Tuesday, January 19, 2016

REVIEW: 'Chicago Fire' - A Tornado Strikes and the Truth About Chili's Erratic Behavior is Revealed in 'The Path of Destruction'

NBC's Chicago Fire - Episode 4.11 "The Path of Destruction"

A tornado threatens the city and Herrmann discovers the path may hit close to home. Chili and Brett lock heads when Chili makes a critical mistake, prompting Brett to report her erratic behavior to Boden. Otis pleads for Gaby to help him solve his women troubles. Severide is asked to lend assistance to Agent Alex Ward from the Department of Homeland Security regarding a suspicious home.

These last few episodes of Chicago Fire have really been rough on Herrmann. First of all, he was stabbed by Freddie when he only wanted to help the young delinquent. And then, he was in peril for the entirety of a two hour crossover event with Chicago Med. And now, he returns to the job only to have a tornado touch down in his neighborhood with no contact from his wife and kids. It's a lot for one character (and the audience) to handle in such a short amount of time. Like Cindy, we should be questioning whether or not he is capable of returning to work so soon. It seemed a tad incredulous that he was already back to work at Molly's in last week's Chicago P.D. episode. It's one quick recovery that does lessen how effective that story was just two weeks ago. But nevertheless, it's what the show is going for. It's not suggesting that he has returned to the job too soon and is endangering the people around him. He needs to get his confidence in this profession back again. The only way to do that is to run into a house that's on fire. The family drama on top of that is a tad unnecessary. But it doesn't take away from the heart and the emotion of this Herrmann story either.

It's a very cool concept for the show to tackle a tornado touching down in Chicago. It really doesn't do much with the premise. It largely just exists to show the aftermath of the destruction and how that effects the way Firehouse 51 does their jobs. It establishes a mood and tension. Weather reports show just how terrifying this experience can be. Plus, the show does a solid job at setting the atmosphere with Brett and Chili going out on a call and the city practically being a ghost town. That's very effective. But the major action set piece of the hour comes after a tornado has destroyed a community. The firefighters and paramedics need to tend to the people trapped and injured. It's very emotional stuff that is complicated by the personal actions of a number of the characters. It's tense because of the uncertain nature of their surroundings. It's really not a precarious call at all. But the weather conditions and the fact that the house could crumble at any moment brought weight and intensity to the sequence. Many people emerge unharmed after Squad just moves a boat from blocking a door. But it's still thrilling to watch as Casey and Herrmann go in for the save when a pregnant mother and her husband are trapped in a burning apartment.

However, this largely just showcases how much Herrmann needs this job. Everyone is worried about his ability to continue being a firefighter. He gets a warm welcome home at the firehouse. But he still needs that call to action to actually be fulfilled by this work again. This hour showcases just how destructive and violent life can be. Cindy doesn't want to loss Herrmann. She almost had to say goodbye at the hospital. The danger on the job hasn't gotten any better. He still risks his life every single time he and the rest of the team go out on a call. But he's proud to do it because he saves lives as well. It's such a victory for him to pull the man out of the fire. There will still be lingering feelings about death and other bodily harm. But they'll return to the same level they were at before Herrmann was attacked. Herrmann needed everything to go right on his first shift back. In the field, it did. He saved lives and his family was safe. They were a mile away from the tornado. That's exactly what Herrmann needed to hear. What he doesn't learn, however, is that the man he saved later died at the hospital. It's information Casey seeks out and which could complicate things moving forward. It shows the cost of this job even though Casey, Herrmann, Brett and Chili did their best to save this life.

Elsewhere, Cruz is still racked with guilt over what happened to Herrmann. He keeps wanting to blame himself for letting Freddie into the firehouse in the first place. Herrmann holds no anger towards Cruz. But Cruz has gotten very annoying very quickly with his need to prove himself to his friend again. He wants Herrmann to know that he is making sure Freddie is being punished as severely as possible. That's more for Cruz than it is for Herrmann though. Herrmann just wants to move forward with his life. He is allowed that distance in order to make that happen. But that also isolates Cruz in a way where he doesn't know how to process these emotions. He still blames himself and that is affecting his mental state. He even lashes out at Severide when he tries to help with the situation. The only way Cruz is going to be able to move on from this mess is by confronting Freddie. That's not something Herrmann needs to do. But with Cruz, he needs to know that none of this was his fault. Freddie was in control of his actions and he's the one who made this horrifying and destructive decision. Freddie wasn't a great character when he was hanging around the firehouse. His reappearance here feels like a lingering plot thread that won't go away. And yet, the emotional weight of that scene on Cruz's end is very effective.

Additionally, Chili's erratic behavior as of late has finally started to affect her ability to do her job. An answer is finally given as to why she has been acting so strangely too. At the end of the episode, Antonio tells Gaby that Chili's sister - Jelly Bean - overdosed in Kansas City and died. It always felt like that was going to be the explanation for Chili's behavior. When she first joined the Fire team, the show had to address the fact that Dora Madison had already appeared on P.D. She had a twin who went down a much more dangerous path. And now, her sister is gone and Chili has closed herself off from the rest of the world. Brett and Jimmy look at Chili's recent actions with concern. That concern hits its breaking point once Chili accidentally gives a patient too much morphine and stops her breathing. It's an action Brett has to report to Boden because Chili doesn't even feel remorseful about her mistake. Everything worked out in the end so she's choosing not to worry about it. That's very disturbing to Brett. She doesn't want to get her partner in trouble. But she also knows that she needs more help than she is currently getting for something Brett doesn't even know about.

It's also very meaningful that Chili hasn't shared this heartbreaking news with anyone yet. Fire has always told its stories with the idea that this firehouse is like a surrogate family. They all rallied around each other when Herrmann was in the hospital fighting for his life. Everyone cares about each other. They want each other to succeed in their lives. They have their backs. It needs to be this way because they run into dangerous situations together. They need to count on each other. Chili is still a new member to this team. She has made friends with many of the people. But she still doesn't feel comfortable enough opening up to these people about the trauma she is dealing with. She would rather keep it to herself and lash out at the people closest to her. She doesn't have enough trust for the people that surround her. In this line of work, that could be a very devastating blow. She may be angry over what Brett and Boden do next but it may finally provide her the help that she desperately needs.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Path of Destruction" was written by Sarah Kucserka & Veronica West and directed by Drucilla Carlson.
  • The Otis seeks dating advice from Gaby story was too silly. The show is also very unsure of itself when it comes to the Otis-Brett dynamic. It can't commit to one way or the other. That makes it hard to care all that much.
  • Though it will be weird for the next few episodes to see Otis without his signature facial hair. But the change could be good too.
  • The visit from a Homeland Security agent was a thrilling act break. But then, it quickly pivoted to a story about Severide once again helping a beautiful woman - who he'll probably sleep with by the end of the next episode. It seems that's the only type of story this show wants to do with Severide.
  • Herrmann really wants wedding details from Mouch. He doesn't provide any - not even the fact that he and Platt are struggling to pay for it.
  • Also, Mouch is upset with himself after he tells one of the tornado survivors that he doesn't know what happened to her husband who went out into the storm to rescue their dog even though he already knew he was dead. It was such a minor plot point though.