even more trouble than we think when we last see them.
Doss: When we read the scripts, we know, and as the audience does, that our characters are firefighters and we forget that when we’re out of uniform, no one else knows that. We know them to be the characters we know and love, and the heroes of Station 19, but nobody else actually knows who they are. If we don’t have a relationship with those particular police officers, they have no reason to believe that we’re firefighters. So as you said, the complication of Dixon now working for the police department makes it a particularly vulnerable situation for Sullivan and Dean, and the rest of the team. On top of everything else, what they did is against protocol. So it’s not just a vulnerable point when they are arrested, but it puts the station in jeopardy again, for proceeding into a call without grounds. So it’s a really dangerous situation both literally and figuratively for our characters.
What kind of mental state are we going to see Vic in after these arrests and the events of this episode?
Doss: I think it’s putting Vic in a situation where she is forced to reckon with her reality. I think all of these characters have been put in a situation now where they have to question what does it mean if the way I do my job is not enough to protect me from the system that I work for. And so I think it’s, it’s going to give Vic an opportunity to reexamine her relationship to her job, to reexamine her relationship to the team. I think it puts all of us in a situation where we have to look at how we deal with our sort of new reality. It’s not really new, but it’s clearly a violent and traumatic situation that we’ve all been put in at this point. And how can we get back on the same page? How can we work as a team? And how can Vic with all of her attempts to bring everyone together and to get along with everyone, how does that force her to deal with her relationships with her coworkers? I think it’ll be a it’ll be a time of growth and questioning for Vic.
On a lighter note, Vic has two extremely handsome men vying for her affections. Could we see a true love triangle in the back half of the season or is she going to be preoccupied with other things?
Doss: I genuinely don’t know yet. I mean, keeping in mind, of course, that Vic doesn’t know that Dean is into her. I think she is determined to continue to believe that they are friends, that they’re close, but she’s not I think opening herself up to that option. And I think that with the turn of events that takes place in this particular episode, I think that everything goes on the back burner. Not only is she already questioning going out with Theo because of COVID, but not to mention, of course getting involved with another firefighter is super risky for her in particular, emotionally.
I don’t know if she’s ready to jump into another relationship. She’s always been, I think, involved with people who she perceives as outranking her, either literally in the case of Ripley, or with Jackson, where I think she questioned herself a lot. I think it’s an interesting new situation when there’s somebody who she sees as an equal, and she gets to be the sort of picker. I think that it’ll be a fun, new experience for her to see where she takes that power.
Even if Vic hasn’t realized how Dean feels about her, how do you, Barrett, feel about the possibility of Dean and Vic being a thing?
Doss: It’s tough. I think I would be hypocritical if I said that she can’t get involved with a firefighter at the station because it’s basically happened before, but I think it’s difficult Dean and Vic have always been such good friends. They established such a great brother-sisterly relationship, and especially with her helping with Pru. I don’t think she ever saw herself in the role of mothering. I don’t think she wants children of her own at this point. I think that getting involved with Dean would bring more conflict than she is ready for right now, not only with him, but also with the station and within herself. So it’s hard to say. I always invite complication as an actor, but it’s hard because I kind of love their relationship as it is. I hope we’re playing the long game here. I think it would be really interesting to see how this sorts itself out or doesn’t over the next year or two.
What can you tease for fans about the back half of the season?
Doss: Ooh. I’m excited for fans to get to see some complicated issues between Vic and Travis. We’re so happy to have them back together again, as close friends and now as roommates, but the other shoe is gonna drop. So I’m looking forward to fans getting to see that when it arrives.
Station 19 returns in 2021 on ABC.