With Chicago P.D., executive producer Dick Wolf may have the beginnings of a new dynasty on his hands, this time set in The Windy City instead of New York.
Spun-off from the surprise success of Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D. looks to be around for a while, if the show’s initial ratings remain stable. P.D. already has all the necessary elements for a long lasting show: a solid cast, especially leads Jason Beghe and Jon Seda, good storylines that move forward each week, and intense action sequences.
Wolf’s second act is something of a surprise. Law & Order: SVU is the only show left in the long-running Law & Order franchise, and the reviews when Chicago Fire debuted were not kind. But Wolf has managed to reinvent his style, rather than imitate what he’s done before, and that gives these two stories a fresh feel.
I gave Chicago Fire a try because nothing else was on one night, and I remembered old episodes of Emergency fondly. I didn’t have high hopes save to pass the hour, yet I was hooked within ten minutes by a tense rescue sequence, which has become the show’s trademark. What keeps me coming back is the cast—a nicely diverse lot—and the soap opera-style drama swirling around them.
Critics be damned, viewers agreed with my assessment of the show. Chicago Fire became a hit and was renewed for a second season. But it’s growth didn’t end there.
When I heard Fire was getting a spinoff focused on the police department, I was intrigued. Jon Seda had already appeared in a number of episodes of Fire and he seemed a natural lead for the show. However, I was shocked to learn that Chicago P.D.’s main character would be one Sergeant Hank Voight (Jason Beghe). Voight was the dirty cop who harassed and attacked one of the stalwart firefighters in the first few episodes of Fire, playing the role of a true television villain. I loved the graval-voiced Beghe as Voight (and more as Royce in Castle), but had no idea how any show could make Sgt. Voight a sympathetic character.
But making Voight the lead has turned out to be a true stroke of creative genius. As a morally gray cop, unpredictable and dangerous, it’s never entirely clear which way Voight will jump in any given episode. That adds a tense edge to Chicago P.D. that doesn’t exist on many network police procedurals.
Voight’s opposite number is Det. Antonio Dawson (Jon Seda), an incorruptible and happy family man who once arrested Voight but now works uneasily alongside him. Dawson will trust Voight to defend him in a foxhole, but that’s far different from trusting Voight to follow proper police procedure or even the law. It’s inevitable that cracks will appear between them. Will Voight go too far, forcing Dawson to turn him in? Or will Voight corrupt Dawson?
The rest of the cast that makes up the Intelligence Unit at the heart of Chicago P.D. is intriguing, but they haven’t yet fully had a chance to shine. Erin Lindsay (Sophia Bush) has a relationship with Voight, but it’s unclear exactly what kind. Not quite family, not quite lovers, and definitely a student to his mentor, but there’s more bubbling under the surface. What’s clear is she’s intensely loyal to him and will likely ruin her own career for him.
Alvin Olinsky (Elias Koteas), the sneaky-smart veteran who lives in his ex-wife’s garage, steals all the scenes in which he appears. Detective Jay Halstead (Jesse Lee Soffer), the hot-looking cop who also has a quick temper is the least interesting to me right now, though he’s being set up as the third member of the Voight and Lindsey triangle.
But Halstead’s romantic interest aside, I’m far more interested in the somewhat goofy and endearing rookie, Officer Adam Ruzak (Patrick John Flueger), who’s like a big, smart kid playing with grown-ups, only if he makes a mistake, people could die.
I’m also enjoying the interplay between two regular patrol officers and the desk sergeant at the precinct, though it’s unclear yet how they fit into the overall plot of the show.
Overall, the varied cast, along with the location shootings in Chicago, gives the show a Hill Street Blues-vibe. As with Fire, the pacing of P.D. is very quick, especially the action sequences, mostly consisting of shoot-outs.
Will the good ratings continue? The coming crossover between Chicago P.D. and Law & Order: SVU will certainly raise its profile. Too bad Det. Munch of SVU has retired, or else he could add two more series to his record total of television appearances.
Episode 6 of Chicago P.D., the Law & Order: SVU crossover episode airs on Wednesday, February 26, at 10PM on NBC, and full episodes of Chicago P.D. can be found online.
Corrina Lawson is a writer, mom, geek and superhero, though not always all four on the same day. She is a senior editor of the GeekMom blog at Wired and the author of a superhero romance series and an alternate history series featuring Romans and Vikings in ancient North America. She has been a comic book geek all her life and often dreamed of growing up to be Lois Lane.