Halloween seems to have come early this year, as nothing says goodbye October like flesh-eating bacteria.
Yes, you read that right, as our favorite firefighters, doctors, and police officers on Chicago Fire Season 8 Episode 4 tried to figure out what was exactly causing multiple Chicagoans to develop necrotizing fasciitis.
While disgusting to see onscreen, let’s take a moment to applaud the writers for coming up with something new, semi-realistic, and cohesive this year.
There’s only so many times a massive fire can break out and kill a main character’s family member, which, incidentally, happened during the last two massive crossovers.
And the writers shouldn’t “bill” it as a crossover if the main storyline that will carry over starts in the last five minutes of the first hour, something which has happened in the past.
When I was in med school, we had a unit on bacterial infections. The only thing that stopped me from wearing those Hazmat suits all day was these things weren’t contagious. If this thing is spread on contact – or even worse airborne – this entire city is going to drop like flies.
So it doesn’t matter that immediate answers weren’t available, as the first hour kicked off the start to the One Chicago universe’s best three-way crossover to date.
But really, no one should have expected to receive answers so soon.
If viewers have seen any of the other three-way crossovers that exist within the Dick Wolf universe, then they should know that they have to watch until the very end to find out what’s what.
For Chicago Fire fans, though, that may not be the main draw, as this series differs from Chicago PD and Chicago Med, both of which are more “case of the week” type shows with serialized elements thrown in here and there.
However, Chicago Fire is the most serialized of the three, as the calls Firehouse 51 responds to aren’t the main focus of the episode.
Rather, viewers watch as their favorite characters deal with issues in their personal lives and, on occasion, the inner workings of bureaucracy within the Chicago Fire Department.
So figuring out how to blend Chicago Fire’s distinct approach with its two procedural spinoffs can make these massive crossovers a challenge, as each series has its own distinct feel.
When it’s come to these three-way crossovers in the past, Chicago Fire has usually been the weak link.
Foster: I don’t know how you do it.
Foster: Not freak out in these situations because I’m a little freaked out.
Brett: Well, we all deal with stress in different ways.
Foster: Do you have that medicated anti-bacterial soap that you guys use after chemical fires? I don’t care that we didn’t touch anybody. I’m going to scrub my arms up to my shoulders.
Brett: I’m going to raid the candy cabinet. See, different ways.
Unless there’s a devastating fire, which was the case for the last two three-way crossovers, there’s not a lot for firefighters to do in the grand scheme of things.
Firehouse 51 will be called to the scene and do their thing, but then that’s pretty much it.
The injured characters get treated on Chicago Med, and the responsible party gets apprehended on Chicago PD.
Then, the responsible party faces justice on Law & Order: SUV or the short-lived Chicago Justice.
It’s a formulaic approach that works during the second two hours but usually lags in the first hour, as the writers seem to be stalling for time, waiting until the story can move onto the next stage.
Hermann: That’s terrifying.
Severide: The news wants you scared. That’s how they boost their ratings.
Hermann: Yeah, well OK, it’s working.
Boden: This kind of trouble stirs up the city.
Hermann: Yeah, well I’m going to call Cindy because she watches The Walking Dead like it’s a documentary. She sees this? She’s gonna lose her mind.
It can be painful to watch and sit through those 42 minutes of screen time, desperately waiting for something to happen.
This episode manages to mostly avoid that pitfall by deciding to integrate the two spinoffs pretty fully within the first hour.
The last 12 or so minutes of the episode entirely featured characters from Chicago PD and Chicago Med exclusively.
While necessary to move the plot along and make the entire crossover flow together, viewers really only got to spend about 30 minutes with the characters from Chicago Fire.
Though advertised as the massive crossover event, there may be viewers who only watch Chicago Fire and feel slighted by the series taking a backseat this Wednesday, as Chicago PD and Chicago Med are featured more heavily.
For disappointed fans, there is the silver lining as the episode also includes an unrelated subplot involving Cruz and his relationship Chloe.
However, it’s hard to say whether this storyline should have gotten included in the season’s first crossover or saved for a later date.
While the focus on Cruz and his romantic woes felt slightly out of place, it also keeps the characters from Chicago Fire front and center for a longer period.
Mouch: What’s going on Cruz?
Cruz: What? Nothing. OK look, but this does not leave the room. I’m going to ask Chloe to marry me.
Brett: Really? Oh, that’s so great.
Without it, the entirety of time spent on Chicago Fire characters would be drastically reduced, and there would be no need for these characters to continue to appear on screen.
It’s sort of a catch-22, and I’m not sure that there’s a right answer to Chicago Fire’s reduced screen time and the Cruz subplot.
Speaking of which, did anyone else find it odd how suddenly Chloe broke things off with Cruz?
They’ve been together for an entire year but suddenly things are moving too fast; I don’t buy it.
Brett: Even with two busted engagements, I can’t help it; I’m a romantic, you know when they’re just so good together.
Mouch: Trudy was afraid she’d always be a spinster too.
They’re not living together, and Chloe didn’t seem to know that Cruz was going to propose; only that he was acting very weird for some reason.
It would be cruel of the writers to have Chloe dump Cruz just months after Otis, his best friend and surrogate brother, died.
There has to be a reason for Chloe’s sudden desire to reevaluate things, and my guess is she’s pregnant.
That would at least make sense, as she may not be ready to be a mother, and being with Cruz and them raising a child together could be too much for her right now.
Related: Chicago Fire Season 8 Episode 2 Review: A Real Shot in the Arm
If that’s the case, then she’ll probably tell him at some point, and they’ll get back together, possibly eloping right afterward.
Or, the writers are that cruel and have decided that this season is “pile on Cruz” time.
It’s definitely possible as last season Casey and Severide got the short end of the shaft.
Some stray thoughts:
Of course, it wouldn’t have been a true One Chicago crossover if a main character’s life didn’t hang in the balance. You’ll be in our prayers, albeit briefly, Hailey Upton.
Kudos to the writers for their extreme attention to detail and continuity. Did anyone else catch how Will took charge when Nat and the others brought the first victim to Med, which is exactly what he said he would be doing – overseeing Nat for the time being – on Chicago Med Season 5 Episode 3.
If Cruz is going to be a father – something that I have no proof of – is anyone with me in feeling bad for Casey. All Casey’s wanted since the start of the series is to be a dad, and yet a failed engagement and divorce later, he’s still childless.
Was anyone else relieved that this year’s three-way crossover decided to spare the main characters’ family members? Granted, there’s hardly anyone left as the One Chicago universe did a triple whammy last year in killing off fathers.
I’m not sure when the last time viewers saw all of our favorite One Chicago characters just kicking back and having fun, but the beginning few minutes were the type I want to see more often.
Viewers are constantly reminded that these shows exist within the same universe when a character briefly pops over to another show, but it usually involves work in some way.
When was the last time all these characters just got together at Molly’s and had a beer?
So what did you think Chicago Fire Fanatics?
Who is responsible for this outbreak, how is it spreading, and why is someone doing this?
Does this have the makings to be the best One Chicago crossover yet?
How do you feel about Cruz’s subplot and Chicago Fire’s reduced screen time?
Jessica Lerner is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.