Tuesday, November 10, 2015

REVIEW: 'Chicago Fire' - Firehouse 51 Hosts a Wedding Despite What It Could Mean for the Future in 'Regarding This Wedding'

NBC's Chicago Fire - Episode 4.05 "Regarding This Wedding"

After a fire ruins a wedding, Boden steps up to host the ceremony at the firehouse. That's much to the chagrin of his boss, Chief Riddle, whose political aspirations have caused friction from within the firehouse. Dawson butts heads with Riddle over her ability to perform and is forced to defend herself despite Boden's support. Severide is caught between loyalty towards leadership or his colleagues.

Firehouse 51 has been in conflict with Chief Riddle all season long. He made his presence known in the first episode that he didn't like how the house was being managed. The qualities that make this unit a family and so lovable as a TV show are the exact qualities that he wants to eliminate. That makes him instantly a villain. It's not a completely complex character. "Regarding This Wedding" does a better job in explaining who this new character is for the season. But he still largely comes across as a one note adversary that everyone has to deal with right now because he's in a position of power. He does bring up some valid points that have been sources of tension before. And yet, he's not adding a whole lot of new energy to those same concerns. He's simply the bad guy who stands in the way of what makes Firehouse 51 so effective.

It has been proven in the past that 51 is different from the other firehouses in the city. That has largely been dramatized by having the other firefighters come across as jerks who no one would want to be on a team with. Remember when Gaby changed firehouses in order to be the candidate and it was run by a bunch of sexist dicks? Remember how Jimmy's brother is also a firefighter and he's basically a college frat guy? Firehouse 51 seems to be the best unit of firefighters and paramedics in the city. Of course, that comes from four seasons of being with these characters. They do need some opposition in order to evolve as characters. This tension with Riddle does force several characters to make important decisions. Some of which are appropriate and some aren't. But the appeal of this story comes from the already established characters and not from anyone new.

Gaby wants to return to active duty following the loss of her baby. All of the doctors clear her to do the job. She is physically and mentally capable of doing the job. And yet, Riddle wants to personally analyze her because he is looking at 51 under a microscope. Anything that could potentially signal trouble he wants to be there to question everything. He's only doing that because he wants to be fire commissioner. That's something that everyone knows. That's how they explain his actions. But they still have to deal with him. His moods can drastically affect their lives on this job. They can't just ignore him. He outranks all of them. He actually has the qualifications to be commissioner. He just goes about things in a way that frequently rubs people the wrong way. With Gaby, he offensively wants to know all the personal details about her recent medical emergency. He treats her with more judgment simply because she is a woman who might not be able to think straight because of this loss - and potentially serving with the father of this child.

Dating co-workers is still frowned upon in this line of work. That issue hasn't gone away simply because Casey and Gaby have decided to get back together. That was one of the reasons why they broke up. It wasn't the best explanation but it was still a contributing factor. And now, the show doesn't want to take it seriously because they are in love. It's a concern that could give Riddle ammunition against the house. That's not something anyone wants. But this has already created so much drama for Casey and Gaby as a couple. It doing even more could get tiresome very quickly. The show hasn't always done the best when it comes to relationship drama. Cruz and Brett seem to be working fine despite dating last year. And now, Chili and Jimmy are acting on their romantic connection. All of this could signal trouble for the house if Riddle gets his way. But it could also suggest that it won't affect Casey and Gaby as a couple because now it's more of a systemic issue and not just something that only impacts the two of them.

Severide also has a bone to pick with Riddle because he's the man who demoted him in the first place. He wasn't happy to lose command of squad or take a leadership course. But he did it. It may not have worked out for him in the love department but he did pass the class. That doesn't seem to matter to Riddle though. In that moment, it is exposed that he has a personal vendetta against this house. No matter how far the leaders go to prove that they are capable of effectively doing this job, Riddle still doesn't respect the way they carry themselves at work. He takes it seriously but he also wants the emotional aspect taken out of it completely. This is a place of business. This isn't a place that forms a makeshift family. The firefighters can't form emotional attachments because that will only get in the way of doing the job. Because Severide supports everything that Boden is doing right now, he doesn't get command of Squad back. It's unfair. But it's still the kind of power Riddle can wield.

So much of this happens because Boden and Riddle disagree over how to run a firehouse. Boden wants his firefighters and paramedics to voice their opinions. He wants to be seen as a part of the neighborhood that surrounds the building. He sees the house as part of the community and not just a service people need in their time of need. 51 wants to be there to support people long after the emergency ends. When a fire disrupts a wedding, the firehouse is more than happy to host the ceremony. It's something that infuriates Riddle. This is not something these people should be doing. And yet, it's still the good thing to do. That's what makes Riddle nothing more than a villain. He wants to stand in the way of two people's happiness. Only a monster could do that. The show isn't subtle about it either. It's a more complex issue with other characters - Chili not believing in marriage, Patterson trying to publicize the event in order to get good press but by alienating the rest of the house, etc. But as far as creating an interesting ongoing story of conflict, it doesn't quite work because the narrative is still so one-sided.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Regarding This Wedding" was written by Michael A. O'Shea and directed by Joe Chappelle.
  • It's slightly weird that the ongoing arson investigation is able to take the week off - especially because of Boden's public accusation of the real estate developer. But it also couldn't have been in this episode because it would have made the overall plot of the hour too chaotic.
  • The show has been pushing Jimmy and Chili really hard. It's the one thing really defining both characters at the moment. As such, it's not exactly a relationship that one can truly invest in yet. The show still has to tell the audience who these people are.
  • Also, is Jimmy-Chili too much of a retread of Casey-Gaby? It's the firefighter excellent at the job and the lead paramedic. The parallels are there. Now the show just needs to distinguish the two relationships more - if Jimmy-Chili is something meant to be taken seriously this season.
  • The fire at the wedding really is the only call with true significance during this episode. It happens early and has plenty of complications throughout the hour. The calls with the overweight man who passed out during sex and the collapsed bleachers felt suspenseful for a few moments and then just went away.
  • The entire house being affected by the death of a fellow firefighter who had just retired would have been more important if the audience had any clue who this man actually was. Instead, he was just an abstract symbol to the various themes of the hour.