Thursday, January 4, 2018

REVIEW: 'Chicago Fire' - Gabby and Brett Must Make Quick Decisions to Save Ramon's Life in 'A Man's Legacy'

NBC's Chicago Fire - Episode 6.07 "A Man's Legacy"

Brett attempts to make a lifesaving decision in the field to someone near and dear to the firehouse family. In an effort to impress Lily, Otis scrambles to get everything together for the grand opening of Molly's North. Boden becomes emotional following the rescue of a famous blues player from a burning apartment building. Dawson struggles to come to terms with how she has been dealing with her father.

Chicago Fire has always had life-or-death stakes in its narrative. In fact, that's a hallmark of this entire franchise. The various shows have always been about these jobs and the heroic people who do them every day despite the risks to their personal safety. But this season, there has been more of an aura of personal tragedy and death. The hiatus between seasons was defined by many characters at risk of dying in a fire. And yet, they all miraculously pulled through. That was so completely surprising and didn't quite feel earned in a rewarding way. It felt like a cop out. Since then, there's just been the sense that things could easily turn deadly in a moment's notice and quickly lead to a heartbreaking episode. But the show keeps finding ways for its characters to survive. Yes, this has always been a quality of the franchise. There have been plenty of characters who have either died or been forced to leave due to injury or family drama. That's a hallmark of this show in particular. Any time a call comes in, it could be dangerous for this family. But the show once again went into a hiatus teasing the death of a character. Now, Ramon Dawson isn't as important as Casey, Mouch or Severide who were the focal points of the previous cliffhanger. But his death would have personal repercussions for Gabby. It was a very melodramatic plot beat for Gabby and Brett to get that call and see Ramon bleeding to death. It was a way to keep intrigue and excitement up as the show was off for a few weeks. But now, the show once again pulls this character on the brink of death out of it. And so, it becomes increasingly frustrating because sooner or later this threat is going to have to claim a life.

Now, I'm not saying that any character in particular needs to die on this show. It's just become apparent that the season is really teasing a massive change of some sorts. Here, Ramon emerges perfectly fine. It's another tense opening sequence. Gabby has to compose herself quickly in order to give her father the medical attention that he needs right now. Brett needs to do a procedure while in the moving ambulance to treat a collapsed lung. It's a sequence that also really calls attention to the perils of driving an ambulance. The direction wants the audience to be aware of just how chaotic and panicked Gabby is while driving a vehicle. It was nerve-wrecking the moment Brett suggested Gabby get behind the wheel despite the potential tragedy she is witnessing. She's not in the proper headspace to be driving. And yet, that's the role she plays in all of this. She has to get her father to the hospital. In the end, she is successful and Ramon makes it through surgery completely okay. It's just a case of the show overly calling attention to something it normally doesn't show. Has the show ever done a sequence showing the race against the clock that goes along with driving an ambulance? Usually, the show sees the ambulance being ushered off the scene with a cutaway straight to the emergency room at Chicago Med. It's still an effective sequence here. It's just effective because it does things in an atypical way for the show.

Plus, this hour definitely has its mind on legacy. Gabby and Antonio are struggling with the uncertainty of what their father dying would mean. Gabby has been the one caring for him. She's the one who needs to be his support system. But she also criticized his recent decisions because he was being too selfish. And even now, the story is focusing on Ramon enjoying the attention he gets from news crews for his heroic actions. But that all effectively builds to that moment when it's just Ramon and Gabby in the hospital room and Ramon is able to call Gabby the real hero. He is enjoying this moment knowing that it doesn't change him on a fundamental level at all. He's not a hero in the same way that his daughter is. She is so much stronger than him. That's such an impressive and emotional sequence. It does tie in thematically with what Boden is going through in this hour as well. He's brought face to face with a blues player who meant something to him growing up. This man was living a poor life and died tragically at the hospital. It seems to be forcing Boden to look at the purpose of life. That's a profound question that could be setting up an interesting character arc for him. Casey did get that promotion after all and could replace him in charge of 51. But it mostly feels like an episodic plot with Boden taking the long way around to providing some emotional support and clarity for this man's daughter. As such, it's less effective than Gabby and Ramon's moment because it's less personal.

It's also a little strange how this personal tragedy with Ramon seems to be forcing Brett and Antonio back together. The two of them were a promising couple last season. Of course, it became abundantly clear that the creative team had that idea before they decided to send Antonio off to Chicago Justice. That later decision basically meant that nothing could really happen with them as a couple because Antonio's priority needed to be establishing a new show instead of focusing on a relationship. But now that that show failed after one season and Antonio is back on Chicago P.D., the two are allowed to reunite. It has the feeling of the two wanting to pick things up right where they left off. Of course, their jobs are still incredibly dangerous. They still can't promise to be there for each other in the way that the other deserves. They had problems before Antonio decided to make this career move and break up with Brett. But now, it just feels like a sexual attraction. They want to keep things simple. They are lusting after each other simply because they bump into each other at the hospital. It's a story that only works because Ramon lives. If he were to have died, then the grief would have had to drown out everything else in this story. Because he lives and Gabby is taking care of him, Antonio basically has the freedom to pursue this romance with Brett once more. Again, it's still a charming dynamic. It should just be curious to see what's new about it this time around.

Meanwhile, the opening of Molly's North has the potential to go awry in so many ways. First of all, it just seems to be happening much too quickly. Yes, it feels like the natural extension of what those characters would do after several years of success with Molly's. Otis isn't completely wrong to suggest franchising their business. But the idea was only introduced in the previous episode. And now, it's an actual reality with Otis basically just slapping a new coat of paint on the bar and renaming it. And second, it mostly just feels like a comedic story in this episode. That's not inherently bad. It's a source of levity while everything is going on with Gabby and her father. It's a source of amusement to see just how much Otis still has to learn in this business. He wants to be running point on this new location. But this episode just offers more and more proof about why this is such a bad idea. Otis really doesn't have any business smarts whatsoever. He's basically doing all of this just to impress this new girl, Lily. She doesn't exist as a character yet. She only exists through Otis' perception of her. And he miraculously gets everything he wants in the end somehow. The bar opening isn't a disaster and Lily kisses him. That just seems a little too unbelievable. Yes, the characters note that it is still a small crowd for the opening. But it's larger than anything the previous bar was pulling in. So, it's played as a victory that just casually ignores all of the troubling warning signs associated with how out of his depth Otis truly is with this new endeavor.

Some more thoughts:
  • "A Man's Legacy" was written by Alvaro Rodriguez and directed by Joe Chappelle.
  • The show is also teasing a potential reunion between Severide and Kidd. It doesn't go all the way in on a reunion like what happens with Brett and Antonio. It's just the two of them ignoring each other at all costs despite living together. That's an arrangement that can't last forever. They will need to sit down and talk about their feelings at some point. Hopefully, it happens sooner rather than later.
  • Brett is still incredibly apologetic about the role she played in Hope's chaos at the firehouse. Kidd got hurt because of that and it had the potential to really put some tension in their friendship. But now, everything seems perfectly fine between them. They can joke about their latest romantic issues. That's perfectly fine. Hope really doesn't need to do any more damage to this season.
  • Another source of comedic levity comes from Casey and Mouch not having a clue as to what's going on with Boden but knowing that they need to be there for them as he works through these feelings. It's just a small sign of support that proves that these friendships are genuine and mean something. They will be there for each other even when they have no clue what's going on at all.
  • Otis' troubles with promoting the opening of Molly's North come from him believing he could advertise atop taxis for only $250 and then being completely speechless during a radio appearance. He's a guy with so much confidence. His friends trust him because he has a vision. But the end result isn't as lucrative as he has been teasing which should indicate more problems in the future.
  • It's so easy to forget that Gabby is part owner of Molly's. When is the last time the show told a story about her and the bar? It's been awhile. That's not surprising because she has function on the show in so many different ways. With Herrmann and Otis, the bar provides their definition and purpose within the greater ensemble. But it's also annoying that the show always has to explain why Gabby isn't an important part of the business decisions.