Did Chicago PD send the wrong message with Halstead’s story?

CHICAGO P.D. -- "Intimate Violence" Episode 715 -- Pictured: Jesse Lee Soffer as Jay Halstead -- (Photo by: Matt Dinerstein/NBC)
CHICAGO P.D. -- "Intimate Violence" Episode 715 -- Pictured: Jesse Lee Soffer as Jay Halstead -- (Photo by: Matt Dinerstein/NBC) /

Chicago PD’s latest episode Intimate Violence was memorable, but the way it utilized Jay Halstead also sent an awkward message about domestic violence.

This week’s Chicago PD wanted to tackle domestic violence, and it did—while unintentionally coming off in the wrong direction.

SPOILER ALERT: This article reveals the ending of the latest episode of Chicago PD. If you haven’t seen “Intimate Violence” yet, catch up now with our recap.

“Intimate Violence” had a decent storyline, and an interesting idea: dig a little more into Hailey Upton’s (Tracy Spiridakos) past by making the key character in the case of the week a victim of domestic violence.

Upton, for those who may have forgotten, revealed in the Chicago PD season 6 episode “True or False” that she had an abusive father.

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Then the episode took it a step further by juxtaposing Upton’s approach to the case with that of her partner, Jay Halstead (Jesse Lee Soffer), who is known for his incredible heart and compassion for anyone in need.

Watching Upton’s reaction, unfazed to the sounds of potential assault, compared to Halstead wanting to rush out the door was interesting TV. It gave the plot an extra layer than just stopping the bad guy, as fans were likely asking themselves which character they’d agree with.

But then in the final few minutes, “Intimate Violence” took a hard right and never recovered.

It made Halstead the hero who had to come to the rescue of the damsel in distress. He rushed to the Sullivan home to discover an injured Michelle cowering in the living room, then started beating her abusive spouse Shane to a pulp before exercising some self-restraint.

And some time later, when the two met for drinks, Upton related the story of her abusive dad to him, telling him in part that she’d always wished for someone like him who’d come and put dad in his place. But no one ever did, and her mom was still living with her father.

Add that up and it sends a problematic message: that women being abused need/want a man to save them, as opposed to saving themselves.

The Chicago PD writers probably didn’t think of it that way; their story was in character for both Jay and Hailey. It’d have been weird if Jay wasn’t wanting to rush in and help when he believed that a life was at stake. But they could have handled the execution much better.

Halstead could have busted in to find Michelle trying to defend herself against Shane, and stepped in to help her or break up the fight, instead of her cowering and unable to even move until Jay got there. It wouldn’t have lessened the impact of Halstead’s character development, since he’d still be liable to go off the handle, but it would have made Michelle an active character instead of her being passive.

You can certainly give her reasons for not even moving, but you can also give her plenty of reasons to do something—and her doing anything would have given her so much more depth.

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And Upton’s comments could have been clarified or even redacted. Especially as a kid, it makes sense that she’d be looking for a hero; what she describes is the whole essence of the superhero genre! But the purpose of that scene—her reassuring Jay that he did the right thing—could have been communicated differently.

The show could have let her go into more detail as to why she and her mother kept convincing themselves that every time was “the last time.” Explaining the reasoning behind why her mother was never able to stand up to him would give better context to why she aspired for someone else to fix the problem, and also why Michelle couldn’t run out the front door.

Or Chicago PD could have changed the dialogue altogether. Upton maybe just doesn’t volunteer as much information, simply reassuring Halstead that he did the right thing because that’s who he is (a counterpoint/contrast to Voight seeing that as a potential problem earlier in the episode).

Or she could have told us a story with a happy ending, like that her mother did eventually leave her father, but maybe it just took a positive push from a Halstead-type person in her life to get there, so she’s glad for people like Jay who are willing to step in and help.

But instead “Intimate Violence” went for the negative ending that Chicago PD often favors, which ended up not working in this particular context. It turned what started as a Hailey Upton story into a Jay Halstead story, and in so doing, presented a theme that could have been better.

People like Jay Halstead are fantastic, and Jay Halstead did exactly what we’d want Jay Halstead to do. The issue with “Intimate Violence” is that it ended up focusing on Halstead and making him the savior, when that probably wasn’t what it was trying to say at all.

Next. What else happened in this week's Chicago PD. dark

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