Tuesday, September 23, 2014

REVIEW: 'Chicago Fire' - The Firehouse Deals With the Sudden and Tragic Death of One of Their Own in 'Always'

NBC's Chicago Fire - Episode 3.01 "Always"

Boden forces members of Firehouse 51 to pull themselves back together in the aftermath of a harrowing fire explosion. While Severide goes missing for one week too many, Casey works to track down his whereabouts. Newhouse brings some unexpected news regarding one of Mills' relatives. Hermann and Otis make some new goals regarding Molly's.

Chicago Fire promised a big death at the start of its third season because of the peril it trapped almost all of its regular characters in during the final minutes of its second season finale. There was no way they could have backed out of that. A loss does occur and it has many reaching repercussions for not only several characters but the show as a whole. The death is Leslie Shay. That is tragic. After a rough year two, it seemed like things were finally picking up for that character. And now, she's gone. The show then does a six week time jump but it doesn't hinder the amount her death weighs on every character.

Shay was an interesting character for the show. She was unique and distinct and brought a different energy to this world. Now, the male-female balance is even more off-centered as well as too many characters of the supporting ensemble who could essentially fill the same void. I wouldn't want the show to replace Shay. And yet, she was an important part of what made the series work. Her friendship with Dawson was one of the strongest incarnations of female friendship on television. It will be so sad not to have that anymore.

However, it would have been easy for Chicago Fire to kill off one of the supporting characters who don't make much of an impact. Who would have been upset if Cruz was killed in the explosion? Mouch? Otis? Hermann? Mills? The latter is even injured in the blast - so one death isn't the only major injury from that call. And yet, he's perfectly back to health within a handful of minutes. That does cheapen the lasting effect of the opening twist. There was an explosion and the only consequence is Shay dying. That ultimately feels like the show trying to shake up its formula as it heads into its third season. I don't think Mills is a great character but I could have gotten behind a rehabilitation arc this year.

Instead we have a group of characters moving forward in life in the same way the show typically tells its stories (Hermann & Otis trying to expand Molly's to a second location) and then the major characters all trying to cope with grief and survivor's guilt. The former does have a place on the show. And yet, this premiere needed to be about the emotions that come after a sudden and tragic loss. The series' pilot also featured a death of one of the firehouse's members. And yet, that was not a personable death. We've known Shay for two years now and have gotten attached to her. Now she's gone and it's incredibly sad watching both Dawson and Severide trying to make sense of it all. Those two wonderfully carried this premiere. At times, it was too emotionally manipulative. Did we really need all those weirdly colored flashbacks? We know how much she meant to these characters specifically. But then it did work very well when Severide was watching "the contract" video again and remembering all the fun and serious times he had with her. That was moving. A quality the show would be best to remember as it moves forward.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Always" was written by Michael Brandt & Derek Haas and directed by Joe Chappelle.
  • It was a nice touch that Darden, Vargas, and Hadley all got to return for those flashbacks - even though I really don't recall any of them.
  • The tiff between the two firehouses could potentially be interesting - but only when Kenny Johnson and his crew stop just being misogynistic asses.
  • Also, racing towards the scene could become very dangerous very quickly.
  • Platt was the only Chicago P.D. character to crossover this week. I really wanna know how the shows justify their time discrepancies at some point.
  • The new paramedic girl does have some spunk but it does feel way too soon for them to be introducing a replacement for Shay who also happens to look somewhat similar to her. I already dread the mix-up that is bound to happen subsequently.