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TV REVIEW: Chicago Fire’s “When Things Got Rough Doesn’t Scratch the Surface”

By on March 19, 2014
Pictured: (l-r) Christian Stolte as Mouch, Yuri Sardarov as Brian "Otis" Zvonecek -- (Photo by: Elizabeth Morris/NBC)

Pictured: (l-r) Christian Stolte as Mouch, Yuri Sardarov as Brian "Otis" Zvonecek -- (Photo by: Elizabeth Morris/NBC)

Sophomore slump.  It’s a clichéd description of many series’ second season when things don’t go as smoothly as the first.  Oftentimes, shows struggle in finding their way and their voice in the second year.  Chicago Fire had been in a bit of a slump, but seemed to claw its way out with the last two episodes.  However, I’m feeling like it’s two steps forward, one step back with this one.

Chicago Fire’s latest offering began promisingly enough, giving us a tease that this episode would offer the emotional force of some of last season’s best like “A Coffin That Small” or “Leaders Lead.”  It didn’t.  As much as I tried to force out some waterworks by reaching for the Kleenex, those tears did not come.  It was close, but just didn’t happen.

The first call of the night is a huge inferno with three kids reportedly on the second floor.  The fire is everywhere, surrounding our firefighters. The look and feel is so authentic, I have to give kudos to the show for its authenticity in giving us a tiny glimpse into what it must be like for the real heroes who fight fires. I could almost feel the heat on this one.  No, not that kind of heat.  Unfortunately, Severide and Lindsay did NOT get together tonight.  More on that later.

Back to the blaze. All the guys push further in with Lieutenant Casey (Jesse Spencer) feeling and seeing a burnt hand.  He realizes it’s a man lying on top of three young children.  The kids get carried to safety because dad’s body doubled as an oxygen mask, but the father is gone.  The look of the crispy hand kind of told that story, but Casey refuses to give up and tries doing CPR on the man.  Dawson (Monica Raymund) and Shay (Lauren German) stand by knowing it’s futile.  “C’mon!” he yells in a scene mildly reminiscent of the Hallie in the ambulance heartbreaker of season one.

Reminiscent but not a reproduction. This scene seems more of an attempt to show that sweet, baby saving, “I’m more sensitive than anyone else” Casey is fully back.  Whew.  I won’t have to criticize the potential badass storyline ever again.  They’ve put it to bed, so I’m saying RIP “ripped straight from the soaps” plot.

Back at 51, everyone’s understandably sad with Candidate Rebecca Jones (Daisy Betts) taking it particularly hard.  She’s never seen anything like that and wonders if she’s cut out for this job.  Peter Mills (Charlie Barnett) is in full on counselor mode telling her honestly that maybe she’s not.  Mills is such a caring and complex guy; you can’t help but like him the more lines he has.  He’s sweet without forcing it, without taking it to melodrama. Through Mills, we see Jones in a new light and she’s not quite so annoying. In fact, she’s almost likable (gasp).

Pictured: (l-r) Jesse Spencer as Matthew Casey, Monica Raymund as Gabriela Dawson -- (Photo by: Elizabeth Morris/NBC)

Pictured: (l-r) Jesse Spencer as Matthew Casey, Monica Raymund as Gabriela Dawson — (Photo by: Elizabeth Morris/NBC)

The second major plot point of the night involves Kelly Severide (Taylor Kinney) and the second call of the episode, a car accident with a guy trapped.  A Good Samaritan (Deadwood alum W. Earl Brown) stopped to help a woman change her tire and gets hit by another car.  The cars are smashed together with the helpful guy’s arm sandwiched in between two tires looking like that thing I used to make homemade pasta once.

Severide frees the man who turns out to be an injured firefighter named Bloom from Colorado who’s been out of work and on pain killers for four years. Sound familiar? Kelly sees himself in this guy and begins a mission to help him out. He drives up to Bloom’s trailer and I’m not sure which is sadder – Severide’s rackety car or Bloom’s run down Jetstream.  The older firefighter brushes Kelly off and sends him on his way.

Back to the first call.  Casey and Severide take a stuffed animal left in the ambulance to the hospital, returning it to one of the kids from the huge fire that killed their father.  They’re met by a screaming mother who blames them for her husband’s death saying they should’ve gotten there sooner.  She ends up charging the CFD with wrongful death.  The guys are getting deposed the next day because we all know the wheels of justice always spin so quickly.  It is a great opportunity to see our firemen all dressed up in suits.  Is it just me, or can they afford some out of pay grade clothes?  Hmmm, not complaining.

At the deposition, Casey explains what happened with the wife/mother about six inches away.  Awkward.  He vividly describes the scene and breaks down a little. Severide jumps in to finish the story.  Casey adds that he’s lucky enough to work with the bravest and best, but “what your husband did was the bravest thing I’ve ever seen.” The woman is sobbing at this point, and we all know she’s dropping the case. It’s supposed to be the big, emotional feel of the night, but it played out more melodramatic than anything else.  The rush from fire to deposition was so quick, it lacked the time required for the audience to reflect and garner any genuine emotion.

That was just one problem with this episode. There were so many different hurried story lines that couldn’t spare the screen time to deliver real substance.  Let me rush through what else came up when things got rough.  Dawson had a stalker, sort of, when the dispatch guy watched her every move and called her cell phone. Otis and Cruz are moving in together, looking for a cozy one bedroom – you go, Crotis!  Jones and Dawson kissed and make up.  Jones kisses Mills when she finds out Daddy Jones is plotting to get her out of 51. Detective Lindsay calls Severide, but he’s playing hard to get because that’s just so Kelly. Boden (Eamonn Walker) and Casey decide to defy Rebecca’s father and not kick her out of 51.  In the huge tragedy of the night, Mouch is dumped by long distance, Japanese love, Mari.  Rubbing salt straight in the breakup wound it transpires that new guy is a game show host.

Pictured: (l-r) Jesse Spencer as Matthew Casey, Taylor Kinney as Kelly Severide -- (Photo by: Elizabeth Morris/NBC)

Pictured: (l-r) Jesse Spencer as Matthew Casey, Taylor Kinney as Kelly Severide — (Photo by: Elizabeth Morris/NBC)

Has your head stopped spinning yet?  Did all of that need to occur in about 42 minutes? More is not necessarily better, Chicago Fire.  Focusing on the two main stories of the night would have served to develop both further and not breeze through them with the depth of a beauty pageant contestant talking about world peace.  One more rough patch to discuss … what’s with the false teasers leading up to the episode?  It had been billed as two versions of the truth, but that never materialized. ChiFi loves to do that in its promos, but it’s not needed.  The shows stand on their own.

Believe it or not, I have much love for this series of hunky firefighters, exciting fires, emotional feels, and humorous moments.  Add excellent actors to that mix, and we have my main problem with the show this season.  I expect so much more.  With all of the well-oiled parts in this firefighting machine, I expect much, much more.   

Random Notes

Casey was hilarious when he tells Mouch to “rally” upon hearing of the Dear John letter from Mari.  Hermann says even he could’ve done better than that.

Shay had some of the funniest scenes of the night: Mouch asks for her advice in the love department, and she’s less than comfortable with the request.  Especially, when she finds out that Dawson is his ideal woman.  Ew.  Finally, she discovers through a friend who’s sixty and using the site.  When she suggests Mouch give it a try, he’s indignant that she thinks he’s sixty.  Mouch, calm down. You don’t look a day over 51.

Shay also calls it when she tells Kelly to call back Lindsay, adding she likes the girl’s swagger and that husky voice.  If he doesn’t, you can, Leslie.  Shindsay has a nice ring to it.

Dawson’s stalker, Ramsey, turned out to be a lonely guy who lost a Dawson-like friend.  Jones gets the guy fired by talking to daddy.  Gabby asks her for a do-over when she discovers the truth about the dispatcher.

Kelly tries to help Bloom again showing up at the guy’s metal box house.  The out of work firefighter tells Severide, “You need to be the knight in shining armor. Do I look like a damsel in distress? Go look for your redemption somewhere else.”  Ouch.  The storyline continues next week with Severide bailing the guy out of jail.

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