Chicago P.D. 9×03 “The One Next to Me” is about Jay Halstead, even if it isn’t. Because as much as it is about Jay Halstead, it’s also about the things we put behind, and the things we decide to keep. Life is growth, and though we are indeed made up of our experiences, often there are parts of ourselves we choose to shut away, for good.
This episode gives you a closer glimpse at the man Jay Halstead was before Chicago P.D., before the police. But that isn’t the only thing it does. Instead, the episode serves to re-establish something the show has leaned heavily on, particularly lately, as the clear lines between Hank Voight and Jay Halstead are drawn, Jay’s sense of morality.
When an episode is so heavy handed in the message as Chicago P.D. 9×03 “The One Next to Me,” it’s intentional. And this episode establishes Jay as someone who, at one point, made a wrong choice. We all make wrong choices, of course. Not all of us make wrong choices that cost people lives, but we all make wrong choices. And Jay’s response to that wrong choice was to become the man we know.
It’s important to point out that Jay’s wrong choice, like Hailey’s wrong choice, however, was the choice to keep quiet. Jay didn’t actively hurt someone, but he could have said something, done something, and didn’t. Hailey’s real mistake is pretty much the same as his – she’s kept Voight’s secret for way too long, and she shouldn’t have.
“God forbid someone can’t live up to your standards,” Knox tells Jay, and it feels like a pointed barb. It feels like foreshadowing for the big reveal we know is coming with the Hailey and Roy thing. And yet, this episode makes me certain it isn’t. It’s just a red herring. Because Jay Halstead is not the man he was, or the man Knox remembered. Jay Halstead has changed. He’s grown.
Into a man who can laugh with his team – and can we please get at least one team scene an episode? – a man who can confide in the love of his life, and yes, a man who is, indeed a good judge of character, even if, in some cases, he’s trained himself to look the other way even when he shouldn’t.
“Everything is so black and white with you,” Knox also tells Jay, and yet the truth is, it isn’t so. It never has been so. Jay’s a caring man, and he’s someone who will give you a second and a third chance …if you’re doing the wrong things for the right reasons. This is all set up to make us believe that Jay is going to turn on Hailey when he finds out the truth about Roy, but I’ve never been as sure this is the exact opposite of that.
If Jay’s gonna turn on anyone, it’s going to be Voight.
Of all the heavy-handed foreshadowing uttered by Knox in the episode, the most important one to mention might be: “the job puts you in these places where the right thing is wrong, and the wrong thing is right.” It’s a convenient way of letting himself off the hook, of course. If the right things are wrong, and the wrong things are right …then you aren’t ever in the wrong. But even though some things might not be black and white, what Knox did, what Hailey did …both things are wrong. Not the same level of wrong, but wrong.
But despite what this episode is trying to sell us, I don’t for a second think Jay Halstead cannot tell the difference between one or the other, or that he can’t tell the difference between Hailey and Voight. Especially as he’s been in Hailey’s position. Jay Halstead isn’t, has never been, just a man with a gun who doesn’t think. And we, the viewers, can clearly tell the difference between Knox and Hailey, too.
Hailey did something wrong – and I’m not even talking about killing Roy here (which hey, Voight manipulated her into that too!) I’m talking about going along with Voight’s scheme. But she did it out of loyalty, and out of respect for someone she cares about, someone who took advantage of her emotional state to convince her that his way was the only way that would work, the only way that could work.
Knox, on the other hand, was deliberate. His “revenge” for his fallen friend and how far he chose to take that, his behavior this episode …those were choices he made, not under duress. Just choices. Which, if we’re going to compare Knox to someone, we should be comparing him to Voight – not Hailey.
“I could have done something. I should have. And I didn’t …” Jay says, near the end of the episode. The easy conclusion is that this is meant to be about the secret the woman next to him is keeping, that this secret will tear them apart. But doesn’t it make more sense that he’s talking about Voight? You know, the one who has always, always toed the line. The one who Jay knows, from experience, believes it’s his way or the highway? The one Jay has trained himself to look away from?
To me, it does. And I’m absolutely here for this setup, just as I’m here for Jay getting to support Hailey in her moment of need. We had a similar storyline with Densi on NCIS: Los Angeles, and my fondest wish from the beginning of this mess was that Chicago P.D. would take a page out of that. I now feel confident they are – they have to be.
Voight has had many victims on his time in Chicago P.D., and he’s chosen those victims well. It’s hard to, narratively, feel bad for fictional characters you know have done wrong things. And he skated by on this, despite the fact that we knew he was wrong – we’ve always known he was wrong.
Last week I said it was time to cut him loose. To be fair, he should have been let go a long time ago, but if 2020’s events didn’t open our eyes – and the show’s eyes – to the issues with Voight, then how could we or the show pretend to stand against police brutality? They’ve taken way longer than I would have liked them to, but it feels like the time is now.
And this isn’t just about the real, moral issues, with Voight – which would be more than enough in real life – this is also about the fact that Voight has also emotionally manipulated absolutely everyone in this unit, including the people who aren’t even in the unit anymore. If the show continues to put up with it, if we continue to put up with it, what does that say about them?
What does it say about us?
Things I think I think:
- “Detective”/” Detective”
- Is this …a team scene? What in the world?!
- Not that I’m complaining, can I get more? One every week?
- Can’t Voight give Hailey like A SECOND to enjoy her happiness?
- I’m so happy to have Kim back.
- But the lack of consistency with her storyline is more than a tad annoying. So, she’s back to work. That’s good. Is she just …okay all the sudden? Is she only not okay when it serves the plot? That’s not how trauma works.
- That Kim and Hailey are both like “this true?” about Jay says a lot about how Jay keeps things very close to his vest.
- Also, fun how this show suddenly remembers those two can be paired up!
- Ricky Halstead?
- Hank’s whole “I care about everyone” shtick has been too old for ages.
- There was a moment in the middle of this episode where I think I stopped breathing for about 10 minutes.
- Am I even alive right now?
- The softness of the Upstead scenes in this episode, I swear to God.
Agree? Disagree? What did you think of Chicago P.D. 9×03 “The One Next to Me”? Share with us in the comments below!
Chicago P.D. airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on NBC.