Chicago PD Season 11 Report Card: Sidelining, Shortcomings & Some Surprises

Spoilers

We put another season with the Intelligence Unit behind us.

Unfortunately, Chicago PD Season 11 was not exempt from the Dual-Strike effect on the writing of many of our favorite series.

The return has been rough, something we’ve acknowledged and lamented as our favorite series couldn’t quite transition back into truncated seasons with ease.

Chicago PD, like many other series, fell into the same bad habits of trying to cram too much content into a shortened season, dropping storylines, or sidelining characters.

And as One Chicago fans, in particular, know, the cast cutbacks that have resulted in less screen time for many of our favorite characters were more pronounced than ever during this season.

The rotating centrics also proved more tiresome and frustrating than ever during the season.

Plus, with it serving as Hailey Upton’s Departure season, the series’ favorite character, who often monopolizes a lot of narrative space and screen time, undoubtedly did so yet again to prepare for her sendoff.

Let’s get into the best and worst of Chicago PD Season 11.

Best Episode – Chicago PD Season 11 Episode 12- Inventory

Yes, it was yet another episode that focused on Hailey a bit, but overall, it was a strong episode for the full team.

It was one of the few season installments that featured the full team at once, doing what they do best: working together and investigating a big case.

Related: 27 Damn Fine Cops & Detectives Who Can Arrest Us Any Day

Ruzek finally reappeared after being MIA for most of the season, and for once, the cast restraints and restrictions didn’t feel like they loomed over the episode or deeply impacted how the hour functioned and one’s enjoyment of it.

Ironically, it was the installment in which Jesse Lee Soffer returned to direct.

He did a fabulous job and showed his understanding of the characters and the script at once.

Inventory brought things to a head.

They finally made some headway with identifying the serial killer as the season-long case hurtled toward completion.

The incorporation of Kiki, the witness, and the tragedy of her death heightened the stakes, but then the hour outdoes that with the final moments that saw their serial killer drugging and kidnapping Voight.

If the season had ended there, with that as a cliffhanger, it would’ve been a great finale.

Honorable Mention Best Episodes – “Survival” & “The Living and the Dead”

It’s no secret that many viewers don’t like the centric episodes.

However, two of the best ones centered on Voight.

Related: Chicago PD Review: The Living and the Dead

Ironically, he’s the one character we don’t see featured nearly as much anymore, so it was a nice change of pace to get a deep dive into his character through this serial killer arc.

With Survival, the serial killer arc was introduced—creepy, with glued-open eyes—and we saw Voight take a renewed interest in capturing this man, particularly through the kinship he formed with young Noah.

And by The Living and the Dead, you could visibly see Voight of old return full force upon discovering his newly acquired stray, Noah, dead at this killer’s hands.

They were among the series’ darkest installments, often compared to Criminal Minds‘ tone.

But they were also among the season’s most compelling and cohesive episodes.

Worst Episode – Chicago PD Season 11 Episode 1 “Unpacking”

The season premiere was a complete bust.

In a puzzling maneuver that still makes little to no sense whatsoever, we only got under a minute of screentime with Ruzek, who we had last seen bleeding to death in an ambulance during Chicago PD Season 10 Episode 21.

And then, inexplicably, the entire episode shifted its focus to Hailey.

It was bizarre to choose not to focus on the more pressing cliffhanger and then shift to a case in which Hailey was absolutely terrible at her job.

She defied sense and logic for most of the hour only to “get it right” by the end, which was infuriating.

The mishandling of a case involving a victim who was suffering a mental break was offputting.

Related: Chicago PD Season 11 Wishlist Includes More Balance and Levity and Less Dark, Gritty Plots

The episode was short on most of the cast, with Ruzek in his blink-and-you-miss update scene, Voight being hands-off, and Torres randomly “on leave.”

Character Who Overstayed Their Welcome – Jo Petrovic

Jo Petrovic wasn’t necessarily a bad character.

She had some interesting moments and offered great insight, at least in the earlier episodes.

But she eventually got shoehorned into way too many episodes, and she was this plot device to reflect back upon Hailey and account for all the things we saw with our own eyes regarding Upton.

The concept of her serving as a behavioral analyst seemed more promising than what she could deliver in the end despite Bojana Novakovic giving it her all.

It quickly became increasingly frustrating that Jo Petrovic logged more screen time than many of our main characters.

For a while, it was starting to feel like she was a unit member instead of Ruzek.

Character Who Got Shafted – Adam Ruzek

Again, we get it: budgetary cuts contribute to why we see fewer of our favorite characters.

However, Ruzek’s absence for most of the season was egregious and unfathomable.

Related: Chicago PD: Burzek’s Journey to Forever is a Testament of Enduring Love

Barring the actor requesting or needing such little screen time, it makes zero sense that he was a blink-and-you-miss-it character for most of the season.

Given that he was shot, you would’ve thought the season would focus on him a little more, but he got sidelined early.

Except for his rather underwhelming centric with Chicago PD Season 11 Episode 2 and his significant moment with Burgess in “Safe Harbor,” Ruzek disappeared for most of the season.

We didn’t even have an explanation for it, which made his absence and limited screen time more glaring.

The season premiere should’ve focused primarily on him, and we certainly deserved to see a bit more of him throughout the season, not to mention that he should’ve gotten at least one other centric.

Most Improved Character – Kevin Atwater

This is not to say that anything was wrong with Kevin in the first place.

Atwater is already pretty damn elite.

But this season, it felt as if they were setting him up to have a more prominent role and presence.

Related: Cast Shifts, Short Seasons, And Budgets Cuts — Can One Chicago Survive Its Own Changes?

He’s come into his own more as a cop while still learning some lessons along the way.

But we also got to see him taking a more leadership role, and there’s the strong possibility that in the absence of Hailey, he’s set up to be Voight’s next “second.”

So Underused It’s Criminal – Trudy Platt

Ironically, it has been a better season of Trudy showing up in the background or having a scene or two.

She assisted Hailey when that young girl showed up at the station.

And let’s not forget how adorably maternal she was with Atwater during The Water Line.

But even with her finally having more presence than she had previously, she remains the most criminally underused character in the series.

We got more badass moments with Trudy on Chicago Fire than Chicago PD.

We have Amy Morton; why don’t they use her more?

Most Annoying Storyline – Torres’s Relationship with the Cartel Wife

It was great to get some time with Torres, as he has continued to develop as a character and find his own place within the team.

But it was colossally disappointing when he fell into semi-similar situations as previous characters and engaged in an inappropriate relationship with Gloria, the married CI connected to their case.

Jaws hit the floor when they had a brisk tryst against the brick wall of a building on the rooftop of a parking garage.

And yes, the team was within earshot, thanks to comms.

He engaged in a relationship with this woman, and he felt “saw” him because “they were the same.”

It was a rookie move for the rookie and resulted in Gloria killing her husband and him covering for her.

Related: Hero or Smooth Criminal? These TV Characters Make It Hard to Tell

However, not even Yara Martinez could salvage such a troubling storyline.

Most Compelling Storyline – The Hunt for the Serial Killer

Voight and the unit entangled in tracking down this serial killer who kept slipping from their fingertips was a great story arc.

It worked well as a storyline that carried over throughout the season, and they showed more realistic aspects of police work by portraying how easy it is to hit a dead end and how difficult it is sometimes to find evidence or enough to make any real progress.

The stakes were high for the case, not only because of its gruesome nature but also because of how personally connected and invested Voight was in bringing this serial killer to justice or taking him to hell personally.

So often, it can seem like Voight is going through the motions.

In this case, we saw that passion and fire in him as he doggedly pursued leads and barely ate, slept, or focused on anything else.

It was great to see that a veteran like Voight could still face challenges and hadn’t lost all emotion or become detached while investigating cases.

Underwhelming, Redundant Storyline That Only Worked …. “Because Plot” – Hailey’s Final Arc and Exit

It should be expected that Hailey’s exit was handled about as well and consistently as most of her journey in this series.

Her final season saw her still battling with mental health issues, Jay’s abandonment, and her isolating herself from almost everyone else in her life.

It wasn’t anything new and dragged on for the full season.

Petrovic’s presence was there to drudge up some long-abandoned exploration into Hailey’s traumatic childhood as the daughter of an alcoholic and how that could’ve affected her now.

It was like they tried to illuminate a character they’ve pushed to the forefront too often but never properly explored with all this extra context about her past and history.

Related: Chicago PD’s Most Compelling Characters Aren’t Who You Think

Still, it was too little, too late, to be compelling, and they had already saturated viewers with Hailey for most to appreciate it.

By the finale, they tugged on the notion that Hailey and Voight were like father and daughter, which was pulled out of thin air, as Jack Ori described in the season finale review, and was another parallel to Erin Lindsay.

And as if Hailey weren’t already running parallels with Lindsay so much to warrant constant comparisons because of her troubled background, romance, and break up with Halstead, dynamic with Voight, and penchant for getting in trouble, her official departure included her pursuing a new job with some other law enforcement agency elsewhere.

Hailey’s departure didn’t seem to properly address the issues she was struggling with in the first place, as her mental health struggles she refuses to seek actual help for won’t disappear because she left the city.

And the prospect that Voight is a bad influence on her when he’s gotten to the point of having to reel her back doesn’t register as true.

But perhaps it’s a better solution than killing her off.

Best Personal Development – Burzek Engagement

Given that it’s about as far as we got with either of these characters all season, the Burzek engagement proved to be one of the season’s best moments.

Granted, I had some mixed feelings about it when it happened; however, Burzek’s enduring love is what makes their story such a good love story.

It was a moment that has been seasons in the making, and while presenting us with it now may not have led far given the shortened season, we can hope for an actual Chicago PD  Big Wedding by next season.

We need Atwater as Best Man, Platt as Matron of Honor, and Mack as a flower girl or perhaps even a part of their vows to one another as a family. Let’s make it happen!

Best Shocker – Al Olinsky’s Return

It was so good to have Olinsky back briefly, whether he was a hallucination, a ghost, a vision, or a sign.

He’s been referenced more recently, and we even caught glimpses of Voight visiting his grave.

Related: FBI Season 6 Report Card: Storylines Remain Topical in Strike-Shortened Season

In a season where Voight is more cognizant of losing all his loved ones, Olinksy couldn’t appear at a better time to help Voight get through torture and unleash the beast.

One of the reasons why Voight had become muted is because of his guilt over Olinsky’s death, so his late friend giving him some encouragement allowed Voight to unlock all that he’s capable of and destroy Frank once and for all.

Overall Grade – C

Like many series in this strike-shortened season, it wasn’t the strongest for Chicago PD.

They suffered greatly, and the budgetary decision to bench cast members for episodes at a time continues to damage the series overall and the camaraderie a unit should have.

Once again, Hailey monopolized a lot of time and narrative space throughout the season, this time with the intention of setting things up for her departure.

Her mental health issues carried over for the third season in a row, only to still go unaddressed as she got written off in a predictable and boring manner.

The character-centric formatting severely hampered the series, and it was the worst season yet.

Chicago PD cannot pull off or sustain itself by benching half of its cast every other week.

Related: Will Trent Season 2 Report Card: Strong Storylines Leave Us Anxious for Season 3

They haven’t figured out how to properly and consistently write about that in a compelling way.

The pointless introduction of new characters, like Petrovic, who took up more screen time at the expense of characters like Ruzek, was generally frustrating.

The unit feels so disconnected and divided more often than not.

Hopefully, their loss of a character would mean they can better balance things among the characters and work together better as a unit and family.

While the series’ dark tone has had some intriguing moments, it wouldn’t hurt to balance things out better.

Here’s to a strong Chicago PD Season 12!

Over to you, Chicago PD Fanatics. How would you grade the season?

Chicago PD returns on Wednesdays at 10/9c on NBC in the fall. You can stream the full series 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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