When Chicago Fire premiered, we were impressed with grand action set pieces that displayed the talents of the members of Firehouse 51. However, the thickly applied melodrama kept us from watching the show on a regular basis. Now, only a year and half after the original premiered, Fire's success has already earned it a spin-off. But can Chicago PD succeed where its predecessor failed?
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Even if you only watched the first few episodes of Chicago Fire, you'll be familiar with Sergeant Hank Voight (Jason Beghe), who was introduced early on in the show's run as a dirty cop. Apparently Voight was caught red-handed, as he's served some jail time since then, only to be miraculously set free and given the command of an elite Intelligence unit. Most of the higher-ups have a good deal of resentment towards him for landing such a plum gig after such controversy, but Voight's team doesn't have any problem with him. Fans of Chicago Fire will notice a few other familiar faces including Detectives Erin Lindsay (Sophia Bush), Antonio Dawson (Jon Seda) and Jay Halstead (Jesse Lee Soffer). The rest of the unit is filled with some new faces as well as a two-man patrol-car team that often gets roped into Voight's operations. Much of the Intelligence unit's work involves busting drug and gang cases that carry extremely high risk. It doesn't take long for the job to show its teeth.
Like Fire, Chicago PD can revel a bit too much in tragedy, but unlike its sister show, it doesn't feel so hopelessly melancholy. In fact, PD seems to have taken a lot of its ideas from FX's The Shield. Voight is largely a copy of Michael Chiklis's Vic Mackey—he's just been given a nice spit shine so that broadcast audiences have a reason to like him. The Intelligence unit is an expanded and less morally comprised version of Shield's strike team, and patrol car riders Burgess (Marina Squerciati) and Atwater (Hawkins) come of as a role-reversed Dani and Juilen. Copying from the best, however, works quite while for Chicago PD as it adds an extra kick to the procedural formula that creator Dick Wolf ran into the ground through years of Law & Order shows.
Some cast members weather the first few episodes better than others, with Bush and Seda getting the juiciest bits of story, but Patrick John Flueger and Elias Koteas make a fun rookie-veteran team that's sure to break out in the future. The patrol car duo are perhaps the biggest weight around the show's neck as much time is spent on Burgess's rivalry with a rough desk sergeant (Amy Morton) and far too much discussion of her previous gig as a flight attendant, while Atwater does almost nothing. Similarly, Archie Kao's Detective Sheldon Jin seems to mostly be in charge of organizing files and manning the laptop when necessary; based on the first three episodes, you wouldn't assume he's a member of the show's main cast.
While it may borrow heavily from some of the gritty cable dramas that have come before, Chicago PD is a surprisingly well done cop drama that builds upon Dick Wolf's large stable of procedurals.