This week’s Chicago Fire wasn’t the most enthralling episode of the drama’s run, but it did have one of the most put-together internal struggles for a character yet. Candidate Peter Mills has been a bright spot as a wide-eyed hopeful who wants to follow in his father’s footsteps. While the season has dealt heavily with his struggle with his mother’s opposition to him becoming a firefighter, Peter insists it’s his dream and believes it would have made his father proud. The mother’s perspective is that being a firefighter killed Peter’s dad, and she doesn’t want to lose another man she loves.
“Leaving the Station” turns the conflict inwards after the opening call sends the station to a train accident where a teen is caught underneath with his leg in the axle and is frantically screaming out for his sister. Young Peter is the one to find the sister a few hundred yards away, in pieces. After the initial shock wears off for all of the other fighters, Mills remains subdued and is unable to shake the horrific scene he uncovered.
Throughout most of the episode the up-and-coming Charlie Barnett, who portrays Mills, does an excellent job depicting such weighty emotions by saying very little. His silence in the background of scenes speaks volumes as the show tries to further explore the effects being a firefighter can have on people. Again, this has been touched upon, but never to this length. Mills is given the rest of the shift off to collect himself, returning back to his family’s restaurant. It does seem as if he is going to leave the station permanently, however Casey eventually shows him the good side of firefighting by taking the candidate to a family he saved years ago. It was the ending expected for the storyline, but the unoriginality doesn’t take away from what Mills was able to do during the buildup.
Elsewhere, two Canadians come to visit the station to observe and they encounter Mouch, who for some reason has a prejudice against our friendly neighbors to the north. It was a good way to break up the seriousness of the rest of the episode, and fun to see a character we don’t normally hear a lot from. Even prankster Otis gets in on the fun by telling Mouch that the Canadians are from Cleveland and it’s all an elaborate joke. It escalates into a prank gone wrong, but that’s really it. One of the Canucks is the one to suggest to Casey that he should take Mills to see a rescued family to remind the candidate why being a firefighter is a good thing, but that’s really all this particular plot was building up to.
There was an interesting paramedic story involving a mother abusing her daughter by making her drink turpentine that got Shay and Dawson all riled up. It was an interesting subplot, but it almost turned into another issue that could have cost Dawson her job. Luckily, the two were eventually right and they saved the day.
While Mills’ plot was extremely strong, the rest didn’t wow me. They were important and good in their own right, but this week’s episode belonged to Mills. Hopefully the writers will be giving him a lot more to do over the course of the first season.