Tuesday, January 26, 2016

REVIEW: 'Chicago Fire' - Herrmann Faces Freddie in Court While Casey Meets a Suspicious Alderman in 'Not Everyone Makes It'

NBC's Chicago Fire - Episode 4.12 "Not Everyone Makes It"

Herrmann goes to court to testify against Freddie. Casey learns the makeshift shelter housing the recent tornado victims is on the brink of shutting down, and is thrown into the spotlight during a fundraiser. Dawson and Brett feel the repercussions of telling Boden about Chili's recent behavior. Severide helps Agent Alex Ward solve a homemade explosives case. Otis receives a welcome surprise.

"Not Everyone Makes It" is another solid episode of Chicago Fire which has been able to spiral out of the horribleness of the first half of the season. Some of those plot threads are still lingering and the show continues to hit the same plot beats with a number of characters. But the new direction the show is heading in seems very promising - even if some of the stories seem too predictable and formulaic. It's still compelling to watch because of the effective emotion the show is able to get out of the characters. This has been a very rough month for Herrmann. But all that time and focus has really made him an engaging character over these past few episodes. Meanwhile, clarity over Chili's situation and heartbreak is making her downward spiral much more compelling to watch. Plus, new story avenues with Casey and Severide have their own opportunities for potential as well. So overall, the show seems to be on solid ground again.

That is somewhat surprising considering how big a role Freddie is still playing on the narrative. Herrmann has recovered from his injuries. His family is safe after almost getting caught up in last week's tornado. And now, Herrmann needs to testify against Freddie for almost killing him. It's a lot happening in a very short amount of time. Plus, the show is asking us to believe that Herrmann is willing to forgive Freddie for the horrible thing that he did to him. That is asking a lot. Herrmann's faith has been a focus on the show and the character before. But it's a trial like this one that really brings that into sharper focus. Freddie's dad reaches out to Herrmann in the hopes of getting him to forgive his son. It's not a threat though. It's simply a man appealing to Herrmann's sympathies as a father while also addressing his own failings that led to this predicament in the first place. It's highly emotional when Herrmann goes back to the judge's chambers to ask her to show mercy in this case. It's not something that Freddie was expecting at all. It is a little heavy handed - especially when Herrmann tells Freddie that they are both in this together. Hopefully, that doesn't mean more of Freddie in the future. He's sentenced to 18 months probation with community service. That's really generous. He should take this opportunity for what it is and found a way to start over with his life. But maybe, that's a thing best not to be seen onscreen.

Meanwhile, it's interesting that the recent tornado is creating a number of complications for Casey again this week. The show usually introduces an emergency and then moves onto the next one in order to keep things as intense and engaging as possible on a weekly basis. However, Casey did learn more about the family he saved from the disaster. They lost the dad. And now, they are forced into living at a shelter that may be closing due to insufficient funds. It has all the makings of a new potential storyline for Casey. He runs into the alderman for this district who happens to be throwing a fundraiser to support the shelter. Casey is put on the spot at the event and forced to make a speech. He speaks from the heart and it's a very rewarding moment. It showcases Casey doing his part after the job is over. He's becoming emotionally attached to this issue. He cares about these people and wants to make sure they have a place to stay until they can get their lives back together. It's slightly problematic that the alderman then is revealed to be a bad guy who makes all this new money disappear in a second. It largely just makes him the latest one-note antagonist that a character will have to deal with on the show. And yet, it's at least something different for Casey to handle.

A change of pace is something that Severide desperately needs as well. He was once again fallen into bed with a beautiful women. This time it's just more precarious because she happens to be an agent for the Department of Homeland Security. They met on the job following the tornado. It definitely raises the stakes and Severide's awareness of just how dangerous and common the criminals of the world can be. But again, it's the exactly same type of story that the show has done before with Severide. The show thinks it's fine to do so again just because Mouch offers a witty comment about Severide possibly considering monogamy. It's good for laugh. But it doesn't distract enough from this being a very familiar story. Agent Ward also seems a little too shady to be completely trustworthy. Something is up with her but Severide is distracted by the attempt at transparency as well as her naked body. It's all just a little too complicated and pointless. Though it should be interesting to see where it goes next.

And then, there is Chili who is continuing to act horribly following the death of her sister. The truth is at least out now. But that doesn't stop anyone from dealing with the consequences of their actions regarding Chili. Everyone wants to help her. But her recent behavior is creating animosity and tension amongst the former friends. This firehouse is like a family but Chili doesn't want to open up to anyone. Brett telling Boden the truth about a recent call is enough for her to turn on her partner - and on Gaby who encouraged Brett to do so. Chili does apologize after realizing the error of ways. She finally talks about what this loss means to her. It was devastating. They were so close. They were twins after all. Jelly Bean just fell into some hard times. And now, she's gone. It's progress that Chili is talking to Gaby and Brett about this. However, it's not enough to completely pull her out of this spiral. She's still not coping very well with this grief. Brett, Gaby and Boden are on high alert. One more mistake will cost her this job. And that may just be around the corner too considering her behavior at Molly's at the end of the episode.

The calls this week were also pretty interesting. The bus crash was a race against time as flames erupted and gas filled the bus. It was a nice piece of production design that didn't have too many complications for the firefighters and paramedics. Elsewhere, Chili pulling out an unauthorized weapon of sorts in order to detain a violent patient was interesting. It easily could have lead to further complications with her employment at the firehouse. But instead, it's played as the noble thing. She saved Brett during a dangerous situation. That's the reason why Chili feels so comfortable opening up later on. And lastly, the call to the attempted suicide was intense largely from Herrmann's perspective. He was the one fighting for this kid to live. He's made one mistake but that shouldn't destroy his life. It's the same kind of thing Herrmann is going through with his situation with Freddie. It definitely informs his later actions. But it's also nice just to see Herrmann enjoying some quality time with Cindy and his boys too.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Not Everyone Makes It" was written by Tiller Russell and directed by Reza Tabrizi.
  • Otis getting rid of his mustache didn't quite do what Gaby was expecting it to in regards to his relationship with Brett. She actually liked the facial hair. But it's also a story that doesn't track all that well throughout the episode. It's hard to care about whether or not Gaby is fired from this personal job or not. Though it is amusing to see Connie flirt with Otis.
  • Casey has an emotional connection to the victims of the tornado. He has bonded with the family who lost the dad. He is there for the son when he needs some support. That's why he is so willing and committed to finding out what happened to the money.
  • Is it too easy to assume that this alderman just took that money and put it into his re-election fund? That just seems way too simple. The answer should be more complicated than that.
  • So did Jelly Bean die in a flop house or her apartment? There's conflicting stories here. Or was her apartment a flop house? If so, that's really tragic.
  • It's also interesting that Cruz ultimately has nothing to do with Herrmann's decision to forgive Freddie. He is largely just there to be emotional support. He stands by Herrmann because he needs to see this story through until the end - no matter what the outcome.