‘9-1-1’ Recap: Athena Faces Her Past in Season 3, Episode 7 “Athena Begins”

16 Min Read

Having episodes dedicated to a specific character and going more in-depth, creating more of a backstory, makes it easier for the audience to connect and relate to these characters. 9-1-1 has already done this a few times with Hen, Chimney, and Bobby. Now, it’s Athena’s time to shine. Athena gets news that brings up memories of her fiancé, Emmett, with flashbacks to 1989 when she first joined the police force.

Keep reading to find out what happened on a powerful and emotional episode of this week’s 9-1-1, “Athena Begins.”

Elaine, from the police station, drops by Athena and Bobby’s house, saying she has some unexpected news that she didn’t want Athena to hear from anyone else: They found the gun that killed Emmett. Bobby asks Michael who Emmett is, and Michael says he doesn’t know. Harry asks his mom who Emmett is, and she replies with Emmett Washington. He was her fiancé.

At the station, Athena is talking to Elaine. She tells Athena she found the gun during a traffic stop. Athena figures the gun’s been through a lot since ’91, but Elaine assures her she’ll put a lot of guys on the case. She doesn’t have to worry. Elaine apologizes for stepping in that night at the house, but Athena says there was no way she could’ve known that she didn’t talk about Emmett for 20 years. Elaine says if she hears anything, she’ll call next time.

In a flashback to 1989, Athena is at a career fair at her college with her two friends. They run into the LAPD table, with Emmett trying to convince them to join the ranks. Before they leave, Emmett writes down his phone number on a pamphlet and gives it to Athena. She meets up with Emmett, who tells her more about the LAPD.

In 2019 back at the station, Athena meets up with Detective Romero, who is working on the case and was also Emmett’s partner. The coffee that Athena gave him coincidentally had no sugar, so he leaves to get some while Athena quickly hops on his computer and prints out data on Alma Tomas, the 19-year-old who owns the gun. When Romero returns, Athena makes the excuse that she must leave and pick up the kids. Romero promises her that they’re going to find him.

In the past, Emmett and Athena are getting ready to go out to dinner. Athena suggests they could just stay in and order pizza. Emmett asks her where the phone is and leaves the room. Athena is searching for the phone on the bed, and after lifting up jackets, finds the phone, but also an engagement ring. Emmett comes back into the room and tells her this wasn’t how he thought it would go, having a whole speech planned. He takes the ring, gets down on one knee, and proposes. She says yes.

In the present, Bobby comes home to find Athena arguing with Romero, saying she wanted to keep him out of it. Romero says Emmett was his best friend, but Athena tells him he can’t be part of it. She says whatever she’s going to do, there’s a pretty good chance she’ll be out of a job; she can’t do that to him. Romero says he’s willing to take the risk, but Athena’s not. Romero gives her documents on everything they have on Emmett’s murder, including background on the gun’s most recent owner.

After Romero leaves, Bobby tries to get Athena to talk to him. Bobby tells her he knows what it’s like to lose someone. Athena says she didn’t lose him. He was taken from her. He may understand her pain, but he does not understand her struggle. She needs to bring his killer in on her own. No one else has gotten the job right, so why not her? She’s more than capable. Bobby tells her this is a man who has gotten away with murder for almost 30 years, and he’s not going to be happy once she shows up on his doorstep. Athena says she doesn’t care much about feelings. Bobby tells her he wants her to care about her safety; there’s no backup, and nobody knows where she’s going or who she’s talking to. Athena tells him it’s necessary. He needs to pay for what he’s done. She needs to make sure that happens. It has to be her. Bobby asks her why, and she tells him that she’s the reason Emmett’s dead.

Athena pulls up to a pawnshop where she suspects the gun was last bought. She shows the picture of the gun to the cashier. She tells him the guy made multiple ATM withdrawals to pay for it, and the last one was from the ATM across the street. An hour later, he’s in his car with the gun on the way to kill his boss. He asks Athena how he would know that would happen, and Athena tells him it’s called a 10-day waiting period. He tells Athena to follow him, and as they’re making their way through the store, he tells her that a couple came in a couple of weeks back and said they found it in the attic, but the name and address are probably fake. The thumbprint is real. Athena takes a picture of the thumbprint. She gets to the girlfriend’s house, Marianna, telling her she’s looking for her boyfriend. She asks Athena which one, and Athena tells her the one who used her fingerprint to pawn a murder weapon.

Athena is interrogating a guy who she has tied to a pole by his wrists and asks him where he got the gun from. He asks if she’s sure he did. She says the most recent owner led to a thumbprint, which brought her to a girl whose father bought it from a co-worker who took it in a divorce. The ex-wife picked it up at a gun show from a dealer who got it from a collector, who claimed he bought it on the street. The guy’s street. He said he did a favor for a single mom. Athena goes to the single mom’s house, who says her ex gave it to her for protection. She always kept it in the gun safe, she locked and unlocked it a million times. She never realized her kids were watching her and that they knew the combination. She had to get rid of it. Her ex got it from his cousin, Maruizio.

Maruizio says he didn’t get it from anyone. He found it. His first big job was at a motel. He was prepping one of the rooms, took off a vent cover, and found the gun. Athena asks him if he still remembers the motel because they might still have records. He doubts it; it was the Crestview on Crenshaw, which was torn down 10 years ago.

Athena returns home and finds Michael, Bobby, May, Harry, and her mother, Beatrice, waiting for her in the kitchen.

Beatrice is looking through pictures and tells Athena to not be too hard on Bobby, saying he showed more sense than Athena ever had, calling her and admitting he needed help. Athena tells her she can’t help with this. Beatrice says she respected her wishes all these years. She never spoke of Emmett and thought it would let her heal, but she never did. Athena says she thought maybe if she could find the man who killed him, Emmett would finally be at peace. Beatrice assures her that he’s been at peace for decades. She’s the one still battling this. It was not her fault. Athena says he was there because of her. Beatrice tells her it’s because he loved her and she loved him. Wherever he is now, he knows what she knows. Athena would have taken that bullet for him. She doesn’t know how to tell her family and doesn’t know where to begin. Beatrice hands her pictures and tells her that maybe she can start there.

At the call center, Athena and Maddie look through all the boxes from a warehouse, going through all the logs and information about all the calls from 1991-1996, trying to find anything involving the night Emmett died. Maddie finally finds a log with two calls from the Crestview on the same night within an hour of each other on February 17, 1991, a date which means something to Athena. One of the calls came from the motel manager. There was an overdose. The victim was an African-American male early 20s. Police and medical were dispatched to the scene and treated the subject for a suspected heroin overdose and hand lacerations. He was transported to the hospital alive. Athena found him.

In another flashback, Emmett and Athena are on the phone. Emmett’s just finishing up his shift. Athena tells him she forgot to get cream for her mother’s coffee. She asks if he could stop by on his way over and pick some up. Emmett tells her he’ll see her soon. Athena hangs up, happy she bought more time. She’s trying on a wedding dress. After trying on the dress, Athena gets worried, saying that Emmett should’ve been there by now. The phone rings.

Athena gets to the liquor store, caution tape up, bystanders watching, and officers looking at her as she’s making her way to the store. Elaine stops her, walking her in. Athena sees Emmett lying on the ground, covered in blood. Elaine says it looks like he walked into a robbery. Wrong place at the wrong time. Elaine tells Athena she can have someone drive her home if she likes. She says no. Someone needs to tell his mother.

In the present, Athena gets to the house and knocks on the door, hand on her gun. She’s surprised when a kid opens the door. His dad, Dennis, comes to the front, asking how he can help. Athena says she’s there about the night of February 17, 1991. Knowing what’s to come, he lets her in to talk. Athena says she’s there for her. Dennis realizes who Athena is. “Officer Washington is survived by his mother Tina and his fiancée Athena Carter.” He wanted her to know he never forgot about him, and he never forgot about what he did that night.

Dennis tells her he was out of his mind, consumed beyond just getting his next fix. The store had money, and he had a gun, but the cashier was moving too slowly. Emmett was trying to help the cashier. Dennis doesn’t remember pulling the trigger. Emmett was dead before he knew there was another person in the store. Dennis says he woke up in the hospital four days later, finding out he had killed a cop. Athena tells him they managed to put the pieces back together, but there will always be cracks. Dennis says Athena has carried his burden for almost 30 years. It’s time for him to take it back.

Dennis finishes saying goodbye to his kids and his wife and tells Athena he’s ready. Athena brings Dennis to the station. Officers, detectives, and staff are lining the place, watching Athena hand Dennis off to Romero and Elaine. They sit him down, and Athena watches behind the glass as he writes down his confession.

A parallel scene between the present and the past shows Athena walking up to Tina’s door. In 1991, Athena tells her about the shooting, and police cars are outside. In 2019, Athena is telling her they made an arrest. Tina embraces her both times: the first one out of pain and the other out of closure.

Athena finally gets home and tells Bobby she found him. She breaks down in Bobby’s arms. Bobby tells her he’s got her.

In one of the most powerful and emotional episodes of the series, Angela Bassett and Pepi Sonuga, who played the younger version of Athena, delivered incredible performances. Having Andra Day’s “Rise Up” playing from the moment Dennis says goodbye to his family until the last few seconds of the episode makes it all the more powerful. The scene where Athena goes to Tina’s house and delivers the news and the parallel scenes from telling her Emmett was killed to saying that they made an arrest makes it so emotional. It was one of the best episodes of the season and the entire series.

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By Megan
Megan has been passionate about writing since she was little and has been passionate about all things pop culture and nerdy since almost as long. Joining Nerds and Beyond in 2019, she also graduated from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh in 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts in Multimedia Journalism. Megan is constantly binge-watching shows and finding new things to obsess over. 9-1-1 and Marvel currently reign as the top obsessions. You can find her on Twitter @marvels911s if you ever want to discuss some certain firefighters.
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