Art imitates life in a very unfortunate way on Wednesday's episode of Chicago P.D.
When Burgess (Marina Squerciati) and Roman (Brian Geraghty) are ambushed while in their patrol car, Roman is critically wounded and Burgess pursues the gunman on foot. She ends up tracking the suspect down and shooting him in the back — but did she get the right guy? The person she fires on turns out to be a 17-year-old high school honor student, who also happens to be black. (The episode will also serve as the backdoor pilot for Chicago Justice, after the State Attorney's Office starts to investigate the shooting.)
"She thinks she did the right thing the whole time, and doesn't waver from that," Squerciati tells TVGuide.com. "I feel like this is a stronger, more fury-infused Burgess than you've ever seen."
Chicago, of course, has been a focal point of the Black Lives Matter movement, with thousands of people protesting the deaths of black suspects in police custody. Last month, a Police Accountability Task Force commissioned by Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued a report claiming that Chicago police officers "have no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color." The report found that 74 percent of people killed or injured by the Chicago Police Department over the past eight years were African-American.
With tensions between citizens and law enforcement at an unprecedented level, Chicago's real-life homicide rate has simultaneously spiked, with more than 200 slayings recorded since the start of the year.
Chicago P.D. showrunner Matt Olmstead told TVGuide.com that Burgess' shooting storyline was creator Dick Wolf's idea, based on the January shooting of a Philadelphia police officer as he sat in his patrol car. Squerciati says she wasn't concerned when Wolf approached her personally to pitch the delicate plotline.
"I was concerned when we didn't tackle it," Squerciati says. "We're a Chicago show, and to not touch the third rail would be kind of ludicrous. We're at the epicenter of what's going on between, unfortunately, 'Blue vs. Black,' which is a phrase that we use in the show. ... It's very important to sort of figure out how the two can come together and how they can work together, and what's gone wrong. We finally tackle it, and it's so important that [the show] talks about this very present thing that is happening right now."
Of course, the other problem that Burgess faces is that her and Roman's newly romantic relationship is exposed thanks to the shooting — and yes, Ruzek (Patrick John Flueger) is among those who find out they're an item. As a result, Assistant State Attorney Peter Stone (Chicago Justice star Philip Winchester) begins to question her motivations. "When the new character, Peter Stone, finds out about Burgess and Roman, the whole sort of crux of the case rests on, was this revenge?" Squerciati says. "Was I acting with my heart or was I acting with my head as a police officer?"
The answer probably falls somewhere between the two. The impact the shooting has on Burgess and her burgeoning relationship with Roman remains to be seen.
"He's devastatingly injured," Squerciati says. "It's such a brutal episode, because when our cops are fighting in the line of fire, you expect, OK, someone's probably going to get hurt. When they're just sitting in a car like sitting ducks, it's a pretty terrible, gut-wrenching moment. And then, what happens to Burgess in that moment is something Dick Wolf wanted to see. ... He wanted a rage, a fury. And I think I got there. When you ask someone to go to a place they've never been, they're clearly going to come back to a place they've never been as well. So she's a very different person going forward."
Chicago P.D. airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on NBC.
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