Thursday, April 6, 2017

REVIEW: NBC's 'Chicago Justice,' 'Chicago Fire,' 'Chicago P.D.' and 'Chicago Med' (April 2-6)

Reviews for NBC's Chicago franchise from April 2-6:

NBC's Chicago Justice - Episode 1.07 "Double Helix"
NBC's Chicago Fire - Episode 5.18 "Take a Knee"
NBC's Chicago P.D. - Episode 4.19 "Last Minute Resistance"
NBC's Chicago Med - Episode 2.19 "CTRL ALT"

Due to the demands of Peak TV, it is becoming more and more difficult for this website to devote the time to full length episodic reviews. And yet, there are still thoughts to be had about the ongoing adventures on a number of series. So I thought it would be good to still write down a couple of brief thoughts about each episode on a weekly basis. Of course, you can still expect full reviews for premieres and finales. If NBC should make screeners available, those episodes would get detailed analysis as well. But for now, this will be the way to continue to provide content for these shows while also being a lighter workload for me.

Chicago Justice - "Double Helix"
When a pregnant woman is found murdered and her baby cut out of her, the State's Attorney's investigators race to find the baby and the killer. The case is complicated when it's revealed that the killer's DNA matches that of her killer: a convicted serial killer already in prison. Both killers then attempt to use the DNA evidence as their ticket to freedom. Written by Elizabeth Rinehart and directed by Donald Petrie

This episode of Chicago Justice succeeds largely because it finally starts giving some personal details to at least one character. That's been the biggest complaint of the show so far. The personal stories just aren't present. There's no reason to care about any of these characters because they don't really have outside lives. That changes a little bit here with Nagle. Those details are the most successful part of this episode. Of course, they're depressing personal details as well. It's probably one of the most tragic backstories given to a character in the Chicago universe. She had a problem with pills after an on-the-job accident which allowed her ex-husband to get full custody of their daughter. She's put in the work but still can't see her. That's devastating and sets up a clear goal for her in the future that is easy to invest in. All of this is important work the show does here. Meanwhile, the actual case-of-the-week isn't that strong. It seems a little too predictable and broad about serial killers and the traits they potentially pass down to their kids. It never seemed like the insanity defense got much traction. Nor did it feel that tense for the characters. B-

Chicago Fire - "Take a Knee"
Casey discovers a new crack house on the block that is harboring a female junkie and goes to extreme measures to remedy the situation. Gabby and Brett get assigned a new trainee for the shift and the newbie gets the two in trouble when he surprises them during a harrowing call. Severide gets an unexpected visit from his father. Herrmann deals with family issues when his son Lee Henry gets into trouble at school. Written by Michael Brandt & Derek Haas and directed by Joe Chappelle

This was a weird episode of Chicago Fire that didn't make a whole lot of sense. The show has been a bit more episodic with its stories this season. The relationships between Casey & Gabby and Severide & Anna have largely been the only ongoing storylines. The rest are introduced and resolved in the span of one hour. That just makes this a week where the firehouse takes on a crack house. It's a weird story that feels like it belongs more on Chicago P.D. The stakes of it just don't feel genuine. And yet, it's at least easy to follow. I don't know what this Herrmann story was. It's the show being broad and manipulative in an overbearing way that is just confusing. The show wants to have that final moment of respect for veterans. But the message of this story is so muddled that absolutely none of it works. Meanwhile, Anna's sudden decision to end things with Severide just comes out of nowhere. That's probably the point. She's happy one moment and reserved the next likely because of something at work. But it feels very rushed and a way to give this hour a tense and unclear ending. And finally, Gabby and Brett training a new paramedic had potential. And yet, the show quickly ends it for no reason whatsoever just for the joke of the two of them having to take a training class. C

Chicago P.D. - "Last Minute Resistance"
After encouraging her sister to spend a night out with friends, Burgess wakes to find that Nicole never made it home. As the guilt begins to eat at Burgess, the team in Intelligence bands together to make finding Nicole their main priority. The case kicks into high gear when she is found clinging to life in an El station. Written by Timothy J. Sexton and directed by John Hyams

This is an unsettling and deeply traumatizing episode of Chicago P.D. Those qualities make it an effective hour. It maintains the mood and a sense of purpose that is grounded with the characters while also being very topical. It attacks rape culture in an unflinching way. It makes it personal to Burgess. Yes, it's problematic that the story builds to her being put in a dangerous situation with the main male suspect. Victimization of women is a lackluster way to tell story or to define a character's arc for the immediate future. But this is still a powerful episode. Nicole hasn't been an important character in Burgess' life. And yet, her simply being family is enough to give this hour genuine stakes. That's the quality the show wants to project. It wants this to be a makeshift family that supports each other. It hasn't always been successful in that endeavor. It's not like the firehouse on Chicago Fire. But this hour works because the unit is supporting Burgess and willing to do anything to find justice for her sister. Of course, it also reinforces this season's theme of constant change in Intelligence. This season has seen so much turnover. And yet, Burgess' exit to help her sister right now largely feels like an acceptable way to handle Marina Squerciati's real-life pregnancy. B+

Chicago Med - "CTRL ALT"
A hacker demanding a ransom payment shuts down the hospital computer system, forcing the doctors to diagnose patients without the aid of technology. A stressed Goodwin struggles to keep the hospital afloat when an unexpected visit from her ex-husband Bert and his new girlfriend make matters worse. Making use of his former navy experience, Dr. Choi and Noah have to locate a bullet inside a patient with a gunshot wound. Sarah feels Dr. Charles may be trying to push her out. Robin's unusual behavior worries Dr. Rhodes. Written by Stephen Hootstein & Jason Cho and directed by Valerie Weiss

This show really doesn't give S. Epatha Merkerson enough to do. Goodwin is largely just the stern hospital administrator who tells the doctors what they can and can't do. They've been a few episodes where she's more important. Only very few though. And yet, this episode is one of them as the show remembers her complicated personal life. All the drama from her ex-husband showing up is more interesting than the hack though. The hack largely just gives this episode its premise. It plays as a mystery as to who paid the ransom. It's fine that the show leaves it ambiguous to the characters. But to reveal to the audience that it was Dr. Latham - who wasn't important in the rest of the episode at all - was very lackluster and unnecessary. But again, the tragic reveal of what has happening with Bert's new girlfriend was very solid. Of course, there are weird moments in a number of other stories too - Nina's laughable interaction with Natalie, Sarah not sure what Dr. Charles meant, Maggie bringing up Choi's girlfriend who hans't been seen in forever, etc. Plus, the final reveal with Robin may be an interesting ongoing story that sheds more light on the Charles family. However, it too feels like a random bit just to complicate her relationship with Connor. B-