Chicago Fire season 6 turned out to be the last for Gabriela Dawson, so how do we look back on the final season for Monica Raymund’s character?
Chicago Fire season 6 put Dawson through the wringer on a number of fronts before it ended with a huge fight and a cliffhanger regarding her future at Firehouse 51.
But her storylines have taken on an extra level of resonance since fans learned that Raymund’s contract with the NBC series was up for renegotiation and, just days after that cliffhanger ending, she had decided not to come back.
So how do we look at Gabriela Dawson’s season now? Not only in what season 6 meant for her character, but also in knowing that it was the last one she’ll ever be a part of?
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Looking back on Dawson’s swan song requires going back to Chicago Fire season 5. Much of what she had to deal with in this season took root last season, as Dawson and Matthew Casey (Jesse Spencer) finally tied the knot, and battled for but ultimately let go of Dawson’s foster son Louie.
Both those things continued to weigh on Dawson this fall. Originally things looked great for her and Casey in the first six episodes, with Dawson being her husband’s biggest cheerleader when he was promoted to Captain. Yet as with every couple in the show’s history, they soon had roadblocks thrown in their way.
And though Louie was definitely gone, Chicago Fire pretty quickly gave Dawson a substitute in Bria (recurring guest star Quinn Cooke), the troubled teen introduced in the season’s seventh episode “A Man’s Legacy.”
In retrospect, the show was hitting the same themes with Dawson in season 6 that it had already explored in season 5. Was it struggling to find something new for her to do after wrapping up her stories last season, or was it trying to tell us something?
By Chicago Fire season 6, Gabriela Dawson had reached the sticking point that happens to every TV couple—their relationship progresses through the various stages and then what? Though she and Casey had been together for years, the only two things left for them to do as a couple were to get married and start a family.
The show’s milestone hundredth episode “One Hundred” had taken care of the wedding. And by having Dawson give Louie back to his foster father, it had also tied up the whole Dawson juggles career and motherhood idea, at least for the time being. But once those specific resolutions were had, the new season went right back to those same themes of marriage and family.
So if you just looked at Dawson’s story in season 6 from the outside, you’d be forgiven for feeling like it was treading familiar ground.
But here’s where things get interesting. As TV fans, we often don’t think about what’s going on behind the scenes, which can often impact storytelling. We’re not supposed to, either, but when you do know the story behind the story it changes the way you look at things on screen.
Knowing that Chicago Fire season 6 was Monica Raymund’s last, revisiting those ideas doesn’t seem so repetitive. It feels like tying up the character’s unfinished business to prepare for her departure.
We don’t know if Chicago Fire‘s writers knew that Raymund wasn’t planning to come back, or had even entertained that as a possibility; multiple reports after the season finale said that she wasn’t expected to return, which implies that expectation had to come from somewhere. But there’s not been explicit confirmation that the writers were writing toward her potential exit.
If you allow for the possibility that they were, though, Dawson’s storylines in this season make a lot more sense. She mended fences with her father Ramon (recurring guest star Daniel Zacapa), considered the possibility of another job in “Put White On Me” and got into a fight with partner Sylvie Brett (Kara Killmer) that made little sense unless you think of it as intended to break up their partnership.
The Bria plotline was clearly designed to motivate Dawson to become determined to be a mother again, which then became the wedge that was driven between her and Casey in the season finale.
The finale reveal of her aneurysm, which honestly felt like it was just piling on to her motherhood aspirations after Louie and after her previous miscarriage, then looks like a way to force her hand in that respect. If Dawson had just decided to adopt again—or as many fans pointed out, chosen to consider a surrogate—there wouldn’t have been a reason for her and Casey to fight.
And it was the fight with Casey that led Dawson to march down and ask about going to Puerto Rico, which was a job offer that likewise felt out of the blue. In the context of the moment, it felt like a completely random conversation, but in hindsight, it was the show starting the ball rolling toward her leaving Firehouse 51.
Because here’s the problem: Chicago Fire painted itself into a corner with how it wrote Dawson and the Dawsey relationship over the first five seasons. There was absolutely no clear way for her to leave Firehouse 51 without a severe change. Dawson’s strongest attribute has been her loyalty, particularly to Casey, so why would she leave the firehouse and the man she just married?
It made no logical sense. If Fire had been able to pull a Suits, and Jesse Spencer and Monica Raymund had both left the series at the end of this season, then they could’ve ridden off into the proverbial sunset together and it would have been generally in character.
But Spencer was staying and Raymund was leaving, putting the writers in the untenable position of breaking up the show’s core relationship—and a huge part of the series overall—in a believable fashion. So the writers started to chip away at the Dawsey relationship, which is where the most frustration with Gabriela Dawson in Chicago Fire season 6 comes from.
Dawson’s subplot with Jake Cordova (recurring guest star Damon Dayoub) is the prime example. Similar to the Severanna story in Chicago Fire season 5, the promos wanted to make Cordova a bigger deal than he was, and then the show made it even weirder by having Cordova start to talk like he still had some kind of feelings for Dawson.
It felt like a lame duck. Fans knew Dawson wasn’t interested, and Casey was too mature to think of his wife’s ex-boyfriend as some sort of threat. His only problem was that Dawson hadn’t told him the full truth. The whole arc was anticlimactic.
What it did do, though, was highlight an underlying issue in the Dawsey relationship that became the pressure point for the finale to hit. Dawson makes a lot of decisions without including Casey in them, as he spelled out for her in their finale argument. They have a communication problem, which is surprising for a couple that’s been together as long as they have—you’d think that they would’ve worked that out by now, but we digress.
Dawson is a very strong-willed person. It’s one of her best qualities and it can also be one of her worst, under certain circumstances. She knows what she wants and she fights for it, even if that ends up hurting her. She wanted to be a firefighter, so she became one. She wanted to adopt Louie and she did everything she could to do so, only stopping when she decided it wasn’t what was best for her.
Chicago Fire had her go back to the idea of having a biological child, and it really pushed that at all costs. We never heard the issue of surrogacy raised, and Dawson didn’t even seem to really care when Casey explained his objection to her pregnancy was that he didn’t want her to die. That’s a pretty solid reason to object.
But the show had to burn or block off every bridge for her. She’d buried the hatchet with her dad. She’d alienated her partner. She’d declared why she couldn’t just take a private ambulance job and stay in Chicago.
There had to be something that she and Casey could never get over, to create a reason why she’d walk away from their still young marriage (that hundredth episode was about a year and a half ago) and leave permanently. And what had always been just as important to Gabriela Dawson as her work was family.
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So what was the end result of all this? How do we consider Gabriela Dawson during Chicago Fire season 6 in retrospect? Her sixth season was a bit of a mess; especially if the writers knew that it would be her end, it would have been interesting to find some new path to take her down, some kind of great last adventure.
And it would have been a better sendoff if the season had stripped away some of the drama for drama’s sake, like the Cordova story, and taken more time with other aspects. How about creating more of a rift between Dawson and Brett so that when Brett finally unloaded on Dawson it felt like a real end, and not just an emotional response to one moment?
But if Chicago Fire knew that Monica Raymund was walking out the door, it generally did pretty well with a very difficult situation. They came up with a reason for Dawson to leave that would have also enabled her to stay if Raymund had decided to renew her contract. It wasn’t perfect, but it probably never would’ve been.
There was just no easy way to let go of Gabriela Dawson, and it will be a big test to see how the show buttons her story at the start of Chicago Fire season 7.
What did you think of how Chicago Fire handled Gabriela Dawson in her final season? Leave us your thoughts about Dawson during Chicago Fire season 6 in the comments.
Chicago Fire returns to NBC this fall.