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Chicago Fire's Season Premiere Death Frees Us Up to Watch Something Else

Chicago Fire's Season Premiere Death Frees Us Up to Watch Something Else

Chicago Fire's Season Premiere Death Frees Us Up to Watch Something Else

Thank you to Chicago Fire's writers. I really needed that hour of television back anyway.


My reaction may not reflect that of most Chicago Fire viewers, but in a way, I’m glad that their big season 3 premiere reveal actually released me of the need to ever watch again. My television docket is just too crowded with top-tier shows and Chicago Fire is, frankly, not well written. I was conflicted about taking the time to watch just for the amazing chemistry between lesbian character Shay and her paramedic partner Dawson.


For those of you who didn't watch to see how the blow-out at the close of last season panned out for Shay (Leslie German) and Dawson (Monica Raymund), the cutest paramedic duo ever, things picked up where they left off, in the rubble of a burned out building, and Shay did not fare well. In fact, showrunner Matt Olmstead and company chose to kill Shay off in the opening moments of the premiere. As the episode goes, once the dust begins to settle in the aftermath of the explosion the men of Firehouse 51 find a distraught Dawson administering CPR to Shay, who’s clearly long gone. The remaining 38 minutes of the premiere are devoted to flashbacks of Shay in happier times intercut with the present in which the folks of Firehouse 51 -- mainly Dawson and Severide (Taylor Kinney) – deal with the fallout of their friend’s death.

Essentially, Chicago Fire is a mediocre procedural boasting some of the best eye candy on television. Not only was it fun to tune in to watch Shay and Dawson push a gurney around in their fitted Firehouse 51 tees, but even for a bona fide lesbian like me, I could see the appeal in the male leads Kinney and Jesse Spencer.

Last year The Good Wife killed off a major character, but the actor who played him wanted to leave to spend time with his family, while German was just informed that she was on the chopping block. And, that’s The Good Wife, one of the best written shows on television -- period. It’s a series that can kill off a beloved major character and bounce back. Sure, Chicago Fire will continue to appeal to some, but it’s missing something crucial without German.

Not since Ilene Chaiken and company killed off Dana on The L Word has the unnecessary death of a major character felt like a showrunner showing such utter disdain for its viewership.

There’s been a bit of a backlash over the producers’ decision to kill off the show’s lesbian character, but showrunner Olmstead asserts that Shay was just like all of the other characters. They didn’t think of her as a lesbian, but as one of the boys.

It’s funny because she was just Shay the paramedic and obviously the character being a lesbian informed her identity and her behavior as a character, but she was always on equal footing with all the other characters. We didn’t fall over ourselves trying to accommodate or make room for, “Oh, here comes the lesbian character.” She was one of the guys,” Olmstead told TV Guide.

While it’s terrific on one hand that Shay was treated equally in the eyes of the writers, the downside is that there are any number of straight male characters on the show who don’t add much to its appeal (Sorry Otis, Mouch, and Cruz), and keeping Shay, a well-rounded lesbian character, actually does so much for queer visibility on network TV, where representation is seriously lacking. Olmstead might have considered what he’d gotten into by writing a lesbian character. With it comes responsibility. One day, when there’s plenty of LGBT representation, showrunners can adopt Olmstead’s cavalier attitude, but we’re not there yet.

To the writers’ room at Chicago Fire, Shay may have just been one of the boys, but to queer women, she was one of two reasons to actually watch (openly bisexual actress Raymund is the other).

So thank you to Olmstead and the Chicago Fire writers for giving me that hour back. 

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Tracy E. Gilchrist

<p>Cinephile, cyclist, proud cat lady and unabashed Pretty Little Liars guru.</p>

<p>Cinephile, cyclist, proud cat lady and unabashed Pretty Little Liars guru.</p>