One of my favorite things about Chicago Fire in the past few seasons has been the way it’s finally established and leaned on female friendships. This is always a rocky road for a long-running show, and it’s been a specially rocky one for Chicago Fire, but though there are still some things I would love to see them do – when characters leave they don’t need to be forgotten forever, we’ve all changed jobs and stayed in touch with friends who don’t work with us anymore – the show has truly hit a stride when it comes to recognizing the power of women sticking together.
Nothing is true one hundred percent of the time, but in my experience, female friendships have been at the center of what has made every learning experience, and every job I’ve ever held, enjoyable. Yes, I have other friends, and yes, I have found romance as well, but the most consistent thing in my life has been, without a doubt, the tribe of women I have been lucky to have around me.
Chicago Fire isn’t particularly different from most long-running shows in the issues with sustaining female friendships. Actors leave, and when they do, shows rarely know how keep those friendships alive, and sometimes aren’t even allowed to use a likeness, or insert a clear mention. But I chose to focus this on Chicago Fire mainly because the show has gone from ship A – involving a woman, to ship B, involving another woman who was, presumably, best friends with the woman originally involved in ship A.
Yes, I’m going to go into the elephant in the room that is Matt Casey dating Sylvie Brett now, after divorcing Gabby Dawson, particularly when Gabby and Sylvie were such great friends when Gabby was still on Fire. Because my main question, considering how the show handled it, is …were they?
On paper, without the benefit of watching the show, maybe Casey and Brett wouldn’t have worked for me. You don’t date your best friends ex, after all? But do you date the ex of someone who was apparently just your friend because of convenience? Or worse, someone who was your friend and then one day decided to just leave and stop talking to you without any explanation? That’s another thing altogether. You don’t owe anything to that person.
When Gabby left, it was abrupt, and the show mainly focused on the breakdown of her relationship with Casey, with good reason, as Dawsey had been the OTP at the center of the show for so much of its run. And yet Gabby didn’t just leave Casey, she left her life, and the people in it behind too. And as understandable as it is that she needed some distance from her husband, then ex-husband, considering the decisions each of them made, did that distance need to extend to her friends? Or was Sylvie never her friend?
This is what makes me more than a tad uncomfortable about the narrative that Brett shouldn’t even be looking at Casey, because he’s Gabby’s ex and Brett is her BFF. That Gabby left her friend, just as surely as she left her husband. Except at least her husband got to make his own choice about what he wanted, while her supposed friend doesn’t even get the courtesy of a call every year or so?
I don’t blame fans for being mad about the way this transpired. The way Gabby was written off was messy, and everyone involved, the character, the actress, her fans …and fans of her relationships, romantic or otherwise, deserved better. The show failed Gabby Dawson, and it failed her fans. And then, it compounded that problem by painting another woman as her “replacement,” in more ways than one.
Part of the problem with this is, of course, the way TV sometimes treats female friendships as disposable, as not as important. They focused on the ship because they knew people wanted that, while neglecting the much-needed closure on the friendship front. And either because they didn’t care, or because they wanted us to think Gabby and Sylvie weren’t even that close to begin with, the end result is that Brettsey, as a ship, doesn’t rankle the way it would have if we would had actually remain invested in Gabby and Sylvie’s friendship.
Chicago Fire has gotten much better at this – particularly because the setup is easier for them. Stella and Sylvie are not rivals for anyone’s affection, thank the Lord. Foster might be gone (and again, I know we got a mention, but five more wouldn’t hurt), but the friendship between the three was treated with care while she was around. Violet seems to be sticking around (all fingers crossed), and the setup for her and Sylvie to truly become BFFs seems to be put into place.
Hopefully, this is a thing the show takes notice to build on and reinforce going forward. I love the female characters on the show, and as much as I love my ship moments, I enjoy friendship moments almost as much. They remind me of life, and how, at the lowest moments, I’ve always had my tribe to lean on.
Chicago Fire already failed one female friendship and in doing so, divided a fandom. Hopefully, going into season 10, they can focus on strengthening others, and in that way, try to bring what’s left of the fandom together. Here’s to hoping.
Chicago Fire will return to NBC this Fall.