Tuesday, February 3, 2015

REVIEW: 'Chicago Fire' - Shay's Sister Visits the Firehouse as the Investigation Into Her Death Intensifies in 'Three Bells'

NBC's Chicago Fire - Episode 3.13 "Three Bells"

More clues surface surrounding the fire that killed Shay, leading Severide to a most unexpected source who may be able to provide pertinent information. Shay's sister comes to town, prompting members of the firehouse to remember Shay's life. Cruz is in for a surprise when Otis' grandmother moves into their apartment. Boden finds a way to help his dying father.

Over the years, firefighters haven't had as many shows about them because it is often so difficult to give emotional and personal stakes to inanimate objects or concepts like fires. In that aspect, Chicago Fire had to be about the firefighters who serve the city, and their respective highs and lows in life. This season-long arc about the death of Shay has provided some highly emotional material for the entire cast - especially Severide and Gaby. The first half of this season was about the house continuing to serve the city and figuring out how to move on in their lives. They had to emotionally deal with the fact that their friend was no longer alive. The house has changed. Mills has moved over to the ambulance, and is joined by newcomer Sylvie Brett. Gaby is the new candidate on Casey's team. Those changes have forced an adjustment period as well. They led to new friendships - Sylvie hasn't replaced Shay but she is a welcome addition to the show - and destructive breakups - with Casey and Gaby being unable to deal with their new personal and professional relationship. Even with all of that, Shay has always been kept alive in spirit by the people at Firehouse 51.

And then, a few episodes ago, the idea was planted that the fire that ultimately killed Shay was arson and her murderer was still roaming free. That's a powerful twist in that it forces the characters and the audience to see that significant event in a whole new light. It has forced them to be united and to search for her killer in order to make sure he receives the justice that he deserves. And yet, there's only so much these first responders can actually do to make sure that that actually happens. They have to hand it off to the investigative unit and they have to keep doing their jobs. Severide and Boden assist the investigation. Dots are connected that make this case appear much larger in scale than they ever could have imagined. If every piece of information that comes to light in this episode is proven to be true, this arsonist has had a very deep history with the people at 51, going back decades. He may also be responsible for the fire that killed Mills' father and gave Boden the burn scars on his back. The arsonist is aware of 51's history too - using former co-worker/arsonist Hadley to help deliver a message. It's twisted stuff. And yet, the squad again can't really do anything about it.

Instead, everyone lingers in the memory of Shay once more. Her sister, Megan, comes to town and is the perfect reason for all of these feelings to come up all over again. Everyone wants answers. But in the meantime, they just have to keep Shay's memory alive. So that means sharing stories with each other - like how Shay first came out to her sister or her first day on the job. It's brutally honest and emotional. Megan and her sister were close. And yet, she didn't know how grave her profession really was until she tagged along with Sylvie and Mills on a call. It's easy emotions for the show to dig up again. But there's a reason for it as well because of the new evidence. It also still allows an unexpected plot beat as well. The audience expects Megan to have a moment with Severide and Gaby. But it's unexpected for her to share one with Hermann. That's the moment that hits the hardest because it's a relationship that hasn't been explored too deeply this season. It's fresh and rewarding because of it.

All of these emotions culminate in a grand ceremony were the squad dressed in full uniform honor Shay's memory and hand the flag to Megan. Gaby recognizes all the changes that have happened over the past few months. Despite all of that though, they all will remember Shay and who she was as a person. That's an amazing warm feeling to have. Robert Knepper can pop up to taught Severide over getting away with Shay's death and the investigator can tell everyone that they can't do anything about it. But no one can make the squad forget about Leslie.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Three Bells" was written by Jill Weinberger and directed by Arthur W. Forney.
  • The episode isn't only emotional and dramatic. Otis' grandmother moves into his and Cruz's apartment. I got the sneaking suspicion that Otis deliberately didn't tell Cruz. His frequent mentions of texting the information felt shifty. But that never came up. She only got in the way when Cruz invited Sylvie over to celebrate their three month anniversary.
  • Boden also has to deal with his dying father for one scene. Making sure that he keeps taking his medication. But that means we can expect some extravagant party pretty soon.
  • This episode has been billed as two-part crossover event with Chicago P.D. However, Jon Seda, Marina Squerciati and Brian Geraghty are the only characters from the police side of things to appear and they pop up just for brief cameos. It did feel natural though. The bigger event will definitely be tomorrow night on P.D.