Thursday, October 10, 2019

REVIEW: 'Chicago Fire' - Brett Returns to Firehouse 51 and Immediately Battles a Corrupt System in 'Badlands'

NBC's Chicago Fire - Episode 8.03 "Badlands"

Brett and Foster question the suspicious circumstances surrounding a brutal attack at a juvenile detention center, which leaves them searching for the truth. A convoluted new technology installed inside Firehouse 51 tests everybody's patience. Kidd gets chosen to represent the district at a leadership conference.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of NBC's Chicago Fire.

"Badlands" was written by Michael A. O'Shea and directed by Olivia Newman

Brett is officially back at Firehouse 51. She is warmly embraced by everyone. Of course, Foster also warns her that the firehouse isn't the same as when she left. Brett understands that because she has been mourning Otis' death as well. However, the hour also exaggerates that assertion from Foster just to make it seem like a whole lot is different even though Brett was only gone for two episodes. As such, there is a huge technology upgrade to the firehouse that everyone hates. Now, the resistance to the rise of automation is a significant story and interest that the show could have an intriguing time telling. It isn't really interested in any of those connotations though. It mostly just wants the absurdist fun that comes from this system getting on everyone's last nerves. Herrmann is willing to take a crowbar to it at one point. And then, Boden throws the system out the window. Meanwhile, the tech assistant just shakes her head in disapproval because these macho guys are much more difficult than the tech bros she hangs out with on a regular basis. As such, it mostly comes across as these two worlds being completely divided with no one from either side ultimately needing to embrace change and learn how to adapt to the new circumstances. Sure, it's ridiculous that Boden was put in charge of learning how this new system works. He could certainly oversee the implementation but handed the responsibilities of maintenance to someone who actually could figure it out. No one else in the firehouse really stepped up to the plate though. That means things will largely go back to the way that they always were. The only real change has been the addition of Gallo. He is young and eager to prove himself. It's not until the final minute that the show introduces a tragic backstory for him. The show often uses a tragic past in order to introduce some new firefighter of importance. It's a familiar pattern. One where it's clear the show wants the audience to have sympathy for this guy and care about his journey at 51. But again, the repetitiveness of it has grown tiring as well. Sure, it's inherently tragic that his entire family perished in a fire when he was a teenager. He was the lone survivor and has managed to find a new family at Firehouse 51. That's the overwhelming message the show wants to extend. This firehouse operates as a family and will protect each other no matter what. They will serve their community to the best of their abilities. That includes serving beyond what they are required to do in the field. Sure, Gallo may be a bit reckless and eager to show off his heroism. However, he is still brimming with potential. He hasn't been soured by his past. It also fundamentally makes him a blank slate where anything can happen to define his future without any kind of personal baggage. That may rob the show of some personal drama but it will likely find some new avenue to explore elsewhere. Meanwhile, Brett's return puts her immediately back into the action. It's as if she never left because she has to serve as the advocate for a kid being abused by the prison system. She and Foster have to fight to see their patient. They have to extend care long after they are initially called. They want to report the misconduct they clearly see. It's just going to be part of a lengthy investigation. One that will dramatically change the lives of the kids trapped within the system. They may not be better off wherever they go next. However, Brett and Foster spoke up when they needed to. They fought with passion and made a difference to ensure the abuses of the world weren't allowed to continue. That's a powerful way to welcome Brett back to the city. And finally, Kidd is picked to represent the district at a leadership conference. It's a largely expositional story where she is freaking out about the expectations now forced onto her. It makes it seem like she has never had to deal with that kind of pressure before when it's clear that she has. It's awkward but still contributes to an overall solid episode.