The Rookie's fifth season gave us several new dynamics to delve into, but nothing hit the sweet spot quite like the newfound love between Tim Bradford and Lucy Chen, affectionately dubbed Chenford by fans.
Evolving from a friendship to a romance, Chenford has captivated audiences.
After starting as a training officer and his rookie during the series' earlier seasons, Tim and Lucy began to develop deeper feelings for one another that threaded through The Rookie Season 4.
With their feelings and careers on the line, the pair decided to take the plunge during The Rookie Season 5 to finally see if their relationship was worth the effort, and the show dove headfirst into the romantic waters Chenford fans have been waiting for.
After sharing their first kiss on The Rookie Season 4 Episode 22, "Day In The Hole," Season 5 left the ex-TO and rookie to navigate their feelings for one another.
A romantic relationship may not have been the initial intention for the characters, but things changed for the storyline as the series progressed.
Between Tim and Lucy's affection for one another, the beautiful story that finally brought them together, and the chemistry between Eric Winter and Melissa O'Neil, the execution of Chenford finally getting together made The Rookie Season 5 a must-watch.
The Rookie's season openers often frame the story for the entire season, and for its fifth season premiere, the show couldn't have been more explicit in its messaging. The Rookie Season 5 Episode 1, "Double Down," featured two main storylines.
John Nolan and the team at Mid-Wilshire dealt with the trial and eventual escape of serial killer and The Rookie Season 2 big bad Rosalind Dyer. At the same time, Tim and Lucy went undercover as their doppelgängers, Jake Butler and Sava Wu, who were featured on The Rookie Season 4 finale.
Tim and Lucy's Season 5 Premiere Storyline Changed Everything
The Rookie's Season 5 premiere made it clear that Chenford would be a priority throughout the season, especially after they nearly cheated on their partners by the end of the episode.
Though Tim and Lucy were interested in one another by the end of the season premiere, the flame went out quickly when Tim used Lucy's invitation to an elite undercover program to give her an out and absolve her of some guilt.
Chenford spent several episodes pining after one another as they both managed to step out of their relationships with guest stars Chris (Kanoa Goo) and Ashley (Helena Mattsson). By the midseason, Lucy had told Tim he was "the most important relationship of [her] life," and Tim had asked her out on a date.
The buildup to Chenford's relationship was a masterclass in how to move a TV relationship from the will-they-won't-they stage to the oh-this-is-happening stage.
After their first kiss, it was clear that Tim and Lucy were starting to feel like more than friends, but when the Season 5 premiere doubled down on their feelings for one another, it was no longer a question of if Chenford would happen, but when.
Still, the possibility that the dynamic could've gone south was real. Tim and Lucy's story had always been handled with excellent care, ensuring they never crossed the line into a full-blown romance until well after she was his subordinate. Romance, however, was new territory.
The Rookie's fifth season took an interesting turn once Chenford began dating. The buildup to their relationship had been so beautifully done, creating nuance and depth to the story by allowing both characters to take a step back and understand how meaningful their bond was.
By the time feelings were made clear, Chenford had taken on more open, honest conversations than some of the other established relationships in the series. Still, many were left wondering where the relationship would go.
Typically, the buildup culminates in a couple getting together. Some were left believing that if Chenford were already together, the stakes would be lower, and the story would inevitably fall flat.
However, the couple had other issues to deal with that ebbed and flowed throughout the season and continued to test their dynamic.
Can Chenford's Relationship Withstand Their Issues?
Throughout The Rookie Season 5, Tim and Lucy dealt with issues within their careers that highlighted the nature of their relationship.
The story between the characters has nearly always hinged on the fact that Tim was once Lucy's boss, and The Rookie didn't shy away from the fact that a romantic relationship between the two would be problematic for their careers, especially Lucy's.
After both characters attempted to make sacrifices for one another, Tim moved to an entirely different LAPD division, leaving the couple with several lingering issues. Tim's trust in Lucy was shaken by the move, which she'd orchestrated behind his back.
Along with Tim's new position came longer hours and less time together, which both began to understand as time went on.
Circling back to a thread that's been running through the entire series, The Rookie brought another issue into Chenford's story with the return of Tim's ex-wife Isabel (Mircea Monroe), highlighting his insecurities around Lucy's chosen path, undercover work.
While Chenford were together and tremendously happy in their relationship, the real issues that cropped up around them throughout the season made their relationship feel more authentic and layered than others have in the past.
The nuance that is carefully carved into Tim and Lucy's relationship is a testament to the work of The Rookie's immaculate writing team.
The Rookie's showrunner Alexi Hawley has spoken candidly about the relationship needing to be done by the books in the past, knowing there was a responsibility not to glamorize a power imbalance within the couple.
The Rookie's Season 5 Chenford Storyline Was Beautifully Crafted
It's clear that when it came to Chenford, the writers were careful not to go too far in any direction.
With incredibly grounded storytelling that allows the characters to live with some challenging emotions, The Rookie has crafted one of the most realistic relationships on television.
One of the most beautiful parts of Chenford's growth this past season has been watching Winter and O'Neil play with brand-new parts of a well-worn dynamic.
Their chemistry has been evident since the beginning of the series, but with Tim and Lucy finally giving in to their desires, the actors have gotten to access a new space in their performance.
Seeing Tim and Lucy's shorthand with one another, the consistently tactile nature of their interactions, and the way they fundamentally understand one another hasn't been something built overnight.
Winter and O'Neil's tireless work building Tim and Lucy as separate characters through the years, together with their shared dynamic, has led to the newest iteration of their relationship, allowing both actors to shine in their moments together, no matter how quiet.
Putting Tim and Lucy together after such a long, at times unbearable, wait could have been an enormous mistake for The Rookie.
Using Chenford to anchor the series' fifth season by building their dynamic into the plot allowed the actors to shine and ultimately elevated the series entirely, pushing it into uncharted territory.
With more powerful stories on the horizon for Tim and Lucy with The Rookie Season 6, it feels like a guarantee that watching this 'ship sail will be more than satisfying.
Cher Thompson is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on X.