Thursday, March 22, 2018

REVIEW: 'Chicago Fire' - Kidd and Otis Are Trapped in a Perilous Situation in 'Looking For a Lifeline' & 'The Chance to Forgive'

NBC's Chicago Fire - Episodes 6.14 "Looking For a Lifeline" and 6.15 "The Chance to Forgive"

After responding to a car accident, Casey becomes skeptical when a domineering husband continues to answer for his injured wife. Cruz becomes frustrated with Herrmann and Mouch when they contract people regarding the Slamigan. Kidd uncovers something meaningful and important to Severide. Brett discovers some potentially unsettling news. During a residential fire, Otis and Kidd's lives are put in jeopardy when gunfire goes off. 

NBC has been billing these double episodes as a two-hour movie event. That teases the audience that something big is going to happen on the show that it will take two hours to adequately cover the story. And yet, "Looking For a Lifeline" and "The Chance to Forgive" largely play as two separate episodes of Chicago Fire. They both have clearly defined beginnings, middles and ends. They are two conventional episodes of the show - with the second one being the emotional hour where one of the characters is put in jeopardy. So then, it's easy to believe that the network needed to double up on airing the show this week in order to get all of the episodes in for the broadcast season. It has a specific finale date that needs to be met. But then, that can't be true because the show didn't air a new episode last week despite all of the comedies being new. So, it ultimately feels like a stunt on NBC's part in order to disrupt the potential audience for ABC's series premiere of Grey's Anatomy spinoff Station 19. That too is a show set in a firehouse. The two shows won't be airing directly opposite each other weekly. But it is fascinating that ABC and NBC have opted to go head-to-head in this manner with two hour episodes of both shows. Chicago Fire is the veteran performer that has always been reliable. And yet, its ratings have dropped this season. It may not be as buzzy as the new show. And again, there's nothing all that special or important about these episodes. Yes, there is one big development. But it's mostly the show continuing to spin its wheels in regards to a couple of the ongoing romances.

It's a little annoying just how hot and cold the show continues to play things with both Severide & Kidd and Brett & Antonio. Both romances have been very passionate in the past. They both attempted real and genuine relationships. It didn't work out for various reasons. And yet, the show has been slowly inching both couplings back together. Brett and Antonio have been having sex for awhile now. It's just suppose to be a casual dynamic. But now, Brett is realizing she may want more than that. It's a somewhat awkward story as it plays out across these two episodes. First, it's clear right away to any perceptive viewer that she is having a pregnancy scare. The show really makes that apparent. But then, it covers the ground of if Brett is willing to start a family right now with Antonio. She has to figure out if this is something she genuinely wants or if it's a mistake that the two have gotten themselves into. She does that mostly by herself. Gabby is there to be supportive. But Brett never really talks to Antonio about what's going on. So, that makes it seem like this coupling really isn't meant to last. The franchise has tried many different romantic pairings across the shows. The only successful one though is Mouch and Trudy. That's one of the best relationships on any of the series. Brett and Antonio are very sexy and passionate. But here, they really struggle with communication. Brett breaks down in front of Antonio. He knows something must be going on. But he is incapable of following up with her because of their jobs getting in the way. After Brett learns she isn't pregnant, she wants to have a conversation with Antonio about what she wants right now. He then interrupts her by saying he's going out on dates with other people. As such, it hardens her. But it still mostly feels like teasing before a big conclusion can be made closer to the end of the season.

Meanwhile, Severide and Kidd don't have sex again until the end of these episodes. The show has clearly been heading in this direction for a long time. This season has really played into the fact that they are so intimate and close. They live together and that has only increased these issues. It has made them almost impossible to be with other people in a romantic way. Kidd wanted to commit to Zach but couldn't because of these unresolved feelings with Severide. Here, she is really supportive of him. She encourages him to go to the dedication in Springfield naming a wing of the hospital on behalf of Anna. It's good for the show to have a memory of that relationship because it was so significant. It was one of the best romances Severide has been a part of. And yet, it's also just casually ignoring how Kidd played a role in that love story as well - with her seeming like the third wheel then. Now, she has a chance to step up and date Severide once more. She fills that void mostly by being a good friend. And yet, these romantic feelings are clearly still there on both sides. When Kidd is in danger during a perilous call, Severide ignores orders from Boden in order to rush into the burning building and save her. He feels the need to be her hero. He is rightfully criticized for his actions. It proves once more just how intense it can be dating someone else in the firehouse. The show has always used that to create drama. It's something Casey knows all too well. He can certainly advise Severide on what to do. He sees all of the warning signs. And in the end, Severide expresses his feelings by having sex with Kidd. They don't really have a conversation. It's just a moment of passion at Molly's to show that this is something both of them really want to do right now.

And then, there are the specific fire emergences that occur in each episode. In "Looking For a Lifeline," the main story deals with a woman in an abusive relationship who doesn't know how to get out. It's a story that has been told both here and on Chicago Med. The show has complete and immediate sympathy for the woman while showing just how abrasive and domineering the man can be. Here, the man is shown as toxic by him refusing to get medical treatment for either himself or his wife. He doesn't want to fall into the trap of the government system scamming people for money. He is a very broad character. He is a blowhard who doesn't really have moral rationalizations for his stupid and rash actions. It's not all that easy to see why this woman would find it difficult to leave him. As such, it's more important for Casey to connect with her. It's a subject that he knows a little bit about because his mother was in a similar relationship. She is in jail because of the action she took to leave it. That's a plot point the show hasn't talked about in awhile. As such, it could just be an easy way for Casey to connect with this main story. Or it could be suggesting a new development in Casey's family life shortly. Either option would completely make sense. In this episode, it's easy for him to form this bond while knowing just how desperate she is. She caused a car accident and started their house on fire to escape this man. It's a haunting image to see her calmly sitting in the living room while the house burns. Sure, it takes Casey awhile to get to her despite her seemingly being right next to the front door. But it's enough to prove that Casey and the rest of the firehouse will protect this woman despite the ways she has hurt her husband to escape him. That's still moving and genuine while also being a little forced.

Finally, there's the huge development that happens in "The Chance to Forgive." While responding to a house fire, bullets start going off and trap Otis and Kidd in a room. It's a sequence where the show purposefully misdirects the audience because it's unclear for the longest time who the shooter is. As each member of this family is pulled out of the house, it seems more and more likely that it's not an active shooter and it's just the ammunition reacting to the fire. That's ultimately what occurs as well. It presents a new form of danger for these firefighters as they rush into the unknown. Here, it seriously injures Otis. It's a little too obvious that the show only wanted to put one character in peril. Kidd gets a bruised rib. But she's back at work the following shift and having sex with Severide quickly thereafter. It's a much more extensive healing process for Otis. The entire firehouse is rallying around him. This is a type of episode the show has done before. The injury is new. That's what makes it interesting. This entire season has been teasing the death of a major character. So far, it has yet to deliver on that promise. Everyone has survived even in the most miraculous of situations. Casey and Severide have cheated death multiple times. Every injury sustained ultimately only cripples a character for a week at most. No one ever takes an extended amount of leave from the firehouse. This situation presents as something different. It doesn't feel like the show writing Otis off. Of course, I wouldn't mind that because he has become a more annoying and broad character this season. In fact, I've had much less tolerance for the various shenanigans that Otis, Cruz, Mouch and Herrmann get into every week. It's just always too silly with weird morals attached. As such, it's a little difficult for me to connect with the emotions of this hour as Cruz is praying for his best friend to survive while also dealing with the complicated legal situation that put him in danger. The owner of the gun faces no criminal charges but does try to kill himself after seeing what he has done. Cruz is still the one who saves him. That's forced but really rewarding. But then, there's the tease that Otis is paralyzed. He's alive after two surgeries. It was iffy for awhile there. It seemed like he was on the mend. Then, the show came out with that final reveal. It's more of a whimper though. A doctor never confirms what's going on. Choi just has a suspicious look while ominous music plays as Otis looks at his toes. It suggests that he won't be returning to the firehouse anytime soon. But the fact the show doesn't provide much clarity also means Otis' recovery efforts will still be seen for the remainder of the season.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Looking For a Lifeline" was written by Derek Haas and directed by Joe Chappelle.
  • "The Chance to Forgive" was written by Michael A. O'Shea & Jamila Daniel and directed by Reza Tabrizi.
  • The Slamigan is another story that just seems too broad and silly to take seriously. First of all, Herrmann and Mouch are just so presumptuous and controlling when it comes to setting up sales meetings without feeling the need to tell Cruz at all. How could they possibly forget that? It was Cruz's idea. No amount of sucking up to him later can make that okay. Plus, it seems impossible for them to be surprised by how little the financial turnaround actually is. They know how popular this device would be in firehouses. They shouldn't be surprised one only wants two. And yet, they are for some reason.
  • Antonio and Burgess are the P.D. characters who respond to help the firehouse deal with this domestic abuse situation. Burgess mostly appears in order to drop a ton of exposition. And yet, that's not all that necessary. The audience already has a solid sense of what's going on in this house. She mostly pops up to say that the police have dealt with him before but nothing has ever come of it.
  • Will, April and Choi are the Med characters who pop up to help the firehouse with their latest patients. Will and April are mostly just extras who get into a tense standoff with the abusive husband. Meanwhile, Choi is the visible face of the doctors treating Otis' condition. He's the one who updates the firehouse and tests Otis' reflexes afterwards. Of course, does it make sense for an ER resident to be doing that?
  • It really is amusing that Gary Cole seems to have gotten a recurring role on this show as a consolation prize for his episode of Law & Order: SVU being indefinitely shelved. The two shows exist within the same universe. But here, it's a more substantial part even though he's pretty one-note so far. He's a fire chief intent on making things happen for Severide even when he doesn't want it. That hasn't been too engaging so far.
  • With Otis being out of commission for a little while, the show is already setting up a replacement for him on truck. I'm guessing that's what this casting story will pertain to. It follows the show's annual tradition of introducing a new recurring player at the end of every season, see how they interact with everyone else before bringing them onboard as a series regular in the following season.