Chicago Fire season 1, episode 1 rewatch: Pilot

Chicago Fire season 1 promo art. Photo Credit: Courtesy of NBC.
Chicago Fire season 1 promo art. Photo Credit: Courtesy of NBC. /

Look back at where Chicago Fire began this summer. Read our retrospective on the series premiere as we rewatch Chicago Fire season 1, episode 1.

Over the One Chicago summer break, we’re looking back at where it all began by rewatching the first seasons of our shows—and today we’re revisiting Chicago Fire season 1, episode 1.

If you want to rewatch this episode along with us, you can find Chicago Fire season 1 on iTunes and DVD.

“Pilot” has the interesting distinction of being the only One Chicago series premiere that doesn’t have a proper title. The first episodes of the three other shows all have titles, but Fire just called this “Pilot.”

That’s a common practice for many TV premieres, but it seems odd now when you look back on it a second time. Then again, back in 2012, neither the writers nor NBC had any clue we’d be talking about three spin-off shows.

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Title quirks aside, the Chicago Fire premiere laid the groundwork for the new series. And when you look at it six years later, you realize how it also set up a template for the rest of the franchise as well.

The major incident in “Pilot” involves the death of someone on the Firehouse 51 team (poor Andy Darden), just like how the Chicago PD premiere involved the death of someone in the Intelligence Unit.

This episode sets up a push-pull dynamic between two characters in Matthew Casey (Jesse Spencer) and Kelly Severide (Taylor Kinney). Each one of the One Chicago shows that followed would also have that core pair who contrasted each other, and set those dynamics up in their pilots.

PD gave us Hank Voight (Jason Beghe) and Antonio Dawson (Jon Seda), while Chicago Med kicked off with the snarkiness between Dr. Will Halstead (Nick Gehlfuss) and incoming Dr. Connor Rhodes (Colin Donnell), and Chicago Justice gave us the back and forth between Peter Stone (Philip Winchester) and Mark Jefferies (Carl Weathers).

As the saying goes—if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The rest of the One Chicago pilots clearly took a cue or two from Chicago Fire‘s pilot.

Of course, Casey and Severide’s relationship almost broke in this episode, but that’s what has led them to become such a watchable pair—the way they constantly push each other. It’s no wonder the other series wanted to try and recreate a similar type of relationship.

We can’t discuss the Chicago Fire premiere without talking about the presence of the characters who aren’t on the series anymore. Charlie Barnett, Lauren German and Teri Reeves would all have their characters written out of the show involuntarily—the latter before the end of season 1, and that wasn’t much of a surprise because it was clear that the show was already focusing on getting Casey together with Gabriela Dawson (Monica Raymund).

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But each of those actors brought something to the show, and it’s interesting to watch the first episode and see how the dynamic feels different with them there. Most notably, Lauren German has a presence that Fire could’ve used today.

Not to take anything away from Kara Killmer, but Leslie Shay was such a strong and outspoken personality, as opposed to Sylvie Brett who still seems like she’s working her way toward that. The Shay-Dawson partnership was obviously different, and one wonders if Kelly Severide would be less of a disaster in his personal life if he’d still had his BFF Shay around. Could you imagine what a Shay-Hope confrontation would’ve looked like?!

The cast of Chicago Fire has undergone significant turnover over the years, but “Pilot” sets a very clear example of what the show has to offer—real firefighting drama with tension in the firehouse on the side.

Like the Chicago PD premiere, it’s an episode you could do again today and it would feel relevant now, albeit with different faces. While a lot of things have changed, the fundamentals of the show have stayed the same. Rewatch the Chicago Fire pilot yourself on iTunes and DVD.

Next: Read our Chicago Fire season 6 report card

Join us every Thursday this summer for our Chicago Fire season 1 review. For more Chicago Fire related news, follow the Chicago Fire category at One Chicago Center.