We all love Al Olinsky (Elias Koteas). He was a force from the moment he joined Chicago PD, and his bond with Voight (Jason Beghe) made him a crucial window into the latter’s gritty worldview. They understood one another like few people did, which made Al’s exit all the more tragic.
So what happened to Al? Why has the character not been spotted around the Chicago PD precinct for several years? Will he be returning to the show anytime soon? Here’s what you need to know.
Al Olinksy dies in Chicago PD season 5
Al Olinksy, like Hank Voight, had a propensity for bending the rules. He felt it was justified to beat confessions out of suspects and plant evidence to secure a conviction, and this caught up to him in the season 5 episode “Allegiance”. His DNA was found on the body of Bingham (Joseph Sikora), the man who killed Voight’s son, and he was subsequently arrested for murder.
The irony, of course, is that Voight was the one who committed the crime. Al refused to name his boss, however, and took his conviction in stride. He went to prison for murder, and while there, he was stabbed by an inmate.
Despite being rushed to the hospital wing, Al dies as a result of his injuries. Voight is devastated by the character’s death and goes on to avenge him by killing the prisoner who committed the stabbing. Despite pushback from certain higher-ups regarding his disgraced reputation, the department agrees to give Al an official funeral.
In a 2018 interview with TV Line, showrunner Rick Eid discussed the decision to kill off Al, explaining:
"“From a creative perspective, it was a decision that evolved organically from the ongoing storyline between Voight and Woods. The writers and I kept coming back to this idea that Voight’s decision to kill Bingham should cost him something. Over time, we landed on the notion that Olinsky should be the person to pay for Voight’s sin because Voight admired and loved him so much.”"
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Eid also talked about how big of a deal it was to part ways with actor Elias Koteas, which didn’t seem like an easy choice to make:
"“Elias is a terrific actor and a good person. He’s also been an important part of the show since the very beginning. So this part of the process was really challenging. But Elias handled the news like a true professional and remained committed to the show and his character until the final shot. We will miss him dearly.”"
Al’s presence is still felt on the show
Al has been gone for several years now, though his ghost looms over Voight. It is such a notable presence, in fact, that showrunner Gwen Sigan referenced the character during a recent interview with TV Line.
When asked about the unique bond between Voight and Anna Avalos (Carmela Zumbado), Sigan said that it’s the most important bond the character has had in some time. “[Anna has] gotten under Voight’s skin a little bit”, she teased. “He hasn’t really let anybody in in a long time, probably since Olinsky”.
Al may never return, but he remains a spiritual presence, both for the characters and the fans.
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