Wednesday, December 2, 2015

REVIEW: 'Chicago Fire' - The Firehouse Cares for a Tortoise While Boden's Legal Troubles Worsen in 'When Tortoises Fly'

NBC's Chicago Fire - Episode 4.08 "When Tortoises Fly"

Boden confronts Maddox, believing he is the hand behind Serena's accusations intended to skew his credibility from the approaching trial. Severide reaches out to Jamie to help out. Patterson questions Boden's ability to remain Chief. Brett and Chili discover a man passed out in a garden that may have a connection to a call from a previous crash site. Otis looks to fill up his social calendar, but the situation hits a bump in the road.

It was such an expected twist that the person behind all of Boden's legal troubles was real estate developer Maddox - who Boden called out in the press for his crimes - instead of Chief Riddle. It's not even treated as a big surprise in "When Tortoises Fly" too. Last week's episode ended with Boden going to confront Riddle at the Fire Department Gala. He did that because the speculative paranoia amongst the firehouse was that Riddle was responsible for all of this. He has been the more frequent adversary this season. Maddox has largely just been a construct who really hasn't even been seen onscreen. He has never even interacted with another major character. And yet, his presence was still apparent. Everyone at the house seemed to forget about Maddox as soon as Gaby lost her baby and was no longer working out of arson. But early in this episode, the paranoia actually dies down. Gaby even admits that she had no basis for accusing Riddle of this crime. But then, the show immediately presents Maddox as another likely suspect and spends all of the running time of this episode making that the more likely explanation.

Boden's problems are only getting more serious. He may know that Maddox is doing all of this to hurt his credibility on the witness stand. But he doesn't have any proof. He is only losing his temper more. He is smart to let Donna be the one to confront Serena when she returns to the house next door. But that only leads to the detective getting a search warrant for the Boden house and then actually arresting him for the later disappearance of the victim. Boden and the audience are both being played. There is a part of this story that hasn't been told yet. Maddox calmly teases Boden that his accusation is correct. The rest of the firehouse is doing their best to help him out. But Severide can't get anything out of Maddox's lawyer, Jamie, and Antonio says he can't do anything except tell Boden not to lose his cool. It's a story that is obviously building to something. And yet, that final reveal already seems like a long time coming. It is a tantalizing threat to take Boden out of the firehouse for a little while. And yet, that's a story the show has already told before - with disastrous results with his replacement. So something needs to happen in this story that will alleviate the pressure. Because right now, it's just pure suspense without making sure it's doing a whole lot for the character.

The Boden mess only makes things more complicated with the firehouse's relationship with Patterson and Riddle. Riddle is nowhere to be seen in this episode. And yet, everyone believes Patterson is just doing everything that his superior is telling him to do. It's all in the hopes of taking over Boden's command. This season has proved that Patterson is not the best leader for this firehouse. But the narrative is still building up to Patterson taking over control. Right now, it's okay if Severide's heroics in the field get him re-instated because Patterson can still have a major influence over 51. Patterson is a more layered character than Riddle is. And yet, the show hasn't earned the story beat of him needing to choose between Riddle and the firehouse. Boden knows he is playing both sides. That has made this story very awkward. Patterson is hiding under the excuse of doing this job in the professional way that it needs. But that is so frequently opposed to the way the firehouse has done things for four seasons now. It doesn't really question the norm in interesting ways.

"When Tortoises Fly" isn't all serious beats though. It also features a pretty amusing subplot when Herrmann saves a tortoise from an RV fire. It's a bit awkward when Herrmann first saves the animal. The episode heads into an act break with him declaring that there is a kid inside this RV that has caught on fire. After his rescue, he proclaims that it's a robot. He never explains why he would save a robot and risk his life. But that's not important because it's actually a tortoise. Everyone is surprised and then they have a lot of fun with the creature as they try to track down its owner. It's understandable that they can't get any information very easily about who rented the RV. But it's also a story that connects to a later call where Brett and Chili attend to a man in diabetic shock. The man's family is able to be reunited with the tortoise. So it's a very happy story. It set out to be comedic relief and was distinctive enough to actually work.

But then, there are also difficulties with many of the show's romantic couples. Casey and Gaby are stable. But they aren't really doing anything as a couple. They just make plans for a weekend getaway. The show's other two prospective couples right now - Chili & Jimmy and Brett & Otis - don't seem to have much purpose. It's hard to understand what is going on with those two couplings. Something is clearly up with Chili. She is late to shift and it's not because of Jimmy. When he confronts her about it, she brushes it off as nothing and then seduces him. As a couple, they are attractive. But as characters, they really aren't all that interesting together. And then, the show put Otis and Brett together last week for the gala. Otis wants to continue exploring that relationship. But Brett has no idea what she really wants. It's a story filled with awkwardness when the victim from the first crash returns to ask Brett out. It largely just feels like an obstacle getting in the way of this couple doing anything too soon.

Some more thoughts:
  • "When Tortoises Fly" was written by Michael Gilvary and directed by Haze Bergeron.
  • Not every episode needs to be flashy with the calls that the firehouse are called to. And yet, the ones in this episode weren't really that great. The RV crash was a tease for an act break and then just amusing with the tortoise. The guy laying in the corn field was just connected to that first accident. The creepy guy in the air ducts spying on women was exciting when the unit came crashing through the ceiling. But Severide then made sure the guy was caught quickly.
  • Freddy is still just hanging around the firehouse. Patterson tells Cruz that arrangement needs more rules. Fortunately, that's all that happens in this episode.
  • It's amusing that everyone just agrees that a tortoise should just be named after one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Too bad Mouch picked the wrong one.
  • So, does Jamie actually know about all the illegal things her client is doing and reluctant to share them with Severide because it could cost her her job? It's not even that great of a job as she points out.