TV Review: Chicago PD Season 1 Episode 1 "Stepping Stone" (Pilot)

Chicago PD is here. The spin-off of Chicago Fire follows Sergeant Hank Voight, who is now running an intelligence unit.

To the untrained eye, a pilot episode (even a spin-off) is very different from a regular episode of television. There is more exposition than a normal episode. You're setting up the world.

It's very similar to Chicago Fire's world - both shows cross pollinate their characters frequently.

It's under the Dick Wolf umbrella, so it shares many same characteristics. However even with all that, you need to establish character relationships within the world, and set up everything for the rest of the series.

Because of all of this, this review will be a bit segmented. First, let's look at the cast and who is playing them. I'm going to segment them further. Those characters with an asterisk (*) have appeared already in Chicago Fire.

Main Cast

Hank Voight* played by Jason Beghe:

The main inspiration for the Chicago PD show. Voight had a major arc in season one of Chicago Fire as a shady cop and made almost every guest star since his appearance look bad. Don't misunderstand that, however. Guest stars on Chicago Fire have been stellar. Jason Beghe as Voight was just that good. There is obvious comparisons to Vic Mackey on The Shield, and they're justified. Because it's not on cable, as well as other reasons, Voight isn't as dirty as Mackey was. While Mackey tended to lean dirty throughout The Shield, I'd argue Voight (so far) has stayed in the morally grey area.

He's the old school kind of cop - do what needs to be done and ask questions later regardless of the rules. It's a very good portrayal of that kind of cop, which is why the type of character is so popular. While the character archetype isn't exactly new, make no mistake about it: Jason Beghe's performance and onscreen presence as Voight is what makes this character work. Beghe has such a commanding presence on screen in this role that bursts with alpha male testosterone.

When he barks in his aggressive raspy voice, characters listen. Not much was revealed in the pilot of Chicago PD in terms of his history that we didn't already know.

I assume at some point we will find out about the deal he made to get out of jail and run his own intelligence unit.

He takes payoffs still, but has a soft spot for helping the less fortunate, which keeps his character from swaying too far evil.

Detective Antonio Dawson* played by Jon Seda:

A detective working with Voight, Antonio has been a recurring character on Chicago Fire. Seda has played the small moments on screen well. I've enjoyed Antonio and Gabriela's brother-sister relationship on Chicago Fire. Both because I don't think it's done a lot on Network TV (mostly romantic relationships) and they both are great actors together.

It also means naturally besides being an EMT (for now) Gabriela will pop into Chicago Fire every now and then. Which is good.

In the pilot we meet his wife and two kids for the first time, which is an interesting juxtaposition to Gabriela, who isn't married.

Antonio's son is abducted at the end of the episode as a hook for the viewers to come back, which was effective.

Detective Jay Halstead* played by Jesse Lee Soffer:

A previous flame of Gabriela Dawson on Chicago Fire, Jay has recurred for a few episodes. He was undercover taking down a Mafia guy trying to extort Molly's. Besides being revealed he was in the military, not much else new was shown about Jay.

The actor does a serviceable job, there just isn't a lot to work with right now, which isn't his fault.

He has a new partnership with Detective Lindsay, which is interesting and playful. There is a little flirting too, which felt like a young Benson and Stabler.

Sheldon Jin played by Archie Kao:

Jin didn't have much to work with in this episode. It seems like he takes care of a lot of the tech stuff.

Officers Kim Burgess & Kevin Atwater* played by Marina Squerciati and LaRoyce Hawkins:

Again, not much here.

Burgess had to retrieve a ring from a dead person that was supposed to be funny but it didn't really work. Hawkins set up an event at Molly's with the help of Hermann and Otis which was funny.

Adam Ruzak played by Patrick John Flueger:

Recruit brought in by Olinsky. Not much here either but he seemed interesting.

Detective Erin Lindsay* played by Sophia Bush:

Lindsay made a quick appearance with Voight dealing with gang shootings in Chicago Fire. She's interesting. She's definitely the pretty girl who is tough and doesn't take shit from guys in a male dominated world. She also was quite ambiguous when asked about what she did before being a cop. Whenever a character is intentionally vague about talking about their past, it makes them more interesting.

The ultimate tell later is if when they do reveal Lindsay's past, it's as interesting as the tactic of not revealing it right away. So far, all signs point to that. While I enjoy her playful relationship with her partner Jay, her relationship with Voight is the most interesting to me.

It's a very father/daughter relationship. Take for instance, after Voight asked Lindsay to drive with him to meet a CI. After the drive and telling Lindsay to stay in the car, this exchange happens:

Lindsay: That's your big plan, for me to stay in the car? What'd you bring me for then?

Voight: To cheer me up.

Besides just father daughter, it's hinted that Voight saved her life 13 years ago. And with Lindsay being hesitant to talk about it, it'll be interesting not only to hear what happened, but see who she tells it to as well.

Alvin Olinsky* played by Elias Koteas:

First off, Elias Koteas is an awesome character actor. He's one of those actors who when you see them in a show or movie, you get excited. I like Olinsky.

He's roughly the same age as Voight, but seems like a polar opposite.

He talks much more reserved, but still just as serious. I laughed at the recurring gag of him being in the corner out of sight for a lot of the discussions in the squad room.

The plot of the episode revolved around the team tracking down dope dealers and members of a cartel. There's the usual police procedural aspects of the episode - interview this guy who gives up the name of that guy, the Law and Order board of suspects, the burner phone purchased at the small store with video surveillance, I think you can see where I'm going with this. There is a necessary evil with the police procedural, and Chicago PD is no exception. Chicago Fire has an advantage of being called (literally) to the procedural aspects of that show, and usually they're over quickly. Chicago PD doesn't have that luxury.

So throughout the Pilot tonight it definitely couldn't escape those moments. However, the same formula that makes Chicago Fire great - the serialized character stories - is deeply embedded into Chicago PD. I have confidence that they'll develop the same quick always evolving stories during the season similar to Chicago Fire that makes me overlook or not even notice common procedural elements during the episodes. Chicago PD did all the right things here - they took what makes Chicago Fire great, but did it their own way. They have enough cast that shines in their roles that'll take them far, and I can't wait to see how it develops.

As much as I talked down on the procedure part of the show, the last 5 minutes were intense stuff. Antonio's partner getting shot through the door (and later dying) which lead to the car and foot chase was real pulse pounding stuff.

Throw in a little Robert Wisdom acting there and Michael Slovis from Breaking Bad directing, and Chicago PD isn't messing around.

As long as they stick to their formula, Chicago PD will rise above many of the Network cookie-cutter shows you see out there and eventually to the same level as Chicago Fire. I can't wait to see that happen.

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