It's been a hot minute since we got a Kevin Atwater-focused episode, but it wasn't surprising that he found himself torn and conflicted after being thrust into yet another black vs. blue debate.
Atwater has always known that when it comes to matters of black versus blue, there's a bit of a gray area that doesn't lean in his favor.
While I've been wanting the series to give Atwater the ability to explore different moral conflicts, at the same time, the episode was so powerful and relevant, that I can't bring myself to complain.
It also sets up an interesting dynamic moving forward as it pins Atwater (with the backing of Intelligence) against high-ranking officials in the police force.
Tommy Doyle: It’s fun, the whole undercover thing. It’s kind of like being an actor.
Atwater: Yeah, except these bullets are real.
And it perfectly and necessarily highlights the corruption that goes on within an institution that should be (keyword) trusted by all citizens of different walks of life.
In my review of Chicago PD Season 6 Episode 13, I noted that whenever an episode focuses on Atwater, I find myself with this "pit-of-my-stomach anxiety that I can't seem to shake," and more than a year later, that still rings true.
As in previous episodes, LaRoyce Hawkins brought his best work to navigate a particularly layered and emotionally complex episode.
Atwater was forced to work alongside troubling ally, Tommy Doyle. You might remember him as the racist cop who previously pointed a gun at him when he was undercover, so we knew things were bound to get ugly. We just didn't know how ugly.
Doyle is dead cause of Doyle. He did it to himself cause he’s a racist son of a bitch.Atwater
Doyle went from being a street cop to a detective following his messy altercation with Atwater because clearly, Chicago rewards racist behavior.
Kenny assured Voight that the promotion was because Doyle was hard-working and didn't have anything to do with the fact that he came from three generations of cops, but we know that's not true.
His problematic behavior was excused and a blind eye was turned because of the people he knew.
Now, I'm not saying all of his friends and supporters are equally as racist as he is, but his father did make a rather questionable comment about Kevin's "great Irish name," so do with that what you will.
At first, Doyle and Atwater played nice. Doyle apologized for what happened in the past (which Atwater forgave but did not forget) and even jumped in to save Atwater's life while undercover by standing in front of a gun.
Tommy Doyle: A lot of buyers in Chicago and you bring this.
J Hawk: The only color Reed cares about is green.
Atwater is a good, professional cop who always puts aside his personal conflicts, so it wasn't surprising that they swiftly took down the head of the illegal gun-trafficking ring.
Doyle figured the win called for a celebration and despite Atwater's objections, the two went to grab "one beer."
Man, I wish Atwater just went home to have the chill night that he had planned instead.
At first, I couldn't figure out where the storyline was headed when Doyle began bringing up the past during their drive.
One thought was that Doyle simply putting on an act and would try to lash out at Atwater when they were alone.
When that didn't happen, I thought maybe they'd run into trouble and Doyle would get shot, which would put Atwater in a questionable situation.
What happened instead was much worse.
Doyle spotted a black man in a bad neighborhood walking with a duffel and immediately assumed that the guy was up to no good. He didn't consider that maybe the guy was coming home from the gym but rather targeted him based on his skin color.
When Atwater asked if he made the assumption because the man was black, Doyle flat out said, "yeah."
Some people want to believe they aren't racist, but they have deeply ingrained and preconceived beliefs that they can't seem to shake.
Atwater: I’m telling you what I should have told u earlier. There was no probable cause. Doyle saw a black man walking down the street and started profiling.
Voight: And that man was Sean Page?
Atwater: He wasn’t doing anything suspicious. He was just a black man in a bad neighborhood holding a duffel, and Doyle started following him. Eyeballing him. Hopped out of the car. Jammed him up. And that’s when everything popped off.
That was the case with Doyle.
No one could be blamed for Doyle's death but Doyle. He died because he purposefully put himself in a terrible situation for absolutely no reason.
There was no probable cause to invoke a routine "stop and frisk" while he was off-duty.
But even if you want to argue that there was reasonable suspicion and that Doyle assessed the situation correctly because they were in a gang zone, Doyle didn't conduct himself properly.
His bias clouded his judgment, and he made up his mind about him before he even pulled over the car.
No, let me tell you how it is. Kevin Atwater is like a son to me. You go after him, you better come after me too.Voight
Then, Doyle entered the premises without waiting for backup and got shot. It's honestly hard to have any sympathy for him.
Atwater did his best to save him under the circumstances, but Doyle succumbed to his injuries.
It wasn't immediately clear as to why Atwater didn't tell Voight the truth, but in retrospect, it all happened so fast.
Atwater didn't know what happened between Doyle and the offenders before entering the property and likely saw the drugs and assumed he made the right call.
However, when Intelligence brought in the two offenders aka the "cop killers," he realized that he was simply avoiding the truth because it was too real and raw.
The offenders revealed that Doyle waltzed in there, called them "monkeys," and fired his gun first, which prompted them to defend themselves.
Again, it doesn't matter if the place was a drug den in a bad neighborhood because at the time of the attack, they weren't doing anything wrong. They fired back as protection after an unknown man walked onto their premises and killed their friend.
Doyle wasn't even in uniform, so we don't know if he announced himself upon entering or if they even knew he was a cop.
Initially, Voight was adamant about bringing these cop killers to justice, but once Atwater told him what happened, Voight changed his tune and realized they had a much bigger problem on their hands.
While honesty is usually encouraged, Atwater was warned against telling the truth for several reasons.
Voight didn't try to sway his decision or change his mind -- which I loved -- but he did want Atwater to understand the gravity of his actions.
Telling the truth had a range of implications from minor to major: the drug dealers would walk, the city would be sued, and the CPD would be dragged through the mud.
None of that mattered to Voight except for the intense internal affairs investigation and the repercussions of tarnishing the name of a respected cop.
Doyle had so many people in his corner protecting him that they would come after Atwater with everything they had.
He was basically risking his job to tell the truth.
Was it worth it?
I kept wondering why no one pulled surveillance footage from the street as that would likely prove Atwater's claim about Doyle's erratic behavior, but I guess it didn't serve the storyline.
Voight told Atwater to ask himself how badly he "wanted to be right," but being right and doing the right thing are not the same.
There was no right or wrong answer here because in these situations, there never is.
There's no telling that speaking up and speaking out will invoke any real change, as Ray Price pointed out.
Price, a man who once had power, navigated the power dynamics, and still lost to the system, made some decent points that summed up how the world works.
His advice can be applied to many instances where you find yourself conflicted about whether or not to speak out against injustice. Props to the writer who put that monologue together.
Being a hero, being brave, is hard. It don’t pay the bills or do much else. The only thing it does get you is peace of mind. And the belief that you made a difference. And it’s that belief, that feeling that has to be good enough because if you expect more… if you’re looking for praise or high fives, ain’t nobody coming. And the hardest part, no matter how principled you’re going to be or how big the damn stand you decide to take, the odds of something actually changing for the better are close to zero.Ray Price
One of his points resonated the most -- could Atwater do more day-to-day while on the force?
Maybe he could, but he has been for years. Staying silent on oppression, letting innocent men (in this instance) take the fall, and championing a man that didn't deserve to be hailed as a hero was not something he could live with.
He didn't need Ray's opinion because deep down, he already had the answer. It's a situation that constantly presents itself and will continue to present itself until someone does something about it.
We've seen many empires collapse, even ones deemed untouchable, simply because someone dared to speak out. Sometimes, all it takes is one person.
Atwater owed it to himself to tell the truth.
It was also deeply personal for him because he knew how easily he could have been the innocent black man that was racially profiled.
You'd think that telling the truth would be encouraged by people who protect and enforce the law, but I guess the law only applies when it works in your favor.
Once he did, he was essentially bullied and threatened by all of Doyle's people.
While I'm terrified of what will happen next and hope this isn't some ploy to write Atwater off the show, I respect him so much for understanding the risk and choosing to speak his truth and stand up for his beliefs anyway.
He's a bigger man than most, especially Doyle.
While it doesn't seem like Voight believes he can protect Atwater, it's comforting to know Intelligence will have his back no matter what.
The last scene of the episode was hauntingly powerful and emphasized the size of the target that Atwater has on his back.
There's a war brewing in Chicago, and it has nothing to do with drugs, guns, or gangs.
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It's been great discussing with you all -- until next season!