Firehouse 51 goes full throttle, emotionally speaking.

By Maggie Fremont
Updated October 13, 2015 at 09:57 PM EDT
Credit: Elizabeth Morris/NBC
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[This post contains details from the fourth season premiere of Chicago Fire, which aired October 13]

Where is Matt Casey? After the firehouse lieutenant got mixed up in the Chicago P.D.’s attempt to take down a strip club owner who was dabbling in some light human trafficking and Gabby Dawson found a dead girl on Matt’s apartment floor, it was the — ahem — burning question Chicago Fire left us to fret about all summer. Thankfully, the season 4 premiere doesn’t waste any time in giving us an answer: He’s at the strip club being held at gunpoint by Bulgarians. Duh, you guys! The more pressing question in “Let it Burn,” however, is “How is Matt Casey feeling?” Though Casey would have all of Firehouse 51 believe the answer to that question is “fine,” the truth is a little more complicated.

From the moment C.P.D. busts through those strip club doors to find a dead Bulgarian and Matt Casey covered in blood, pummeling seedy owner Jack Nesbitt’s face, we all know Casey is most certainly not fine (don’t worry, he’s still totally fine, IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN). Back at home, what was once simply a beautiful kitchen with an open floor plan, now only serves as a reminder of the horror Casey endured there: watching stripper Katya get shot by the Bulgarian who demanded she give up intel on his sex traffic ring. Kelly Severide, rugged firefighter and sensitive roommate, suggests Casey sit out a shift, but Casey wants to get back to work. He’s fine, remember? So everyone JUST BACK OFF.

Unfortunately, the firehouse holds no solace for Casey either. Wracked with guilt and fear, he continues to have flashbacks of the incident, and when he’s told that Jack Nesbitt is an FBI informant, and therefore untouchable when it comes to being held responsible for the part he played in Katya’s death, well, something just snaps. Matt Casey is angry.

The timing for this isn’t great. Dawson’s been trying to work up the nerve to tell her ex-fiancé that she’s knocked up with his little fire baby. It’s proving difficult to find the right moment when her baby daddy is clearly focused on bringing down Nesbitt. Dawson is already freaked out by this pregnancy and what that means for her career as a firefighter. The woman has to drink decaf coffee for chrissakes — the last thing she needs is a reaction from Matt that would make her feel worse.

Firehouse 51 heads out on a call and Casey’s real emotions (mainly anger) finally reveal themselves. The gang arrives at the scene of your standard house fire, but there’s a problem: The neighbors have blockaded the street; they want the house, a supposed crack den, to burn regardless of who’s inside. It’s as horrible as it sounds. Boden gives 51 the go-ahead to use any means necessary in order to get through. For Matt Casey, this means hopping in a parked truck and ramming cars out of the way repeatedly.

It’s easy to imagine a reality in which Matt Casey loses himself to his anger, but something pulls him back, and that thing is love. After finally reaching the fire, Dawson and Otis are asked to evacuate the house next door, owned by, I think, the old guy from Up before he goes on his adventure. The man refuses to leave, which means Dawson and Otis are in the upstairs bedroom when the roof from the house on fire collapses and crashes into it. Casey’s first reaction is to run in after Dawson and later, when he gets a glimpse of Dawson’s charred coat, he realizes just how close he came to losing her.

Casey goes storming into Molly’s and only has eyes for Gabby Dawson. He tells her that after everything he’s been through, the only thing that makes sense to him is being with her and he’s never going to let her go again (um, SWOON). Somehow resisting the urge to mash her face with his face, Dawson finally tells Casey that she’s pregnant. They’re both overcome with emotion: joy, love, relief, exhaustion. This inevitable reunion has been such a long time coming, I’m sure even Otis and Herrmann are in the background crying.

The rest of the hour was filled with what we’ve come to expect from Chicago Fire. Severide butts heads with an authority figure, again. This time, he’s been stripped of his lieutenant rank and forced to work on his leadership skills (There’s no way that guy is ever abandoning 51, so let’s choose to ignore that empty threat.). The house is catching some — ahem, ahem — heat from the crack den neighbors for discrimination, which Boden will have to quash at some point. There’s a new candidate in town who I’m sure will be pushed around by 51 until he proves himself in some heroic way.

Are these the most innovative story lines to set up in your season premiere? Not really. But we’re not tuning in to Chicago Fire week after week, year after year, seeking “groundbreaking” television, are we? We tune in because we care about the men and women of Firehouse 51 just as much as they do. We tune in because we know each time we do, we’re going to get intense action sequences, beautiful people making life or death decisions, and some big emotional moments.

It’s comfort food TV, and I’m digging in.

Chicago Fire airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.

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Chicago Fire

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