I don’t like to compare ships – much less ships across different shows (and networks), because all too often that’s like comparing apples and oranges. But in the good things, sometimes those comparisons are warranted. Which is why I want to talk about why I think Chicago PD’s Upstead is on the same path as what I consider the best ship in any procedural on television today: NCIS: Los Angeles’s Densi.
Now, there are many good ships on TV, and procedurals have a lot of iconic ones. But Densi’s 12 year road from reluctant partners to two people with “a thing,” to friends, best friends, each other’s person, with the ups and downs of trying to figure out how to continue doing a job that constantly puts not just your life, but your partner’s life at risk, after you’ve realized that other person means more to you than anything, is unparalleled.
Particularly because Densi’s story doesn’t end there. Kensi and Deeks did figure it out. And it wasn’t easy, and there’s been ups and downs, and setbacks and fights. They haven’t always seen eye to eye. But they’ve been together, nonstop, since season 6 of a show that’s now going into season 13, they’ve had a relationship, they’ve gotten engaged, we got to see their wedding, and now we’re navigating the possibility of them starting a family.
And we haven’t stopped watching. If anything, I watch NCIS: Los Angeles for Densi first.
I’ve always gotten Densi vibes from Upstead, not just because of the way they relate to each other, but also because of Hailey. Jay is not at all similar to my beloved Deeks, but Hailey and Kensi are a lot alike in many ways. And though Deeks’s on the surface response to anything is a joke, his way of being there for Kensi, of putting her first, is something I’ve seen reflected in Jay Halstead.
Though, if we’re being honest, the real parallel in personalities and even in backstory is Kensi and Jay, and often Hailey and Deeks, but that’s not the point of this article, that’s a whole other spiral. Because today I want to focus on the journey two amazing female characters have taken, and the way these two very different, but equally supportive men, have helped them find the best in themselves.
As I think of these two relationships, and why I think they’re so similar, there’s on particular thing that always comes to mind. It’s a quote from Kensi, a metaphor used to describe the Densi relationship in a moment where things were somewhat on thin ice (pun intended). There was a shift for Densi not long after that, and NCIS: Los Angeles never looked back – which is what I’m hoping Chicago PD is planning to do with Upstead.
The metaphor is still important, though, because it sort of exemplifies what Deeks came to mean to Kensi, and what I believe Jay means to Hailey:
“Your frozen lake is the name for what you want the most in the world, and you want it…you want it so bad that you’ll do anything to get it. And your heart takes over. But because of that…it destroys you in the end.”
It’s not an optimistic quote, because Kensi isn’t feeling optimistic in that moment. She feels like she can’t have what she wants, she can’t have Deeks and at the same time, do her job, and navigate through life when she feels like her heart is literally walking around in the form of another person, someone she can’t protect. Kensi is shutting down, in a way that’s very similar to what Hailey Upton has done in the past.
Except both Kensi and Hailey get through it. They both find a way to cross that frozen lake, the only way you can …slowly, and hang onto the thing, the person, they want. And when it comes to women like them, once they get through that, they don’t let go. Ever.
This is where Hailey’s at right now, and if you need any more proof that she’s not running away, all you need to do is look at the finale. Yes, maybe her reaction should have been to lead with the information of what happened with Voight, but when Hailey looked at Jay after a hard day, all she wanted was to hang onto him. Forever. She didn’t get scared and run away, she got scared and ran towards him. Because that’s her default now. Running towards Jay Halstead.
What this says to me is that Chicago PD might be planning to throw some more obstacles Upstead’s way, but the intention is to have them face those obstacles together. They’re past the miscommunication stage, and they’re already over letting fear control their actions. Sure, I believe Jay will be upset when he learns what happened with Hailey and Voight, but I don’t think he will truly be upset at Hailey, instead he will be upset on her behalf.
TV is all about journeys, and Upstead’s journey has reached a point where the thing that makes more sense isn’t for them to follow the Burzek path, the on/off kind of relationship. That’s also not Chicago PD’s way. They’ve always tried to maintain a clear differentiation between character and relationships. So the Upstead journey feels like it’s headed more towards what NCIS: Los Angeles did with Densi, which is make them as solid as a diamond, once they finally got together.
Which again, doesn’t mean they can’t face external issues. Doesn’t mean there will not be some internal doubts that come into play. It doesn’t even mean we can’t bring up Hailey’s past, or Jay cannot have some family issues (we know Will Halstead is good to create drama at the drop of a hat). All it means is that those issues don’t – shouldn’t separate them. Not anymore.
Instead, Upstead needs to continue on the Densi path. They already did the partners to friends to best friends to each other’s person to in a relationship part. The rest is all about respecting that characters can grow and learn and thrive as a unit. You can do that, Chicago PD. You should do that. If you need any inspiration, turn to CBS on Sundays and check out NCIS: Los Angeles. Densi is leading the way and Upstead should follow so we can have more than one couple we can point to and say yes, see …this is what we want. This is what we need.
This is why we watch.