By Michelle Gonzaba
I think we can all agree Buck has been through it. A broken heart, a tsunami, even being crushed underneath a fire truck. How much crazier can his life get? Apparently, it can get a lot crazier. I’m talking family secret crazy.
Luckily, we don’t have to wait long to learn Buck’s family secret. His brother, Daniel, died of leukemia only a year after Buck was born. Buck wonders why their parents would have a child while taking care of their sick son but soon realizes his birth wasn’t an accident. Buck’s birth was a Hail Mary move by his parents: when they realized neither they nor Maddie were a bone marrow match, they decided to have another child in the hope it would save Daniel’s life. Unfortunately, Baby Buck’s bone marrow couldn’t save his brother. In their grief, his parents hid all of Daniel’s things and made Maddie promise to never tell Buck anything about him. It’s a tragic story, but how did this tragedy make Buck into the man he is today?
Buck’s origin story is told in parallel to his present-day situation. A major fire has broken out at a hand sanitizer factory (in case anyone has forgotten about the pandemic) and Station 118 has arrived to save the workers stuck inside. Buck, feeling betrayed by Maddie and angry at the world, enters the factory and quickly defies orders to help save a survivor lost in the building. His heroic but risky actions throughout his rescue mission are explained by his difficult upbringing.
Since he was a kid, Buck has always been a daredevil. While some of us do crazy things once in a while, Buck seems to have sought out dangerous activities his entire life. From a scraped knee to broken limbs, Buck quickly figured out the only way to get his neglectful parents’ attention was to hurt himself. After a while, it becomes obvious this attention isn’t enough. Throughout his childhood, he begs Maddie to take him with her. His begging is almost successful; he thinks he convinces Maddie to run away with him and start their lives over, but she leaves him a note saying she can’t do it. Unbeknownst to him, her abusive husband found out about their plan. A furious Buck, with money and a Jeep given by Maddie, leaves his home to travel the country and find himself.
Back in the present day, Buck finds the missing survivor in the factory, but they are surrounded by fire. He and the worker attempt to find another escape route but are thrown to the ground by an explosion. Buck recovers unscathed but the worker is now stuck underneath a piece of heavy machinery. With some action hero-style moves, Buck finds a rope and tries to lift the machinery off of the worker, but it’s clear the man is becoming weaker by the second. With no other options, Buck realizes his efforts may not save him.
We go back to the year 2012 and watch a montage of Buck’s travels. Although he was angry at Maddie’s abandonment, he quickly forgives her and sends her photos and postcards of his travels. First, he’s a surfer, then a bartender, and even makes an attempt at the Navy SEALS. He ends up bartending in Peru when he meets a group traveling to Los Angeles. Unsatisfied with his current gig, Buck joins them. This meeting turns out to be fortuitous: his arrival in LA leads to him joining Station 118. It’s a quick scene, but it’s clear that he feels right at home the minute he meets his new squad.
Current day Buck continues his futile attempts at saving the factory worker. Buck is physically incapable of lifting the machinery and the worker is slowly losing consciousness. Buck is only seconds away from giving up when his squad arrives and helps him lift the machinery and successfully save the injured man.
Even though Buck was successful, he still feels lost and unsure of himself. He tells Bobby and Athena he almost gave up before his squad found him. In her own straight-forward way, Athena tells him he would never give up because that’s just who he is. Buck’s not sure if that’s true, but it certainly helps him feel better.
A few days after the fire, Buck finally speaks to his parents. They seem to realize the hurt they have caused their son and want to be better for him and Maddie. Still feeling like he was never meant to be more than a donor for his brother, his parents tell him something nice for once. “You were born to save someone,” his mother says, “and that’s what you do.” Buck decides to forgive his parents and talk to Maddie.
Although Buck was able to forgive his parents, it’s harder for him to move on from Maddie’s lies. He has always trusted her, he says, so that makes her betrayal harder to take. Even with his anger, it’s impossible for him to stay mad at her for long, and asks her to talk about their late brother. It may take a while for their relationship to recover, but Buck and Maddie’s relationship is too strong to break.