Fighting crime and saving lives, the One Chicago franchise features a slew of tough women.
I've been watching the One Chicago franchise (Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, and Chicago Med) since Fire premiered in 2012, though now I only follow Fire and PD. Despite being among my favorite shows, the early seasons bugged me with the storylines they gave their female leads.
Sure, they got to participate in the 'action', fighting crimes or saving patients. But while Voight walked a dangerous "dirty cop" line, Severide struggled to work through a serious injury, Hermann tried to open a bar, and Halstead wrestled with wartime ghosts, most of the major plotlines given to the female characters were stereotypically feminine: romances, pregnancies, miscarriages, trying to adopt an orphaned kid, etc. Don't get me wrong–there's nothing inherently bad about those stories individually; I'm just not thrilled when those are the only stories told. Also, their characters always felt defined by their relationships to the men in the show: sister, roommate, girlfriend, adoptive daughter.
Happily, both shows have broadened their horizons in recent seasons. Not only are there more female characters overall, they have gained depth and meatier storylines. The women in One Chicago kick butt. Here's a highlight reel from NBC:
Girls on Fire
One of the most uplifting stories in recent Chicago Fire seasons has been Stella's development of the "Girls on Fire" program. Designed to interest high school girls in a potential career in the CFD, the program has led to some great scenes of Stella and the medics mentoring and encouraging young women. One of the girls, Kylie, even joined the firehouse as an office manager and recently passed the firefighter's entrance exam. Might we see Kylie as a candidate next season? Here's hoping.
Stella has also had a juicy storyline exploring her development as a leader, attending a leadership training seminar and ultimately becoming a lieutenant. I haven't always liked Stella's character, but she's had a great journey.
Meanwhile, paramedic Brett has spent the past couple seasons developing a "paramedicine" program–a community program where paramedics make house calls to support at-risk patients. Seeing her step out of her timidity and organize projects she's passionate about was a cool arc for the character. It has also led to a sweet fatherly relationship with Mouch, who helps her run it.
What I like most is how the firehouse ladies support each other. There are many solid friendships–hanging out, listening, and just generally lending a helping hand. In one of my favorite episodes, Brett, Foster and Kidd are on their way to a weekend getaway when they come across a school bus crash and have to render aid with barely any supplies. It's always nice to see them working together.
Partners in Crime-Fighting
Chicago PD doesn't have the same depth in its relationships between female characters. The two female leads, Upton and Burgess, don't interact much outside of their cases. Even on cases, they are often chasing down clues with their respective partners. One notable exception was a 2019 episode in which the officers had to work together after being taken prisoner during an undercover op gone awry.
However, that may be changing. Showrunner Gwen Sigan told CinemaBlend:
We’re definitely trying to get them (Burgess and Upton) together a lot more. I think they have an interesting relationship, and we just haven't seen it a lot on screen that they have been side by side in things. I think we'll lean more into that and lean more into the friendship that they have and sort of build that relationship.
What Upton and Burgess do have is an awesome mentor-mentoree role with senior desk sergeant Trudy Platt. Platt is the best; even in a supporting role, she brings a lot to the show.
And while the female leads may not have much to do with each other, they certainly get some meaty storylines on their own. I loved Burgess and Ruzek's platonic family pairing to raise Burgess' adopted daughter (though it's also nice seeing them get back together—hopefully for good this time). Burgess has also been dealing with PTSD in response to her kidnapping/shooting last season, and she has a great friendship with Atwater. More scenes with them, please. Upton's storyline got a bit hijacked by her relationship with Halstead. Still, she's had a number of standout solo episodes, like her relentless pursuit of a serial killer, or rescuing a guy from the Chicago River who turns out to be a criminal.
All in all, they make for an impressive crime-fighting duo.
- Princess Power:
- Bechdel Test: Pass
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