Chicago Fire Series Premiere Review: Burn Notice

By Nick Campbell

Oct 11, 2012

Chicago Fire S01E01: "Pilot"

"Don't be a crow."

It all started with an emergency, like you'd expect. The truck pulled out, the tell-tale voice of an emergency operator instructed the firefighters and us as to what the fire was, and we were off and running. With a premise like Chicago Fire's, you'd expect a kinetic run through the city with brave souls preparing for battle. After all, lives hung in the balance!

But, no. Clowning around, guys goofing on each other, and people looking downright bored. It completely sapped the urgency. Once they got to the house fire, there was more walking around "with purpose," but it was still just walking around. The operation looked like it was moving at snail's pace, yet it was also filled with activity, like someone with bad breath talking to you in a slow and unending monotone.

And before we even learned everyone's names, someone died.

The teaser encapsulated what was wrong with the whole episode: There were a lot of action sequences that somehow lacked tension, piles of storylines that felt like a wreck, and a lack of connection to most of the characters even though they were enduring some tough situations.

The unofficial leader of Chicago Fire's ensemble cast is Jesse Spencer, who used to play Dr. Chase on House. Here he's Casey, the leader of the Truck Squad. Casey is the least quirky of the group and appears in 90 percent of the scenes. In the battle of Truck Squad versus Rescue Squad (two divisions of the firehouse that seem to have an arbitrary rivalry that far surpasses the month-long dispute between their two leaders), the premiere leaned heavy toward Truck Squad. Casey's only complaint in life is that his girlfriend doesn't want to have kids right away and he does. Well, and his friend died.

But Darden's death—while a major sticking point between Casey and the leader of the Rescue Squad, Kelly (Taylor Kinney, who's seemingly forever doomed to play emergency heroes)—didn't really have a chance to breathe and let the audience connect. With so many characters to introduce and arcs to represent, nothing got any time to shine.

Oh, and Gabriela was maybe going to get taken to court for accidentally piercing a girl's heart, but by the time the doctor at the hospital confirmed everything was good, there was no range of emotion. You never felt like Gabriela was in any real danger or that she was even frustrated by the accusation that she'd done something wrong. The same goes for the chief's boxing match, Herrmann's foreclosure, and a most unnecessary HGH storyline for Kelly. This show lacks any pathos.

So if you don't connect to any of the characters or their myriad situations, you would hope for good action. It's an emergency show after all. But, at some point, Casey told the new guy Pete, "Walk with a purpose. Don't run." Which seems like sage advice where running in a burning building might bring the place down or get you into unnecessary danger. But emergency responders walking around in a fire doesn't exactly have the same high-stakes feel.

Near the end, Casey and Herrmann fell through the floor and had to be rescued by Kelly and, somehow, despite the flames all around, I just didn't get the feeling there was any risk involved. The fire stayed put. They seemed pretty invulnerable to smoke inhalation. There was a part where Casey had to pull Kelly out of the hole he'd made. The table Kelly stood on to get the height he needed collapsed, and Casey was holding on to him—but he was sliding across the floor! Except Kelly was hovering three feet above the ground. And there was no impending danger (other than, you know, the fire). And the Rescue Team was probably coming back. We didn't seem to have anything to worry about.

So what are we watching for? Storylines between pretty people who we hope to develop a kinship for? The opportunity to cringe as the show begs for our love? There was a scene at the end, when the whole crew came down in solidarity for Herrmann and they sat together in the waiting room. The score and the images demanded that we try to understand the brotherhood between these people. But I didn't. And I had a hard time getting myself to really care.

But there are probably a lot of opportunities for people to take their shirts off. So there's that.


– How long until Shay is making out with a woman every week for ratings?

– Is the gender imbalance on this show (where there are no women on the Truck Squad) disconcerting for anyone?

– Aren't you so glad they told you about that alarm thing early so we got that payoff when Casey fell through the floor?

– What would keep you watching this show?

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  • MaryHooker1 Nov 13, 2012

    this is one of the best new tv shows on tv. and my two daughters agree. dvr them to watch when nothing else is on. I DO NOT AGREE WITH THIS REVIEW. hope it keeps running.

  • CyndiDavis Oct 28, 2012

    I realize my humble opinion isn't worth diddly-squat to the networks but I am a HUGE fan of this show already. Lesbians, pretty,shirtless people, fire trucks...........what's not to like? I will be super pissed off if it gets cancelled! Cummon now, in a world filled with honey boo-boo's and kim kardashians, this is a welcomed relief. Rage on Chicago Fire!!!!

  • KrissaSchinde Oct 17, 2012

    Gabriela is probably still going to court. Just because the child was okay doesn't mean anything. I came into the show expecting to hate it, and actually enjoyed it quite a bit. I'm not saying it's the best thing I've ever seen, but it's not bad. Certainly better than Beauty and the Beast and Partners.

  • bluemystique Oct 15, 2012

    -My thoughts exactly. There are only two chicks and then they established that one is a lesbian. It made me cringe. Because I had the sneaking suspicion that when it comes down to it they'll monopolize on that as a desperate move to conjure up some more ratings. I hate the exploitive nature of that. Also, I hate when shows can't just let characters be. I like it when it's an establish the character as a great character and than in passing we learn that's she's a lesbian. The way the did it on this show made her "The Lesbian". I couldn't even remember her name. She should be a character who happens to be a lesbian, not a lesbian character. And none of that probably makes any sense so I'll move onto the next grievance...

    -Yes. It is disconcerting. It being a sausage fest didn't bother me until I seen what the two women were doing. One of them couldn't be on the truck squad? wth?! Between them being partners an EMT's rather than running in with the Big Boys, and them being dissed by arrogant Doctor's with God complexes for not being doctors it had me thinking of the female nurses during WW I and II. They can be by the action just not in it. It wasn't the lack of women that was disconcerting, it was their job that thoroughly ticked me off.

    - Yeahhh, no, not really.

    -I'm ashamed to say it but the pretty people. Okay, but really it's great seeing Taylor in something else. I do like Jesse Spencer (even though he must work on his American accent). I like seeing Monica Raymund in something new. As usual, I'll go with the potential. The show has the potential to be quite interesting. I mean I didn't hate it. I did enjoy it well enough, and I appreciate being able to see something other than cop/doctor/lawyer shows, even though I enjoy those too. It wasn't too bad, it just needs to find its footing. For those who enjoy the other Dick Wolf productions it'll do just fine. I'll keep watching it.

  • leungkora Oct 14, 2012

    Jesse Spencer and Taylor Kinney are so enough for me to keep watching the show.

  • thorswitch Oct 13, 2012

    I actually enjoyed the show quite a bit. I didn't feel like the action was lacking in any way and I feel like I can connect with the characters, even if it takes a couple episodes since there are quite a few of them. Besides, it looks like whatever is going on with Kelly and his shoulder/wrist looks a LOT like what's going on with mine, so I wanna find out what his problem is! LOL

  • gdg07172004 Oct 13, 2012

    DON'T AGREE WITH THE REVIEW. My wife and I and my son loved the show and hope to see a lot more. Hate Bias Critics. A lot of people who review never give new show's a chance.

  • neo112233 Oct 13, 2012

    After reading all the comments i actually feel bad that i liked the show. I loved the opening, i was expecting some sappy ass drama but they murked that bitch in the first 5 minutes. I guess it helps i watched this at 2 in the morning and didnt expect anything from it, but ill keep watching, for network tv its pretty good.

  • bluemystique Oct 15, 2012

    Same here. It was a two am viewing and I didn't hate it.

  • SmokesShowin Oct 12, 2012

    First, NO company in the entire city is as busy as this company was. Maybe 40 years ago but not now. People like to think of the big city as a place where there are major fires every day. These days, Chicago gets 1-5 fires a day MAX. More like 1 or 2 a day for the whole city and there are many days when there isn't one at all. For the comment of women being on the squad, there are no women on any of the "real" squads that I know of. Chicago has 3 squad companies who go to all fires in their district as well as special rescue and other unique calls. It takes more training to be part of a squad company and again, there are only 3 for the entire city (4 if you count Squad 7). And one last thing, there is no real Squad 3 any more. 1, 2, 5 and 7 but no 3.

  • prowly Oct 12, 2012

    "And one last thing, there is no real Squad 3 any more. 1, 2, 5 and 7 but no 3."

    Wow, it's almost as if this show is a work of fiction instead of a documentary. Well, jeez, let's just cancel it then.

  • bkyle2429 Oct 12, 2012

    better than I thought, its kinda like Third watch which lasted 6 season, will take a few episodes to get learn all the characters

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