Chicago Fire Series Premiere Review: Burn Notice

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?

Chicago Fire "Pilot" Photos

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