Tuesday, February 9, 2016

REVIEW: 'Chicago Fire' - Chili Continues to Struggle While Jimmy & Antonio Face Off in the Ring in 'All Hard Parts'

NBC's Chicago Fire - Episode 4.14 "All Hard Parts"

Severide confronts Chili about his suspicions regarding her erratic behavior, but she doesn't take too kindly to his intentions. The firehouse rallies around Casey, who they believe is a perfect candidate to run for the position as Alderman. Jimmy faces off against Antonio in the first annual "Battle of the Badges" boxing match.

Chicago Fire has really been flailing around all season long in regards to Chili. She came in at the end of the third season and was given importance. She was the latest paramedic to join the firehouse. She had her own story that signaled that she was going to become a part of this ensemble and wouldn't just be another in a string of one note characters who rode in the ambulance. That's been true of this season as well. She has had a a pretty significant story arc. And yet, the execution of it has been very wonky. At first, it was all about her relationship with Jimmy. That ended abruptly in order for the show to tackle this truly dark story about the death of her twin sister and how she spiraled in its aftermath. But again, the execution has been very weird. It started with it being some grand mystery. She was acting erratically which was very noticeable - although not to everyone at 51. It took several episodes to get any kind of answers regarding her behavior. After that, she has kept saying she'll do better but then she falls back into the same, predictable pattern. It's a story arc that has been really unsure of itself - which has lessened its effectiveness on the narrative this season.

All of these problems with Chili come to a head in "All Hard Parts." This hour forces her to her rock bottom. The episodes leading up to this were nothing but a tease for how low she could go. Hopefully this signals real change. But it's also hard to care about her. This story has been prolonged for far too long. It shows just how complicated the grieving process can be. Chili wants to be better. But she doesn't know how to reach out for help from her family at 51. Plus, any little thing can remind her of her sister and send her spiraling all over again. However, this episode also showcases just how erratic this storyline itself has been. Only Boden, Gaby and Brett really know what's going on with her. Everyone else at the house is too caught up in their own stuff to notice or care. That's just weird. It largely amounts to a new character - in this case, it's Severide - once again asking if Chili is okay based on her recent behavior. This is a show that likes having its characters share their problems with each other. But in this case, it's been very circular - with every other week or so, someone new learning the truth and ultimately trying to help her.

Moreover, Chili and Severide don't really have a friendship. It's odd to see him just walk up to her and start up a conversation. They have never really shared time onscreen before. Severide does understand what Chili is going through. He dealt with similar issues when Shay passed away. And yet, the show doesn't seem to remember its own past. That history could help bond Severide and Chili together. Right now, the support and tough love from Boden, Gaby and Brett just isn't cutting it because she's still doing this precarious behavior on the job. She is literally running away to her car during shift just to take a sip of alcohol. It doesn't go unnoticed by Severide. But it also points out the fact that the show already did this kind of tragic downward spiral arc with Shay during the second season - and it was much better done that time. So again, what's the point? It seems like it's writing Chili off the show. Boden fires her for her behavior and she checks herself into rehab to get better. It's a depressing way to close this story. But it's a necessary kind of resolution too. However, what's her future on the show? Is some magical explanation going to be given that allows her to return to work after a few episodes? Or is she just never going to be heard from again?

All the stuff going on with Chili is really overwhelming of this episode. It takes up a lot of time and space. And yet, it doesn't detract too much from the fun appeal of the antics happening elsewhere in the hour. The episode features the big "Battle of the Badges" match between Firehouse 51 and P.D.'s 21st district. It's a huge event where all the money raised goes to help support the victims of the shooting from the previous episode. It's a great cause. But more importantly, it showcases what this whole franchise is about. These people put their lives in danger every time they go to work. Even during their down time, they are doing whatever it takes to give back to the community that they love so much. That's the mentality of the show. It appreciates the good and hope in people. That's a great message. But it's also just fun to see Antonio and Jimmy facing off in the ring. Herrmann is hoping to con the rest of the firehouse out of money once it's revealed that Jimmy really is a good boxer. But he's still no match for Antonio. It's a fun sequence. All the problems the characters have just seem to go away. That's how infectious this event is. But alas, Antonio wins and Herrmann is forced to pay up.

However, it also seems that the show is really planning on going somewhere interesting with Casey with this whole conflict with the alderman. He is approached to run for the office not by some committee but by a citizen of the community that the alderman represents. Casey always wants to do good in this world. He wants to make sure that a job is done right. That's a quality that can make him very effective at this job. It could be a significant change to his life as well as the show. Chicago Politics may not be an angle that suits this show so much. But the show is at least doing something different with Casey. He and Gaby are stable in their relationship. Right now, they are just happy with each other. It doesn't need to be more complicated than that. The show instead presents a new opportunity for him to grow as a character. He has proven himself to be a champion for the community. He doesn't see himself as a politician but he may be good at the job nevertheless. It's still kinda a wait-and-see story but it's at least heading in an interesting and meaningful direction now.

Some more thoughts:
  • "All Hard Parts" was written by Jill Weinberger and directed by Sanford Bookstaver.
  • This entire season has forgotten that Chili and Herrmann were friends. That was key to her introduction at the end of Season 3. And now, they just didn't spend any time together this season until this episode. The show can't go that long without them and still expect us to randomly care.
  • Why doesn't the show spend more time with squad when they go out solo for calls? The action scenes are usually centered around truck and the ambulance. That has sometimes created tension in the past. The truck needs to do something but squad is too far out to help. Can't it be interesting to see the roles reversed every once in awhile though?
  • Squad does respond to their own call in this episode. However, it quickly combines with the call truck is handling because the driver crawled to his burning house to rescue his children. It really wasn't that surprising a reveal though.
  • It's also great to see Connie out of the office. She's great at her job but that really hasn't made her an interesting character on the show. Here, she actually gets an amusing personality when she shares her dreams of being a ring girl. She actually has a lot of fun at the boxing match too.
  • It was somewhat surprising to hear Burgess cry out for Antonio to "kill" Jimmy during the big match. That was a little unsettling. Antonio won but the P.D. presence wasn't felt as much in this episode as it could have been.
  • Despite her drinking, Chili really didn't make any mistakes on the job. She was just insensitive in talking about a victim's passing to his coworker. But Boden still had to fire her for this latest mistake after she confesses. It needed to have lasting consequences.