Chicago Fire

Ranking Every Season Of Chicago Fire From Worst To Best

Airing its first episodes in 2012, NBC’s “Chicago Fire” was produced by Dick Wolf, the television legend behind the “Law & Order” franchise. Centered on a group of firefighters and paramedics in the Windy City, the show proved a massive hit for the network and eventually spawned its own universe of shows, with spin-offs “Chicago P.D.,” “Chicago Med,” and the short-lived “Chicago Justice.” Together, the three constitute what is known as the “One Chicago” franchise.

At the heart of “Chicago Fire” are the group of dedicated, life-saving heroes of Firehouse 51 led by Chief Boden (Eamonn Walker) and firefighters that include Matt Casey (Jesse Spencer), Kelly Severide (Taylor Kinney), and Christopher Hermann (David Eigenberg). The groups also work with the paramedics of Ambulance 61: Gabriela Dawson (Monica Raymund), Leslie Shay (Lauren German), and Sylvie Brett (Kara Killmer), among others. A fresh take on the under-represented firefighter genre, “Chicago Fire” boasts some big action set pieces, mixing them with fiery romantic drama and tender, heartfelt stories of friendship, love, loyalty, and loss.

One of the best procedurals on television, the series has built a diehard fanbase over the last decade-plus and is famous for its nearly annual crossovers with other shows. From Season 1 to today, it’s delivered high-quality drama that stacks up with any show on the dial. With more than 200 episodes in its run and 11 total seasons so far, it’s time to answer the alarm and rank every season from worst to best.

Season 11

Stella helps a victim

The 11th — and at the time most recent — season of “Chicago Fire” is at the bottom of our list, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad by any stretch. In fact, it still ranks as fresh on Rotten Tomatoes’ user rankings, which only serves to underscore just how good the series is as a whole. The season continues multiple ongoing storylines, first and foremost being the relationship between Severide and Kidd, who were married in the Season 10 finale. But it also continues the story of Casey’s return to Chicago, where he must decide whether to reignite his relationship with Brett — even if he’s uncertain about what the future holds for them.

In a tragic twist, we also learn that Hermann’s wife Cindy has been diagnosed with lung cancer. Throughout the season, as her condition deteriorates, Hermann finds it harder and harder to handle. Meanwhile, Cruz is dealing with the pressure of being a new father, and Carver finds himself in trouble with the law.

“Completely Shattered” is one of the season’s best episodes, and it sees the squad battling an inferno that consumes a movie theater, while Severide assists in a police investigation. The season finale, “Red Waterfall” has Casey surprising everyone by popping the question to Brett, but the episode ends before we find out her answer. That’s not the only plot left dangling, as Mouch is mortally wounded after answering a call and bleeding out in his hospital bed, with his fate remaining unknown.

Season 1

Casey in the street

Perhaps surprisingly, “Chicago Fire” didn’t come out of the gate with a stellar start, and its first season wasn’t the show at its best. But there’s plenty the show does right, particularly in introducing a strong cast of characters, each of whom is dealing with their own struggles, both on the job and personally. Season 1 deals with a few ongoing storylines, beginning in the wake of the death of firefighter Andy Darden. As the squad at Firehouse 51 deals with the loss, Casey faces off with Darden’s widow Heather, who blames him for her husband’s untimely death.

Casey is also dealing with an ongoing shoulder injury that starts out as a minor problem before causing real issues, but that’s the least of his worries: his fiancee Hallie isn’t sure she wants to have children, and that decision could make or break their relationship. Meanwhile, his working relationship with fellow firefighter Gabriela Dawson complicates things on the job and off. The best episode in the show’s debut year remains “A Coffin That Small,” which forces the crew to deal with the death of a child that they fail to prevent while responding to an apartment fire.

Though it was a slow burn in Season 1, “Chicago Fire” found its footing by the season finale, “A Hell of a Ride.” That ending installment sees the squad responding to a call from the county prison and getting trapped inside after the facility loses power, and the inmates begin rioting.

Season 7

Fire crew looking anxious

Season 7 of “Chicago Fire” shook up the status quo a bit, welcoming new cast member Annie Ilonzeh to the series. She shows up as paramedic Emily Foster, who joins the ambulance team in the series premiere, “A Closer Eye.” That story also introduces Steven Boyer as Assistant Deputy Commissioner Jerry Gorsch, who serves as a foil to the firehouse as incoming Commissioner Grissom (Gary Cole) wants to change the culture at the firehouse.

The season gets a crossover in early, with its second episode “Going to War” beginning a three-part story that winds through “Chicago Med” and “Chicago P.D.,” opening with a massive apartment complex fire that traps one of the city’s finest inside with his aging father. The second crossover, “What I Saw,” midway through the season, involves another apartment complex. But this time it’s struck by a series of robberies that sends P.D. officers to the firehouse looking for help in ferreting out the suspect who they fear may be a fellow firefighter.

Foster faces her own trouble in her debut season, and once we slowly learn about her complicated past, she faces a dangerous stalker after going on a date with a handsome doctor. An ongoing arson case culminates in the dramatic season-ender, “I’m Not Leaving You,” which ends with a fire at a mattress factory that endangers the squad and forces the audience to wait until Season 8 to find out who lives and who dies.

Season 8

Boden in his firefighter gear

Resuming the factory fire story, Season 8 opens with the spectacular “Sacred Ground.” It sees the situation quickly escalate from panic to disaster — with countless lives at stake — and not everyone makes it, with the series losing a main cast member in the chaos. But after the painful loss of one of their own, Casey faces serious questions as blame for the disaster falls solely at his feet following a departmental inquiry.

The season may say goodbye to one series regular, but it quickly brings in a new one, too. The new face is Alberto Rosende, who joins the series as Blake Gallo, a new squaddie who some worry may be a bit too reckless on the job. More than just exhibiting risky behavior, though, Gallo doesn’t follow orders and quickly finds himself at odds with Casey and others for his adversarial attitude, until secrets from his past come to light.

Later, in part one of a two-part story that is concluded over on “Chicago P.D.,” the episode “Off the Grid” sees the squad helping to find the missing sister of a former patrol officer. “A Chicago Welcome” brings a new truck to the firehouse, and in the season finale, “51’s Original Bell,” an accident at a local factory imperils Capp’s career, and Severide is determined to find out how it could have happened. At the same time, Foster wonders if her future is really at Firehouse 51, or if she should go back to med school.

Season 4

Casey and Dawson in firefighter gear

Big trouble is brewing for multiple members of Firehouse 51 in Season 4 of “Chicago Fire,” starting with accusations of assault and battery against Chief Boden by a seductive neighbor. Levied with charges of brutality, the squad rallies together to try to get to the truth and clear his name. On the other end of the firehouse, Casey takes an undercover assignment investigating Nesbitt’s club, which is believed to be at the center of a human trafficking ring.

Meanwhile, Dawson is also dealing with a major upheaval, as her recently discovered pregnancy forces her out of the firehouse and into a desk job. But when she collapses one day at work, she risks losing the pregnancy in a stunning turn of events that will change their lives forever. The year’s crossover is kicked off in “The Beating Heart,” which begins with Hermann being brutally stabbed and requiring immediate life-saving surgery, leading into episodes of “Chicago Med” and “Chicago P.D.”

Standout episodes this season include “The Sky is Falling” which deals with a mass shooting, and “Last One for Mom,” which puts Severide in the middle of one of the most emotionally gut-wrenching stories the series ever saw when Detective Holloway leaves her son in his care and tragedy strikes. Season 3 closes out with “Superhero,” in which the death of a loved one creates a troubling situation for Borelli, while Casey and Dawson fight to foster a young boy who they saved from a fire.

Season 3

Severide squints

Season 3 of “Chicago Fire” couldn’t quite match the brilliance of its previous year, but it’s still a solid entry. It also picks up right where the cliffhanger episode “Real Never Waits” left off, with members of Firehouse 51 trapped inside a burning building that had exploded before the credits rolled, leaving their fate up in the air. The Season 3 premiere begins with the shocking death of a major character, and the crew finds it hard to cope with the loss.

Things get worse, however, when it’s learned that the explosion was no accident, and an arsonist may have targeted them. Severide, however, feels responsible for the tragedy and decides to track down the person responsible, ultimately learning that their friend’s death wasn’t the perpetrator’s first victim. Otis, meanwhile, gets suspicious of a new squad member, who may be lying about having faulty equipment.

Season 3 also features the episode “I Am the Apocalypse,” which puts the crew in peril at the city hospital when a deranged psychopath holds the entire building hostage under threat of a deadly airborne toxin. The episode was a backdoor pilot for the third franchise series, “Chicago Med,” and is still one of the best episodes of the series. The season also includes “Nobody Touches Anything” and “We Called Her Jellybean,” episodes that serve as part of two separate three-way crossovers with “Law & Order: SVU” and “Chicago P.D.”

Season 5

Casey talks to Louie

Season 5 of “Chicago Fire” successfully tops the previous season with multiple ongoing stories that begin with Severide and Stella coming under attack from a vengeful ex-boyfriend who has escaped confinement at a psychiatric hospital. Then it’s Casey and Dawson dealing with the addition of a new family member, foster child Louie. But when questions arise about their situation, it puts them in possible jeopardy even as they hope to adopt the boy officially.

In a somewhat more light-hearted subplot to the season, Brett and Mouch team up to write an erotic novel and try to have their work published. But the fun stops when their little side project is discovered and Boden isn’t happy, threatening both of their jobs. Yet another ongoing story involves Severide’s obsession with finding a bone marrow donor for a patient in need. In the first crossover installment, “Some Make It, Some Don’t,” the custody battle over little Louie comes to a head, in a story that concludes in an episode of “Chicago P.D,” while the episode “Deathtrap” begins a three-part story about a warehouse fire that continues through “Chicago Justice” and “Chicago P.D.”

“My Miracle” ends the series with a top-notch finale that features guest appearances from World Series champs Kris Bryant, David Ross, and Jake Arrieta, of the 2016 Chicago Cubs. But it’s not all fun and games, because the story also sees members of the firehouse trapped in a burning building in a harrowing life-or-death battle in an eye-popping cliffhanger.

Season 9

Mackey helps a victim

As we continue our journey up the rankings of “Chicago Fire” seasons, we find ourselves at Season 9, a season seriously affected by multiple real-world events. Shortened to 16 episodes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an episode scheduled to air on January 6th was also preempted due to the attack on the U.S. Capitol. The season also makes the bold choice to incorporate COVID-19 into its story, as the pandemic continues to spread and the men and women of Firehouse 51 are on constant alert to help respond to the growing global crisis.

As the season opens, Kidd is chosen by Boden to take the Lieutenants exam, for a possible promotion that later ruffles feathers in professional relationships. While all of that is going on, Brett and Casey must finally confront their feelings for one another after a fateful kiss, but dealing with their emotions isn’t as easy as they might think. That’s not the only relationship that sees problems, though, when Severide begins to wonder about his future with Stella.

It all leads up to a proposal, with the pair getting engaged, while Brett and Casey profess their love for each other and consummate their relationship by the end of the season. If you’re looking for this season’s best episode, it might be “My Lucky Day,” which puts Hermann and Cruz into a stuck elevator crisis. In the season finale, “No Survivors,” the squad handles an accident at sea, forced into a rescue involving an overturned boat.

Season 10

Stella and Mouch at the scene

Continuing the story from the end of Season 9, the Season 10 opener titled “Mayday” sees the men and women of Firehouse 51 rescuing the victims of a boat that capsized on Lake Michigan, and Cruz nearly drowns during the incident. Though he survives, Cruz is left with PTSD, which becomes an ongoing story for the season as he struggles to come to grips with his near-death experience. Meanwhile, Griffin Darden — the son of the late Andy Darden — arrives back at the firehouse, and Casey takes it upon himself to help him after discovering that he and his brother are living alone in the Pacific Northwest. But helping them may also mean leaving Chicago for good.

Boden is facing career-altering choices too, as he accepts a promotion to become the new Deputy District Chief, while the arrival of new interim truck lieutenant Jason Pelham creates problems for just about everyone. But when his position at the firehouse is threatened, the squad bands together to try to help him. Interpersonal problems crop up between Violet and Gallo after she spends the night with another man, while Kidd fears that Severide may have feelings for another woman.

Season 10 includes the show’s milestone 200th episode — fittingly titled “Two Hundred” — which sees an emotional farewell and the welcoming of a new baby. The season ends on a high with a wedding, in “The Magnificent City of Chicago,” which also sees Casey’s triumphant return.

Season 2

Borelli calls for help

Going from “pretty good” to one of the best prime-time dramas on network television, the second year of “Chicago Fire” is nearly the best season the show produced and a marked improvement on the first season. It does it by introducing new ongoing dramas, and continuing old ones, beginning with firefighter Casey, who finds himself growing closer to the Darden family after finally making amends with Heather, the wife of his lost comrade. But when she runs into trouble following a devastating car accident, she may face prison time, leaving Casey to step in to help the family.

At the same time, Severide believes he’s being hunted by a deadly arsonist and takes it upon himself to track down the culprit. To his surprise, he comes to believe it could be a former firefighter he once worked with at another firehouse. But the biggest problems facing Firehouse 51 aren’t dangerous blazes this season, but city budget cuts that could get them closed down, as Chief Boden is pressured to resign his position. And when it’s discovered that the squad may have a mole in their midst, all hell breaks loose.

The highlight of the season is “A Dark Day,” another crossover with “Chicago P.D.” that is inspired by the 2013 Boston Bombing that revolved around a bomb attack at a charity run that sends the entire city into a panic. The season closes out on a brutal, nail-biting cliffhanger that opens with a fire at a boarding school.

Season 6

Casey and Hermann help a victim

“Chicago Fire” seemed to peak with Season 2, but it somehow managed to top it four years later in Season 6, which ranks as the best-ever season for the show to date. It starts with a bang, with the jaw-dropping conclusion to the previous season’s cliffhanger which had the squad inside a flaming warehouse while Mouch was suffering cardiac arrest. Flash forward a couple of months, and Casey is promoted and decorated for his bravery, while a fire at a local school where Boden’s wife works is found to be no accident after all.

As Casey is adjusting to his new role as fire captain, a new chief clashes with the crew when Boden works on a new assignment, which leads to a series of cascading problems at Firehouse 51. In a crossover episode with “Chicago P.D.,” Detective Voigt arrives looking for help, asking Dawson and Brett to go undercover to assist in a case involving a deadly serial bomber. “The Chance to Forgive” is the season’s best, with a story that puts several relationships to the forefront, while a house fire leads to an unimaginably deadly situation.

Topping off the best year of “Chicago Fire” is the season finale “The Grand Gesture.” In the closing episode, Boden continues his run for city commissioner but faces mounting questions when details of his troubled personal life go public. Well-written and tightly paced with plenty of personal drama and epic action, Season 6 is as good as the show gets.

 

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