Chicago PD’s Atwater story was dramatic, but is it incomplete?

CHICAGO P.D. -- "Fighting Ghosts" Episode 801 -- Pictured: (l-r) Jason Beghe as Frank Voight, LaRoyce Hawkins as Kevin Atwater -- (Photo by: Matt Dinerstein/NBC)
CHICAGO P.D. -- "Fighting Ghosts" Episode 801 -- Pictured: (l-r) Jason Beghe as Frank Voight, LaRoyce Hawkins as Kevin Atwater -- (Photo by: Matt Dinerstein/NBC) /

Has Chicago PD season 8 really wrapped up Kevin Atwater’s story?

The first two episodes of Chicago PD season 8 seemingly brought Kevin Atwater’s (LaRoyce Hawkins) battle against corrupt policemen to a close. But is that plotline actually over, and what message do viewers get from how the show handled it?

SPOILER ALERT: This article contains spoilers from Chicago PD season 8. If you haven’t seen both episodes this season, catch up now on Hulu.

Atwater spent the beginning of the season being harassed by cops led by the ruthless Nolan (guest star Brent Sexton). They weren’t happy that he’d sold out Tom Doyle for racial profiling in the season 7 finale, and they were determined to take his badge.

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Nolan’s crew planted drugs in Atwater’s car, bugged his house, and called in a tip that got him pulled over (yet again). But it was units deliberately ignoring his team’s request for backup, which led to Adam Ruzek (Patrick John Flueger) being shot, that pushed Kevin over the edge.

He let himself into Nolan’s house and presented him with an ultimatum: if the other man didn’t stop coming after Atwater, his family and Intelligence, then Atwater would sue him and the Chicago Police Department—taking him to court and the court of public opinion.

Nolan seemed rattled as Atwater left, suggesting that this could be the end of the “Atwater vs. the bad police” storyline. But is it?

Is Atwater’s plotline actually over?

That scene between Atwater and Nolan felt pretty final, and it solves Chicago PD‘s primary problem, which is getting Atwater out of trouble. Logistically, the show can’t go the rest of the season with Kevin constantly being attacked; he’d never get anything else done, and Intelligence would never be able to work with other cops again. It’s hard to write a police show like that.

But what Chicago PD hasn’t addressed is the rest of the can of worms.

Atwater has gotten Nolan off his back, but Nolan and his friends are still out there. It’s unlikely that they’re just doing this to Atwater and are otherwise perfect cops. Will the show forget they exist and go back to depicting normal policing? Are they going to face any kind of consequences for their behavior—since, as Atwater himself said, it’s about finding evidence? It’d be kind of a letdown if they’re out running around unchecked.

They’ve also already sullied Atwater’s reputation. We saw that in the scene where he was pulled over; the patrol cops were very confrontational in dealing with him. Lots of cops now know what Kevin’s done and chances are their opinion may have been influenced by Nolan’s crew, or their own feelings toward the “blue wall.” Kevin’s not going to get that credibility back unless Nolan and his team are publicly proven wrong, and it doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen.

It’s possible that in episode 3, we could see some additional issues crop up, even though Atwater seemed to get the last word.

And of course, the show could do with Nolan what it did with Doyle and Denny Woods (Mykelti Williamson), and have him pop up at the end of this season or even a future season to cause a new problem.

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How is Chicago PD handling police misconduct so far?

This storyline—combined with Hank Voight (Jason Beghe) dealing with new Deputy Superintendent Samantha Miller (recurring guest star Nicole Ari Parker)—has been Chicago PD‘s attempt to address the subjects of police misconduct and reform that have become prominent this year. In that big-picture sense, the plot leaves a lot to be desired.

Many fans have expressed the opinion that “It’s just a TV show.” However, the people making the show have never said that; they’ve talked about it being timely and wanting it to reflect what it’s like being a police officer in Chicago. If the producers want the series to be topical, then we also have to consider it as such.

The big positive here is that the writers let Atwater solve his own problem his way. Voight didn’t swoop in and take care of it for him, and it wasn’t dealt with in some deus ex machina where Nolan got beaten up or conveniently sent somewhere else. It would have been easy to sweep the whole thing under the rug in the season premiere, and that didn’t happen.

But nothing in the world of Chicago PD has actually changed. Nolan and his friends are still out there without any punishment (as yet). If they’re willing to frame another cop, what else have they done? It’s too early to see if Intelligence is going to alter the way they do things.

Almost more importantly, we haven’t heard enough from the good cops. The show made Voight the primary go-to person for Kevin, with a few scenes between him and Ruzek. But we could have seen more from the rest of Intelligence as far as supporting him, especially his one-time BFF Kim Burgess (Marina Squerciati). Even just one scene or two would go a long way.

Or how about eventually having Atwater recognized, by Miller or by the State’s Attorney or even a community organization, for doing his part and speaking up when it mattered?

Addressing the police isn’t just about showing bad cops; it’s also about showing that there are good cops, and not just the ones in the main credits.

Plus, is the show going to explore racial issues here or not? So far, Atwater’s has been the only African-American police perspective we’ve really gotten; the only other Black officer in his plot was one of the patrol cops who pulled him over and who didn’t seem too bothered by it.

This is not primarily a racial storyline—it’s Atwater’s moral code, not the color of his skin, that got him in trouble—but the fact that Chicago PD brought it up by having Atwater point out the other cop was Black suggests that the show might also explore that subject.

Though the specific plot point of saving Kevin Atwater has been resolved, there’s still a lot more that the show could or might do since we’re only two episodes into the season.

What comes next when Chicago PD season 8 returns?

It’s very hard to predict what happens with Atwater when Chicago PD season 8 comes back in January, because the season just started! With the story only two episodes in, the writers could have always intended to button this plotline with Kevin walking out of Nolan’s house, or it might just feel that way because we’re on this holiday hiatus.

One thing audiences know for sure is that Kevin Atwater is staying in the Intelligence Unit. In the most recent episode, he and Voight had clearly mended fences, and since LaRoyce Hawkins is a series regular, his character couldn’t really have gone anywhere anyway. We also know that we haven’t seen the last of Miller, as Nicole Ari Parker is recurring this season.

What would be particularly interesting is to combine those two points.

Deputy Superintendent Miller is clearly going to keep pushing Voight toward reform. Atwater’s argument with Voight showed his attitude toward the subject. Rick Eid has also teased the idea of Atwater being promoted in the past.

Wouldn’t it be cool if Atwater was recognized by Miller for his efforts with some kind of commendation? We rarely see Intelligence officers getting awards; they’re usually getting in trouble. Or what if season 8 is the season that he finally makes Detective? The real sweet revenge for Atwater would be moving up in the ranks and reforcing that being a good policeman is valued, while Nolan and his crew go down in flames.

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