Tuesday, December 6, 2016

REVIEW: 'Chicago Fire' - A Big Moment for Casey and Gabby is Interrupted By a New Complication in 'One Hundred'

NBC's Chicago Fire - Episode 5.08 "One Hundred"

Casey and Dawson apply for permanent adoption of Louie, but quickly discover a hurdle. Jeff Clarke approaches Severide with an interesting proposition. With hopes of reinvigorating business at the bar, Otis convinces a skeptical Herrmann to throw a bash in celebration of the milestone 100th anniversary of Molly's, but not without complications.

It really is a remarkable achievement whenever a series crosses 100 episodes. It's such a pivotal milestone that deserves to be celebrated. It represents that the show is doing something right and should be appreciated for what it brings to the viewers and the network. Chicago Fire hits this milestone with its final episode of 2016. It's a surprisingly low-key episode too. It mostly just feels like a typical episode of the show. There isn't some big event that puts all of the characters together in harm's way. It's not a big crossover featuring the casts of all the other shows that have been spun off from this one. There is one story that is explicitly pointed at this achievement and is perhaps a bit too forced to work at all. But then, there's another huge moment near the end of this episodes that's such wonderful payoff for a story that has gone through a lot over the course of these hundred episodes. So in that regard, this is a special episode of the show. Yes, it may just be setting up plots instead of bringing everything to an exciting close to the year. It's recognizing the past while also preparing for the future and promising the audience the same kind of stories and love that have always been present. And that is rewarding in its own special way.

So, Otis deciding to throw a celebration at Molly's in honor of the hundred years the building has served as a bar makes it pretty obvious that this is the hundredth episode of the show. It's also the one story that doesn't really work at all. Perhaps it would have if the financial situation at Molly's had ever been important before this hour. For the most part, Molly's has been stable as a business. Sure, Herrmann is always trying to find some new way to promote the place. But whenever the characters are there, it's meant to be seen as a nice and stable place to relax after a tough day at work. It's a comfort for all of the characters across all of the shows of the Chicago universe. If all of them rely on this place at the end of the day, then it's hard to see it as a struggling business - unless Herrmann is giving them free drinks because they're his friends. So, this entire plot occurs just so the show can directly address this huge milestone. It wants to celebrate its own success by having the characters celebrate a similar achievement.

And yet, it's also just a really weird story. It could have just been this nice thing simmering in the background of the episode that just builds to that really nice speech by Herrmann in the end. That is a great moment. He basically becomes the voice of the writers. He shares their appreciation for everything that has happened so far while also looking to the future with so much love for the people that make up this family unit. If the story was just that, it would have worked marvelously well. Sure, it still would have been cheesy. But the sentimental kind that still tugs at the heartstrings. However, the show wants this story to be more important than that. It wants a struggle between Otis and Herrmann over whether or not this is a good idea. They learn that Molly's was once a location for something connected to Al Capone. It's all completely ridiculous. That reporter is such a one-note and lame character meant to solely stir up drama between the friends. Plus, Herrmann freaks out that this will be the thing to ruin his business. The reveal that this new information may be appealing to a certain crowd isn't as surprising as the show thinks. None of this would have been worth it if the celebration wasn't a success. It was always destined to be no matter what the hour tries to trick the audience into believing.

Severide's story is very weird as well. The show has always been unapologetic with him being this man who doesn't want to be tied down. He has had so many love interests over the course of the series so far. It's an easy story for the show to give him. So on one hand, it should be applauded that they are trying something new with him. But it's also a forced plot thread that telegraphs where it's going pretty early on. Apparently, Severide is thrown into this identity crisis after being yelled at by his latest one night stand. He's looking inward to see if this is really the life he wants for himself. He has always been fine with it up to this point. He has accepted that the path Casey and Gabby are on just isn't for him. More than that, the show has said that that is perfectly fine. There is nothing wrong with that perspective. And now, all of that is becoming complicated. Severide spent the first hundred episodes as a man who couldn't be tied down - except for that time when he was briefly married. And now, his future is in transition. This is all just the beginning of a new story for him. It's awkward for it to occur in this episode. That's true of it being both the 100th episode and the final episode of the year. What comes next should be interesting. But it's mostly just plot setup instead of something genuinely interesting or moving.

Of course, it's up to Casey and Gabby to bring the emotional story to the forefront for this momentous episode. Their relationship has always been such a defining story for the show. They have been off and on as a couple for five seasons now. The show hasn't done a great job at explaining or coming up with reasons for them to split or not get married. In fact, this episode pays homage to that in a way by saying that the two of them have been foolish for waiting so long. All it takes is one look for them to finally just do it. Life would be so much easier for the two of them if they just got married. That's certainly true when it comes to Louie's adoption. That's the issue that forces this subject to the surface once more. Louie can finally be permanently placed with the two of them. The process is just so much easier if they are married instead of Gabby applying as a single parent. Plus, the whole firehouse shows up to support them. That's just a fitting way to do this. It has been a long time coming for them. And now, they are finally husband and wife. They just disregard all of the complications that have caused problems in the past. This is what they want and it's such a wonderful moment to watch here. Plus, it opens the door for the two of them to have stories that aren't solely about whether or not they will break up.

It doesn't take long for a new complication to show up to ruin Casey and Gabby's marital bliss either. All episode long Casey is being stalked by someone. It's an eery sight. The audience knows that some big twist is about to occur. It's pretty obvious that it's going to involve Louie in some way. And it does. This man is Louie's biological father who wants him back. Casey and Gabby have just overcome this major hurdle in the adoption. And now, a new one just shows up at their doorstep. It shows that things will continue to be just as complicated for them as a married couple as they were before. Things will continue to be just as emotional as they have always been with Louie. The kid still isn't that expressive or as special as Casey or Gabby claim he is. But he is an important plot construct to force new problems into their relationship. The return of his birth father should be an interesting story to watch in the next few episodes. It's played as a bombshell cliffhanger here. That's perhaps not the right way to tell this story. But once the shock of it all wears off, then this could be a really exciting story as the show heads into its next hundred episodes.

Some more thoughts:
  • "One Hundred" was written by Michael Brandt & Derek Haas and directed by Joe Chapelle.
  • The first call of the episode ultimately leaves Severide with a massive mark on his neck. It looks serious. Everyone tells him he needs to get it looked at by doctors. He doesn't take it seriously. That suggested that it may lead to something huge for him medically speaking. It does not. Just him reconnecting with Jeff Clarke over at Med.
  • Severide perhaps finds new purpose by becoming a bone marrow donor to one of Jeff's patients. And yet, they may have a personal history with this patient. It's all just a little too awkward and forced to be all that invested in it.
  • Gabby and Brett respond to a call of a clown being beaten up. It's another weird moment that's played for laughs because Brett is afraid of clowns. But no one seems to take it seriously despite a man being beaten by a bat. It's played as this guy deserving it for being a part of this cruel recent trend of clowns tormenting the world. It would have meant more if it was a genuine clown attacked for not doing anything.
  • That final call is a very complicated scene. It allows all of the teams to work together very efficiently. And yet, the show doesn't really have a whole lot of time to really invest in the stakes of this perilous situation. The biggest hurdle is Severide needs a couple of his men to get a trapped guy free. It's a cool but horrifying image seeing one guy's head sticking out of a windshield but it's really not as bad it looks.
  • The entire firehouse just leaves the party at Molly's to be at Casey and Gabby's wedding. It's important that they are. But they base this all on a feeling that Brett got because of a look they gave each other. It was a spur of the moment decision but Casey and Gabby left without telling anyone.
  • It's also weird to see all of the characters at Molly's in full-on equipment. It's an unusual visual that then extends to Casey and Gabby's wedding. It shows that they are firefighters all of the time and are a family. It's just weird and doesn't really need to happen to get that point across.