[Warning: The following contains spoilers from Wednesday's fall finale of Chicago Fire. Read at your own risk!]
The winter finale of Chicago Fire answered the question many fans have been asking throughout the entire tenth season: Where the hell is Stella Kidd (Miranda Rae Mayo)? The wannabe lieutenant has been away teaching fire departments across the country how to implement her "Girls on Fire" mentorship program in their own cities — leading many to wonder if she'd ever return, and how her engagement to Kelly Severide (Taylor Kinney) would fare. But in the closing moments of the ninth episode, "Winterfest," Kidd returned.
She has plenty to face when the show returns from hiatus in 2022, like the fact that she basically ghosted her fiancé and her job, and Chief Boden (Eamonn Walker) decided to offer the vacant lieutenant position to newcomer Pelham (Brett Dalton). Showrunner Derek Haas hopped on the phone with TV Guide to discuss Stella's big return; the booming beer business for Violet (Hanako Greensmith), Gallo (Alberto Rosende), and Ritter (Daniel Kyri); Mouch (Christian Stolte) and Herrmann's (David Eigenberg) latest exploits; Cruz's (Joe Minoso) new parenthood; Brett's (Kara Killmer) paramedicine program; and a new love triangle.
Thank you for answering the biggest question of all, which is where the hell is Stella.
Derek Haas: We are very, very glad that we got Miranda back. And in fact, we knew she was going to be able to come back for the 10th episode, but I was like, oh, maybe we could still get her in the ninth episode. So thanks to her we were able to do it and yeah, what a way to end.
It's a Christmas miracle. So, what is going on here? What is going to go on between Stella and Severide? And then there's the whole Lieutenant question.
Haas: Well, it's exactly what you're describing. There are a few sticky spots because of Kidd being gone as long as she was and not really communicating well, with both Boden and Severide, and those two things are basically how are she and Severide doing as a couple, and then second, what about this Lieutenant spot that was on truck 81 and she didn't come and claim it and now the spot has been claimed by Pelham? So those are two things that can drive the plots of upcoming episodes and so you'll be seeing more of that.
What can you hint at in terms of this engagement, which she dropped the ball on a little bit. You're probably supposed to be a little more open with your partner when you're going on your little walkabout or whatever.
Haas: What you're saying is exactly what Severide's going to say to her in the next episode. Severide himself is not the greatest communicator, but he's never really had Stella go dark on him, so to speak. That's a new feeling for him, and he's gonna want to talk about it. You'll see it in the next episode. You won't have to wait too long. I'm not saying it's going to get all resolved in the next episode, but at least it's going to be talked about.
Career-wise for Severide, he's obviously good at this arson investigation thing. Is there a future in that for him? If he were to consider pursuing that more could he remain around 51?
Haas: Arson investigation for us is always interesting because you've got a very hard-to-prove crime, and you've got a million different scenarios just like a police show is about how did this crime happen? Making Severide interested in arson and having a knack for it lends itself to some cool stories that we just normally wouldn't tell in a show about just a firehouse. So we're definitely bringing that back. We've been reading a lot of interesting articles about cases and the way they can go in any direction. 'Was it an insurance claim? Was this even arson?' is, to us, interesting, and then you throw Seager and Van Meter into the mix, and we just think that's fun. They love Severide. They want him to work there. And that makes it fun for us, to be able to push him into those stories and pull them back out. There'll be a few more of those before the year is over. You haven't seen the last of Seager.
This Santa storyline with Mouch and Herrmann, and caring more than they used to for the people that they're rescuing. What brought that storyline on?
Haas: That was talking to an older group of firefighters. It's funny because now I've worked on the show 10 years so I've known some of these guys when they were in their early 40s and now they're in their early 50s, and hearing them say that there's this cumulative effect that things that they didn't care about or could push to the back of their mind and really just forget about sometimes stay with them more the longer they've been on the job and in the fire department. And I thought okay, this is really an interesting topic to be discussed and I needed a good Mouch-Herrmann story anyway, so I just thought, oh, this could fit in with the holiday episode.
Sometimes they just make mischief together, and this was very heartfelt.
Haas: And the other thing is that usually when you are in the fire department you do your job, you get the guy out of the car, you pull the guy from behind the fence or whatever is your thing, and then you're off to the next one. You never see or never even know did what I helped with lead to a long and happy life, or was that a tragedy that will never resolved? And we do that a lot on this show, so I thought it would be nice to see a story that went all the way through and you see what became the victim.
It's interesting to think about what happened with Casey's exit in terms of getting long-term closure and looking at characters ten years after.
Haas: You watch the show, and we've talked a bunch — I love these 'bring back unresolved storylines or characters that you haven't seen in years.' We have some more of those planned.
Can you tease any more about that?
Haas: In a comedic storyline - this isn't set in stone, but this is what we're talking about: that the original owner of Molly's who sold the bar to Christopher Herrmann way back in season one returns. But that's not set in stone yet.
Let's talk about Violet, Gallo and Ritter. First of all, their beer comedy of errors, what's going on with that? Is this going to have a legitimate effect on their friendships? Or is this something that they'll maybe be able to overcome in the second half of the season?
Haas: I think in the trio, the Three Musketeers, I most relate to Ritter who is just kind of looking at these others like, okay, we're trying to do business here. Why does everything have to be a drama with the two of you? And always leading to the demise of whatever thing that they're working on. So we've been teasing Winterfest for a long time, since the season began, and so to make that the culmination of a bunch of different stories — working at the other brewery, Gallo not being able to tell his feelings to Violet because she was on medication, him still dating Cara who works for the brewery that could give them a leg up — all of those things seemed like ripe ground for this holiday episode.
Sorry Gallo, I don't feel bad for you. He's a little bit of an f-boy who's like, 'Oh, now I want her and now I can't have her.' She deserves better!
Haas: He missed his chance. And Hawkins [Jimmy Nicholas] is really cool. The problem with Hawkins is that he's her boss so that's going to be complicated. We love these tangled messes.
I'd also like to say that they're two very attractive people and I personally love to watch two attractive people smooch on my TV, so I'm all for it. This show has some good fires and also good kisses. That flirtation does seem like something we might see continue but is Gallo going to try to throw a wrench in this?
Haas: Yeah, I think Gallo is regretting his actions of three episodes ago and Violet and he have an interesting, kind of explosive chemistry that's been going on for years now. So that is attractive. I think sometimes we're attracted to drama. I think yes, Gallo might be throwing a wrench in. We just want everyone to be happy!
It seems like Pelham is going to be sticking around for a minute. What can you say about him?
Haas: Yeah, Pelham is going to be sticking around for a minute. You saw Boden offer him the lieutenant spot in this episode, which puts him rightfully in the firehouse family now. This is a guy who bounced around through no fault of his own. In fact, it was pretty heroic what he was doing to sacrifice his own career so that another guy wouldn't get jammed up in his time of need. This is his first landing spot and 51 as we know is an incredible house and getting to work with Boden would be any firefighter's dream. So he's not ready to just skip on out of there because Kidd decided to return.
Let's talk about Brett. This paramedicine program was very important to her and we found out it finally got pushed over the finish line. What is she going to be focusing on in these new episodes?
Haas: Career-wise, she gets to now I don't want to say relax, but it is a big obstacle that she overcame. And we want to see Brett have a little bit more fun than all of the drama that she's had to deal with this season. So we're going to get to integrate her into some of the more funny storylines. Work-wise everything's good. I do think she's a little nervous about Violet vis a vis Hawkins because of that relationship of being boss and employee, so she's going to be wary of that but she's not a stick in the mud either. We're going to see Brett get to open up a little bit and have fun. And Kara is so funny, anyway. Sometimes we as writers just forget because we have all this drama going on on the show and then it's like, oh yeah, Kara's hilarious, let's put her in that storyline.
Now, the long-distance relationship with Casey - we saw how this is this new normal is going to play out. Are we still going to get periodic references to FaceTimes or calls or visits?
Haas: Yeah, they're solid. She's going to go see him at some point in the season. We're also going to have a - talking about bringing characters back from past seasons, we haven't seen her half-sister Amelia. That was because of the COVID situation, we couldn't have that small of an actress on the set, but now we've gotten the go-ahead so we have an Amelia-Scott episode - Scott was the dad - coming up. And with Casey, yeah, things are solid. It's just complications of a long-distance relationship, but they're not breaking up anytime soon.
And then we have Cruz, dad to a newborn. So I assume that's where he is presently.
Haas: It's true. In fact, just yesterday we were like, we need some Cruz pitches for the end of the season. Cruz has been pretty good. He's got the kid now and there is a funny one coming up where he's trying to nail down the preschools and those aren't easy to get into sometimes, ao we've got a funny one coming with him and a preschool. He wants to get into this preschool, or at least get signed up. You have to be way ahead on these things. So that's coming, but as far as drama and stuff, we've still got to figure out what we're going to do for him towards the end of the season.
I fear he's a little bit too happy right now. So maybe we should worry! You mentioned we'll see some familiar faces, but is there anything else exciting coming up you want to mention?
Haas: There's a huge one of those calls that takes up more than just one commercial break where there's a hazmat situation und the city and Lower Wacker, which is the road that basically tunnels under the city. That one comes up and then becomes a really harrowing call but also an emotional one for Ritter, who finds someone else in the same situation he was in when he joined the show, which happened in the tower fire. Any time we get Daniel an episode like this, he just crushes it. It turned out great. That's coming up.
Chicago Fire returns Wednesday, Jan. 5 at 9/8c on NBC.