Wednesday, January 6, 2016

REVIEW: 'Chicago P.D.' - Voight Struggles When an Investigation Gets Very Personal in 'Now I'm God'

NBC's Chicago P.D. - Episode 3.10 "Now I'm God"

A doctor with personal connections to Voight is under investigation when four of his patients are committed to Chicago Med after an overdose of chemo. The team tracks down his patients and discover all of them have been poisoned with unnecessary chemo. Burgess and Platt work together to clear Roman's name.

"Now I'm God" is the conclusion of the first-ever crossover event between all three Chicago shows. The first two hours had both good and bad moments. When the storytelling was personal to the characters, it became much more effective. The Med portion of the event was largely just setting up this case for Intelligence to investigate. It's a pretty harrowing case too. A doctor has been treated women with chemo even though they've never had cancer. And now, four of them have landed in the hospital with overdoses and have either been placed in comas or have died. It's a very serious allegation to fling at the doctor who treated all of these women. However, P.D. does a very smart thing in making this case personal to one of the detectives. The doctor at the center of this case also treated Voight's wife, Camille, six years ago when she was battling cancer. That gives this hour an emotional through-line that really resonates well with the characters.

This hour plays more like an episode of Law & Order than any previous hour. The investigation into Dr. Dean Reybold is pretty straight-forward. It doesn't need a whole lot of investigating. The detectives just need to figure out who was treating these women. They are able to confront him at his office and get a hold of all of his records - which shows just how far this fraud actually goes. The doctor actually had 42 other patients who he was treating for cancer even though they didn't have any. All of this evidence piles up quickly. The detectives are able to make a pretty impressive case against the doctor early on. So this episode is less about the difficulties in investigating this crime and more about making sure that he is punished for his despicable actions. That's much more difficult especially once he gets his day in court.

It's an episode like this that makes one think that Chicago Law isn't far away from being on NBC's schedule. That could realistically happen - especially given the success of the three other Chicago shows. This episode does rely on a one-off legal character to represent Intelligence in the courtroom. That has never really been a part of this show. It has been when it's crossed over with Law & Order: SVU. But this is a franchise that doesn't really have a legal presence in it - at least not yet. The show does suffer a little bit from that fact. Voight and the rest of the detectives are really pushing for this Assistant District Attorney to convict Dr. Reybold. She does function as nothing more than a plot device. Someone who simply pops up to complicate this story and lead to Voight and several other characters getting frustrated. It never feels as if the doctor will actually get away with these crimes. But the episode is clearly trying to make that option feel real to the characters. It doesn't completely succeed in that endeavor.

However, all of these perfunctory moments with the plot really don't take away from the effectiveness of the emotional story. It allows the show to truly dig deep into Voight's past and unearth the story behind his wife's passing. It's tragic. She died from ovarian cancer. She was the love of his life. That has made Voight an interesting character. The show is never focused on giving him a love interest. It understands the value this woman had to him. And now, he has his family at Intelligence. That's all he needs. It's simple and keeps him as a functioning character on the show. But it's also nice to be given this heartbreaking backstory. He does not know whether or not her cancer actually came back and that's when Reybold started treating her. But the show doesn't linger on how this connection to the case is affecting his judgment. In fact, he is able to use this personal experience to make sure that the doctor is put away for good. It's his testimony that puts the final nail in the coffin. Before he took the stand, the prosecution was really losing momentum. But Voight's testimony allowed so much crucial evidence in that allowed the jury to make a swift judgment of the doctor. It was all because Voight finally opened up. It's not an emotion to expect often with the character. But here, it works incredibly well because he's vulnerable in a way that he isn't a whole lot of the time. It's personal and very emotionally rewarding.

This episode also has to deal with the fallout of the cliffhanger with Roman at the conclusion of the previous episode. It's been awhile since P.D. aired a new episode. Plus, the show wasn't able to meaningfully explore the consequences of Roman's actions because it had to focus so much on this crossover story. That leaves this subplot a little short changed. Voight and the Intelligence unit were determined to help Roman get out of this sticky situation. And yet, none of them really do anything because they have to put all of their focus on this case with the doctor. So that means Burgess and Platt have to help Roman. They are a fine character pairing and are able to sort out this whole mess. It just doesn't have the same significance or weight that it did at the conclusion of the previous episode. So it ultimately just feels a tad distracting from what the rest of the episode was doing.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Now I'm God" was written by Jamie Pachino and directed by Holly Dale.
  • Most of Intelligence doesn't recognize the doctor's name when they first hear that he is the one responsible for these crimes. Only Voight, Erin and Olinsky do. They understand it's significance and by the end of the hour so does the rest of the unit.
  • It's also a very good thing that the show largely makes this a story about Voight and Erin. They are the only ones who needed to have a reaction to all of this. The rest of the ensemble was fine just moving to the background a little bit.
  • Erin also gets a nice moment talking about how Camille helped welcome her into the family. It's not telling the audience anything new. But it's still a nice moment that Sophia Bush plays wonderfully.
  • This largely plays solely as a P.D. episode too. Natalie and Charles from Med do show up. Dr. Charles even plays a critical role in understanding this psychopath. But it's largely the theme and the story that carries over from last year's two hour crossover event.