The keyword for this week’s episode of Sirens is fear. The EMTs and their two police officer buddies (Theresa and her partner, Danny) are all sitting around the ambulance dispatch discussing their various dreads, spurred on by Hank’s mini-freakout in response to a spider getting on his arm. According to Johnny, he has no fears. All he has, as he explains later in the episode, is “hard outer shell that I use to deflect pain and sadness.” Hell of a way to live, eh?
I love the idea of this show tackling real adult concerns in this way, but I loved even more how they were able to slow down the action for a long stretch. Almost the entire second act is taken up with this conversation, with each actor getting a couple of shots in and showing off his/her fine comic timing. And it allowed the writers to both explore this core concept from a number of different angles while also poking into the relationship between Theresa and Johnny. (She has to wonder why his biggest fear isn’t losing her in the line of duty.)
The rest of the episode was mostly given over to Johnny pulling pranks on his co-workers, playing on their fears: dropping fake spiders in Hank’s food, and scaring Brian with a small hand attached to an old antenna. (His biggest concern is little people and their little hands “so small and soft they could just grab you. You could hardly feel it … like a whisper.”) But, again, everything slowed down long enough for a couple of moments of raw emotion.
The guys in the rig respond to a call but find it’s already being tended to by Cash’s rig. All three watch in awed silence as an elderly man reacts angrily and sadly to the news that his wife just passed away. That sets up the bigger moment towards the end of the episode where Johnny goes to visit Theresa at home, only to find that the apartment is empty save one box and a note explaining that she left to pursue her dream of being an FBI agent. At first, Johnny responds thinking this is an elaborate prank on him, but when he can’t find his friends hiding anywhere, he sinks to the floor in agony.
Of course, that’s when Hank, Theresa, and the gang come out of a side door and start laughing at him. But for a brief few moments, Johnny felt real fear, and it might have changed him in some fashion. Not so changed that he isn’t happy to drop another fake spider on Hank and send poor Brian into fits thinking there’s a little person ready to jump out of the rig at him, but changed enough.
Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.