Chicago Fire, the new Dick Wolf drama following the firefighters, rescue squad, and paramedics of the Windy City’s Firehouse 51, premiered tonight, and while I’d hoped to do a post with the Top 5 beefcake shots, it turns out there were only two. Having stared at those tank-top ads for a week, this almost feels like false advertising. Good thing the Rescue Squad’s Lt. Kelly Severide (The Vampire Diaries’ Taylor Kinney) decided to put his watch on before his shirt, and then let the shirt rest on his shoulder for 56 seconds while Battalion Chief Wallace Boden (Oz’s Eamonn Walker) explained the tension between Rescue Squad and Truck is as old as the Chicago Fire Department. And whew, thank you, Lt. Matthew Casey (House’s Jesse Spencer), who’s in charge of the Truck, for deciding to take a shower right as paramedic Gabriela Dawson (The Good Wife’s Monica Raymund) took an important call in the locker room from her union about her having put a needle in a young girl’s heart. Okay, writing that, I realize why there wasn’t more skin in this hour. Still, I’m disappointed.
As the series opens, Casey and Severide are at a house fire. Did it take anyone else a good 30 minutes to realize Severide was his last name? I guess because of Severus Snape, it seemed plausible that it was just a first name I was going to find annoying. So let’s go with Matt and Kelly. Matt asked Kelly to “vent the back.” By the time Kelly told Matt there was no vent, Firefighter Darden was already climbing off the ladder into the window he’d broken. Backdraft. Darden died. Now Matt and Kelly blame one another. I know nothing about firefighter protocol, but this looked like Darden’s fault to me – he didn’t wait for Matt to confirm that he was good to break that window and enter. Maybe Matt should never have asked Kelly to vent the back since that’s a Truck task (at least according to Kelly). Then again, maybe Kelly should have just done it knowing that his childhood friend Darden was one of the guys’ lives he’d be protecting. Regardless, while it was an explosive opening scene, it didn’t come with the emotional punch it would have if we’d known these guys a little better.
I think we all knew Matt and Kelly would have to put aside their differences to save one another before this hour was out. And it happened after Matt and veteran firefighter Christopher Herrmann (Sex and the City’s David Eigenberg) fell though the floor down to the basement at another fire. Kelly was lowered down and Herrmann was lifted up first, since he was severely injured. Then Kelly helped Matt climb up to the next floor, and Matt struggled to pull Kelly up as though there was a chance that Taylor Kinney would die in the pilot.
Though Kelly joined the rest of the squad at the hospital to wait for word on Herrmann and shared a nod with Matt, I suspect the tension will continue between them. As we learned through idealistic newcomer Peter Mills (Law & Order: SVU’s Charlie Barnett), probably the most likable guy in the firehouse, a lot of Truck guys want to work their way up to Rescue – so while they have each other’s backs (usually), there’s also some animosity. Kelly and Matt have their own separate issues, too. Kelly has some kind of injury that his him shooting up pain meds in a bathroom stall, which means he’s hiding it from people. Not good. And Matt’s fiancée, Hallie (Three Rivers’ Teri Reeves), a resident at a local hospital, isn’t ready to have kids, so she gave back the engagement ring. Matt did, however, call her and ask her to come over again, so it sounds like they’ll be getting back together. Too bad for Gabby, who we know has feelings for Matt by how awkward she acted when Matt fibbed and said he and Hallie had a date night planned earlier in the episode.
It’s always nice when a procedural tries to make itself character-driven, but the problem is, the characters have to be as interesting as their jobs, and I’m not sure these ones hooked me. I appreciate that Gabby ‘s partner, paramedic Leslie Shay (Hawaii Five-O’s Lauren German), is an out lesbian, but that’s all we’ve learned about her. Gabby seems pretty badass, but you know she and Matt will have to be a slow burn, so when she’s not facing down a man with a gun or accidentally sticking a needle into a child’s heart when she’s trying to extract the blood surrounding it, are we interested? If this show turns into a Shonda Rhimes series, and Kelly starts getting some action (a new McSteamy!), I could keep watching. If not, I’ll most likely tape an episode, if I stumble upon it, just so I can fast-forward later to see if Kelly is baring his biceps and locking lips.
Spoiler alert: He does wear a tank top to the Friends of Firemen Barbecue in episode 2, and he kisses someone. I like the idea of having Kinney on my TV every week, but I’m gonna need more heat than that. You?