Elizabeth Morris/NBC
Breanne L. Heldman
September 28, 2017 AT 11:00 PM EDT

WARNING: Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and this post is a towering inferno of spoilers from the season 6 premiere of Chicago Fire. Read at your own risk!

Time to throw away that paper bag you’ve been hyperventilating into all summer — everybody lives on Chicago Fire!

After a doozy of a season 5 cliffhanger that left Matt Casey (Jesse Spencer), Mouch (Christian Stolte), and Christopher Herrmann (David Eigenberg) in seriously dire straits, Boden, Cruz, and the rest of the gang did everything they could to save their men from the massive warehouse fire. And then the show faded to black as we continued to hold our breaths. Cue what looked like Boden giving a speech at Matt’s funeral… before he stepped onstage to receive a medal of honor. Phew! Soon we learned that Mouch survived, too, and now he’s all trim and working out and letting his wife make him healthy sandwiches.

So what now? We’re not the Hound — we can’t see visions in the flames! But we did the next best thing, and called executive producer Derek Haas for some intel on what’s to come.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First of all, I am SO relieved. But I need to know — at any point did you ever consider actually killing one of the guys off?
DEREK HAAS: We did, but not really. We talked through this call with [Steve] Chikerotis, who is our technical advisor, last year towards the end of the year, and then how do we get out of this? And he had told us the idea of why you don’t use water cannons when there’s still rescuers inside: the steam is as deadly as the fire. The steam, as Cruz says, will boil you alive. So we said, “Well, what would happen in that situation?” And he said, “You’d just try to cover yourself as best you could. That’s the only way you could do it.” So we knew as we were writing the episode that this was going to be the solution, and a really desperate solution at that, but we didn’t necessarily want to kill any of our characters off. We love them all so much.

And we thought about Kanell dying in the fire because we knew we weren’t going to bring him back, but we realized it just makes for a real bummer of a first episode. When we did it with Shay, I mean, I loved writing that episode, but it was a tough way to start a season with a main character dying. And even though Kanell was part of our cast towards the end — the last five episodes… What it means is, everybody would’ve had to react to that over the course of the first episode which makes it hard to do the things that we love to do: comedy and drama and romance.

Can you talk a little bit about the choreography of the reveal that Matt was alive?
I will say, I’ve been to a few of these medal ceremonies now and they look frighteningly similar in places to memorial services. We definitely played it up, but it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. And with an audience that is so in the know these days and it’s so hard to do surprises, I thought, let’s play into all of their preconceptions and see if we can’t at least make their breath catch for a second.

We saw Gabby struggling with the aftermath of almost losing Matt — Monica Raymund made some great faces — but it seemed like a bigger deal than just that conversation she had with Matt at the end is going to fix.
Yeah, there’s more. It’s an underlying thing that’s going to play through this season. It also is reflected with her father, who she had problems with at the end of last year…. She confided in him something she now is trying to mask. Her father as confidante and using her as his confidante is going to play out more. The idea that Matt said goodbye to her — there’s that moment in the premiere where he says, “I don’t want any politics anymore; just point me towards the fire,” and you see her face kind of falls a little bit. Well, over the course of the season, she’s going to be pushing him towards and thinking a lot more about him as a chief, as a desk job, rather than the guy who runs into burning buildings anymore. I think she may be angling for him to be in less dangerous situations.

And that came up in the episode. He is deserving of a promotion at this point.
Agreed.

But how do you do that and keep everyone at the same firehouse? And please don’t say anything about Boden retiring.
There are some positions between lieutenant and battalion chief, and I will leave it at that.

Let me just take a moment to thank you for saving Mouch, too. I never want to see a mourning Platt on P.D. And the “Dead Mouch” gag was hilarious, if a little dark.
We knew about a guy back before the series started when we were first doing our research — they kept calling this guy, and I can’t remember his name, but it was like Dead Tom or Dead Bill or Dead Rob. When we heard it, we were like, “Why do you keep calling him that?” And they were like, “Oh, well, he had a heart attack on a call and we had to revive him, so now that’s his nickname. It sticks.” So we’ve been waiting to use that for 120 episodes, but we just knew we wanted to do the heart attack during a call and have him called Dead Mouch.

It was pretty clear Severide made the offer to Kidd to crash at his place, but do you think she said yes in order to keep him from other ladies, especially Hope?
I do. She says in that moment, “Hey, go do whatever you need to do and do it with whoever you need to do it with,” but she also definitely still has feelings for him. Those haven’t gone away and we’re going to play that out over the first half of this season.

The Kelly and Hope hookup is inevitable, but where is that going to lead? And how is Sylvie going to handle it?
It is going to lead to problems. Sylvie is going to be trying to navigate the waters of problems she didn’t originate but yet she feels culpable because it’s her friend who, through no fault of Brett’s, has weaseled her way into Firehouse 51’s social life.

Herrmann had that great line about his teenaged son. Are we going to see more of his kids this season?
Yeah, we’ll be seeing more…. One of his sons comes in with his Scout troop to the firehouse at an inappropriate time.

Tell me about getting through Gabby’s little dig at Chicago Justice.
I just wrote that as a joke on the very first draft of the script and I think Dick [Wolf] thought it was funny… It was just a little wink-wink to ourselves.

Chicago Fire airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on NBC.

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