This week's episode of 'Chicago Fire' entitled "Hanging On" was the highest rated episode of the series to date. After five weeks, has the Dick Wolf-helmed program hit its stride and found a loving audience? And has the program itself improved from a lukewarm and lacklustre initial performance?
As you can see from the promo for "Hanging On," NBC is well-aware which plotline on 'Chicago Fire' is hitting on all points: the story regarding Jesse Spencer's Matthew Casey being pressured by a dirty cop to rescind a report involving the officer's criminal son.
Voight, the officer in question, is portrayed expertly by series guest star Jason Beghe. Beghe has played Detective Voight very calmly and evenly (save for a single outburst during his first appearance) and has delivered a character that seems truly capable of frightening acts. In "Hanging On," Casey storms into Voight's office to stand up to the dirty cop regarding the harrassment Casey and his fiancee received in the fourth episode. The interplay between Jesse Spencer (the shining star of the recurring cast) and Beghe delivers 'Chicago Fire's most suspenseful and electric moments, giving the audience good reason to tune in for episode six. Kudos to both actors on their performances--I want to see what they do next.
Alas, I cannot extend the same kudos to the writers behind episode five; although the Casey/Voight storyline is engaging, every remaining plotline on the show has either fallen flat or disappeared without a trace.
Kelly Severide's ongoing plotline regarding the pain in his shoulder takes up far too much of "Hanging On" and somehow continues to go absolutely nowhere. In the pilot episode, Severide was distraught over potentially causing an accident that claimed the life of a fire fighter on the squad--this little nugget has been entirely dropped by the writers and, four episodes later, it is as though this monumental death never took place. Instead, we see Kelly grimacing as he rubs his pained shoulder... just as we saw him in the pilot. Just as we saw him in the second episode "Mon Amour." Just as we saw him in the third and fourth and...
No new information has been given to the audience regarding Severide's plotline. We still do not know what he's thinking or what he's feeling about his situation. This episode, Severide turns to an old flame (conveniently employed as a pharmaceutical rep) in order to get his hands on some painkillers. While the face is new, the scenes played out are identical to Severide's begging pills from Lauren German's paramedic character Leslie in each episode preceding. Nothing has grown or altered and Severide is a dull and lifeless character on the screen.
It certainly doesn't help that Taylor Kinney, the actor portraying Severide, may very well be the worst actor on television today. And I am including the entire casts of 'General Hospital' and similar soaps. Kinney's face is emotionless and expressionless--he reminds me of a mannequin more than a tortured addict. Far too much of "Hanging On" and other episodes of 'Chicago Fire' have been eaten up by Kinney's blank stare; it beggers the imagination how he won the role in the first place.
Oh... right, I forgot:
Aside from Kinney's weak plotline, the remaining 'Chicago Fire' characters are on life-support, creatively speaking. Monica Raymund's character Gabriela still pines for Casey, still feels restricted by the laws which govern her profession. Lauren German's Leslie still... well, does nothing. She occasionally comments on Gabriela or Kelly's stories, however.
So while the Casey/Voight storyline is succeeding, the rest of "Hanging On" sadly feels like filler. 'Chicago Fire' creators would do well to pay attention to the hit series from this new season, like 'Revolution' or 'Arrow:' both series ensure that new information and new plot points are introduced with every episode. 'Chicago Fire' should not be spinning its wheels this early into its life-span; especially considering a full season order just came down from NBC brass earlier today.
FINAL GRADE: C
Also: if any TVRage readers work as fire fighters, paramedics, or a similar noble profession: what do you think of the portrayal of the rescues on 'Chicago Fire?' The characters notably and obvious neglect to follow protocol in nearly every action sequence--does this infuriate you, or do you understand the need to manufacture drama on the program? Let us know in the comments below!
I have to agree - I, too, am still watching to see how the Casey and Voight arc turns out; I've sorta lost interest (or am just about to) with the other arcs and subplots, which, indeed, almost have me fast-forwarding at times (and that is never a good sign).