Just last week, I was bemoaning the pilot of Chicago Fire, saying that it needed to erase some elements if it wanted to be a cohesive drama, and this week, it did just that!
To be fair, the co-creator of Chicago Fire, Michael Brandt, said in the exclusive TV Equals interview I conducted with him and co-creator Derek Haas that he felt the pilot was overstuffed. He said that the subsequent episodes were much better in terms of the flow of action, and he was absolutely right.
I’m trying to figure out how to properly organize these Chicago Fire reviews. What I think I’ll do is talk about the show out of order. That is to say, I’ll talk about the calls the crew makes, then I’ll talk about the drama, and then I’ll have my dad, Chief Jones, weigh in on the technical aspects.
(Let me make a disclaimer–the opinions in the technical aspects are purely Chief Jones’. They are not an opinion of the research completed for the show or on the work of the firemen who have invested their time into the show, including Chief Chikerotis. If anything, his opinions are here to show the difference between dramatic realism and actual reality.)
Grease fire: The first run is to an apartment complex–a poor apartment complex, it seems like–where a grease fire has occurred. After putting out the fire–a simple extinguishing of the stove and pots–the firemen try to get the man inside to leave, but he says he’s “got no place to go” if his landlady kicks him out. The firemen decide to lie to the landlady and say that the fire wasn’t a grease fire caused by the guy, but an electrical fire. Not only that, but they say he saved the day somehow. The guy is able to stay in his apartment with the landlady’s blessing.
Building collapse: The second run during the episode is one of the two set pieces. What seems to be a half-finished building collapsed on the workers, injuring three and mortally injuring one, an elderly man who has fallen down a floor or several onto the concrete below. His foot is caught under a large piece of debris and Severide deduces that the man is bleeding internally. He gets Dawson to call for the trauma surgeon for an emergency amputation in an effort to save the man’s life, but the trauma surgeon is slow. Severide even decides to try amputating the guy himself. In any case, there didn’t seem to be much they could do for the man anyway, and he seemed to know that. At the end of the episode, when we see Severide take a call after the scaffolding call (below), that call is from the man’s wife. Instead of meeting up with the firemen at the local bar, Severide goes by the man’s house to give her the man’s last gift to his wife–a video of him saying his final goodbyes. The man’s death affects Severide, who’s already dealing with guilt over Darden, but the man said that Severide is exactly what he and his wife thought their son would look like, if they had one.
Drunk call: Dawson and German take a call at an Irish pub where a drunk man has gone on the deep end and somehow ended up on the floor with a gash on his face. The bartender said that nobody saw what happened to the guy, but it seems like everyone knew what happened to him, but weren’t willing to say. The man harasses Dawson and German (especially Dawson) and when they take him the hospital, they’ve played a prank on him by putting makeup on his face. In any case, his run shows the occasionally light-hearted side of being a first responder.
Scaffolding tragedy: The last run we see in the episode involves two teenagers trapped in a car after window washing scaffolding falls on them. One of the teenagers, Julia, is alive, but injured. The other teenager, sadly, was dead on the scene. This particular scene was a lot more gory than I thought it was going to be, and I was actually glad to see it. I appreciate that they showed viewers how horrific the first responding job can be. The random tragedy has an effect on Casey, who decides to finally make his engagement with Hallie official and solid. No more pussyfooting around.
Severide gets an earful from Darden’s widow when he goes to visit her and the kids. She orders him out, saying that Darden (first name: Andy) wouldn’t have gotten into the firefighting business if it wasn’t for Severide.
Back at the station, class clowns Otis (Yuri Sardarov) and Cruz (Joe Minoso) are arguing about the firehouse’s crest, which features a goat. Otis thinks the firehouse is much more dignified than a goat, and as he tries to get the goat removed, we hear different stories about the origin of the goat, ranging from it being a part of the first fire the station ever (a call to a goat farm), part of a curse, and a symbol of Chief Boden’s mentor. All of the fake stories were told just to poke fun at Otis.
Herrmann is back! He’s nearly back to 100 percent, but he’s still sitting out a couple of shifts. His family comes by later in the episode to give the firemen a “Thank You For Saving Our Dad” banner. The happy scene makes Severide more depressed about the death of Darden, a man he couldn’t save, and gets hopped up on drugs. In fact, it would seem that every person Severide won’t be able to save throughout this season will be a constant reminder of Darden’s death. In Severide’s mind, it’s like he’s seeing Darden die all over again.
A new character has been added into the mix–a woman who will be working in Payroll. I believe her last name is Wachowski. In any case, she’s fresh meat for the manly men, but we later see she only has eyes for Severide, who currently doesn’t have eyes for her.
The now-famous Chief Steve Chikerotis makes an appearance during the whiteboard meeting concerning what is now being labeled as “The Darden Incident.” He says a lot of official-soundings stuff, stuff I’m sure Jones would know of, but it all sounds like mumbo-jumbo to me. But, I do have to say it sounds official. The one thing that I did get from what Chikerotis said is that if the home Darden died in had a larger vent cut through the back, the fire wouldn’t have gotten upstairs and Darden possibly could have been spared. This causes Severide to go back to the meds.
Also, after the paramedic call at the bar, Dawson and German get on the subject of Casey and his then-on-and-off fiancée. According to German, word on the street is that they’re splitting up. But once they take the drunk man to the hospital, we find out they are far from breaking up. It’s just Hallie’s ambition getting in the way of her wanting to settle down and raise a family.
Everything seems to come to a head at the charity barbecue. Darden’s widow and her kids come, for whatever reason. It seems she only came to torture Severide some more, because she reiterates the fact that Darden and Severide were inseparable and Darden did everything Severide did. I assume they must have grown up together. When Severide tells her that being a firefighter was always Darden’s dream, she rebuts that statement, saying it might have just been Severide’s dream for both he and Darden. Severide’s been getting his fair share of hard knocks in this episode.
Dawson also gets some hard knocks in the love department–her jealousy of Hallie is evident. It’s also revealed that Dawson is taking pre-med classes. I hope it’s not just to become a doctor like Hallie–I can tell you from experience that trying to be like someone else in order to get a guy’s attention is just terrible. It never works. Anyway, Hallie tells her that if she ever wants to work a shift with her, “say the word.” Dawson accepts the gracious offer, but Hallie also gets a glimpse of the feelings Dawson has toward Casey when she sees them talking together.
German’s girlfriend, a Alabama woman named Corinne, joins the barbecue party. I only said she’s from Alabama because that was a big thing in the show, for some reason. As an Alabamian, I’ll say that Corinne’s accent was fair. If you’re wondering, I don’t have much of an accent; all I say is “Y’all,” “Loosiana” instead of “Louisiana,” “oll” instead of “oil” and “foll” instead of ”foil.” Moving on.
Lastly, the barbecue sees the hazing of fire rookie/candidate Mills. He was told by Otis and Cruz to show up in his uniform, and while the prank worked at first, it also managed to get Mills a woman friend at the function, thanks to Otis being his wingman. When asked about the change of heart, Otis said, “Karma.” I guess helping Mills get a girl would clear that debt up nicely.
In the last minutes of the show, we find out that German and Severide share an apartment and Severide is still in the doldrums. In order to give the construction man he couldn’t save some closure, he makes that trip to his widow’s home instead of hanging out with his buddies at the bar.
Chief Jones’ fact-checking
Grease fire: Jones said that lying about the cause of a fire is a big no-no. According to Jones, it’s a legal liability. You have to tell the truth, otherwise, the fire department could get in big trouble.
Going into the hole: Jones said that he wouldn’t advise just jumping down in the hole on the hose without having stabilized the area first. Jones said that what he would recommend would be to stabilize and brace the structure first, then enter the hole using a 28-ft. ladder instead of the hose. Jones said that while the hose is the quick way to get down the hole and could possibly be used in this situation, a ladder would make more sense because if you need to quickly get back out of the hole, a ladder would provide you with a fast escape, unlike a hose. Anyway, after entering the hole to get to the injured person, Jones said an IV would be started right away, instead of midway through, like in the show.
Internal bleeding: Even though Severide isn’t a paramedic, he would be able to know if the injured man was bleeding internally. Jones said that firemen are able to tell if someone is bleeding internally in the late stages or if the person tells them their symptoms. For instance, the man does say his stomach is hurting and he points to the part that’s paining him. According to Jones, Severide would be able to see if the man’s stomach was swelling–the quicker the stomach is swelling means the person is bleeding relatively fast. The slower it swells means the person is bleeding slowly. Severide is right that at this point, the last thing the man needed to worry about was his foot. According to Jones, an injury like the one the man sustained to his foot is possible to live through.
Trauma doctor: While the trauma doctor came to the scene of the construction site, Jones said that it could also be entirely possible for a doctor to tell the paramedic how to accomplish the amputation over the phone. According to Jones, a paramedic could do it if the got the okay from the doctor. In any case, a fireman wouldn’t do it, so Severide making a last-ditch effort do the amputation himself would be out of the question.
Whiteboard meeting: In case you want to know the technical terms for the whiteboard meeting, it’s a “fire critique” or an “after action report,” according to Jones. Jones also said that Chikerotis’ analysis of the house fire that claimed the life of Darden is correct. According to him, it’s entirely possible for the fire to travel vertically since there wasn’t a vent cut through the back of the house. Hot air rises and because fresher air was upstairs, the fire would grow from that air, causing it to burn vertically.
Full dress blues: Jones said it’s entirely possible for someone to punk a rookie like how Mills was, even though he discourages it himself–rules are very strict in the Birmingham Fire Department, so he’s not entirely sure how frowned upon hazing is for other departments. However, wearing your uniform to a bar is totally out of line. “You can get disciplinary action for wearing it in a bar on duty or off duty,” he said. “You don’t want to give the impression that your’e drinking in uniform…Most departments don’t wear them for sport or outside the fire department.”
Makeup on patients: A big no-no, said Jones. “We’re not allowed to antagonize patients or treat them inappropriately,” he said. “That wouldn’t happen.” However, if the guy already had that stuff on, they wouldn’t try to remove it. The main thing is that they care for patients how they come to them.
Scaffolding danger: Putting firefighters in that kind of danger–falling debris–is a little risky, said Jones, but he also said that the scene could have played out like that in real life, with someone watching for debris as another firefighter worked on pulling the living girl out. One thing the firemen might try would be getting the girl behind the wheel to move the car. “If the car was able to start up, you’d tell her to start it up and move it out of the way,” said Jones. But, the way the scene played on scene isn’t necessarily wrong–from what I inferred, it sounds like it depends entirely on the situation at hand and how the person in charge would delegate.
Taking off helmets: At the end of the construction tragedy scene, Severide takes his helmet off. Similarly, Casey takes his helmet off after the scaffolding incident. Jones said that taking your helmets off is frowned upon. “When you’re still in the danger zone, we don’t allow for taking off your helmets, especially when you have falling debris or a collapse zone,” he said. The firemen are supposed to stay in their full personal protective equipment, or PPE.
Chief Boden: Jones feels a little confused by Chief Boden. Firstly, he feels that Boden is somewhere in between a batallion chief and a captain in terms of the duties he has. But also, he feels that Boden’s portrayal is actually a disservice to the character. In fact, he called it an “injustice.” According to Jones, Boden doesn’t take over the runs enough. The lower firemen just do what they decide to do without any orders from Boden. Jones said Boden never sets up any kind of command or reports back to the radio; he just disappears slightly during the action and re-appears when the action is over. “That’s totally opposite of what [a] real chief or captain would do,” he said.
Overall, I’m very impressed with how the tone of this episode has dramatically shifted from the pilot. The calls flow seamlessly with the drama, and everything seems much tighter and much more technical, which gives a lot of realism to the show (even if that technical stuff isn’t too correct). It also doesn’t hurt that there are real firemen in the scenes, including Chikerotis, as said in the various TV Equals interviews. This episode even has a lot of the Dick Wolf touches that were missing in the pilot–the writing is rather realistic (although some lines Severide says, like how he was a fireman “since the day I was born,” are a little groan-worthy), the tension is palpable, the details are taken care of, and everything just seems polished. I take back the misgivings I showed in my review of the pilot.