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Why 9-1-1's historic decision to make Buck queer was seven years in the making


© Chris Willard
Rebecca Lewis
Rebecca Lewis - Los Angeles
Los Angeles correspondentLos Angeles
April 5, 2024
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For seven seasons, 9-1-1 fans have been calling on the showrunners to make the queer-coded character Evan 'Buck' Buckley explicitly queer – and to my huge surprise, it's finally happened. 

Season seven episode four, 'Buck, Bothered and Bewildered', saw the character grow jealous over Eddie Diaz's new friendship with Tommy Kinard, only for Buck to understand by the end that it was never Eddie's friendship he was worried about but rather Tommy's attention, and the pair kissed. 

Fans have fallen in love with the character of Buck (played by Oliver Stark) over the past seven years, acknowledging his tender heart and willingness to jump without thinking for those he loves. Many have also argued that the character has long been queer-coded – when a character's sexual orientation is implied by significant subtext without being stated outright – using canonical moments from across the seven seasons in their arguments. 

Kenneth Choi, Oliver Stark, Ryan Guzman and Lou Ferrigno Jr in 9-1-1  © Chris Willard
Kenneth Choi, Oliver Stark, Ryan Guzman and Lou Ferrigno Jr in 9-1-1

Think back to the early seasons, and how Eddie Diaz's introduction to the 118 came from Buck's point-of-view with the song 'Whatta Man' playing as a shirtless Eddie appeared in slow-motion. Later in the season, after Buck and Eddie's contentious beginnings had mellowed into a strong friendship, the pair took Eddie's son Chris to visit Santa and Buck made the decision to not correct a Christmas elf who mistook Chris for being Buck and Eddie's son. 

In season three, Buck's sister Maddie set up a poker night with her partner Chim, Buck and Josh Russo from dispatch, and after Josh jokes that if he "didn't know better I'd think you were setting us up," Maddie quips that she would never set Josh up with her brother, to which no-one – including Buck – reminds the table that he is straight.  

In later seasons, Buck's friendship with Eddie grows so deeply that it is implied that Buck can only find peace in Eddie's house, after he falls asleep on the couch after admitting he can't get comfortable on his own couch.  There was also Buck's connection with the gay couple in season one with the tapeworm emergency, and who can forget Buck's emotional connection with the elderly gay man Thomas in the season two episode 'Buck, Actually'?

buck and eddie© Fox
Eddie and Buck take Christopher to see Santa

But why now? Tim Minear is now back in the driver's seat as the showrunner after its move to ABC, and it's clear that the move has infused the show with new energy and passion. 

But it's one thing to kick off a new season with an over-the-top emergency and another to change the story arc of a major character, one whom former showrunner Kristen Reidel called the "center of the 9-1-1 wheel". 

Oliver Stark in season finale episode of 9-1-1© Pete Dadds
Buck is the 'center of the wheel' said Kristen Reidel

Tim has never shied away from admitting that the series is always evolving, and that no-one is ever safe from major changes – good or bad – and no true fan can deny that Buck had, in many ways, become stagnant. Buck's personal life has always been a core part of his narrative, and the character has sadly felt like he's been on the same "journey of self-discovery" for several seasons, looking for love in all the wrong places and giving himself away to others when he gets nothing in return. 

The decision to therefore give Buck this new arc not only elevates the character and offers new options for narratives, but gives Oliver the chance to play a new side of Buck, as well as giving LGBTQ+ viewers representation and telling important stories of discovering who you truly are later in life. 

9-1-1: Buck discovers Tommy and Eddie are friends

It is also a historic moment for primetime television shows. I can not recall a series in recent modern memory that has told a storyline of this nature for a male character; Buffy the Vampire Slayer did it for Willow when she attended college and met Tara, and Grey's Anatomy and Glee have both told similar stories for Callie, and Brittany and Santana respectively.

There are, however, narrative choices made that are a disservice to viewers, in particular the decision to have Tommy and Buck continue their casual conversation after the kiss. Having Tommy kiss Buck unexpectedly in the loft makes sense for dramatic purposes but I worry that their back and forth after the kiss negates the impact and significance. 

It may have been more effective for Buck to have that pivotal realization with someone we know better, like Maddie. Perhaps during their conversation about her experience with jealousy in friendships, Buck could have come to understand in the moment why he feels the way he does about Tommy and Eddie’s friendship. 

Experiencing this discovery with a character the audience, and Buck, know and trust would have given it a weight that is missing. 

Oliver Stark and Jennifer Love Hewitt as Evan and Maddie Buckley© Fox
Oliver Stark and Jennifer Love Hewitt as Evan and Maddie Buckley

I have criticized the show in the past for not being consistent with its storytelling however there were fun deep cuts for the longtime fans, including callbacks to various queer-coding moments, such as Maddie and Buck's conversation about Tommy in her home, which harkened back to when Buck first gushed over Eddie in season two and she called him out for his "boy crush". 

The biggest question for those of us chronically online will now be – does this mean we're getting Buddie? Buck and Eddie's friendship over the past six years has been the cornerstone for many viewers, and their close bond has, at times, been considered queerbaiting, (a marketing technique in which the creator hints at but does not depict LGBTQ+ representation), a claim Tim has always denied. 

Oliver told HELLO! that viewers will see Buck "making use of that support system, and learning more about those relationships" he has with the 118 in episodes five and six, and Eddie's reaction to Buck's news will be one that many will watch closely. 

As a long-time fan of this show, I truly never believed we'd see Queer Buck so it would be foolish to now rule out Buddie being the end game. That doesn't mean it will happen – I'm not in the writer's room – but I do believe Tommy is simply a plot device right now.

As for whether Buck will get his happily ever after, that's something for Tim to decide - but after seven plus years, I hope he does.

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