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Chicago PD - Fallen & Care Under Fire - Double Review: "We Can't Always Get What We Want"

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“Fallen” is probably the weakest episode of Chicago P.D.’s fifth season while “Care Under Fire” is certainly the strongest. The show’s new approach to dealing with real world issues falls somewhat flat in “Fallen”, as the full extent of what is really happening is only revealed in the last ten minutes. Also, the character-centric aspect is almost an afterthought, as the episode barely reveals any new information about Upton. “Care Under Fire” is essentially the complete opposite, with the series diving further into Halstead and his past trauma. Prior to this episode, we knew very little about his time overseas, but Jesse Lee Stoffer gives another outstanding performance. It feels slightly weird to review these two episodes together, just due to the difference in storytelling, acting, and writing. It’s almost as if these are two different shows rather than consecutive episodes. So let’s dive in and get started.

The case of the week is pretty basic stuff in “Fallen.” Quinton Kane is suspected of killing a family of three, but Intelligence can’t definitively connect Kane to the crime. Then when Sergeant Sean McGrady, who was assisting Intelligence with the triple homicide, also ends up dead, Kane is once again a key suspect. Despite Kane appearing to having a credible alibi, his blood was found on McGrady’s gun. Fast forward through some good old fashioned police work and an intense standoff, and the bad guy is finally arrested. Case closed. Let’s go get drinks at Molly’s, right? Not quite. While the Chicago Police Department was having a hard time making an case stick against Kane, he was arrested a few months prior for an alleged DUI, so his blood was in evidence, yet one of the vials is conveniently missing. As we previously learned, McGrady was a constant gambler and even stole money from a charity. As Alderman Ray Price posits McGrady knew he was about to be exposed, so he frames Kane for his own suicide, allowing McGrady to go out a hero and his family to collect his pension. And Kane’s alibi? Well, the surveillance video has magically disappeared. So what exactly is the lesson here? It looks like Chicago P.D. tries to address the concept of whether the ends ultimately justify the means. In this case, it is ethical to frame a known murderer for a crime he didn’t commit. While the series poses a good question, it fails in its execution as the big reveal of McGrady committing suicide and framing Kane is only discovered in the final minutes. The audience doesn’t really have time to dissect the issue as they’re too busy recovering from the whiplash. It’s a shame because this would have been a strong problem to tackle if done correctly, but the end result is just a mess.

I was really looking forward to this episode and learning more about Upton, but all that was really revealed was an ambiguous past with McGrady. We learned pretty early in the episode Upton previously worked with McGrady, but there was some sort of underlying tension between the two of them that was never really clarified. There duo apparently had some undisclosed differences in the past, with Upton telling Halstead McGrady was always looking for some sort of angle. After some initial awkwardness along with Halstead being a third wheel, Upton and McGrady were supposed to meet up later to talk about the case. However, things take a sharp right turn when McGrady ends up dead, allegedly having been killed by Kane, with Upton getting chewed out by Voight and others for not being with McGrady when he was shot. It’s not until the truth about McGrady’s suicide comes to light, or rather Voight’s attention, that he apologizes to Upton, explaining the two of them need to get on the same page: they either disclose it or take it to the grave. Upton, understandably, is having a hard time burying this as everyone will remember McGrady as a hero when he reportedly gambled away his savings, cheated on his wife, and tried to sabotage her career. Now would be the time to raise your hand if you’re as confused as I was. Where did those last two allegations come from? There had been no mention of McGrady’s infidelity or sabotaging Upton’s career until that point. Was there some scene that was cut or a reference I didn’t get alluding to those actions? The only thing that seems to make sense, and I may be way off, is that Upton was the one having an affair with McGrady, and it ended badly, thus explaining why she was constantly passed over for promotions. Of course, if this is the case, then there was barely enough information given to viewers to allow them to infer this. We barely know Upton any better or how she got her detective shield. All we know is she had a difficult relationship, either personal or professional, with McGrady, and that’s about it. If this episode was supposed to make me care for Upton, then it failed miserably as my feelings for her haven’t really changed.

And then we get to Voight and Price, who after the events of “Reform” appeared to have reached an understanding. The pair even seemed somewhat friendly in their initial interactions in “Fallen.” However, things hit the fan when Voight finds out Price has been communicating with Kane. Price had reached out to some of Kane’s associates, trying to get Kane to surrender peacefully. Voight, being his usual cheery explosive self, doesn’t react well to this, reminding Price this is a police operation and Kane will be taken down their way. Yet Price has to remind Voight that Kane, who claims he’s innocent, won’t come in “their way,” as Kane could end up dead just from blinking the wrong way. From what I’ve seen I’m really enjoying the character of Price. Not only is Wendell Pierce perfectly cast, but Price is already a highly-developed character after only appearing in two episodes. He generally does care for the residents in his ward, but he also has a political agenda. As we see by the end of the episode, Price correctly theorizes that Kane was framed but agrees to keep silent. Granted, the prospect of another “banger” taking Kane’s place who will understand the wisdom of “investing” in Price’s ward is a plus, but the fact that Voight now owes him takes the cake. The dynamic between Price and Voight has been fun to watch because they it’s a game of give and take. While they have separate agendas, both see the benefit of helping, or not standing in the other’s way, from time to time. Neither one of them can be considered truly moral characters, but they do have good intentions. I’ve enjoyed this dynamic much more than the constant back and forth between Voight and Woods, which always ends with them at each other’s throats. Voight and Price are sometimes on the same side and other times on different ones; it’s never the same or predictable, which makes it interesting to watch.

Speaking of Woods, we had the “big” reveal with him and Ruzek reveal at the end. I use quotations because it just felt expected and out of nowhere, if that makes any sense. After the red herring of Antonio potentially working with Woods, I assumed the show would try to get someone from Intelligence to turn on Voight, but it just felt like lazy writing with the Ruzek reveal. We saw that Ruzek was dodging phone calls from an alleged one night stand named Mia, but then all of a sudden it’s revealed that Ruzek has been dodging Woods’ calls. It turns out that Ruzek’s sister got arrested for an alleged DUI with his nephew in the backseat, and Ruzek tried to cover it up, except the audience never saw Ruzek try to make his sister’s arrest go away or even knew he had a sister to begin with. However, apparently Woods somehow found out and is now blackmailing Ruzek to spy on Voight and Intelligence. It doesn’t surprise me that Woods would force Ruzek to give him intel or that Ruzek covered it up. What really bothers me is that this came out of nowhere. There was no build up or payoff; it just felt like it was added in after the writers realized they needed someone to be a mole for Woods. I understand that Ruzek is in a tough spot, and he doesn’t want to betray Voight or Intelligence but feels like there is no other choice. It’s just that his sister and nephew and this coverup conjured out of the blue. It would have made more sense for Woods to somehow have gotten the video recording of Ruzek from the season premiere and threatened to hold that over his head. The video may not have had serious consequences, but if it was released to the public, I imagine it could be another public relations nightmare. Woods could have threatened to make an example out of Ruzek and fire or suspend him to appease the public. That may have been a slight stretch, but it would have made more sense than this nonsense. I’m assuming we’re supposed to suspend our disbelief, but I’m having a hard time as it just seems like poor writing. I mean was it ever mentioned Ruzek even had a sister to begin with?

And this awfully executed storyline continues in “Care Under Fire.” The episode opens with Ruzek’s very real sister and nephew, but we barely spend any time with them, making it hard to connect with these characters. Sure, Ruzek is stuck between a rock and a hard place, having to decide whether to spy on Intelligence or risk ending his career, but he can’t play both sides forever. He claims he didn’t have an opportunity to plant the bug but copied a video of Halstead punching a civilian. Ruzek thinks this will be enough to satisfy Woods, and then he’ll be free and clear. He can go back to work like nothing ever happened and play dumb when Voight takes some heat for Halstead’s actions. If only it were that simple. Woods isn’t going to let Ruzek off the hook for a single video file; he’s going to keep Ruzek there until he has more than enough evidence to bury Voight. Ruzek should have assumed this wouldn’t be over that easily. He should have gone to Voight in the first place and explained the situation. While Voight can be a loose cannon, we’ve seen him have his team’s back time and time again. He and Ruzek could have worked together to come up with a solution, but now it’s too late.

And now we get to the good stuff, and by good stuff I mean Halstead. From the start of the episode, it’s clear something is going on with him. From sleeping at the police station, having some sort of nightmare and listening to the scanner to find some sort of high-risk situation, the alarm has been sounded; Jay Halstead is in trouble. Responding to the scene, Halstead finds himself in the middle of a possible homicide, which eventually turns out to be a botched kidnapping. A three-man crew kidnapped a boy, but his nanny got caught in crossfire and ended up dead. Thanks to one of Dawson’s confidential informants, Intelligence is able to identify one of the men as Luis Vega, but the team can’t bring Vega in on what they have and the odds of him talking aren’t great. So Halstead pitches he go undercover, and after little resistance from the team, Voight agrees to give Halstead’s idea a shot. Can someone explain to me why team thinks this is a good idea? Yes, Halstead has had success going undercover before, but something’s been off ever since “Reform,” when he inadvertently shot the little girl. The guilt over that is obviously weighing on him, but no one beside Upton seems to notice anything is wrong. While she doesn’t stop him from going undercover, she at least asks if everything’s all right, despite Halstead’s lie. Everyone seems to take Halstead at his word that he’s all right, but he really should have had to sit down with a therapist. I’m not sure if this is actual procedure, but other police dramas usually have an officer get mandatory counseling following a shooting. We’ve seen Voight in therapy this season, so why not have Halstead give it a try?

Halstead, or his alter ego “Ryan,” tries to ingratiate himself into both Luis and Camila’s, by default, lives. Despite a slow start at the bar, “Ryan” eventually wins Luis over by coming to Luis’ rescue in a staged bar fight. Of course, things don’t go according to plan as “Ryan” ends up punching a civilian, yet another example of why Halstead should take some time off. The two end up bonding over their shared military experiences, and “Ryan” tries to finagle an in with Luis’ employer, claiming his job sucks. Despite Luis’ initial reluctance, he eventually comes around after he and “Ryan” spend some quality drinking and talking about death. “Ryan” ends up telling Luis about the eight-year-old girl who he unintentionally killed. Despite “Ryan” claiming this happened while he served overseas, the details surrounding the incident (i.e. the bullet hitting a combatant, then traveling through a door and going into the girl) are a clear reference to the events of “Reform.” “Ryan” talks about how he still has nightmares about it, leading viewers to wonder if that’s what Halstead’s bad dream was about at the beginning of the episode? Whether it’s Luis and “Ryan” commiserating over their time in the military or the free drugs “Ryan” gives Luis (let’s be real, it’s most likely the free opioids), Luis caves and agrees to set “Ryan” up his private security boss, allowing Intelligence to identify the two other members of the kidnapping ring. That would have been good enough for most officers, but Halstead wants to stay undercover, trying to get Luis to use him for their current job. If Halstead were in his right mind and wanted to follow through, I wouldn’t begrudge him, but he’s not exactly stable at the moment, and this is a big risk. It’s like he’s looking for dangerous situations to put himself in, like he can’t help himself. It’s very disconcerting because I’m afraid he’s only going to fall further down the rabbit hole.

While the leader of the kidnapping ring doesn’t want to use “Ryan” at first, he realizes he doesn’t exactly have another option but still isn’t thrilled with the idea. “Ryan” has to twist Luis’ arm a bit but when he “finds” out the job is actually a kidnapping, “Ryan” is ready to back out. Despite Luis’ assurances that this is simple, “Ryan” pleads with Luis, trying to convince him this is anything but. “Ryan” tells Luis that they have to stop it, that he can’t carry another kid. This is especially telling just how heavily the little girl’s death from “Reform” weighs on him. We knew Halstead felt guilty, but that one line shows he holds himself entirely responsible for what happened. Even though there were circumstances out of his control and other factors involved, in his mind, he is the reason the girl died. It’s as if he just shot her point blank, and he can’t go through that again. At first, we’re not sure if “Ryan” got through to Luis, but in the end, Luis tries to do the right thing, even though he still winds up dead. Watching Halstead try to perform CPR on Luis just about broke my heart because even though Halstead was undercover, he really did connect with that guy. They had been through similar circumstances and difficulties, both having a hard time adjusting when they got back from overseas. If things had gone differently for Halstead, he may have ended up in a situation like Luis. Do I think Halstead would kidnap a child and hold him or her for ransom? No, but I do think under different circumstances, Halstead may have ended up in a bad place, getting high and performing less than admirable jobs for money. I think Halstead saw some of himself in Luis, which may explain his determination in trying to prevent Luis from going through with the kidnapping and ransom. Ever since Lindsay has been gone, Halstead has been struggling and looking for someone to connect to. He inadvertently found that with Luis and, by extension, Camila.

I’m not exactly sure what to make of Camila. I thought she would just be a one-off character, but it seems like she may be sticking around, and I have mixed feelings. From the start, there was sparks between “Ryan” and Camila, although it wasn’t exactly clear if Halstead was acting or not. As we saw in this episode, he’s a smooth talker, getting out of snooping through her mail and showing up to Luis’ under the guise of meeting Camila. “Ryan” could have just played coy the entire time, flirting and being his charming self, yet he let Camila in. He told her that when he came back he spent seven months drinking, smoking, screwing, and fighting. He said that a person never really comes back all the way after being in a warzone, they just sort of fill up what’s missing with something else, like Lindsay. We’ve seen how hard Halstead has taken their breakup, but it never really occurred to me until now, just how much he relied on that relationship. Yes, he loved Lindsay, but he also needed her to fill that void. His plan to propose makes a lot more sense, as he was desperate to get her back in his life. Again, I’m not disputing that Halstead loved Lindsay, but I just never really noticed how codependent he was. And now it seems Halstead has transferred that dependency onto Camila. He bared his soul to a person he just met, revealing pieces of himself that even prompted Upton to ask if any of it was true. This is made all the more evident when “Ryan” stops by Camila’s after Luis dies and he doesn’t tell her his real name or he’s a cop or he was there when Luis dies; he just keeps on pretending to be “Ryan.” Why? Well, being “Ryan” is probably easier than being Halstead right now, but he also doesn’t want to lose his only human connection he thinks he has. I doubt Camila would be flirting or kissing him if she knew “Ryan” was an undercover police officer who was tasked with brining her brother to justice and put his life in danger. No, Halstead is in a dark place, and pretending to be “Ryan” won’t end well for him.

So hit the comments below to let me know what you thought of the episodes. Are you more invested in Upton as a character? How long before Intelligence finds out what Ruzek has been up to? Just how far will Halstead fall?

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