Chicago P.D. 9×09 “A Way Out” offers a very confusing way out of the Roy Walton drama for Jay, Hailey and Voight, even as the show continues to hammer the point that the decisions Jay is making aren’t exactly the right ones. But as Chicago P.D. comes to a close and the last few minutes before the hiatus are of Mr. and Mrs. Halstead together, it’s hard to be completely upset at the missed opportunities of this storyline, because, well …Upstead.
Every second of the two of them works, from Hailey seeing right through Jay, to Jay attempting to protect Hailey, but folding pretty damn quickly because he cannot lie to the Mrs. (and now she literally is, I’M DEAD), to the decision they make together, to that incredibly intimate and sexy love scene at the end. Soulmates doesn’t even begin to cover it. Best ship feels inadequate. So often, TV prioritizes the drama over the people and the people over the ship, and here Chicago P.D. makes the completely opposite decision, and somehow, I’m good?
Let’s be absolutely clear: I don’t really like where the show took the Voight storyline. It feels truly inconsistent with what they’ve been setting up, not to mention what the characters were saying this episode. Procedurals often use the “case of the week” to send a message about the underlying storylines. And boy, in this case, every word was obvious. Siding with Voight was the wrong choice. Protecting him was the wrong choice.
Even Voight said it this time, showing the most self-awareness he’s shown in ages. But the show still took the expected swerve back into the status quo with Jay’s decision, and as much as that was the easy answer, it was also, likely, the wrong one, all things considered. Because after spending so much time establishing all that Voight has done wrong, how do we go back to something resembling what we had?
Now, we can’t ignore it. Now, they can’t ignore it. And we shouldn’t.
So, let’s go into the Upstead magic of this episode, the Voight storyline, how the decisions the show made will work out going forward, and also what the show sacrificed to make this storyline work the way it did as we review “A Way Out.”
JUST GIVE ME UP
We have to start with Hank Voight, because this episode does about as good a job as it’s possible to do of making him “the good guy.” Except Voight getting to the point where he recognizes what we can all clearly see: that Jay giving him up is the best option, doesn’t make him a hero. He’s doing the bare minimum for two people he’s always claimed to care about, and he’s doing it only under duress and when it’s literally the only option possible. That’s not heroism, and we shouldn’t pretend like it is.
Voight has made many questionable choices, which we’ve discussed ad nauseum. The problem with his questionable choices has always been that, as much as the show always tries to frame them as a “last resort” kind of thing, he represents the type of cop who makes decisions about what “last resort” means, and then acts on it. He’s often judge, jury and executioner, and no matter how pure your intentions are, that’s never a good thing.
In the show, of course, he’s always done it based on this vague desire to protect his team, his family. Except the show has failed at truly writing this team as a family, and more importantly, they’ve failed this attempt at making Voight the father figure. Don’t get it wrong, Chicago P.D. had a ready-made redemption arc for Hank Voight in season 5, as Hailey Upton came in, and they squandered that. And now it feels like it’s too little, too late. He made the decisions that brought him here, after all. No one forced him.
He himself recognizes this up to a point, as he tells Jay that he shouldn’t have to “pay for this.” Except Jay, who’s deep into making the wrong decision for himself, can at least see one thing clearly: He will pay. One way or another, they all pay the cost for Voight, over and over again. And they will continue to pay it as long as Hank Voight allows them to.
What is this leading to? It feels conveniently wrapped up for now, but there’s the fact that the resolution is way too neat; and, of course, the reality that this is just the midseason finale, and the fallout from this will probably be felt throughout the rest of the season. Plus, the message the show was sending with the case was very, very clear, and it wasn’t very pro-Voight. Procedurals typically use the case to get the characters to come to some big realizations, but in this hour, we saw Jay acting in a way opposite his own advice.
There’s a sense of reality to that, of course. The “good” guys often compromise in a complicated situation. I’ve done it, we’ve all done it. It’s hella hard to stand up to authority figures and even harder to do that while giving up on “family.” The problem, of course, is that Chicago P.D. set up a story of accountability in the police department, a place that desperately needs stories like that, and when push came to shove, they chose drama instead of the resolution they themselves set up. And though the team dynamics have indeed shifted, and perhaps this can indeed bring the team closer together, I’m not sure I can buy what the show is selling in this regard.
I’m not even sure they truly want me to.
ANYTHING THAT’S DONE FROM HERE ON OUT, WE’RE DOING TOGETHER
In a way, Jay’s decisions have more to do with his idea of family than anything else. Yes, a part of Jay might perhaps believe the streets of Chicago are “safer” with Hank Voight out of jail, but he hasn’t stuck around for ten years, as he throws in Voight’s face, because of that. He’s stuck around because he cares about this team; he cares about Hailey. Jay hasn’t had the most functional of family lives, and sometimes those scars make you hang onto something that isn’t actually all that good, because if you don’t have that, what else do you have?
Better a bad family than no family, and all of that.
The show doesn’t avoid the qualifiers re: Jay’s decision, though. Make no mistake about it: Every word coming out of Jay’s mouth during the case applies to him. “I get he’s your friend; maybe he even feels like family. Doesn’t mean you protect him,” he says at one point, only to then point out that the guy might have done the right thing for the witness he’s interrogating, but he didn’t do the right thing by others. Then there’s “You can’t protect him. Not from this. And you shouldn’t.” I mean, hit me with a sledgehammer, that would be less obvious, Chicago P.D.
But Jay still makes the choice the show has clearly identified as the wrong one, and that leaves us in a very interesting place going forward, because it means one of two things: Either this storyline truly isn’t over, and we’re going to come to another big decision later in the season, one that might involve the entire team, including Voight, or the show has decided to fully commit to the idea that there aren’t good/bad cops, everyone’s just living in the grey. The last option would be surprising, as the show has never been about that, and the setup wasn’t taking us there, but it might be interesting.
There were always a few ways this could go; this isn’t my favorite one. Jay is still Jay, in many ways, but it’s hard for him to be the Jay we all expect him to be all the time. It’s hard to put your heart and your issues to the side. And hey, I would love to believe that nine seasons in, he has finally gotten through to Voight. That he can actually do that. I just don’t think that’s as likely as, well… most other things.
EVERYONE CHANGES EVERYONE
One of the most frustrating parts of the time we’ve spent on this Voight storyline that apparently will come to naught is the lost time with the other three members of the team. I’m not even just talking about all the Burzek storylines the show could have delved into—which are long overdue—or how we could have had more of Kev and Celeste, I’m talking about what this show could have done to make the team feel like the family Jay is claiming they are.
We could have had the team spending time with Makayla. We could have had more Kim and Hailey bonding. We could have gone back to the Adam and Kev conversations that have never continued, conversations that get to the root of who each man is. We could have had the boys bonding, without Voight. And yes, we could have had Kev, Kim and Adam finding out their secret. We could have gotten their individual reactions about it.
They’re part of this unit, part of this “family,” and that means the family idea the show sometimes tried to push would have greatly benefited from, well, treating the entire team as a family. And yes, there’s time to do that in the second half of the season. I hope we go there. But I cannot help but feel that the main thing we lost in spending so much time on boxing Hank Voight in when the show was never willing to pull the plug was time with those other three characters, and time with the team.
And that’s time I want. Time I need. Time the show would benefit from.
“Everyone changes everyone,” Jay told North in this episode. And I believe that to be true, in a good way. We don’t remain static—we can’t. People make us better, and sometimes they make us worse, but they inevitably change us. Particularly the people that are close to us, the people we care about. The people we let inside our walls. And sometimes, the decisions we make based on that are good ones, but often they are bad ones. Either way, the consequences are what they are, and it feels like, going forward, the team might have to deal with them …together, but for real this time.
MARRY ME …NOW
The Upstead part of this episode makes up for all the disappointments, all the rest of the things that turned out exactly the opposite of what I wanted. And if you’d asked me before I would have said I didn’t want them to get married so quickly. That I wanted them to enjoy being engaged, to tell other people they were, to have the team at their wedding, at least. But watching Hailey and Jay make that decision, I realized that wasn’t what they wanted or needed.
Chicago P.D. still has to work on the team-as-family dynamics, and they have a ready-made setup to do that in the back half of the season. But the Hailey and Jay of it all, that worked perfectly as it was. The lost boy and the lost girl didn’t really need the team, much less Hank, present. They’ve found their own family in each other, and all they needed to make that official was each other.
It’s a decision. To prioritize each other above all. To keep this thing that was about them, well …to themselves. Often, we think of weddings as this big thing where lots of people congratulate you and you get presents, but the two people getting married never, ever remember the other people. The reception is basically a blur. All you remember is …the person next to you. Your partner. The person you love. You don’t need anything else; you don’t care about anyone else.
The culmination of this episode, the moment Jay knows Hailey is safe, that the future he wanted for them is possible, is a moment of such profound relief that he just wants that future to start right now. He wants that confirmation. And Hailey, who’s always been sure, whose proposal was never about running from fear, but running towards love, doesn’t hesitate. She never does when it comes to being by Jay’s side. The rest of the world might get complicated, but the two of them are forever. Soulmates in every sense of the world.
I don’t use that word often, and I’m not using it in a mystical way in this instance. Jay and Hailey weren’t meant to be together or destined for each other. There isn’t some higher power dictating their love. Instead, they’re a decision made by each of them, and reaffirmed through every second they’ve spent together. There’s nothing bigger than that. Than choosing a person, and choosing them again the next day, and having enough faith in them to declare to the government, and indeed, to the world, that you know you’re going to be willing to choose them every day of your life.
For better or worse.
Things I think I think:
- Adam describing a spa, dear God.
- No one on this team is ever like, “oh, Jay, Hailey, what were you two doing together for so long while we were on the middle of a case?” Are you for real?
- We all got dirt, I guess. North’s doesn’t seem comparable to Voight’s.
- Hey Jay, you could have at least called your brother. Remember him? I’M NOT SURE YOU DO.
- Actors in procedurals rarely get the recognition they deserve, but Jesse Lee Soffer absolutely killed this episode, acting wise.
Agree? Disagree? What did you think of Chicago P.D. 9×09 “A Way Out”? Share with us in the comments below!