Jennifer Love Hewitt gave the heart-stopping, fearless performance of her career on 9-1-1

9-1-1: Jennifer Love Hewitt in the all-new “Fight or Flight” episode of 9-1-1 airing Tuesday, April 2 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2019 FOX Broadcasting. CR: Jack Zeman / FOX.
9-1-1: Jennifer Love Hewitt in the all-new “Fight or Flight” episode of 9-1-1 airing Tuesday, April 2 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2019 FOX Broadcasting. CR: Jack Zeman / FOX. /

In a must-watch episode of 9-1-1, Jennifer Love Hewitt delivers a career-defining performance that could and should net an Emmy nomination.

In case you hadn’t heard, FOX’s procedural drama 9-1-1 has quietly been one of the strongest and most consistent series on television, and the latest episode confirmed as much. After weeks of push and pull, Jennifer Love Hewitt’s Maddie finally faced off with her abusive ex-husband in a powerful fight for freedom. Of course, the entire cast of ace performers stepped up to the plate, but none more so than the perennially underrated ultimate ’90s teen idol.

Having delivered a positively heart-stopping, achingly fearless, and simply Emmy-worthy performance — quite possibly the best of her career — in an important 9-1-1 episode, it’s about time we stop underestimating Jennifer Love Hewitt and give this icon her flowers.

(Warning: This post contains mild spoilers from the newest episode of  9-1-1 and discusses topics such as domestic abuse and violence.)

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Hewitt joined the cast of 9-1-1 in its second season following Connie Britton’s departure, effectively marking her return to acting. The erstwhile Ghost Whisperer star took a step back from the spotlight to raise her two children after appearing in the 10th season of Criminal Minds as a series regular. She stepped into the role of Maddie Buckley Kendall, the sister of Buck (Oliver Stark), who moved to Los Angeles for a fresh start as a 911 operator.

Earlier in the season, we wondered why Maddie wasn’t getting a lot of screen time and hypothesized that this showdown climax with Doug would later arise. Well, the climax did arise, and it exceeded any and all expectations imaginable. Hewitt’s real-life husband Brian Hallisay guest starred as Maddie’s abusive ex Doug, who feigned friendship with Chimney (Kenneth Choi) to inch closer to Maddie and wreak havoc and hell on her new life.

It takes a particularly skilled actor to jettison the natural chemistry of a real-life relationship and look at someone you care for unconditionally off-screen in abject horror. Hewitt and Hallisay’s background as co-stars (on Lifetime’s The Client List) and spouses contributed to the episode’s insane kinetic energy, but it shouldn’t be lost on the viewers how challenging and outright difficult it must have been to film those gritty, violent scenes as a married couple.

Hewitt told The Wrap that her connection with Hallisay provided a trust between them while delving into the darkest places and allowed them to dig deeper into the “ugly and tortured and raw” themes of the story. From the aggressive physicality of their final fight in the chilling landscapes of Big Bear to the pleading pain in Maddie’s eyes in the cop visit flashback, they spared no emotional tax.

9-1-1: L-R: Guest star Brian Hallisay and Jennifer Love Hewitt in the all-new “Fight or Flight” episode of 9-1-1 airing Tuesday, April 2 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2019 FOX Broadcasting. CR: Jack Zeman / FOX. /

While the episode, which was both written and directed by women, featured heightened dramatics for television and a subtle nod to Hewitt’s role in I Know What You Did Last Summer, “Fight or Flight” didn’t water down the realities of abuse or its effects on survivors and those in fear of leaving. As Hewitt said to The Wrap:

"“So often we shy away from something like this and not show the ins and outs of the entire story and not put it on camera — so I thought it was really brave of them to really show the effects of the relationship between Maddie and Doug not only in the present day, but in the past.”"

Beyond the captivating and vital truth coursing through the episode, Hewitt also filled in all of Maddie’s negative space that we’d never realized was missing. She excavated a depth in the character that you can only assume transcended anything on the written page. Prior to this episode, you could say we knew Maddie at arm’s length because keeping others at arm’s length was her chosen defensive mechanism.

But right before our very eyes, we watched Hewitt settle into Maddie’s bones and actualize her hard-fought strength. She performed with full-body purpose: her eyes expressed years of terror and exhaustion; her stature tensed or surrendered when Maddie was rendered silent for survival; her complex pangs of desperation and liberation stabbed Doug deeper than the knife. Every movement told its own story.

It’s hard to explain the switch that flipped, but Jennifer Love Hewitt has never acted with as much conviction and command, not even during her time helping ghosts cross over, and she’s widely recognized as one of the defining stars of her generation. Finally, the legend snapped, and wow, what an episode and story to throw your whole soul into.

Next. 9-1-1 and The Resident renewed for third seasons by FOX. dark

Without a doubt, 9-1-1 reached its audience in a new way with “Fight or Flight,” and the episode warrants the series a crop of new fans and renewed critical chatter. Moreover, Jennifer Love Hewitt’s career-defining performance has the power to not only garner awards buzz but, more importantly, save lives. As a fan, it’s a moment of pride to see Hewitt performing at the top of her game in a show that values her extraordinary talents and makes significant statements.

NOTE: If you or someone you love is in an abusive relationship, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline free of charge from 8 a.m. – 3 a.m. EST seven days a week at 1-800-799-SAFE. Give today to end domestic violence by texting POWERBACK to 41444.

9-1-1 airs Mondays at 9/8c on FOX.