Wednesday, November 25, 2015

REVIEW: 'Chicago Fire' - Boden Faces Criminal Charges While Severide Gets a Visit from His Father in 'Sharp Elbows'

NBC's Chicago Fire - Episode 4.07 "Sharp Elbows"

Boden finds himself in the middle of a fiasco concerning a female neighbor, who he believes is setting him up. Severide, who is still on probation from his altercation with Patterson, receives a surprise visit from his father and discovers some interesting information on Patterson that could be a game changer. Romance blossoms at the Chicago Fire Department gala.

"Sharp Elbows" is a much more consistent episode of Chicago Fire than the previous one was. It is still continuing the same plot lines. But it has a much better handling of them and doesn't feel the need to bog the narrative down with some distracting cameos. The stories still have their problems. The rising action in the Boden story especially feels misplaced. But the character work at the heart of the show is still so strong. The tension in the action beats is really great in this episode as well. The two calls the house respond to in this hour are pretty impressive and very intense. Sometimes that's enough to elevate an otherwise bland episode.

Everyone at the house is assuming that all of Boden's current legal problems are because of Chief Riddle. He wants to be Fire Commissioner so bad that he's willing to frame one of his chiefs for a crime he didn't commit just to eliminate one of his problems. It's an explanation that everyone on the show latches onto. As this experience gets more and more severe for Boden, everyone is trying to figure out how they can help. Of course, that leads to conspiracy theories. Boden initially just wants Casey, Herrmann and Mouch in on his situation. Things become more complicated once Boden tries proving his own innocence. The entire house soon finds out the truth. That gives off the hope that sooner or later the truth will come out in this case as well and clear Boden's name. And yet, everyone is convinced Riddle set this all up. He is the character with the most active tension with Firehouse 51 at the moment. He is the simple solution. So, that makes it pretty guaranteed that he's not ultimately the perpetrator. It seems much more likely that it's that real estate developer Boden called out in the press earlier this season. That's a story that has been dropped ever since that moment. That's happening in order to get the audience to forget that it happened. Then, the show can pull a surprising reveal when Riddle isn't the man behind all of this. It's just a formulaic twist that is bogged down by the way the show is telling the story right now.

The Boden story does do some interesting things. Boden is committed to not silently falling in line. He has the gumption to try and solve this case himself. He has the support of the entire firehouse. No one at the house believes that Boden did this. They trust him. Even when the odds are against him and he makes a scene at the big gala, the entire house chooses to stand up his side. That's a very effective moment. The show also did a smart thing in explaining why the P.D. characters aren't getting involved with this investigation. Tom Amandes is a fine addition. But he's not so much a character as a plot device who is only willing to look at things a certain way. This universe has characters in this profession who could look around for Boden. They are his friends after all. Voight does show up during an interview. It shows just how much influence he has in this department. And yet, Boden doesn't want to compromise his values just in order to clear his name. He trusts that the truth will come to light eventually. Voight respects that but still makes sure that Boden knows he is here for him should he change his mind. That's nice and may be necessary in the future.

Everything that is happening with Boden right now also leads to the rest of the house isolating Patterson more. He's not their favorite guy after he got Severide suspended for a shift. And now, they are even more frustrated because they believe he is in cahoots with Riddle and doing this to their beloved chief. It's an unflattering light on Gaby because she's the one spearheading this conspiracy. That will make things awkward once it's exposed that Riddle isn't involved at all. But that's a problem for the future. Right now, Severide is trying to determine how best to handle the situation with Patterson. He doesn't trust the guy to lead his squad. But he has to respect his command for as long as he is at 51. Benny returns and has some old school tactics to deal with this problem. Severide just has to figure out how far he is willing to go in order to handle this.

For all the trouble that he causes, Severide really is a good guy. He always has the best intentions. He also has so much trust for his guys on squad. When he needs to do a daring rescue for a man hanging off the edge of a building, he trusts that Cruz and Capp can weigh him down. It's a precarious situation that also requires the help of Sylvie but the rescue is successful. Coming off of that moment, Severide decides to be the bigger man and hand over all the evidence he has on Patterson. It's not a power play. It's simply showing Patterson how good of a guy he really is. Patterson is convinced that it is something that Severide will use over him to get what he wants. And yet, that just isn't Severide. He is not his father. He wants to do things the right way with honor. That's what true friendship is about. Patterson may be too used to playing politics where everyone wants someone. Severide simply wants to be human.

And lastly, this episode spends a lot of time talking about this big gala for the city's firefighters. It's the event that brings Benny back to town. It's the event that Riddle wants to exclude Boden from because of his scandal. But for all the talk, the episode really doesn't spend a whole lot of time at this setting. It's great that the cast gets to dress up in their best looks. But they hardly get any time to show off. It's just a few minutes at the end. It's not even able to show how good of a time everyone is having because they have to focus on Boden. They need to be supportive of him in a time when he could make a costly mistake. For all of the buildup though, the payoff didn't seem to be worth it.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Sharp Elbows" was written by Tiller Russell, Liz Alper & Ally Seibert and directed by Dan Lerner.
  • A Sylvie-Otis relationship could be an interesting thing. However, why do all three main female characters on the show have to be in relationships right now? That's not the only way to tell compelling stories with those characters - especially if that's going to be the only thing to define them like it is with Chili and Jimmy.
  • Speaking of Jimmy, he makes his first big mistake in front of Casey this week. He's ordered to control traffic, steps away for a moment, and Casey gets hit by a car. It was slow moving so nothing bad happened. But it was still a teachable moment.
  • Also, the show is making it a point this season in having citizens crowding the scene of emergencies be more important. They are in the way and the firefighters have to be aware of that. They don't always make the best decisions in the heat of the moment though.
  • The Cruz trying to help a gang member get out of that life story continues to go around in circles. It is really bad.
  • Even though they never shared the screen, the hour featured an Everwood reunion between Treat Williams, Tom Amandes and Steven R. McQueen.