I’ll admit it: I like to binge watch television shows. My record is still two and a half days for the first season of the greatest television show ever (Lost). But over the last week, I blew through the first season of Chicago Fire, the NBC drama about Engine Co. 51, Truck Co. 81, Rescue Squad Co. 3, and Ambulance 61. Each episode has a “case” or two, in terms of serial procedure, but the sticking point remains the characters, their interaction with each other, and the their struggles in the life of first responders and… human beings with hard decisions.
Play-by-the-rules Matthew Casey (Jesse Spencer) probably presents the most sympathetic character; he’s the lieutenant for the Truck crew. Opposite him is the rogue Rescue lieutenant Kelly Severide (Taylor Kinney). Spiraling out from them are a host of characters including Chief Boden (Eamonn Walker), firefighter/paramedics Shay (Lauren German) and Dawson (Monica Raymund), candidate firefighter Mills (Charlie Barnett), and old timers, Hermann (David Eigenberg), Mouch (Christian Stolte), and Cruz (Joe Minoso). [It’s worth noting that the show already has a spin-off set for midseason fall 2013 starring Jon Seda and Jason Beghe as Chicago cops who show up periodically on the show.] There are a variety of friends and love interests, with guest stars like Treat Williams, Sarah Shahi, and Shiri Appleby.
I was struck early on by an exchange between Casey and Dawson. Casey knew that a cop’s son was the cause of an accident that left a teenager paralyzed but the case was covered up, and he was challenged to change his testimony. He asks Dawson what she would do, and she tells him that she would do the right thing because she’d want to look him in the eye. It’s leadership from the front, which Boden also emphasizes, that impacts the way that most of the men and women of the firehouse make decisions. It’s risky, sometimes dangerous, but it’s usually choosing the right thing to do… even if the wrong things drive the show’s more enticing situations.
One firefighter intentionally lets a “bad guy” die to save his brother, who is wrapped up in a gang. It’s a situation that has moral repercussions, but it forces the viewer to consider how he/she might respond in a situation where family was on the line (Prisoners also allows for that discussion). Severide’s injury on the job leads to his addiction to painkillers which involves other members of the squad, and affects his job performance. His love for the job, and his single-minded focus on fighting fires, causes him to make poor decisions but it proves his passion.
For those seeking romance, the show balances several story lines about love and relationships. Casey has an on-again/off-again relationship with a doctor, but he and Dawson have strong feelings for each other that we haven’t really seen engaged yet, as she backs into a relationship with Mills. Severide tackles his ex-fiance’s troubles, while also finding a fling with a woman he rescues in a traffic accident. Hermann’s family life, and impending fatherhood for the fifth time, provide a balance to Mouch’s pursuit of a “mail order bride.”
Maybe this is a bit of a soapy drama, or maybe it’s just like real life. There still haven’t been many moments that I thought “well, that wouldn’t happen,” and the people react the way that most of us would given their predicaments. But seeing them play out on the screen makes me wonder if I could do better, and if in any of their situations, if it’s not a slippery slope to get there. But each of them know where they can go when it hits the fan: the firehouse. They know where their community is, and they know who will advise them, challenge them, encourage them, and comfort them. There’s no doubting that for these characters.
Do we feel that way about anywhere? Do we know where we can go? I have my family, and my friends, and the commonality is our relationship with God. I hope you have someone you can talk to, a place you can go, and ultimately, I hope you have that community, because I call it church. Ultimately, we can’t get anywhere on our own, not if we’re realistic. It’s the truth that the folks of Chicago Fire find, and we can find it, too.