I was really torn which direction to take in my review of "A Coffin That Small."
There was a lot happenings at the firehouse and a lot of it will be relevant in coming weeks... but none of it really stands out against what I took away while I watched, as tears streamed down my face several times during the hour.
It's interesting that this particular episode was aired on the day NBC announced a possible spinoff series, based upon a Chicago police department, because I don't see how any show about the police could pack as powerful of a punch as one hour of Chicago Fire does. The biggest reason for this comes from something Herman said in this Chicago Fire quote:
We're not cops. People are happy to see a firefighter arrive. | permalink
The horrific nature of the first scene they were called to by the brother of a victim trapped in a laundry shoot just down the street from the firehouse set the tone for the entire episode. Upside down, his head at an unnatural angle making it difficult to breathe, we were already clued in by the title of the installment that he wasn't going to make it.
It shook everybody to their core, but even more so when they learned from the victim's mother one of his proudest moments had been when his class took a field trip to the firehouse. Upon his return home, he announced he would one day be a firefighter himself. She carried that memory with her because she knew his dream would always keep him away from the gangs so close on his heels, always trying to find a way to drag him in. Even at that young age, they come calling.
Mouch, Hermann and Boden attended a funeral for an old friend, a retired firefighter. On the way there, we got to learn a bit more about them. I never knew Mouch and Hermann grew up together. Hermann complained that he had lost touch with his older brother and father because they had a special bond he couldn't share since his brother followed his father into the sock business and he went his own route to be a firefighter. Mouch urged him to call his father, but the hurt of the un-returned call was more than he could bear.
They got to the funeral - and it was empty. Hermann was shocked. The man had family. He was a hero. Where was the truck? Where were his sons, the men to honor him? Another great quote:
He deserved a funeral with respect for all of his service, and just because he waited a dozen years to die and moved out to the sticks doesn't mean he wasn't a hero. | permalink
My own grandfather was a fire commissioner. He was retired, but remained active with his house until he died. I know the feeling you have when your loved one receives the honor of a heroes funeral. My grandfather didn't have a hearse, but rode on the back of a firetruck he restored. We rode past the house with the flag flying at half staff. To be a fireman and know what your friend had achieved, but see him so alone at the end must be very distressing. It certainly was to Hermann.
The next day they received the news that the little boy hadn't survived. His mother delivered his picture to the house, knowing he would want them to have it. He was dressed as a firefighter. Boden used it as a rally call to pull together and put all of their crap behind them. Once they saw him, it was easy to recall his smiling and excited face from the class trip. Everyone was touched.
Hermann decided to call his father, but his call wasn't returned. Mouch kept in better touch with Hermann's family than he did, so he took him over to the family business where his brother welcomed him with open arms. While Hermann's father was out of town, his brother took him into his office and showed him something he needed to see. An entire wall in dedication to his son, the firefighter. Framed newspaper articles, awards, family photos - apparently it was hard to shut him up about how proud he was. If Hermann hadn't been so afraid to make the call, he might have found out the same was true from his father.
In the last scene, as the local gang bangers stood around looking at the funeral procession driving by, a mother and a son looked out their window and saw an entire firehouse in full dress blues, flag flying at half staff, in a salute to their lost son. The boy who would never join a gang because he wanted to be a firefighter, and an honorary hero.
Firefighters change lives. They save them, provide safe haven when needed and don't pass judgement. In order to do their jobs, they must all support each other and work as a family. If they don't the unit starts to break. It's happening in Firehouse 51, but it it will still be happening next week, and those darker discussions can be saved for then. This week is about the good. The honor. The lifesaving.
I don't know how they can pull that off with a series about police, but I wish them the best.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.