"Any kind of an accident that happens at an event like that, you're usually dealing with emergencies on multiple fronts," the Fox drama's showrunner, Kristen Reidel, tells EW. "Obviously, there's the blimp crash itself, but then there's also the injuries that come from the pandemonium that happens when something crashes into a stadium and people's first instinct is not always to be calm. There's a bit of a panic. There's a mother and daughter who are attending the game who gets swept up in that."
FOX Jennifer Love Hewitt on '9-1-1'
Unlike previous premieres, Reidel says the season-opening crisis will not play out over multiple episodes this year: "When you've already done a tsunami and an earthquake, it's hard to find a large scale event like that with emergencies we haven't done before. It becomes a little trickier. We're always searching, but it felt like for this season that maybe we just wanted to start fresh and in a more traditional 9-1-1 style."
Reidel says that means having "more fun with the show" and more of a "focus on our core characters," who we left in season 5 with some big life changes. Things pick up four months later with progress made but big decisions still looming.
"The time jump is the real time jump that viewers have experienced — we left our people at the end of the spring, and now we're finding them in the fall. I think we're starting with people in a pretty good place. Bobby [Peter Krause] and Athena [Angela Bassett] are doing well. They're preparing for a vacation. Buck [Oliver Stark] has broken up with Taylor [Megan West] and he's kind of still processing being on his own, but not in a downer way. I think he feels relieved to be single again. Eddie [Ryan Guzman] is in a much healthier place and happy to be back with the 118. Hen [Aisha Hinds] is doing well in her family life, but medical school is becoming a stressor in the rest of her life. And Chimney [Kenneth Choi] and Maddie [Jennifer Love Hewitt] are slowly working their way back to each other."
Speaking of the latter, EW has an exclusive preview clip of Maddie discussing where she and Chimney stand when we rejoin them in tonight's episode.
"I think in the season finale, [Maddie and Chimney] agreed that they weren't interested in seeing other people, but they actually weren't back together. They're in this kind of odd limbo where they are in each other's lives, they're co-parenting, they're hanging out together, but it has not been romantic," says Reidel. "I think for both of them, there's just a little fear of making the first move and having it be either wrong or rebuffed. Maddie has the weight of being the person who left, but Chimney has the weight of being the person who was left. I think that they've just both been cautious, maybe overly so. They're at a crossroads now, where one of them has to take charge if they're ever going to move forward."
The season 6 premiere of 9-1-1 airs Monday, Sept. 19 at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.