'Chicago P.D.' Boss Previews "Reinvigorated" Unit, Next Potential Shakeup

Showrunner Matt Olmstead talks to THR about Ruzek's return, his relationship with Burgess and the trouble ahead for Lindsay and Halstead.
Elizabeth Sisson/NBC
'Chicago P.D.'

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Wednesday's episode of Chicago P.D., "Favor, Affection, Malice or Ill-Will."]

Is Chicago P.D.'s Adam Ruzek (Patrick John Flueger) finally back for good on Intelligence? After a month spent on an undercover assignment, he returned in the previous episode only to find his spot on the unit had been filled by Hank Voight's (Jason Beghe) former protégé, Kenny Rixton (Nick Wechsler). Instead, Ruzek was assigned to uniform duty at another district — a disheartening turn of events. However, his fate changed in the final moments of Wednesday's episode when Rixton revealed that Ruzek's father had done him a favor on the force way back when and Rixton repaid it by leaving Intelligence so that Ruzek could tag back in.

It was just the latest game of musical chairs up at District 21, after the departure of Roman (Brian Geraghty) in the season-three finale, Mouse's (Samuel Hunt) departure, Antonio's (Jon Seda) decision to move to the State's Attorney office and Burgess' (Marina Squerciati) promotion to Intelligence — the latter which was sent Ruzek running to a mysterious undercover assignment in the first place.

So what will this new yet old Intelligence Unit look like, especially given Ruzek and Burgess' surprising kiss last week? The Hollywood Reporter spoke with showrunner Matt Olmstead about a "reinvigorated" unit, the rocky road ahead for Lindsay (Sophia Bush) and Halstead (Jesse Lee Soffer) and the next member of the team that may be headed for the door.

Why was now the right time to bring Ruzek back into the fold from a writing standpoint?

When we decided to have Ruzek surprisingly leave Intelligence, we didn't want to have him come back the very next episode and have it be a complete wank storyline for the audience. So we really wanted to follow through on the threat and we were also born from the reality of the situation where that character's former fiancee who gave the ring back is now detailed up to the same unit — there's not just one unit in the Chicago police department — so to goose the storytelling, we had him leave. And so it had some nice ramifications for Burgess. Obviously it gave us the opportunity to bring in a new character for a good chunk of episodes. Nick Wechsler did a great job for us, and it was almost timed to where the audience is thinking, 'Oh, Ruzek's not back the next episode, he's not back the second episode — he might be gone, gone.'

So once they were hopefully lulled into believing that this character wasn't coming back and at the same time, lulled into really liking, after a bit of a rocky start, the Rixton character, just when Rixton is embraced by the unit and accepted by Burgess, here we have coming out of the shadows Ruzek now having come to terms with what he did and how much he missed Intelligence and wanting back in. As it turns out, it's not that easy. We wanted to not take the easy route of making a big deal that he's leaving and then, indeed, he does not leave the next episode.

What do you think that you and the writers got out of shaking up that dynamic now that you're writing for Ruzek again? What is the latest effect of his prolonged absence?

Again, having followed through on the threat of him leaving, he's had time to figure out what's important to him and being in Intelligence is clearly up on the list. So we're able to have a rejuvenated Ruzek come back into Intelligence and put the relationship aside, and focus on being a cop. All the things that we love about what Patrick Flueger brings to the role, we're able to reset and re-embrace without any kind of lingering relationship questions or private conversations or doubts.

Is it safe to assume that he's back as a member of the Intelligence now that Rixton gave up his spot? Or will he have to do more to win back Voight?

Yeah, no, he's back, which is why we wanted to have that transitional episode with him realizing that it's not that easy, so he's looking at being detailed not only back in uniform but not in the same district. But here, Rixton ironically knew his dad and did him a favor, and Rixton does the right thing and bows out so Ruzek can take his place.

How will his return impact the dynamic of the team as a whole going forward, given that this is the first Burgess and Ruzek will be working alongside each other long-term?

Yeah, I think their unit's kind of reinvigorated because the old adage of, 'You don't know what you got 'til it's gone.' They miss Ruzek, Burgess missed Ruzek and at a certain point had embraced the reality that he was gone. To get him back, it's just one of those things. What worked and what didn't work is kind of blown out and now they're back and just glad to be around each other.

How much will the two of them partner up? Obviously everyone is aware of their personal history together, including Voight.

I got my start on NYPD Blue, and the detective pairings were carved in stone. Here, we have kind of primary partnerships but then we also mix it up. And so even though Ruzek is back to partnering with Atwater (LaRoyce Hawkins), we do have Ruzek and Burgess going out on an interview. We do have Halstead dropping into an interview with Voight. So we like kind of mixing and matching as opposed to a traditional detective show where your partner is your partner, period.

What can you say about their personal relationship going forward after that kiss?

It was twofold. One, shamelessly, we wanted to go for the biggest impact possible on an episode out. Not only him returning and wanting to be back, but a kiss was as provocative as we felt we could get. Also, again, hopefully, embracing with the reality of the situation: She missed him so much, he missed her — it was one of those moments where you encounter somebody and you just get caught up in the moment. And they definitely got caught up in the moment and were drawn together, and shared this kiss, which is not what either one of them anticipated happening 10 seconds prior. But we're not playing the immediate aftermath of where they're now back where they started, [wondering], "Are we dating again?" They kind of learned their lesson again.

His undercover assignment and leaving the unit actually served a purpose. And, as writers we'll see the chemistry and we'll see what we need to do storytelling-wise. If we revisit it, we revisit it. But right now, it's a matter of getting him back on his feet and re-illustrating him as a viable cop as opposed to a lovelorn, lovesick, star-crossed young cop who doesn’t have his eye on the job, which was pointed out to him by Voight at some point. We wanted to reset him as a cop.

You also have Esai Morales coming on for an arc. What can you say about his character?

He appears in the 16th episode and we have him for, luckily, some episodes after that. It's just shaking up who Voight reports to and just a different authority figure coming in. Is he a wolf in sheep's clothing? Is he sincerely supportive of Intelligence and Voight? The irony being that he's a contemporary of Voight's, similar age, similar background, but here Voight's still in the trenches, so to speak, and Esai's character has ascended to a chief, so there's nice pairing between those two.

Esai was the lieutenant on NYPD Blue when I was there so, all these years later, to be able to work with him again is gratifying.

What are some of the other bigger stories coming up this season as you head into the season finale?

Beyond some really great cases that we have coming up, we're definitely looking into … Bunny (Markie Post) is always around in terms of Lindsay and her life. We definitely tease a little secret that at least Bunny's convinced of, in terms of perhaps the amount of intimacy she may have had with Voight. So we definitely advance that storyline and we want to have it hit a crescendo here later in the season. That's one thing that we're really, right now, stocking a lot of C4 explosives and setting the charge and we're going to be ready to detonate here by the end of the season for sure. (Laughs.)

As all this Bunny drama is coming to a head, what can you say about Lindsay and Halstead's relationship going forward?

We are having the Lindsay-Halstead relationship begin to wobble because, as anybody will tell you, in one-hour TV obviously when you have a happy couple, at a certain point, there's a sameness to that. Where's the conflict? So we definitely throw a wrench in episode 17 into their relationship, a little window into Halstead's past that she wasn’t aware of, that he wasn’t very forthcoming about. That definitely knocks them sideways. Going forward, is it a fateful blow to the relationship or are they able to repair it? We definitely have those two having to assess and do inventory on themselves individually and their relationship as a whole.

And then, again, we don't want to just have that Bunny story chase its tail for season after season. It has to advance, and so we're looking to really hit a crescendo on the Bunny storyline and does that affect where Lindsay and Halstead are? And I foresee that happening.

There's been some distance between Lindsay and Voight this season as she's grown closer to Halstead. Will this rocky patch for her and Halstead bring her back into Voight's orbit at all?

Not really. We have a line coming up in one of the episodes that Voight is seeing a little bit of discord between the two of them and he pulls Halstead aside and says very plainly, "We've already had this conversation. I already warned you two. Either clear it up and do your job, or you're gone." That's unfair to Halstead, because he's siding with his daughter essentially. But he's looking at Halstead as, "You're the one that went into this with your eyes wide open." And we also want to protect Voight. We don't want him to be the bubbling dad who they constantly are putting stuff by and though he wags his finger and says, "Don't do it," they do it anyway. That's not Voight. So there is definitely an ultimatum laid out to Halstead this has to be cleared up and there's no more conversations after this.

So now the concern turns from Ruzek's future to Halstead's.

Absolutely. There's an ultimatum issued by Voight: "This isn't going to happen again. You guys are either looking at each other longingly or fighting. It wasn't supposed to happen to begin with. I let it slide for various reasons. It's not going to happen again."

Have you figured out what the season finale is? Can you say at all how will it be different from years past?

We haven't. We definitely want a provocative ending; we definitely want what all shows want — a cliffhanger. I don't foresee it being the death of a loved one, since that was the end of last season. For a couple reasons: One, you don't want to repeat yourself in terms of the loved one and it's a shock. We played it, we felt, effectively at the end of last season, when Voight's son was killed. Also, when you do that, you realize that when you come back at the beginning of the next season — knock on wood, we'll come back next season — you're treading water in terms of having to resurrect a character, get characters through mourning, get other characters through their mourning or concern for that character. You're not shot out of a canon, you're coming from a funeral essentially. So being mindful of those things, I don't foresee it being the death of a character, but I definitely foresee something provocative. We're in the process of breaking the last two episodes right now.

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Chicago P.D. airs Wednesday, March 1, at a special time, 9 p.m. ET/PT, as part of a three-hour crossover with Chicago Fire (8 p.m.) and Chicago Justice (10 p.m.) on NBC.

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