With the 126 officially disbanded, the former members of the firehouse found themselves in very different places -- new places of employment, new relationship statuses and, in Owen's (Rob Lowe) case, a new perspective on his future as a captain. Of course, a dangerous ice storm hit Austin just as the old crew became acclimated to their new realities, putting the former team in various forms of peril. By the end of the premiere, appropriately titled "The Big Chill," Owen -- who seemingly transitioned to a slower-paced mountain life -- was suddenly faced with a dilemma when he came across a man in distress in the middle of the blizzard: Will this spring him into action?
And he wasn't the only one whose fate remained unclear: Marjan failed to safely make it down the snow-covered mountain, instead getting into an ill-fated accident; a building collapsed on Paul; and T.K. and Carlos' surprising breakup left a lot of questions for 9-1-1: Lone Star to address.
"I would say it's more than a little cliffhanger," executive producer and showrunner Tim Minear tells ET. "In episode 2, Marjan obviously didn't make it safely down the hill. Nobody knows that she [didn't yet]. Owen has found an injured man out in a blizzard and they will both discover that the most dangerous thing that is happening around them has got nothing to do with the weather. They will both be pulled into what I like to call a contemporary Western."
"Paul is missing, there's a teenage girl missing and Grace thinks she's due in two weeks, but I have a feeling that might get accelerated," he hints of the coming episode, adding that it was a personal desire of his to see Owen with a beard and very much not clean-cut as he has been the last two seasons.
"I was very interested in doing a Western story with Rob, and that's what we did," Minear says of Owen's early season arc. "I was very interested, and [Rob] was off shooting a Netflix movie during the hiatus, and I'm like, 'Do not shave. I want you to come back as hairy as possible.' He was really into it. I mean, he loved all that stuff and that was some of the first stuff we shot when he came back, the stuff from the barn."
On the romance front, all is not well with T.K. (Ronen Rubenstein) and Carlos (Rafael Silva), whose breakup may be a surprising development for viewers. Since some time has passed, whatever transpired between the two during the months in between that brought them to split will be answered soon.
"I know that the Tarlos fans particularly are going to feel a certain kind of way about it," Minear says of their breakup. "But what I would say is, I am interested in seeing their growth together. And we were off the air for six months. What I didn't want to say was that when we came back, they were either in the exact same place or that we missed a whole bunch of Tarlos. This is a way for the fans to get to see them on screen together and for me to tell a dramatic story with these two characters. I know a lot of fans when it comes to the ships that they love, they'd much rather see them having a beautiful dinner together, but that's not a story that I can write. 'Pass the salt,' is not a story that I can write."
"There's something for T.K. to learn here. There's something for Carlos to learn here. I was very interested in starting to show Carlos out in the world with his own agency and not as just an adjunct of T.K., which is why in the first episodes, you see Carlos as his own person doing his own thing," he adds. "T.K. is part of his life. But [Carlos] is also a police officer and he comes from his own family and he has his own issues and he has his own ambitions. I wanted to see some of that too. We know a lot about T.K. We've met his parents. We know his backstory. I wanted to uncouple them for a second, so that I could really service Carlos in some ways. But it certainly doesn't mean that Tarlos is over."
Minear promises that T.K. and Carlos' road to getting back together is "a really riveting story" and that the reason behind their split is answered "very, very soon." "I mean, look, I was typing with glee as I was writing that stuff. It's like the fans are going to poop their pants when it's like, 'Wait a minute, why is T.K. asking Nancy if she invited Carlos? Wouldn't he know that?' And then suddenly you realize, 'What happened?'" And now you want to know what happened. And more than anything, you want them to resolve this and get back together. If the show wasn't called 9-1-1, it would be called Reunion because that's what I do the best: separate people. I tear them apart so that I can have them turn their way back to each other's side."
As for the season as a whole, Minear had desires to put the team members through the paces as they found their footing as individuals before putting the team back together.
"It needed to be a fight. What this has allowed me to do is it has allowed me to let all of the characters' stories breathe and not just rush through stories. So I would say this year's epic," he describes. "Before too long, this show will be back where the fans probably want it to be and certainly where the characters want it to be. I'm excited about season 3 because it feels like -- I know that the writers feel the same way, I feel this way, I think the actors feel this way -- as we're writing the show this year, it just feels like everything is deeper and richer and it feels like the characters are more alive to us and that it doesn't feel like we've run out of places to take them."
"We've got some episodes coming up that I'm excited about. Everybody is separated for the first couple episodes, having this big, controlling idea of this disaster allows them all to be in the same story even if they're separated. And they're constantly crossing paths. The beauty of these first few episodes is every time some permutation of this group comes together and works together, you're excited to see it happen, but you also feel the pain of when they have to separate at the end. You're just waiting for them all to finally be back under the same roof. I'm excited about the way that all of the characters are getting opportunities to have their stories breathe and to really spend time with everybody."
But there likely won't be any big crossovers with 9-1-1 any time soon this season -- at least for now.
"It's a little bit on the back burner," Minear acknowledged. "I'm still hoping for that on some level. Last year was a challenge because this is the first year of making these two giant shows during a pandemic and that hasn't changed. Because the shows haven't been back to back [on the schedule] for a minute, by the time we get to Lone Star, by the time we get to three minutes into the first episode, I've reset the timeline. So you're back into January, six months have passed. By the time 9-1-1 comes back for the last eight episodes where we're airing back to back, the universe will be happening during the same timeframe. So I'm hoping, but it's not [a priority]."