'Station 19' Is About Andy Herrera, Not Her Relationship With Jack & Here's Why That's Huge

Since Grey’s Anatomy premiered in 2005, Shonda Rhimes and her television shows have been at the forefront of pop culture. Grey’s Anatomy may be old hat by now, but Shonda’s influence can’t be underestimated. That’s why ABC (and Netflix) keeps giving her shows! Her latest series is Station 19, which takes a few pages from the Shonda Rhimes playbook — attractive people, death-defying circumstances, Seattle — but there’s one big difference from shows like Grey’s Anatomy. In the premiere, Station 19 star Andy Herrera chooses her duty over her hot man right off the bat, and that’s big.

Andy is a firefighter, and she’s the captain’s daughter, and when her dad falls unconscious during a fire and has to be rescued, everyone discovers he actually has cancer. It’s bad. He can’t be the captain of the squad anymore, so Andy steps up to the plate and asks to be considered for the role in his place. Andy’s dealing with a lot — besides learning about the fact that her father may only have months to live, she also accidentally finds out that her boyfriend, Jack, a fellow firefighter and a lieutenant (technically above her station), is going to propose. These are just too many changes at once for Andy, and who could blame her? So she tells Jack to cool it and tells her dad she wants her shot. Too bad that her direct competition for that captain slot is Jack.

Kelsey McNeal/ABC

But you know what? That’s cool. And Jack is kind of whiny, because it’s like he can’t even consider the fact that he should cool his heels and take her feelings into account. Sorry, dude — Andy has to step up to the plate like Simba and accept that she could do this job better than you, and she can’t — and shouldn’t — feel bad about that. This is a pretty big departure from Shondaland’s beginnings. Grey’s Anatomy was originally more about the hot, steamy romance (hence one of the characters literally being called McSteamy) than Meredith’s career development. Meredith and Derek did the will-they-or-won’t-they dance for season upon season, and Meredith’s job fell by the way side. It was all about Derek, and it wasn’t until Cristina really reminded Meredith that she was the sun that Meredith got that butt in gear. In fact, one could argue that Meredith couldn’t take the reigns of her career until Derek died — she just won a Harper Avery. Would she have done that if Derek were alive? No, because his ambition matched her own, and it’s very difficult for two ambitious people to compromise. In Meredith’s relationship, she always fell back to Derek.

That’s why it’s so refreshing to see Andy take the lead in her station house. Eventually, the city of Seattle will appoint a real captain, and she does have to share in-charge duties with Jack in the interim, but this is Andy’s chance to show everyone what she’s got. She knows she’s a good firefighter, and she’s not going to sleep on that anymore. In fact, she’s been sleeping on a bunch of things, especially not even knowing that her father was sick. Andy’s leaning in, big time.

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Of course, the romance is still nice. Everyone on Station 19 is beautiful, and you can still watch the show on mute. Handsome people doing handsome things in handsome settings — that’s just television. But the subtle shift in storytelling is a big deal here. Think about it — it took Meredith Grey seasons and seasons of boom-and-bust romance before she was able to put her job before her man. In Andy, she’s doing it in the first episode.

Station 19 may be the first Shondaland show that allows the romance to fall on, if not the backburner, then maybe two burners instead of four? Andy is strong. The nature of her job makes her strong. Emotionally, she’s finding her strength, too, and it doesn’t necessarily have to involve Jack. She’s willing to compete against her lover in order to find herself, and Station 19 doesn’t vilify her for it. Instead, it celebrates her. It’s not going to be easy, and there will be plenty of drama to go around, but Andy’s putting herself first is validation of how far the Shondaland shows have come.