TV Review: Chicago Fire Season 2 Episode 1 "A Problem House"

Jesse Spencer, best known as Dr. Robert Chase on House, (my all time favorite show) was the reason I decided to give Chicago Fire a chance in the first place. Throw in Monica Raymund (Ria Torres in Lie to Me), who I find to be insanely talented, and you have me intrigued. Starting off, the show did well enough for me to continue watching. However, very quickly Chicago Fire changed from a show that I would tell friends "you could do a lot worse" when they asked which shows they should watch next, to a must see every week. Things just started to click. The was a lot of high stakes movie quality action, with very little CGI - which I appreciated. For the most part, I never felt like they overdid the soapy stories between the characters.

The writers did a good job of balancing how much personal life to show vs. on the job stuff. And when they did go the soapy route, they usually nailed it. Case in point: during the end of season one Severide and Shay found themselves trying to have a baby together as platonic friends.

Now, this was an incredibly sweet story especially for Shay who was burned by her ex-girlfriend badly. But if that story had concluded in Shay being artificially inseminated, it would have been the wrong choice.

Severide and Shay having a baby together is a series ending move, much later down the line.

That's why Severide's ex-girlfriend Renee (Sarah Shahi) returning pregnant was not only a perfect gut punch (in the best of ways), but the right choice to maintain that good balance.

"A Problem House" wastes no time and dives right into this dilemma in the very opening scene. Shay and Severide have an argument after Shay brings up the fact that Renee might not be carrying his baby. Now, Severide is kind of a meat head for not agreeing with her.

Chronologically, I'd be shocked if it turns out she's wrong. However, I am more interested in Shay dealing with this anyway.

How much does she be the best friend and let him figure it out vs. how hard does she push for what she and Severide wanted before Renee returned? I'm interested to see her grapple with that.

Two potentially longer arcs are introduced in this episode that I have quite different feelings about. The first revolves around Chief Boden attending a meeting at "headquarters" to represent Firehouse 51. There we meet Gail McLeod, sent from the Fire Marshall's office who is there to streamline, reduce expenditures, and have a more "automated CFD". Now, let me say I get where they're going with this. Unfortunately, it doesn't deliver the amount of tension I think the writers believe it does. There has been a trend in quite a few dramas to have a budget/government cut back story that threatens main characters. It seems to make sense: you don't always want people as antagonists -- sometimes it's important to have environmental ones as well. The Gail character is presented as someone who is very by the books, with no firefighter experience. Boden obviously takes offense to this, and peppers her with examples of real field work that she's never been in but he and the other Chiefs have. It's a very man vs. machine argument, which is not new territory. Now, the show tries to hook you in firmly by having Gail recruit a new Firefighter in Firehouse 51, Clark, to spy on the house for her. I worry this won't work because this type of tension falls into what I call "never gonna happen" type tension.

What they're threatening (Gail closing the house and splitting up the whole group into different houses) is never going to happen. No show in their right mind would spend a whole season building these relationships to pull them apart and have them scattered around Chicago Firehouses. You need your main characters to be in close proximity together. If Clark ends up spying, we could see one or a few of the bigger stars of Firehouse 51 get into hot water - maybe even suspended. But, like Severide's sexual harassment lawsuit, it won't be permanent. This is Network TV after all. On a quick side note, I hope the Mills character goes through with his application to the Police department and moves to Chicago Fire's spinoff show, Chicago PD. He seemed wishy-washy discussing it with Dawson's brother detective Antonio, so I hope he changes his stance. It seemed like the right progression for his character, and it would make sure they don't run into a problem of trying to give him something to do every week for the sake of it. Chief Boden letting a new Firefighter in on Rescue Squad hopefully is the final nail in the coffin for Mills. Not that I hate the character, I actually quite like him - I just think plot wise this is the best move. He'd make an interesting cop. Plus, it's a popular character that would help draw some viewers over to Chicago PD.

The other potentially longer arc revolved around the fires this week. All three fires (including Severide's car) were revealed to be the work of an arson. An arson targeting Severide, specifically. The first fire (with Severide's badge number on the wall), his car torched, and the final building all turn out to have the same origin.

It feels like a "grown up" version of the baby arsonist from season one, with more tension this time around as it's targeting one of Firehouse 51's own. It was also exciting to see the EMT's Dawson and Shay trapped by fire for once.

It's more stress inducing to watch people with no protective gear about to be swallowed up in flames. I hope they explore more ways to introduce new danger for different characters.

Casey this episode dealt with Tyler Darden's (firefighter who died in the pilot) widow Heather, who tells Casey early on she is going out with girlfriends drinking on the 1 year anniversary of his death. Later on, Casey makes Cruz stop the Firetruck so he can run in and say hello to her and her friends before running back out and getting a call to go to the last fire. It's a pretty useless scene. The audience is smart, and doesn't need to be reminded that a character is doing something they said they were going to do.

I get why it was done: so Casey could recognize the friend at the end who is pulled out on the stretcher from the car wreck Heather gets into. The same amount of tension could be there if Casey goes in cold and finds Heather to be the drunk driver without recognizing anyone else.

The only way I could see using the scene as it is now is to have the call come in earlier, and have Cruz fail to get in contact with Casey who is too busy inside with Heather and her friends, so Cruz has to leave him there.

It would help fit the budget squeezing tension they're going for and give Clark his first bit of information when that would undoubtedly be reported. But hey, why dive too deep into what if's, right?

The highlight scene of the episode for me was the gunshot victim being dropped in Shay and Dawson's lap. The show has always done a great job of throwing emergencies right at the characters during what was going to be down time for them. It really helps to sell the reality of the lives of these people: anything can happen at anytime. They seem to do it quite well with the EMT's specifically. As the gunshot victim is dropped, Shay is almost run over, but avoids the car and helps trap it as the cops swarm in and Dawson tends to the victim. Watching this all go down and ending with Shay going over and helping while the drivers weren't even apprehended yet, was absolutely bad ass to watch.

It was a perfect harmony of writing, shot selection, and chemistry between Monica Raymund (Dawson) and Lauren German (Shay). I applaud the writers for keeping their relationship strictly platonic. It makes sense: Dawson is straight and has had male romantic interests on the show that would help affirm that, while Shay has identified herself as a lesbian, and has an ex-girlfriend so far to prove it.

However, that doesn't stop their fan base hoping for a romantic pairing. I'm glad the show sticks to their guns in that regard.

It's refreshing to see an extremely close relationship that's just platonic.

Their fierce loyalty to each other and the chemistry between the actors is one of the best things about the show, and I hope it only grows as the season goes on.

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Morris/NBC (C) NBC Universal, Inc.