It feels good to be back.
It's not the way we imagined, but it's still the Chicago Fire we all know and love.
There's a reason this show has been on the air for nine (!!) seasons, and Chicago Fire Season 9 Episode 1 is a prime example why.
Obviously, it would be hard to top Chicago Fire Season 8 Episode 1 without saying good-bye to another beloved character, but this installment still does a great job.
There's drama, suspense, romance, and a massive cliffhanger.
All in all, it's hard to complain.
The episode ended with things looking pretty grim for Brett and new paramedic Gianna Mackey, but it's safe to assume both will make it out alive.
After everything Brett went through last year, it'd just be cruel for her to meet her end this way.
Plus, she and Casey are on the verge of maybe finally taking things to the next level.
And with everything the captain has been through, losing Brett just before they got together would be equally merciless.
As for Mackey, well, she's most likely safe as well.
Additionally, unless the writers are taking a cue from Joss Whedon and killing a character the same episode Mackey's introduced as a series regular, they should be believed.
What hopefully will come out of this is Brett realizing how life is short.
If it wasn't obvious after Julie dying toward the end of Chicago Fire Season 8, it should be doubly so after managing to escape death twice.
Boden: I just got word from headquarters. Squad 3 has been designated guinea pigs to test out new equipment.
Boden: They want you to give up your next couple of Saturdays, test out the equipment in front of white shirts at the academy.
Severide: It’s such a waste of a weekend. When was the last time CFD bought any new technology, chief?
Boden: Mine is not to question the infinite wisdom of headquarters. Mine is to cross one more item off this ‘to do’ list, which stretches over five pages long. So?
Boden: Thank you.
If that doesn't scream 'wake up call,' I'm not sure what will.
It's clear both Brett and Casey have deep feelings for each other, extending beyond simple attraction.
There's a solid foundation from years of friendship, and they have all the makings for a highly 'shippable couple.
The only thing in their way -- besides the writers of the show -- is themselves.
Neither of them seems to ready to admit how they feel, even though it's obvious to every around them.
Heck, even Kidd thought they were getting hot and heavy when Casey spent the night ... on the couch like the gentleman he is.
In short, Casey and Brett need to have 'the talk' and decide where they stand.
Two years of buildup is more than enough time to torture fans, and we've at least earned a conversation where they define the relationship, or DTR.
As for our other favorite couple, things are looking up.
When it was teased that Boden would suggest Kidd take the lieutenant's exam, this seemed to be something that could have driven a wedge between Stellaride.
It didn't seem like a huge leap, for while Severide has come so far over eight seasons, he's still human and fallible.
There was the possibility that he would feel threatened by Kidd taking the exam, somehow, so it was a welcome surprise when he was nothing but supportive.
It even went further than that, as in that moment, Severide was the epitome of the man Kidd's always deserved.
He not only encouraged her to take the exam but promised to be there for her every step of the way.
Kidd: I want to grab these pencil pushers by their throats and make them actually push their pencils. I mean, why is this taking so long?
Severide: Girls on Fire?
Kidd: Girls on ice is more like it. I mean, look, I talked to the community relations guy. I told him everything will be done outside, all the girls will be masked up. No one is going to get within 6 feet of each other. You know, they’re worried about liability. I’m worried about these girls losing a year of their lives … I’m going to break through on this, if it’s the last thing I do.
Severide: Do you know how proud I am of you?
Kidd: Tell me again.
It may be considered a jinx to say this, but wedding bells don't seem that far off now.
In these crazy times watching our favorite fictional characters get engaged is just what Dr. Fauci would recommend.
With Severide on board, it seems like it'd be smooth sailing for Kidd from here on out, but we'd be deluding ourselves.
The Powers That Be have decided to let Stellaride be happy but that doesn't mean they've forgotten that this a television show, and where there's a show, there's drama.
Boden essentially laid it out on the line: Kidd, as both a woman and person of color, may face some pushback from others in the Chicago Fire Department when it comes to a possible promotion.
Hopefully, it'll be from someone outside of 51, but it's just as plausible that someone like Herrmann isn't thrilled that Kidd will be taking the lieutenant's exam.
As previously discussed, this is an important storyline to tell, but the writers don't have the best track records when it comes to addressing issues of gender inequality within the firehouse and the CFD.
Usually, any sort of push for greater equality within the firehouse from the female first responders was met with either naïve condemnation or throwaway comments about the inherent unfairness of accommodating a basic request from Kidd, Brett, and Foster.
It just comes off as anti-feminist and made the showrunners’ views about women apparent.
So while it's great that the series is incorporating this storyline, I still have major reservations about it.
Lastly, as previously mentioned, this episode introduced us to a new character.
Creating new and compelling characters can be a challenge, but Mackey was instantly likable right off the bat.
Boden: The most important word to Firehouse 51 is community. This is a neighborhood house. When this community calls, you respond. When it raises its hand, we pull it to its feet. So, it isn’t good enough to show up to this house on time, punch in, punch out of here at the end of your shift. I expect you to become a part of the lifeblood of this community because we as a family…
Cruz: Am I late? Damn it. I hit a pothole on West Harrison, and it blew a tire. I got it changed, but then I had to park two blocks down.
Severide: What were you saying about showing up on time, chief?
Cruz: I am so sorry. I am so sorry. You met Gianna? Gianna, this is the chief. I was supposed…
Mackey: Is Joe’s tardiness going to affect your perception of me because I would definitely deny knowing him.
Casey: Too late. Cruz already told us you grew up on the same block.
Brett: It’s best we found out your association with this scoundrel before we were in too deep.
Mackey: Guilty, but just so you know, the whole neighborhood was well aware of the Cruz brothers. In other words, stay away, on everybody’s lips.
Cruz: Hey, excuse me.
Boden: Gianna Mackey, looks like you’re going to fit right in. Welcome to Ambulance 61.
She definitely has Dawson-esque qualities, but she also has a lighter take on things.
She's not afraid to joke around with her colleagues and has a great sense of humor.
Her scenes with Cruz and Gallo cracked me up.
She isn't going to let anyone, not even a pseudo big brother, stop her from doing what she wants, and I loved how she essentially asked Gallo out herself.
Whether she intends for that to be a real date or not isn't as important at this point as her general level of badassery in that moment.
Mackey also gets props for handling herself like a pro during her first call.
Having a gun pulled on you can be scary as hell, and while she did falter, that's only natural. Who among us wouldn't have?
The important thing is that she didn't let herself being in a life-threatening situation stop her from doing her job.
Yes, this new character has lots of potential, part of which is helped along by her connection to Cruz.
While she's still technically an outsider at 51, her past with Cruz helps us care about what happens to her more than a randomly introduced new character with no ties to the firehouse, such as Foster.
This isn't exactly a fair comparison because Foster was replacing Dawson, but Mackey having Cruz in her corner can only help faster ingraciate her to us.
Some stray thoughts:
I was relatively happy with how Chicago Fire addressed the pandemic. I thought the show did a great job incorporating the novel coronavirus into the episode without it taking over.
The small touches like Cruz having his temperature taken before being let inside, the bumping of arms instead of handshakes, and the paramedics wearing masks while out on calls were all great. It helped set the tone and reflect the reality of the world around them without getting too bogged down into the nitty gritty.
It was the perfect balance of letting us escape from the craziness that is our lives without feeling like a show about first responders was ignoring the state of world around us.
Maybe it's because of the shitshow that 2020 has been, but I didn't hate the Herrmann/Mouch/Ritter treasure map subplot. Usually these sort of comedic plotlines fall flat, but while pretty out there, there was still something entertaining about the guys trying to write a poem to drum up business for Molly's Patio.
Yes, the idea was crazy, but it had Herrmann's rare charm of not wanting me to kill him, so that also helped. Plus, it was hilarious when the guy actually found the buried treasure as the trio watched.
Even though Annie Ilonzeh's Foster is no longer a series regular, it's nice to know that she's still part of the OneChicago Universe.
As a med student at Northwestern, there's a good chance viewers haven't seen the last of her, and at some point, it'd make sense for her to return, especially as a med student on Chicago Med. Seems like an appropriate transition.
Cruz hovering over Mackey and giving Gallo a stern talking to was great. We haven't seen this side of him in a while and was relatively fun to watch him be the 'big brother'' to her. This behavior may get old fast, so let's hope Cruz realizes at some point he has to back off. For now, though, it's plenty of lighthearted fun.
So what did you think, Chicago Fire Fanatics?
Will Brett and Mackey survive?
What obstacles will Kidd face as she pursues taking the lieutenant's exam?
What did you think of Mackey?
Hit the comments below to let me know your thoughts. If you happened to miss the season premiere, remember you can watch Chicago Fire online at TV Fanatic.
Jessica Lerner is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.