TV has always had trouble with female friendships, let’s start there. In general, there are two kinds of shows that feature women together and focus on the relationships between women who are not related to each other – the shows that are mostly about those friendships, and the shows whose storylines revolve around one such friendship’s eventual demise. That’s about it.
Of course, generalizations are always wrong, and some shows do a better job at maintaining casual friendships because …well, sometimes people are friends, than others. Chicago P.D., sadly, has never been one of those shows.
Ironically, the other two One Chicago shows do a much better job at this. Chicago Fire is, of course, the standard, a show that has managed to maintain multiple female friendships over the course of its ten-year run. Sure, they’ve stumbled there too, particularly as they moved from Dawsey to Brettsey without much thought to the previously established friendship between the woman once married to Matt, and the one now dating him. But they never have to be reminded that sometimes women can just be friends, and they are also very, very good at never patting themselves too much on the back for something that should be …normal.
Even Chicago Med, a show that in most respects comes below the other two shows in the One Chicago franchise, has managed to give Sharon Goodwin and Maggie Lockwood a consistent, strong friendship, one that is at this point, the strongest dynamic the show has.
Then there’s Chicago P.D, where you can count on the fingers of one hand how many times Kim Burgess and Hailey Upton even spoke to each other last season. Not had a heart-to-heart, confided in each other, had a drink together or comforted each other, no. We’re not even going into how much they didn’t really do any of that. We’re talking just a word or two in passing, because, yes, even that was rare.
In a six-person team the show, somehow, managed to go an entire season without the two lead female characters exchanging more than casual words in the middle of a case.
Season nine of Chicago P.D. seems poised to change all that, albeit not for the reasons we wanted. And yet, even as the show charges ahead with its obvious plot-reasons to finally allow these two characters to talk, we can’t help but wonder …why has it taken so long? And what, exactly, does the show want us to believe about the two of them?
The later question is particularly baffling if one considers that during the latest episode, “Rage,” Hailey refers to Kim as sister. Now, it’s not the word. I’ve referred to most of my close friends in that manner before, multiple times. It’s the fact that we’ve seen absolutely nothing on the show to even indicate Hailey and Kim share the kind of closeness that would warrant that word. The show has never made any attempt to show us – and yet they want us to take that word, that sentiment, at face value.
Consider the amount of time the show has devoted to the relationship between Adam Ruzek and Kevin Atwater, and how much fans enjoy those dynamics, and then ask yourself …why don’t Hailey Upton and Kim Burgess get the same treatment, and why does the show expect us to take an empty sentiment at face value?
The answer is, of course, that’s the way of TV. Female friendships, as mentioned before, unless the entire point of the show is to showcase that dynamic, don’t typically get much of a focus. Bromances? Those are interesting! Female friendships? Meh, been there, done that, and are they really friends anyway?
As someone who probably wouldn’t be here without the female friends in her life, I have to say – yes. Women do have other female friends, and yes, those relationships are real and not just that, they’re important.
It’s time to do better, Chicago P.D. In fact, it’s way past time.
Sure, the reason the show is allowing Kim and Hailey to appear close is that every second they spend together is a second more of torture for a Hailey that is keeping a big secret from Kim, one that is affecting her mental health. But that doesn’t mean their relationship, their scenes together, need to cease once Hailey’s secret comes out. In fact, if anything, this should be the thing that makes Kim and Hailey sisters, once and for all.
It doesn’t have to be easy. Kim doesn’t have to brush away the pain Hailey’s secrecy is causing her. They don’t need to have it all figured out – Adam and Kevin don’t. But they need to continue to interact, even after the secret is out, and yes, they need to work on their relationship.
We need to see it, not just hear about it, or worse, have the show assume we know these two women are close, even on the face of evidence to the contrary. We need it not just because female friendships deserve the spotlight, but because these two characters deserve to be presented in all its facets.
As women, we are more than our romantic relationships. We are more than our mistakes, and our low points. We are also the jokes we tell our friends, the quiet moments we share with the people we care about, and yes, even the ways we patch up relationships that we haven’t always handled with the care they deserve.
I won’t say it’s time, because, as I said before, it’s way past time. Let Kim and Hailey be friends, Chicago P.D. And not the kind of friends who talk to each other off-screen, but the kind we see supporting each other on camera. They need that, and we need that.
Chicago P.D. airs Wednesdays on NBC.