Station 19 ended its fall finale on a literal cliffhanger.
On Thursday's episode, titled "Weather the Storm," the Station 19 firefighters face a dangerous Seattle windstorm that takes them away from their Thanksgiving festivities -- and by the end of the hour, two of the main heroes, Andy Herrera (Jaina Lee Ortiz) and Captain Robert Sullivan (Boris Kodjoe), are in jeopardy.
After losing contact with dispatch due to the violent windstorm, Andy takes matters into her own hands, attempting to drive the ambulance she and Sullivan are in, with their patient in tow, to Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital. But they don't make it. As it's revealed in the closing seconds of the fall finale, the ambulance is seen on its side and over a tall cliff. Did Andy and Sullivan make it out before the crash?
"At the core, we've set so many really cool stories into motion over the course of these past seven or so episodes, that we really wanted to bring them to a natural, awesome climatic point, but definitely not a conclusion because we still have a second half of the season to play out all of these stories," showrunner Stacy McKee tells ET. "This is a great way to punch you and grab you and make you want more."
Following the fall finale, McKee breaks down the biggest moments from the first half of the season, including Andy and Captain Sullivan's fates, Ripley and Hughes' steamy secret romance, Ryan's dilemma with his troublesome father and much more.
ET: We have to talk about the end of the Station 19 fall finale, which revealed the ambulance Andy and Captain Sullivan were riding in ominously over a cliff. Are we to presume that they're in the ambulance? What can you confirm?
Stacy McKee: You can definitely presume that they were in the ambulance in that location. We will definitely be paying off the ending of that story and seeing what happened with them, and if and who gets out of that ambulance.
Maya calls Andy wondering where she is, not knowing her best friend has just had a wreck. How does this accident affect the rest of the station?
There will be a lot of fallout. It will affect everyone in the station, but particularly there are some people who it will really hit home for more than others. Obviously, Maya is a really good example because not only is that her best friend, but it would be devastating if something happened to her. If you remember earlier in the episode, she was supposed to be the one in the ambulance and Andy actually decided to trade places with her. There is a lot of guilt involved there too, when you find out that the place where you should've been you survived unscathed and your friend was in this precarious situation. Definitely, she'll have feelings about that but everyone will.
We learned a lot more about the tragedy that took place in Captain Sullivan's past with the death of his wife on that same street. Talk about uncovering that aspect of his past in this episode and paralleling that with the accident.
It was a very deliberate choice. Sullivan's been such an interesting character to bring into the mix at the station. He is so different from everyone else. Everyone else is friends and they're warm and friendly and welcoming and puts all their feelings out there all the time; he's opposite of that. We thought it was important, by the time we got to this episode -- we saw earlier in the season a little flash to that actual incident -- but it still isn't something that he was sharing with anyone else at the station. We felt it was important to give him someone, in this case, it turns out to be Andy, who is able to start peeling back his layers a little bit and someone he might actually be willing to open up to. This felt like a great way to crack open that armor just a tiny little bit. You know the rule at Shondaland; as soon as you have a nice connecting moment, you gotta shake it up and mess it up and throw them off a cliff! (Laughs.) We can't let them sit in this soft, gooey center for very long.
Prior to the accident, it seemed like Andy and Sullivan were really making strides. Are they friendly now?
You don't slide over the cliff with someone and not have it open you up to some sort of really intense shared experience, assuming they both make it out of that. It would make sense that there would be connective tissue between the two of them that no one else could exactly touch. But I also think that Andy's had a lot of tragedy in her past too. Without Sullivan even realizing it, she has a fairly similar type of experience in her past too. It's the kind of thing that I think you have to shorthand the shared emotional dialogue between two people that once you tap into that, you realize, "There's so much more to this person who's the drill sergeant boss who I was so ready to dismiss." I love having a character where it takes a long time to get to know them and Andy seems uniquely like the kind of character who could burst him open to really getting to know him for who he really is.
Speaking of Maya, she's presented a promotion to lieutenant, but at a different station, Station 23. What will she be grappling with as she's faced with a potential change?
It gives her a lot of decisions. Does she want to take that lieutenant position? Does she want to change stations? Would she be willing to turn it down to stay where she is? It's a tough thing, especially in the wake of this accident and that could potentially change the dynamic of the station. Do you take advantage of that? Do you not? We started the series with the two of them saying, "Things are going to change when we run this place," and they always imagined being side by side wherever they work. She definitely has some decisions to make about ambition versus other things.
Ryan presents his father with a dilemma: He can turn him into the police or he can let him go, but by doing that, they will sacrifice any relationship they will have. Is there a right decision for Ryan to make?
It depends on your perspective. There is a right answer based on the law, but it's a wrong answer based on what your heart wants, which to me presents you with the best dilemma ever for storytelling. For Ryan, I'm so excited by and interested in the fact that he's a cop who has a shady past and now we're starting to see where that shady past came from. He clearly learned it from his dad. To me, I feel like that's a struggle Ryan is always bumping up against. There's a reason he seems so squeaky clean because he's trying to actively be that way, given who he used to be. We've alluded to it; we've seen little pieces of it, like hot-wiring cars. I'm interested in where he goes from here, depending on what decision he makes. It could be telling if it seeps into his psyche from this point forward.
But Dermot Mulroney is not going anywhere, right? Could there be an Option C that serves as a compromise between those two options?
There definitely could be.
Ripley and Hughes' secret romance is really heating up. If and when their relationship does come out, what sort of fireworks should we expect?
They will definitely be facing obstacles, both on a big departmental scale and on a small scale. We've also seen, even within the station, when there is a secret romance that no one knows about, they feel betrayed. There will definitely be fallout along the way and the danger of that fallout too. They started interacting in season one and from the beginning, even if they were adversarial, they had this intense sparkle between the two of them -- like two magnets who can't quite resist finding their way toward one another. I've been interested in capitalizing on that chemistry and looking at these two as the unexpected romance. Yes, they're hot and steamy but if that starts to deepen and continue and move forward, it gets even more complicated when feelings are suddenly involved too. There's nothing more fun than a secret romance.
Was Ripley and Hughes' pairing something that you saw coming?
I have known since last season and was excited to start planting the seeds as much as I could, so that it would hit viewers as a surprise and so that it could feel built.
Are they going to be keeping this secret for a significant period of time?
I'm always an advocate for whatever gets us the best story. I really like to enjoy it for a minute. I don't always want to put two people together and immediately throw a bunch of obstacles before we had a chance to enjoy the fun of it too. I'm a fan first. I think we have a minute before we have to mess it up.
Is this Jack's rock bottom? Is he even close to hitting that?
It'll be interesting. We have some really big challenges in store for him coming up in the second half of the season. He'll be faced with a few of these demons that he's been trying to be in denial about and manage on his own, and not that successfully. At the end of the day, it's a big family and now, pretty much everyone has some awareness of the fact that something's going on with him. Once that family starts talking and noticing, this is a group that rallies around their own and tries to help them. At the end of the day, we're not looking to tell the hardest, darkest, most upsetting stories, we also want to show the other side of it -- that they have a support system in place. We're rooting for him.
Looking ahead, what can you preview in terms of where the action picks back up again?
We have a number of things thematically that we're looking at for the second half of the season. At the end of the day, at its core, we always try and showcase these complicated, interesting characters being heroes, especially right now with all of the [California] fires. It's important for us to honor and showcase these characters in that way, that no matter what messy stuff is happening in their personal lives, when they show up for work, they show up fully and they do incredible work and really heroically. That's a focus for us, but especially now, we want to highlight and honor firefighters and first-responders. And in their personal lives, they're going to be really, really juicy.
Station 19 returns for the second half of the season in 2019 on ABC.