Chicago PD Season 11 Episode 1 Review: Unpacking

Spoilers

It was a long hiatus, but the Intelligence Unit finally returned to us, just not in full form.

After an adrenaline-pumping season finale, we dove into a blood-soaked and relatively depressing premiere.

And if one can conclude anything from Chicago PD Season 11 Episode 1, it’s that Hailey Upton is not at the top of her game at all.

For many reasons, it was a challenging hour as the series kicked a bit more dirt on Halstead’s name (Jason, by the way, who knew?).

The hour also had a frustrating case, barely gave us an update on Ruzek, and cut the team down to three members, with Voight occasionally checking in.

We learned some time ago that budgetary initiatives would consist of our favorite characters playing more minor roles in the season, and it was felt heavily and noticeable.

It was great that Trudy had such a strong presence in the hour, as she was woefully neglected during Chicago PD Season 10.

Trudy: I need a name.
Voight: Adam. It’s the only name you’re going to get from me, Trudy. It’s Adam’s spot.

But outside of that, Dante Torres was absent, with a throwaway line informing us that he was on leave to take care of his mother.

And apparently, Ruzek is still on the mend and can’t pass his physical tests to get cleared for duty yet, meaning not only is the team down two members, but there is pressure on Voight to replace Ruzek temporarily.

And here’s where the premiere was off right out of the gate.

Given that Chicago PD Season 10 Episode 22 ended with Ruzek’s life in peril, the logical thing would’ve been to have a season premiere that featured him more prominently.

Ruzek’s shooting was the more pressing storyline that deserved more follow-up, so glossing past it quickly, not just with a time jump (which was fine), but with an hour focused more exclusively on Hailey Upton, was bizarre.

It almost felt as if the series filmed installments out of place.

What we know is that six months have passed since the shooting. It’s something that seemingly still haunts Hank Voight.

He’s a man whose entire life is the Intelligence Unit, and the squad is the only family he has left. When anything happens to any of him, he loses it a bit, and that increases tenfold as he’s watched various ways the team has suffered.

We’re seeing more of a paternal level to Voight, notably with Hailey in Jay’s absence.

But this team is it for him, and he’s not open to much change there. It’s no wonder Trudy had to harass him to pieces about a replacement for Adam Ruzek, but he’s not ready to give in.

We can glean that Ruzek has had a long and rough recovery process, and he’s trying to get back in shape for the job, but he isn’t quite there yet.

It’s frustrating for him, but it’s great to know he’s alive and relatively happy and his return is in sight. It has to be, right?

Related: Chicago PD Season 10 Finale Review: A Better Place

That said, the blink-and-you-miss-it catchup with him felt off, given where we left things, and he should have probably had the more prominent focus during this hour.

But instead, that went to Hailey.

The premiere doesn’t waste time establishing that Hailey Upton is in a rough spot, and this depressive Halstead abandonment saga still rages on.

Knowing that she’ll be departing in some fashion by the end of the season, it’s evident that the series wants to put forth a strong showing for her.

They also want to set the groundwork for what will likely be a season-long journey that sets up her character’s development and subsequent departure.

And that’s perfectly fine, but it could’ve been hinted at during the premiere and touched upon in the following installment.

But as it stands, Hailey is a hot mess.

As usual, Tracy Spiridakos delivers a strong performance. Despite the many criticisms about the character and the writing, there’s nothing negative to levie against the actress as she always kills it with whatever she’s given.

But Hailey was insufferable during most of this hour.

Where Chicago PD gets credit this time is in the storyline being deliberate about Hailey’s actions and how messed up they were rather than writing things off as if she wasn’t in the wrong or her behavior was acceptable.

It’s the usual route the series takes with the character, so in that sense, it was refreshing to see the entire storyline was about Hailey not being at the top of her game and the case suffering severely from it.

She owned up to her actions as well.

It’s Cam’s brother. He’s our offender. I think I got it wrong.

Hailey

Of course, none of that made watching the case any easier.

The introduction of a Crisis Prevention Unit was fascinating, and it genuinely sucked that instead of an hour devoted to Hailey shadowing it and learning how it functions, it kickstarted with her undermining everything it’s supposed to be and does.

Hailey tends to carry herself like she’s the smartest one in the room, so the second they showed up at that call, she immediately jumped into action, approaching Cam as if he was a suspect and assessing the scene rather than allowing the CPU to follow THEIR protocols.

The entire point of a Crisis Prevention Unit is to handle situations exactly like what they saw.

Related: How Hailey Upton’s Impending Departure Shifts the Landscape of the Series

Had Hailey given Dr. Mitchell time to do his job, she still could’ve gotten in there to assess the scene and caught her case.

It wasn’t off to a good start when she jumped to the conclusion that Cam was a suspect. Sure, her narrowly escaping a fire and rescuing that woman was badass, but it doesn’t change the fact that specific protocols are in place for a reason.

Hailey had tunnel vision when it came to Cam. She didn’t listen to anything the man was saying, instead getting the idea in her mind that he was smug or prideful about the brutal bashing that happened in that house.

It was as clear as day that Cam was in the middle of a mental episode and was unwell. Therefore, it was disturbing as hell that Hailey was disregarding that and essentially exploiting a mentally ill man, trying to pressure, hound, and strongarm him into confessing to a brutal crime.

If Dr. Mitchell hadn’t advocated for this man and gotten him into a hold, he would’ve been booked on circumstantial evidence and locked up.

It’s a disturbing look at how disenfranchised people can fall victim to a system. We’re supposed to be sympathetic to Hailey because we know her.

But it’s hard to consider anything beyond how easily Cam could’ve fallen victim to the system because a cop like Hailey is having an off day or allowing her personal issues and own mental health to cloud her judgment on the job.

Imagine how many Cams there are.

Related: Cast Shifts, Budget Cuts, And More — Can One Chicago Survive Its Own Changes?

The entire case became a shitshow. People died. An innocent bystander got hit by a stray bullet.

What’s frustrating is that we saw that Hailey was off. The others noted that, but because the team was already short-staffed and had this penchant to coddle each other rather than pull each other off of cases when it called for it, Hailey got to carry on with this case.

In reality,  Hank Voight should’ve benched her or put her on desk duty because she was a liability more than anything else.

What good is her ability to own up to her mistakes when so much was at stake and she was still carrying on?

Hailey: I’m not a bad cop.
Mitchell: I never said that you were a bad cop. It would be real simple if it was about bad cops. It ain’t.

Using Cam to draw out Derrick wasn’t a great call, but for whatever reason, everyone kept giving Hailey all of this leeway and following her lead.

She at least made the right decision enlisting Mitchell, the actual professional’s help with talking to Cam and getting him out of that room.

But despite that, Derrick still killed himself in front of her. Yay, another traumatizing event to tack onto this character who has already been traumatized to hell and back.

It was such a dark case and difficult to watch because of how badly it went left and how much worse it could have been if Hailey hadn’t checked herself.

Cam never should’ve gotten the treatment he did, and it’s scary to think about what that looks like in reality.

The existence of units and services meant to help get undermined doesn’t bode well at all. Hailey was shadowing so she could learn, yet she didn’t bother to initiate all of this in the first place.

Related: Found Season Finale Review: Missing While Forgotten

The level of complicity from the rest of the team, as they spent more time giving her space to follow her hunch when there were clear red flags, was frustrating.

And the desire to reassure her after the fact rather than calling her out in the middle of the case was also aggravating. What good is this if they can’t hold one another accountable?

The sad thing is that even though it was presented as Hailey being in a rough mental space and having an “off” day, we also know she routinely behaves like this in different ways.

That said, Hailey is a hot mess right now. It’s progress that she can acknowledge as much as she wants to do and be better.

She doesn’t know how.

She signed the divorce papers, which is progress as far as no longer dragging on this terrible Halstead abandonment thing.

Hailey needs to wrap up this part of her life and get some closure; however, messily, this whole thing has been handled, and she deserves that.

But she’s obviously stuck. It took her a bit to mail the divorce papers. She moved into an apartment she has yet to unpack and barely seems to live in.

She’s not in a good state and still isolates herself and pushes people away.

Related: Chicago Fire Season 12 Premiere Review: Barely Gone

She’s no better off now than when Jay left six months ago or a year ago. It’s been too much time with her being like this. It’s depressing and boring, and it’s spilling into her job.

At this point, I don’t have sympathy for Hailey. I’m just tired and ready for her to move on.

Sadly, based on that final scene with Voight, she doesn’t know how. I don’t know if that will bode well for the rest of the season and her last days on the series.

She’s feeling lost, and it used to be that the job was the one that she could turn to and that would ground her. They always lead us to believe that it’s that one thing she’s good at and can hold onto when everything else is falling apart.

Hailey: I can’t be a good cop if I’m angry. I don’t know what to do. Tell me what to do. That’s why you’re here, right? Serious. Tell me what to do, and I’ll do it. Anything. How do I fix it?
Voight: I don’t know.

But after a case like this, she doesn’t even have faith in herself as a cop. She barely sounded convinced when she told Dr. Mitchell she was a good cop.

Where does Hailey go from here?

Bullpen Musings:

  • Half the team was missing, but they certainly delivered on those underrated dynamics. Despite everything else, Hailey/Atwater, Hailey/Burgess, and the trio were a refreshing pace change.
  • Can we keep Dr. Mitchell? He keeps it real, is intelligent and capable, and goodness knows, a therapist in the mix is a good thing.
  • My heart broke watching that footage of Cam’s assault. It made the whole situation with Hailey’s fixation on him infinitely worse.
  • Seriously, why did we never know about Jason Halstead?
  • It feels like Kevin Atwater may have a strong season. He was great in this installment.
  • It was a rough hour for Hailey Upton fans AND foes. Oof.

Over to you, Chicago PD Fanatics.

What are your thoughts on the premiere? Should it have focused more on Ruzek? Can Hailey ever bounce back? Sound off below.

Chicago PD airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on NBC and can be streamed the next day on Peacock.

Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. She is an insomniac who spends late nights and early mornings binge-watching way too many shows and binge-drinking way too much tea. Her eclectic taste makes her an unpredictable viewer with an appreciation for complex characters, diverse representation, dynamic duos, compelling stories, and guilty pleasures. You’ll definitely find her obsessively live-tweeting, waxing poetic, and chatting up fellow Fanatics and readers. Follow her on X.

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