When it comes to character-driven shows, Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D. are two of the best network TV has to offer. While each show has what may be considered an enormous cast, the writers have done a remarkable job of never leaving a storyline unfinished or making a character forgettable.
When breaking down the cast of Chicago P.D., you will see the show is centered around eight specific characters. You have Frank Voight, Jay Halstead, Kim Burgess, Antonio Dawson (who may be leaving the show), Adam Ruzek, Kevin Atwater, Trudy Platt, and Hailey Upton. Each episode is uniquely scripted to fit each character while offering everyone a chance to shine on their own.
The same can be said for Chicago Fire. While also boasting a huge cast, Fire focuses on a crew of firefighters consisting of Matthew Casey, Kelly Severide, Sylvie Brett, Wallace Boden, Christopher Herrmann, Mouch, Otis, Joe Cruz, Stella Kidd, and Emily Foster.
However, a deeper look reveals that while they are similar in casting, the storylines make the shows vastly different. So, which one of these two powerful shows stands out from the other? With both taking place in the same city, who do you find yourself rooting for when a tragedy strikes? Are you siding with the Intelligence Unit or will you side with House 51?
Here are 5 things that Chicago P.D. does better than Chicago Fire and 5 things it does worse.
10 Better: Action
For some, running into a fire is as brave as it gets. On the other hand, that old school feel of cops and robbers still gets the adrenaline pumping. Chasing a criminal and yelling "freeze," only to watch them continue running still gets the juices going. There are scenes in Chicago P.D. where a shootout or fight (no dialogue) is only needed.
Now, that's not to say that running into a burning building is not exciting, but at those times, you are more worried about one of your favorite character's life than whether the bad guy is caught. With intense shows such as these two, the action keeps viewers coming back for more.
9 Worse: Family Life
When it comes to personal lives outside of the office, Chicago P.D. fails to hit its mark. There have been cops shows where we're invited inside of a cop's home or refuge. Here, we rarely get that. P.D. has given us a glimpse into a few characters' marriages and has even thrown in the emotion impact regarding the death of Voight and Olinsky's kids.
On the other hand, Chicago Fire is all about their family life. We get to see Boden and his family. Hermann's wife and kids and how Matt and Gabby struggled to keep their marriage together. How can we forget the weird living situation between Sylvie, Otis, and Joe? If P.D. were to take the same approach as Fire, the cop show may be better for it.
8 Better: Politics
Season 6 of P.D. gave us a direct insight into how politics play a huge role in Chicago. With Voight dealing with Kelton's dirty deeds as he ran for Mayor, the Intelligence Unit had to operate with a bullseye on their back. This is nothing new for the team as each season, Voight and crew have to fight off more than just the criminals they face on the streets. With Voight always taking matters into his hands, the Police Department's higher brass has always been an area of concern.
Fire is chiefly free of political intrigue. While Bowden has had his fair run-ins with the higherups, and Matt did a small stint as Alderman, the political side of the writing has not been as heavy for the firefighters.
7 Worse: Leadership
Voight is a hard man to deal with but his love for his city and his fellow officers make him a great leader. Each officer has tried to go against Voight but in the end, his leadership helps make Chicago P.D. so appealing. However, he has demons of his own and for those reasons, he still seems a little shaky in the leadership role. He commands respects due to his actions and is known to raise his voice or use brute force to get his point across. Do his men really follow him?
House 51's Wallace Boden has great leadership skills. His voice alone commands respect but he's more of a sit back and take it kind of leader and will delegate duties to his other commanding officers in the firehouse. What gives the nod to Fire is that Boden has other leaders inside the House. Matt is a Captain and Severide is a Lieutenant.
6 Best: Chicago Backdrop
One of the best things Chicago P.D. has to offer is the great city of Chicago. As police, PD has free reign over the city whereas Chicago Fire is set to their district. Giving the Intelligence Unit a larger playing field has resulted in fans getting a better view of the city. Fire mainly sticks to a burning building and street shots but it doesn't capture the essence if the city the same way Chicago P.D. does.
P.D. gives viewers better insight into Chicago. Be it car chases, kicking down doors, coffee runs, or restaurants; P.D. takes us on a ride through the city weekly. Chicago Fire is often stuck in non-fireproof buildings or Molly's. Sightseeing is always a big attraction.
5 Worse: Emotion
When Frank Voight is leading the charge, it's all business. How many times can we say we've seen Voight actually smile? A smirk will do but even that seems too much. The other cops in the unit just follow his lead. When dealing with criminals and putting your life on the line in one of the toughest cities in America, there's little time for emotion.
One of the biggest knocks against Boden's crew is that they care too much. Whether it is Gabby being giddy about a child being abandoned or one of the firefighters getting involved with a victim they saved form a fire, House 51 is all emotion. If Chicago Fire's writers set out to create one of the most emotionally-driven shows on television, they have succeeded.
4 Better: Storytelling
Although Chicago Fire has a larger main cast, Chicago P.D. is able to tell better stories. This is largely due to a cop being able to go undercover, allowing storylines to last a few episodes rather than just one. The majority of season 6 focused on the Mayor race and the cover-up for Antonio while still adding intrigue from other storylines.
With Fire, its normally one or two fires per episode and they're off to the next blaze and another storyline for the following week. The way P.D. is set up, they may have a longer tenure moving forward as most cop shows do.
3 Worse: Trust
The Intelligence Unit is a pretty tight crew but truth be told, they may not trust each other as much as they should. How many times have we seen a member keep information from one another? As great of a leader as Voight is, he holds the most secrets. There are too many instances when the IU are gunning for each other. For the last two seasons, there has been a serious breach in distrust between Ruzek and Voight and Ruzek and Antonio.
There may be moments where members of House 51 are at each other's throats but the end result is always the same. They're family and conduct themselves as such. They have to work as a team when heading into danger and that alone is a reason why they must have that complete trust in one another. Backstabbing will get someone killed in the field and Boden will not stand for that.
2 Better: Criminals
How could Chicago Fire beat out a cop show for better criminals? Chicago Fire has had its fair share of serial arsons over the course of it's run and even had Cruz go undercover to help catch a thief from within their ranks. Nonetheless, there is nothing like watching Atwater, Antonio, or Ruzek go deep undercover to catch a notorious drug dealer or killer.
House 51 has had to deal with a few guns pointed in their direction, but the Intelligence Unit deals with this on a daily basis. There are times where members of the IU must check themselves at the door or have crossed a certain criminal line themselves out of revenge or desperation.
1 Worse: Character Development
Due to its smaller cast, one would think that P.D. has the edge here. However, with not as many fires taking place week-to-week, the writers for Fire are able to shed more light on the firefighter's downtime thus resulting in better character development.
For P.D. to catch up, they will need to slow the show down and that's simply not doable. On the other hand, P.D.'s fast pace helps make it a great show. It would be nice if we were to get more of a personal connection with the cops, as they did in the first two seasons, but it's hard seeing that happening any time soon. As it stands now, what you see is what you get with Chicago P.D. It centers around cops chasing bad guys, Voight barking orders, and a whiteboard full of suspects.