I’ve been thinking about this non-stop since yesterday’s Chicago PD, an episode that gave us beautiful, domestic Upstead, one of the hottest kisses Jay and Hailey have had on-screen (the hand! THE HAND!!) and once again, another weird attempt at framing Hailey as the darkness to Jay’s light, not to mention the nonsensical Voight-has-concerns-and-then-he-doesn’t plotline. But I especially want to talk about how this reflects on the character of Hailey, or at least the way people perceive her, based on the writing.
The first thing we gotta establish, once again, is that Hailey Upton is no Erin Lindsay replacement. They aren’t the same character, and though there are some superficial similarities, they aren’t even that alike, if you dig deep. I personally truly enjoyed Linstead when it was going on, but when Sophia Bush made the decision to leave Chicago PD, there was little to be done about that. Linstead was over. It was time to move on.
Did I expect I would end up loving Upstead even more than I originally loved Linstead? No. Did it happen? Yes. For many, many reasons, starting with the fact that we’re soon to enter “we’ve had them for longer” territory. We’ve known Hailey for about as long as we knew Erin. And yet last night’s episode left me with the feeling that I had to come defend a character I have come to love – not just from people who might purposefully misunderstand her, but maybe, even from the writers, from time to time. And I’m ready.
Hailey isn’t the darkness to Jay’s light. She isn’t even that dark! She’s a woman who’s had a hard life, and who has managed to push through, to become the kind, supportive, caring ray of sunshine that she is. And yes, sometimes it’s harder for her to express her emotions, and sometimes the things she’s gone through blind her. But that’s true of everyone. Name one person on this show who hasn’t crossed a line? Name one person who hasn’t let their emotions affect their decision making? Oh, right, you can’t.
So, the framing that Hailey might be …what …leading Jay down a dark path … is a little absurd, to say the least. But hey, so far, it’s merely an insinuation, one that fandom has latched onto and, because this is the way of fandom, made into a huge worry. Sometimes we are right to do that, sometimes we aren’t. It’s impossible to tell right now. This could be just the show trying to give Upstead some angst on the professional side, because that’s literally the only place they can manage the angst, but always intending to show them as the kind of people who don’t have to agree on everything, but who will have each other’s backs no matter what.
That’s a good storyline. That of two partners growing together, of two people making mistakes, and then getting up and trying again, without ever shutting each other out permanently. But for that, we need consistency within the storyline. We need actual communication. And yes, we need the show to treat Hailey Upton – and Upstead – with care. We need nuance, particularly on the professional side, because as I discussed earlier …and as Hailey made clear at the end of the episode, her personal relationship with Jay is off-limits. No one’s touching that. That’s theirs, and no one gets a say but them.
Job wise, though, the show would do well to remember that no one is “dark” all the time, just as no one is perfect all the time. We’re all humans, and we have good moments and bad moments. Sometimes we need a hand, sometimes we’re the ones lending a hand. And the fact that Hailey and Jay are now in a relationship doesn’t truly change their dynamic. These two were already willing to cross many lines for each other before they even kissed. It’s just that now they get not just the bad stuff, but the good parts too! They don’t have to walk away from each other, they can provide comfort, not just support.
Upstead is good together. Very, very good. They balance each other out, because, as I said before, they’re adults in a real relationship. That’s always bound to have it’s ups and downs. That’s fine. Absolutely nothing to worry about there. Even disagreements about the way they look at life – or relationships – aren’t a deal breaker, not in real life, and the show hasn’t treated them like one, either. Hailey and Jay have already shown they will fight for each other, even if that means sometimes doing things that take them outside their comfort zone.
All we need now is for the show to respect what they have already created, what these two actors have embodied in such a beautiful way. This is a great partnership, both in the personal and professional aspect. In fact, it’s even better than the already good ship this show had established before, Linstead. Saying this doesn’t take anything away from what the show did with that ship back in the day, because Upstead is no Linstead replacement.
It’s its own, very good, thing, and if the show wants to keep fans happy, it’s going to treat the ship – and Hailey Upton – as more than just a plot device, or a measuring stick for Jay Halstead. Hailey Upton deserves to be the hero of her own story, after all. She deserves to be half of a ship that’s about her and Jay, not the ghost of anyone else. As long as the show remembers that, we’re good. And if it somehow forgets, we’ll be here to hold them accountable.
Chicago PD airs Wednesdays on NBC.