Sometime during its first season, “Chicago P.D.” actually became a lot more interesting than its parent show, “Chicago Fire.” While “Fire” was floundering a bit in its sophomore season, “P.D.” was something new and fresh, with more wiggle room to grow.
But now as it’s the one in its sophomore season, “Chicago P.D.” might just be in that same type of sophomore slump.
While the “Chicago Fire” premiere was an hour of emotional manipulation (for better or worse), the “Chicago P.D.” season premiere is strangely lacking in the hard-hitting feelings. It’s an episode that focuses on the aftermath of Jin’s murder, Erin’s diminishing trust in Voight (and all of the problems she has with her past life), and Voight’s own conflicted ideas of what is right and wrong. It should be an episode that hurts or at least makes the audience feel. Instead, it’s just going through the motions.
Outside of the Jin murder investigation (which is closed with the arrest of I.A.’s Sergeant Stillwell), the case of the week takes the form of an armored van heist that Antonio is tipped off to by his C.I., played by the always great Dora Madison. Of course, a heist can never just be a heist on “Chicago P.D.” and it ends up being the work of Oskar Bembenek, a crime boss Alvin’s been trying to get behind bars. It’s hard to believe, but all this bloodshed and lives lost in this episode are actually over a shirt. It’s an evidentiary shirt but a shirt nonetheless.
It’s all pretty by-the-numbers “Chicago P.D.” in that regard.
There’s the quick glimmer of this episode being something more when Voight takes a moment to tell his crew that they’re all going home tonight — a promise that no one is losing their life or getting hurt — but because such a telegraphed line ends up being true, there’s the startling realization that “Chicago P.D.” isn’t as into taking risks as it would want people to believe.
And with the episode having Voight supposedly lay all of his cards on the table regarding his deal with Internal Affairs to make it seem like a crooked cop, it almost seems like the show is no longer interested in telling the heroic story of the evil Voight who terrorized Casey on “Chicago Fire” and spend the better part of last season being a menacing man in power.
Then Voight blackmails Chief O’Leary and busts out dirty money, and those thoughts are dashed.
“Chicago P.D.” biggest flaw (or biggest strength, depending on your perspective) is in how it glorifies police corruption is a city legitimately known for its police corruption. In this premiere alone, both Stillwell and Chief O’Leary are punished and blackmailed, respectively, for their own corrupt indiscretions because Voight knows how to out-crooked cop them. He’s the hero of this story, the way Vic Mackey imagined himself to be the hero of “The Shield.” The only difference is, “The Shield” realized that Vic Mackey was a hero in his own mind. In reality, he was every bit the criminal as the people he put behind bars.
So with the episode ending with Voight giving Jin’s dad money from his vault in order to pay off his gambling debts, it’s supposed to be seen as the work of an honorable man.
Halstead, who questions the corruption around him at almost every turn, is now the one with a $100,000 bounty on his head for killing the younger brother of a crime boss.
Also, there’s a new cop on the block — Sean Roman, Kim’s new partner. While Kim and Atwater were basically the perfect partnership from day one, Sean and Kim get off to the wrong foot from the moment he shows up on the screen and says (out loud):
“You’re messing with me, aren’t you?”
Since it would be far too easy for the show to go straight for the sexist partner route, “Chicago P.D.” decides to go for the sympathy and misses the mark so horribly. See, Sean’s last partner was a female, and he didn’t transfer because she was bad — she’s a great cop actually — he transferred because he’d fallen in love with her. This revelation is supposed to be the automatic turning point for the character, and it makes Kim sympathize with him because of her own work relationship drama with Ruzek. After all, that explains why he’s so hostile to a female colleague. He’s not sexist, at all!
He’s just the textbook example of a Nice Guy, taking out his own frustration and inability to act on his own feelings for a woman he worked with on any subsequent woman he works with. That’s not exactly the type of maturity or personality one should look for in a partner, but then again, the fact that he’s not a bad guy, but he’s not a good guy either makes him a winner here.
There’s merit in having shades of grey in a show and it’s characters — there’s nothing to be a gained by a standard story of black hats vs. white hats. But “Chicago P.D.” is reaching a dangerous territory in its attempts at staying in that moral grey area. It’s making it difficult to really root for anyone. And isn’t that supposed to be the point here? Aren’t the characters in “Chicago P.D.” supposed to be heroes?
In case you missed it, the Season 2 premiere is below.