‘Chicago Fire’ EP Derek Haas on That Severide Cliffhanger, Dawsey & More
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 8, Episode 9 of Chicago Fire, “Best Friend Magic.”]
Welcome back to Chicago, Gabby Dawson (Monica Raymund).
Firehouse 51 gets a blast from the past in the Chicago Fire fall finale, and after the exes spend the night together, there’s even hope for her and Casey (Jesse Spencer). (Or, at least, there’s more hope than there was before.)
Between Dawson’s visit to the memorial and Cruz’s (Joe Minoso) determination to fix an old drone, the house is still very much mourning Otis. “[It was important] to show this wasn’t some cheap thrill in the premiere,” executive producer Derek Haas told TV Insider. “It’s a real thing that hits firefighters around the world when you lose a brother or a sister and you deal with it and it doesn’t go away. You try to focus on the good and you remember the good, but it affects people in different ways.” And those Otis mentions will continue “throughout the series.”
Here, Haas breaks down the fall finale and teases what’s next.
First of all, that Severide cliffhanger. We’re used to seeing him in danger as a firefighter, but this is different, especially in terms of the skills required to get out of it.
Derek Haas: We wanted to make his time at the Office of Fire Investigation obviously interesting and different than anything we’ve done before. We gave him this partner, Seager, and they have a little Mulder and Scully vibe when they’ve got their flashlights out in dusty places and dangerous places and yet they still have this easy banter going with them.
The idea for the finale was put Severide not with an arsonist who has mental health issues, as we’ve done in the past, but a guy who is a cold, calculating, arsonist for hire. To me, that’s more dangerous than somebody who may not have all their wits about them. This guy’s a cornered rat, and cornered rats bite.
Speaking of that move to OFI, what did you want to do with the firehouse with it? You take one person away, and it’s not the same.
That’s true. You’re always trying to progress the storytelling so it’s not just a reset of every episode. When somebody says, “hey, we’re transferring you to OFI,” on a lesser show, they would get out of it before the end of the episode and you’d be all right back to peachy keen at the firehouse the next day. On our show, we try to have real consequences and progressions to threats. It gives us a chance to do different storytelling than a normal episode and keep it fresh.
It’s born out of character because Severide’s dad had gone over to OFI and succeeded there, and Severide’s shown an aptitude for this kind of work before, so we didn’t feel like it was a false step.
It was so good to see Dawson back, and you’ve certainly left it open for her to return. Did you want to maintain the balance of showing she’s doing good elsewhere and the reminder that she did that in Chicago?
Yeah, we didn’t have a chance to really explore the character in the one episode we had her in after she left and see what she’s up to, and I wanted to check in and show this work she’s doing is unselfish, but a big piece of her heart is in Chicago and she wanted to come back and see not just the firehouse and Otis’ memorial, but also of course Casey, the love of her life.
Dawson and Casey were tentative around one another until they fell in bed together, and I appreciated that they acknowledged it wasn’t a fix-all.
That was for us, the important thing, that they were both clear-eyed. We knew when she was coming how long she was going to be there. It was interesting for me to have Casey have a little bit of the power in this dynamic in the choice to be made — “do I want to pick this back up and drop my defenses or whatever fortress I put around my heart?” — and he makes that decision in the moment. It helps that an orchestra is playing when you’re dancing with the love of your life.
But there’s hope for them, right?
It’s open-ended. She left that message for him at the end. I like that little smile he has when he’s walking away from the hotel room. Yeah, there’s definitely room for another visit.
I’m really enjoying Kidd’s storyline and seeing her in a leadership role, but it’s not without its consequences. Is that to offer a glimpse of what her future could be?
Yeah, when we pitched this story, it started from the idea that everybody’s dealing with Otis’ death at a different speed and a different way and the idea that waves of grief can hit you. What Boden needed was a project and to reinforce what it means to be a chief to him and to have lost someone.
So he takes Kidd on as his project, whether she wanted it or not. Of course she’s up for the challenge, but she doesn’t want to disappoint this man who has put so much confidence and faith in her, and we wanted to show what it’s like when you burn the candle at both ends.
It started as a Boden storyline that became a Kidd storyline and those two things come together as Boden realizes how much of his problems he’s put onto her.
What did you want to do with Gallo in this first part of the season, given that he came in just after you killed off such a beloved member of the firehouse?
He was never going to be an Otis 2.0. To us, he’s a young, almost amalgam between Casey and Severide. You can see a little bit of both in him. We love the dynamic he’s got with Ritter going, where they’re the young firefighters in the house, and playing that generation opposite the Casey-Severide generation opposite the Mouch-Herrmann-Boden generation is interesting from a storytelling standpoint.
It seems like there’s been hints there’s potential for something more between Brett and Casey without going there. What are you looking to do with that dynamic?
They have a deep friendship that’s going to get deeper as the season goes. Beyond that, I do think Brett’s the kind of person who puts others’ feelings in front of her own at all times, and she had a front-row seat to the Dawson-Casey relationship for years. You saw it in this episode and you’ll see it going forward, the question of, “Do I subdue my own feelings because I know where somebody else’s heart and thoughts lie?”
We’ve seen quite a few shakeups or at least attempted shakeups at 51 over the years, but they’ve come back together. This season, we have Severide over at OFI. Will we see more of that?
There will definitely be a time where everyone is out of 51.
Cruz is temporarily in charge of Squad. Will we see more of him in a leadership role?
He’s got a lot of things going on in his life, so you’ll see him step up as much as anybody else at this point while Severide’s off doing OFI stuff. He shouldn’t get too used to being the acting lieutenant on Squad.
Speaking of Cruz, are we building to a happy wedding?
Yes. We’re going to definitely have a wedding in the second half of the season. … We have some big plans for a really beautiful event.
Chicago Fire, Thursdays, 9/8c, NBC