Tuesday, November 19, 2013

REVIEW: 'Chicago Fire' Stages One Massive Action Piece in 'No Regrets' & Produces One Very Impressive Hour

NBC's Chicago Fire - Episode 2.07 No Regrets

When a tanker collides into a commuter train that then crashes into a warehouse, the firehouse is called to the horrific scene that tests everyone to the limits as life and death hangs in the balance; Boden is tasked with making life-changing decisions regarding his future; Severide learns more about Katie (Brittany Curran); Shay and Dawson are still at odds; and Casey's responsibility of being a surrogate father takes a sharp turn.

"No Regrets" is the most action packed episode of Chicago Fire ever. There is only one big central action set piece but it is a huge one. It evokes excitement in meaningful and powerful ways. The show decided to let this big trauma take the focus for the majority of the hour and put more of the soapy personal stories on the sidelines. It works so well because the action sequences are some of the best moments that Chicago Fire does and, after two seasons, we feel a connection to most of these characters. We understand everyone's reactions during the trauma and it feels so satisfying and earned.

Even when the show did delve into the soap opera antics, it was largely for the two better stories of the season - Casey's newfound parenthood and Boden's forced retirement. Those two stories have worked so well this year simply because of the personal connection. They also evoke a sense that what is happening is meaningful to those characters.

We know that Casey has always wanted to be a father and now he suddenly finds himself as one to two young boys. And he's been pretty amazing at all. It's such a simple story and one that was clumsily introduced but one I've enjoyed a lot in the last few episodes. But we needed to comprehend that this living situation was only meant to be temporary. Sure, I think the show could have gotten a few more episodes out of it. But that doesn't lessen the heartbreaking moment where Casey has to say goodbye to the kids.

With the Boden plot, it's a story about the personal stakes of what it means to be a firefighter. That is a subject I want to see on this show. Dealing with McLeod and her push to cut budgets has been a powerful arc. Boden gave in to early retirement as a way to save Firehouse 51. He notified everyone and then got called into this big trauma. It would have been a hell of a way to go out. But Boden wants to keep fighting. After getting a negative test result and surviving the brief building collapse, he is more determined than ever to push back and run 51. It's the story I've enjoyed the most this year and I'm so glad it's not being resolved anytime soon.

Some more thoughts:
  • I can't imagine the show bringing in Dylan Baker for just this one episode. I enjoyed his pragmatic trauma doctor and would enjoy a return appearance.
  • There's also stuff with Severide and his father and a newfound half-sister but it doesn't make much an impact.
  • Mills' struggle choosing between the fire and police departments hasn't been my favorite story and the show hardly ever brings it up. When Mills revealed the true reason behind it was the only moment that really stuck out - in a bad way.
  • Jeff Clarke is a new addition to this season and he hasn't had many big character moments. However, I liked his story with his wife and the fellow war vet on the train. It was a self-contained story to this episode but was very effective.