Telling -- or in this case retelling -- a horror that sent shockwaves throughout the entire country in a respectful way is a massive undertaking.
There are so many things that need to be considered, and the last thing you'd want is to retraumatize people by telling a story of this magnitude without the proper forethought.
Good intentions mean less in today's age, which is why it was a sigh of relief to watch the firefighting drama get it mostly right on Station 19 Season 4 Episode 12.
Some will argue that incorporating the killing of George Floyd into an already depressing season, brimming with COVID-19 wherever which way you look, was overkill or unnecessary.
Others may feel it was a cheap shot and exploitative for the series to be milking people's real -life emotional pain for all it's worth.
And, of course, there will always be those dissenting voices on the opposite side of the political aisle who will see this storyline as vilifying the police and perpetuating baseless claims about racism. (For the record, I'm not one of those people).
However, I found this installment to be an emotional and moving hour that beautifully encapsulated the complexities surrounding the killing of George Floyd to a tee.
It was a moving and emotional hour of television, as well as a thought-provoking exploration of how we see the world today.
It's hard to say who got the most out of their therapy session with Diane, also known as our not-so-favorite grief counselor, but everyone did come away with some perspective.
This one was different. It wasn’t just another video of an innocent Black man being shot by police. This wasn’t an officer making a split-second decision that resulted in another Black man losing his life. This wasn’t fight or flight or panic-induced impulse or unconscious bias or unnecessary escalation. This was the unarmed murder of a defenseless compliant Black man in the middle of the street in broad daylight right in front our eyes, all of our eyes.Sullivan
It was also a great example of how therapy isn't a one-size-fits-all, as Diane gave support and a shoulder to cry on when necessary but also wasn't afraid to dole out some tough love.
Ben and Sullivan both expressed their anger and exhaustion and fear and frustration over this whole ordeal, and while these feelings were ripe with contradiction at times, it made perfect sense.
Ben came out this from the parent's perspective and the dichotomy of how he's told his sons to react when dealing with the police versus how he reacted when forced on the ground during a routine traffic stop and Dean's lawsuit.
He wants to protect his family desperately, but also, he's angry that he, and not the cops, have to be the ones to de-escalate the situation.
He'd love nothing more than to give the police a piece of his mind, but he has to keep his temper in check, or things could get ugly really fast.
Sullivan, on the other hand, finally saw things clearly for the first time in ages.
There was no getting around what happened to George Floyd, no excuse the police could use to justify his killing, as the various explanations didn't apply in this instance.
That opened Sullivan's eyes in a big way, as he realized that something needs to be done.
It's not enough to just play the game and hope to enact change from the inside.
Ben: How do you do it? I know you have to be as shaken up as I am, so how do you…
Diane: How do I do my job?
Diane: You fought a fire this morning. How did you do that?
Ben: I pushed my pain aside and did what had to be done.
If you want something to change, you need to fight it head-on, which is why Sullivan was ashamed he considered derailing Dean's lawsuit for a promotion.
Dean's lawsuit is the best shot they have of fixing policing in Seattle, and Sullivan is on board moving forward.
Meanwhile, Vic and Dean have very poignant discussions with Diane.
Dean didn't say much, but his breakdown was the most moving therapy session.
Neither Dean nor Diane needed to say words to convey their feelings, as they wore their emotions on their faces and their hearts on their sleeves.
It was beautiful in its simplicity.
Vic, though, was more fixated on how people didn't know racism was still problematic.
As a problem solver, she likes to fix things, but there is no easy solution to end racism, made worse that so many people seemed surprised to discover that police brutality and systemic racism are part of our daily lives.
Vic: I like to fix things. I see a fire, and I put it out. But we have been having this same fight for so long. For so long. My grandma used to tell me about the sit-ins and boycotts she used to do in the ‘60s, and we’re how many movements and marches later, and what do we have to show for it? And to see so many people act like this is news, like this is just some brand new information they’re waking up to. Do you know how many white friends texted me or emailed me out of the blue, right? Just everything under this guise of just checking in and asking how I’m feeling, you know? I knew they meant well, but I also knew what was behind it: guilt. So I don’t know how I’m… how are you feeling? Because as much I couldn’t fix this problem, at least I knew it was there and for a better reason than I was just stuck inside my house this time, and I couldn’t look away.
Black people have been fighting this for decades, and yet the world is still as blind. How can that be?
That lingering question took me back to what Maya talked about, how she learned about racism at school but believed the problem had been solved before she was born.
It's eerily similar to what I was taught growing up, and it wasn't until entering the real world for the first time that it became clear that the world is a lot more effed up than we were led to believe in grade school.
Andy and Travis also talked with Diane, and their conversations were the most fascinating to me, especially Travis's.
Neither firefighter is Black, but they are people of color, so their experiences with the killing of George Floyd offer a unique perspective.
Travis, for one, felt he didn't have a right to any of the pain he was experiencing at the moment, not when some of his fellow firefighters were suffering more.
In his mind, his mother getting spit on at the supermarket and caused a racial slur doesn't come anywhere close to a Black man being knelt on by a white police officer for eight minutes and 46 seconds, screaming out that he can't breathe before dying.
However, Diane was right in that this isn't an oppression Olympics.
Suffering isn't some game where there are winners and losers.
What happened to George Floyd was horrifying but so is what happened to his mother.
Diane: I know the past couple of months can't have been easier for you either. Hate crimes are hate crimes no matter the race.
Travis: My mom got… well, she was spit on at the grocery store the same day that George Floyd. My mom was leaving and a crazy woman was like, “If this kung flu is real, it's because of people like her. The woman both didn’t believe COVID was real and was blaming my mom. When my mom told me, it actually felt like my organs were melted. I was so hot with rage now remembering the times when I was a kid and you know people would say stuff to us, and then we would just go home and never to be discussed again. And I didn’t say anything to anyone here about it because you know it didn't feel appropriate, this giant massive thing was happening, a hate crime, an atrocity so much more brutal and egregious. Other people were hurting so much more.
It's also worth noting that this scene may not have been included had this episode be written, say, six months ago.
It's horrible to acknowledge because this isn't a new problem, but it's only recently been publicized that hate crimes among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are on the rise.
Yes, this has been brought to the forefront of the conversation because of the novel coronavirus, but this has been a long-standing problem, one we're only now recognizing.
And as for Andy, the comments about her passing for white felt a little out of place, given that she's never mentioned anything of that sort in the past.
She's always been proud of her heritage and talked about some of the prejudice she faced due to assumptions, so it felt a little out of the blue for her to realize what she went through wasn't as bad as it could have been, especially after Diane told Travis prejudice and suffering weren't a competition.
What did make more sense was Andy's relationship with the police.
She was around firefighters and cops growing up and came to regard them as the good guys, so even when she knew there were problematic police officers, she always kept these two groups separate in her head.
However, now being married to a Black man, she's starting to see the world for how it truly is, which is muddled with confusion, as how could she have been so blind for so long, or why did it take marrying Sullivan for her to see the truth?
It's a lot to sort out, but Andy finally has her husband back in her corner, which is some much-needed good news.
Diane: You’re not grieving? You had a happy little firehouse where everyone was best friends and racial disparity was not a hot topic, and now…
Maya: Everything has changed.
Diane: Everything and nothing.
Maya: I know fire. I mean I’m the person who studies them for fun.
Diane: But this fire…
Maya: This fire is beneath our feet. It’s built into every foundation, our history, language, news coverage. It’s everywhere. We vent fires to let out the hot smoke and gases so we can contain the fire, but I don’t see how we can contain this, let alone put it out.
As for sorting things out, it was interesting to see how Maya and Jack, the only two white firefighters at the station, approached the situation.
Maya knew she wanted to help and support her found family, but she wasn't sure what the right move was.
She brought in Diane because she thought everyone could use some counseling during this difficult time, but what her fellow firefighters needed from her was more than that.
They needed someone to stand by their side and call injustice with them, not someone silently supporting them from the wings.
And after a talk with Diane, Maya understood that, but she wasn't sure how far she could go.
She wanted to be there for Station 19, but she was also worried about her show of support messing up her career trajectory.
It was a somewhat similar line of thinking as Sullivan, prioritizing her professional life over her personal.
Fortunately, Maya realized in the end that being there for her friends in a public way was more important, even if it does derail her career.
Jack: I’m afraid to talk to anyone right now, not just you, to anyone. I’m afraid to talk to my best friend.
Jack: I’m afraid I’m gonna get every word wrong or even one word. I know I’m not a racist…
Diane: Oh, you do realize ‘I’m not racist’ is kind of the club slogan of racists, and that’s because we live in a culture built on white supremacy. So the racism is baked in, and we can’t begin to undo it until we name it and own it.
Jack: OK, see this is exactly my point. I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t. Cops take a knee, join the protests, they’re called hypocrites. And Dixon, he is a hypocrite. He is racist. But it can’t be that across the board?
Diane: You come to see me twice a month, so I have to assume that you like me, right? You like that I give you tough love and don't pull punches, and you came in here today, looking for some clarity. So, here it is. I know what you mean when you say you aren't racist, and I believe that you do not have the hatred in your heart, but you also aren't damned, not even in the least bit. You're blessed as hell. I know you grew up on the streets, and the system, and I'm not diminishing your hardship, but you are…
Jack: I'm privileged because I'm white, I get it.
She's overcome the odds before, and she can do it again.
On the other hand, Jack wanted to help, but he had no idea where to begin.
He was so afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing that he just hid in the background most of the time, avoiding his friends.
He was also incredibly naive about the situation, not recognizing the privilege his whiteness gives him.
Yes, he was dealt a crappy hand, growing up in the system, but the expectations he had versus Black and brown foster children were different.
Jack never had to worry about being shot by the police out on the streets or fear that he would end up in jail for looking at an officer the wrong way or laughing too loud.
His whiteness gave him protection in a way he never thought about, and Diane was right in telling him it's no longer enough not to have hatred in your heart. You have to dig deeper.
And if he doesn't know what to say? Well, listening is a great first step.
Some stray thoughts:
Was anyone else surprised to see Carina still in Seattle? I get that it's only been 24 or 48 hours since Maya reneged on her decision to go to Italy, but I did think Carina was already overseas at the start of the episode. I guess she's leaving for Europe later in the week?
Watching Dixon take a knee was despicable. He's a racist piece of sh*t and borderline abusive to his son. He does not deserve to be parading in front of the cameras and speaking out about the evils of racism. Can he just die in a fire already?
I loved that Ben referred to Joey as his son. He and Bailey didn't technically adopt Joey, but I still love how they consider him to be theirs.
Everyone coming out together at the end to protest was the perfect conclusion.
So what did you think, Station 19 Fanatics?
What are your thoughts on the incorporation of George Floyd's killing?
What was the most powerful moment?
What felt out of place?
Hit the comments below to let me know your thoughts. If you missed the latest episode, remember you can watch Station 19 online at TV Fanatic.
Jessica Lerner is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.