Chicago Fire is an ensemble show and by nature that can make it a little harder sometimes for consistent individual performances to stand out — especially across 22 episodes. So much can shift, evolve, and change within that span of time that it can be difficult to remember what happened in November when you’re watching in May.
On the flip side of this, the format does allow for exceptional performances to pop — when you have something that stands out from the norm it’s impossible to not take notice. It’s a line of dialogue, a single episode, or a whole story arc that sticks with you. It just feels different; it’s that “oh, I don’t see this every episode” feeling.
That is what we found with Taylor Kinney’s performance across Chicago Fire season 7.
The latest Kelly Severide arc was one laden with emotional challenges. We’re talking here about a story of grief. Kelly loses his father Benny over the first half of the season and following that you see him go through a multitude of stages. You can wonder if he’s hit all 5 stages of grief or not, but what matters is that you see his pain, his rage, his stillness, and also his sorrow. You see this character do a series of things that are not necessarily likable or popular, but are a part of his own process and that’s something that everyone can relate to. Severide is a character with a self-destructive streak — he doesn’t necessarily know how to recognize when things are strong and stable. When they are, maybe he just expects the other shoe to drop and, when it does he uses that to surge into all of his prior impulses. That includes shutting out the people he loves and developing inconsistent behavior patterns. He pushed Stella Kidd away and even still he’s trying to find a way to establish a sense of recovery.
For Kinney, what made all of this work was his willingness to take on this subject matter, and go into some dark, difficult corners. He’s made sure to access different, vulnerable parts of Kelly that we haven’t seen before. He’s shown us elements of his pain, and then a good bit of subtlety when the character tries to hide it. He’s still been the same, heroic firefighter you’ve seen through the past several seasons, but there are little moments where you see how he’s different. He plays the character with a better understanding of life, and also the differences between himself and Benny.
Sometimes it can be hard to play a likable character when they’re doing things that aren’t necessarily in their best interest — and we certainly saw that from Severide throughout a good bit of this season through his spiral of self-sabotage. Yet, Kinney committed fully to it, delivering a side of Severide that was broken and couldn’t figure out how to climb out of the hole. At times, you questioned if he even wanted to. In order to get where we are now with the character, and also where we could be moving forward, we needed to get to that point with him. We needed to see that degree of sadness. Now that we have, it unlocks a possibility for even more powerful stuff for the rest of the season.
Taylor Kinney’s Emmy odds
Without a doubt, he’s an underdog, mostly because almost every actor on a network show in 2019 is. It’s so hard for any of them to emerge as a serious contender when cable shows/newer series often get the primary focus. Make no mistake though — Taylor is worthy of consideration for this powerful arc, whether it be how he carried the character physically or how he took Severide mentally down some difficult roads. We always want to believe that Kelly can find some stability and happiness, and maybe that is possible; yet, it’s hard to fully move away from some of your past tendencies, especially when you’re dealing with some of the most difficult circumstances of your entire life. Taylor’s performance showed that, but it also shows hope — both things are important in order for this story to feel complete.
New episodes of Chicago Fire resume Wednesday night on NBC. If you want to get some additional scoop for what’s ahead, be sure to visit the link here.
Do you think that Taylor Kinney’s performance on Chicago Fire season 7 was truly Emmy-worthy? Be sure to share right now in the comments, and check back soon for more news. (Photo: NBC.)