Chicago PD: How Hailey Upton’s Impending Exit Shifts the Landscape of the Series

Spoilers

It’s not entirely unexpected when the One Chicago franchise announces another exit.

We’ve grown accustomed to the revolving door of our beloved actors as we bid adieu to fan-favorite characters or those we adore.

The most recent Chicago PD exit, Tracy Spiridakos, similar to the departure of Jesse Lee Soffer roughly a year prior, is still reverberating across the fandom.

While it’s not unsurprising given various factors, ranging from Halstead’s disappointing exit, the grim direction of Upton’s storyline since, and the occasional budgetary measures, it doesn’t change the fact that this news will pose a blow to the series for many of its viewers.

And we’re left to wonder what the future holds for Hailey, Jay, and the Intelligence Unit.

Meeting a Monster -tall  - Chicago PD Season 10 Episode 12

Even before this casting shakeup, we were already wondering what Chicago PD would look like for Hailey Upton.

While I can attest to having some controversial and unpopular misgivings about the series’ Upstead focus, even I called foul on the abysmal way the series handled Halstead’s abrupt departure and subsequent storytelling for Hailey following that.

Halstead’s exit felt wildly out of character and was a disservice to his decade-long tenure with the series.

Halstead running off to Bolivia after quitting the force and rejoining the army was odd, and the lack of closure or any real sense of a goodbye shared with his colleagues was bizarre.

Making Things Right -tall - Chicago PD Season 10 Episode 3

His treatment of Hailey leading up to that exit was surprising in how far removed he had become from their relationship, such a sharp heel turn from his behavior in Chicago PD Season 9.

But nothing prepared viewers for the downright strange abandonment angle they played up all last season that left Hailey in the dark, longing for an absent husband who wouldn’t even communicate with her and opted to extend his tour rather than return home to her.

Not only did this development feel entirely foreign to what we’d come to know of Halstead’s evolution and bonds over the years, but it screwed over Upton while ironically still contributing to the frustrating tactic of revolving both characters’ storylines and existence around Upstead.

Losing Halstead in the manner that we did failed to resolve some of the issues with the Upstead pairing — just doubled down on them in ways that were a disservice to both characters.

Questioning Decisions  - Chicago PD Season 10 Episode 3

Throughout Chicago PD Season 10, any reference to Halstead was staggeringly unpleasant because viewers had to reconcile with how the season tarnished what many knew and loved about him.

A character of such strength came across as cowardice, callous, and generally inconsiderate, and his actions felt deliberately hurtful to Upton.

In turn, the series fell into the common pitfall it does with its female characters that elicit criticisms, and this development essentially made Hailey Upton a victim.

If she wasn’t dealing with violent attacks, kidnappings, and other such dramatic things that the series loves to do when putting her (and Burgess) in peril, we had the extra dose of her falling victim to the type of emotional assault unleashed upon her by her ghost of a husband.

Just Hangin In There -tall  - Chicago PD Season 10 Episode 20

We saw her isolating herself from the rest of the team instead of leaning into them, something that would’ve been the desirable outcome and an interesting character development for her after Halstead’s departure.

Instead, Jay’s absence merely trapped her with Voight more often than not in a “business as usual” manner, with the occasional detour of her connecting with Torres, who likely felt like a last vestige of Halstead in the unit as his mentee.

And if that wasn’t dark enough, she formed that unique bond with a serial killer, Sean O’Neal, with the series leaving things with them in a place far too reminiscent of Hannibal for comfort.

Regardless of sentiments about Halstead’s departure and the details around it, if last season didn’t prove anything, they mostly wasted anything good that could come from the development for Hailey.

Placed on Hold tall - Chicago PD Season 10 Episode 8

It could’ve led to an evolution of her character as we unraveled more layers of the woman and cop outside of her dynamic with Halstead.

It could’ve been the perfect opportunity to explore deeper and more meaningful bonds with the other characters, something the season hinted at on occasion with Burgess and the severely underrated interactions with Atwater but barely scratched the surface of.

While most viewers didn’t want to see Halstead leave, as he’s been every bit of a staple of the series as Voight himself, any effort to pursue the silver lining in that exit was mostly squandered, which was generally disappointing.

Standout installments like Pink Cloud aside, with how utterly lost and aimless Upton seemed for most of the season, there wasn’t exactly any excitement about where the writers could take her storyline during the upcoming season.

Human Trafficking -tall - Chicago PD Season 10 Episode 5

In that sense, Spiridakos’ departure, while something that will deeply impact the fandom, feels understandable.

Where else could they go with Upton if, when given a chance to show us, they still reduced her to a heartbroken, workaholic, social recluse left in limbo over her husband?

And with Voight giving her advice, brutal and arguably painful for the Upstead shippers but reasonable and realistic given the circumstances, that she should let Halstead go and move on, leaving Hailey in an interesting predicament.

Either we’d get a hopeful Upton who refused to fully give up on her husband, even if she did take off her wedding band, or we’d have some version of her that could potentially get wrapped up in another relationship with some unknown person down the line.

Voight Comforts Hailey -tall - Chicago PD Season 10 Episode 9

We’re unsure when, in the upcoming season, Hailey Upton will be signing off.

With the Writers Strike resolved, one has to imagine that they’ve at least workshopped some thoughts about this and maybe even have a concrete plan.

But will it be satisfactory to the viewers? Sadly, even for those who weren’t the biggest fans of the character, that feels doubtful.

Chicago PD has a long history of characters departing disappointingly, from the horrific deaths of Olinsky, Nadia, Jin, and Justin to the blink-and-you-miss inexplicable disappearances of Rojas and Miller and the underwhelming exits of Erin, Antonio, and Roman.

Covering Each Other-tall  - Chicago PD Season 9 Episode 18

Given the timing of all of this, there’s a possibility that they’ll consider an Upstead reunion for the sole purpose of giving the devoted fans something to hang onto and enjoy.

We’ve seen the One Chicago franchise do things like this before, whether it was Chicago Med’s Natalie and Will Halstead or April and Ethan.

We’ve also had nods to similar things on Chicago Fire, mainly with Casey and Brett.

There may be an avenue for a reunion to come to fruition, whether Upton chases after or goes to search for her husband or Halstead reaches out to her from somewhere else, apologizes, and wants her to take a leap of faith with him.

Lady Halstead in Red -tall  - Chicago PD Season 9 Episode 17

It’s something that wouldn’t have to require Jesse Lee Soffer’s physical return to the series if he’s not up for it.

But it would also be a tough sell narratively after some of their choices regarding the dissolution of the pairing in his absence.

It would be a fanservice happy ending for the sake of it, but perhaps it’ll take the sting out of everything else that transpired.

We could also envision that they’d tie things up with Hailey in a manner of her doing some soul-searching and self-reflection on her own, leaving the job, unit, and Chicago behind to do that.

It could coincide with the character where they can sell a reasonable desire for her to get a fresh start after everything she’s endured over the years.

Relationship Limbo -tall - Chicago PD Season 10 Episode 3

Hailey is also a character propelled forward often for being a great detective. She would be prime for a promotion of some kind or a relocation to another unit.

You could easily see the series pushing her toward a unique career opportunity she would be a fool to turn down.

She’s the character who was chosen for the exciting network and Dick Wolf franchise-spanning FBI crossover.

It’s also possible that with the state she’s been in and how often the series delved a bit into her past, she’d find a new purpose in a different field altogether that may consist of helping trauma survivors or something of that nature.

Girl Squad -tall - Chicago PD Season 10 Episode 18

During many of the montages they gave us in the aftermath of Halstead’s departure, we saw Hailey picking up shifts in other units, and it wouldn’t be surprising if she pursued a part of the gig that involved more action and less emotion.

Of course, they could go for the most emotional option of killing her off. Still, it would definitely feel cheap to do so, especially when there’s more than enough criticism of how this series handles its female characters and what it places them through repeatedly.

If they kill off Upton, it may be something from which the series couldn’t recover.

There are any number of ways that they can approach writing Upton out of the series, and we haven’t gotten further word if her exit would be final or if Spiridakos would be open to returning.

Missing Halstead -tall - Chicago PD Season 10 Episode 4

The development does raise a few questions about what we can anticipate during Chicago PD Season 11.

With Upton leaving, we’re down a female character, which is incredibly unfortunate.

We barely get enough of Trudy as it is, and it would leave the bulk of that perspective to fall upon Burgess.

It also would make the partnerships interesting. Voight typically pairs with Hailey, especially since Halstead’s departure. It makes you wonder who he’ll take under his wing and pair with with her gone.

Graffiti and Guns -tall - Chicago PD Season 10 Episode 21

It could lead to some interesting dynamic explorations, which we’ve been craving from the series for a while.

A bigger question is, who will become Voight’s “Second in Command” and have any seniority?

For seasons, we’ve been wondering why Atwater, Burgess, and Ruzek haven’t gotten around to taking the detective tests so any one of them could get promoted.

It has been long overdue for at least one of them.

Burzekwater Has It Handled  - Chicago PD Season 10 Episode 20

Upstead were the only detectives left on the unit, so with both of them gone, now feels like the time to bump someone up finally.

Atwater seems like the most natural choice, as he’s taken on the mentorship role by taking Torres under his wing. He’s evolved a great deal as a cop on the unit, taking on more responsibility, and he’d both balance and complement Voight.

It would also give him a nice, hearty storyline and arc.

But that doesn’t rule out the possibility that Ruzek may reconsider his position on making detective, especially as he recuperates from his near-death experience in Chicago PD Season 10 Episode 22 and keeps his family in mind.

Bedridden Ruzek -tall - Chicago PD Season 10 Episode 22

And, of course, Burgess could be a viable option as well, with everything she’s endured recently and her ability to overcome it highlighting her strength.

Tracy Spiridakos’ departure will undoubtedly leave a void in the series.

One can’t even begin to speculate the storytelling that transpires leading up to Upton’s departure.

But without a shadow of a doubt, this development is enough to have Chicago PD fans reeling.

Hailey the Hellraiser -tall - Chicago PD Season 10 Episode 22

Over to you, Chicago PD Fanatics.

How do you feel about this news? Will you miss Hailey Upton? Are you hoping for an Upstead reunion? How do you think she should be written out? Hit the comments.

Remember, you can watch Chicago PD online here via TV Fanatic. And you can also check out our Chicago PD Reviews.

We’ll continue to keep you abreast of Everything We Know About Chicago PD Season 11.

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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