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  • Alternate Character Interpretation: In the Season 8 finale, Hailey is trying to talk Voight out of returning to his old ways, both from a simple ethics standpoint and to save him from getting fired and/or arrested. She eventually talks him out of beating up the bad guy and instead taking him in to be processed properly, despite being the guy who shot Burgess. As Voight goes to uncuff the bad guy, the latter reaches out and grabs Voight's gun. Voight struggles to pry the weapon loose, forcing Hailey to fire and kill the guy, much to her own horror. The ACI comes in during the struggle. Given how strong Voight is and that the bad guy had his brains beaten in, many have wondered if Voight was intentionally not giving it his all so Hailey would kill the guy, thus proving Voight's point and that his ways are correct after all.
  • Broken Base:
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    • Fans are divided over the Fire-PD-SVU event episodes, especially because Chicago Fire is only ever tangentially involved in the stories by setting up the plot in the final minutes of Tuesday's episode while the proper story is explored in a Wednesday two-parter. This remains an issue even with the shows now running back-to-back on Wednesdays, with the "Infection" Crossover being the first decent job of intertwining them and Chicago Med. There are still others who dislike having Chicago shows connected to Law & Order at all, preferring that a unique Chicago-verse be developed.
    • The replacing of Erin Lindsay with Hailey Upton, both on the Unit and seemingly as Halstead's love interest has met with divided responses and the rift has since widened now that Halstead and Upton have gotten married. Some fans are okay with it, especially in light of the Real Life reason Sophia Bush left the show, while others feel that Upton is too flat, personality-wise, as a character.
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    • There's an ongoing debate as to whether Season 8 is doing as much as should to tackle the issue police brutality and reform after this and other cop shows have been called out for basically glorifying violent or unethical practices as long as the bad guy gets put away. While most fans and critics praise it for being to willing to openly and consistently take these issues on, some viewers feel that it isn't doing enough to address them and that the attempts to do so are either unrealistic or downplayed and still let cops get a Karma Houdini. Still others have taken a They Changed It, Now It Sucks! viewpoint to the focus on police reform and the fact that Voight seems to have at least toned down on his Cowboy Cop tactics (until the season finale), which they view as his trademark characteristic. Likewise, they aren't fans of Deputy Superintendent Samantha Miller and her agenda for a more ethical police force.
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  • Complete Monster: Franklin Barnes, from Season 4's "Don't Read the News," is a family man who moonlights as a vicious Serial Killer who preys on young African-American sex workers on the South Side. After luring a girl into his car, Barnes drives them to a secluded area, where he strangles and shoots them before having sex with their dead body, taking photographs all the while. In 2008, Barnes claimed at least ten lives, with his only surviving victim being Cherry, a fifteen-year-old who was rendered infertile after she was brutally assaulted and left for dead by Barnes. After seemingly taking a nearly decade-long break, Barnes resurfaces and kills three more girls, with one of them being his son Ricky's girlfriend, Grace. Barnes sets Ricky up to take the fall for all of the murders, but is caught anyway after he is recognized by Cherry. During interrogation, Barnes smugly implies that he has dozens of other victims, and when asked how he could throw his own son under the bus, coldly replies, "He'll get over it."
  • Designated Hero: Voight. The man takes Anti-Hero and Cowboy Cop to the next level by casually roughing up, beating, threatening and abusing any suspect he comes across that he thinks deserve it and never getting comeuppance for it. In a time where the subject of police brutality becomes a problem in the real world, seeing a man being portrayed as heroic for abuse of power is hard to watch and even harder to root for. It doesn't help that he outright encourages his team to follow suit or at the very least, looks the other way when they do.
  • Fanon Discontinuity: The Backdoor Pilot episodes setting up the short-lived and somewhat controversial Chicago Justice spinoff feel a little too transparent about having that role, in addition to having a little too much angst.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • Due to the real-life police brutality becoming more frequent, it can be difficult to watch Voight or anyone else rough up suspects, no matter how much they might deserve it.
    • Burgess losing her unborn child after being assaulted on the job becomes this when you consider that just 2 seasons prior, Marina Squerciati was doing her own stunts, several of which involved similar combat scenes, well into her own pregnancy.
    • Compare Burgess in "Turn Off The Light" and "I Was Here" six seasons later. Both times, she takes on the episode's Big Bad solo; both times, she gets brutally beaten down; and both times, Ruzek finds her temporarily incapacitated in a bath tub and "Are you OK?" are the first words out of his mouth. In the former, she shoots back that she's fine and tells him to go after the perp instead of worrying about her. In the latter, she's shot the perp to death in self-defense but is beyond distraught not just from her pain but from the fact that she was pregnant with Ruzek's child and fearful of the damage that was done to it, sobbing "I don't know" repeatedly and begging him to help her.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Burgess becoming pregnant with Ruzek's child, with the obvious implication that she'll be placed on desk duty followed by maternity leave, happens roughly a season and a half after she was Put on a Bus due to Marina Squerciati being placed on maternity leave for real. Ironically, the episodes leading up to that had Burgess spending most of her initial Intelligence time behind a desk.
      • One particular scene from "Remember The Devil" that would have been filmed during Marina's Hide Your Pregnancy:
    Olinsky: Ruzek, let's go. Let's see if she can enlighten us on this mystery buyer.
    Burgess: Al, c'mon, did I do something wrong?
    Olinsky: No. You're eating. And it's cold out.
    Ruzek: I'm eating, too.
    Olinsky: Yeah, but I don't care about that.
    Burgess: Zip up!
    • Due to their striking resemblance, Marina Squerciati has been confused with Emmy Rossum. Emmy appeared in 2019's Cold Pursuit as a police officer/detective named Kim.
    • Jason Beghe plays hard-hitting, take-no-prisoners cop Hank Voight, who leaves many a criminal cowering/begging in fear for their life. In Thelma & Louise, however, he had a small part as a police officer who begged for his own life when the titular characters had him at gunpoint.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • Halstead in the Season 8 finale. He's been with Voight for almost a decade now and should know that, while he may try to reign himself in due to the police brutality issue, he will drop any pretense once revenge consumes him. So, when Hailey says she's going after Voight (eventually leading to the situation described in Alternate Character Interpretation above), you would think that would clue Halstead in that something might be amiss with Voight. But the real idiocy comes at the end of the episode. Hailey walks back into her and Halstead's apartment with a shellshocked look on her face, as if she witnessed something horrific. Despite knowing she was after Voight, Halstead doesn't put two and two together and realize Voight did something terrible again and buys Hailey's unconvincing "No, I'm OK" reply at face value.
      • It could be argued that Halstead was in shock from Hailey asking her to marry her immediately after the "I'm OK". Plus, if he'd taken time to deal with her and Voight, he (and probably Atwater) wouldn't have found Burgess in time to get her to a hospital.
    • In the Season 9 premiere, picking up where the above left off, we have Halstead again grabbing this, but this time joined by Atwater. Again, both have worked closely with Voight and know exactly how vengeful he can be, yet the fact that he spends the entire episode perfectly calm and reasonable while covering the one "lead" they have to Burgess' shooter doesn't ring any alarm bells in their heads.
  • Nightmare Fuel: The dangerous situations that the officers often find themselves in would be this for former or active police officers and/or their loved ones.
    • As if that weren't enough, there are a couple of episodes where the Intelligence Unit requested backup while under fire or pursuing dangerous suspects and their fellow officers on patrol never rolled on it because one or more of them had some petty beef with at least one of Voight's officers. Imagine being a cop in the same situation and having this actually happen in real life.
    • Piggybacking from the above, this has happened to police who "broke the blue wall", like Atwater did in Season 7-8. Cops who have spoken out against misconduct or injustice in their ranks almost invariably find themselves shunned, written up on bogus infarctions, had drugs or other contraband planted on them to out them as "dirty", and/or do not always receive backup when they request it. In short, they suffer every single thing that Atwater did.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: For the show's first three seasons, the grim and gritty activities of the Intelligence Unit were usually combined with a much lighter subplot involving Officer Burgess and her partner (Atwater in season 1, Roman in seasons 2-3) clashing with smug Desk Sergeant Platt or performing community outreach. However, Roman's departure at the end of season 3, and Burgess joining Voight's squad in mid-season 4 has left the Intelligence Unit the almost sole focus of the show. Even when she does show up, Platt's comedic aspects have been entirely removed.
  • Spiritual Successor: To New York Undercover, (which, technically, is set in the same universe). Some of the storylines and even subplots are so similar, anyone old enough to remember NYU or has see the reruns could swear there were more than a few instances of recycling.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character:
    • Lexi is killed largely just to provide a little angst, and make for a more meaningful pilot for Chicago Justice, which ended up being quickly cancelled despite the fact that there would have been great potential to use her in the next season, when her father is in prison and being targeted for death.
    • Vanessa Rojas joined the Intelligence Unit in Season 7 and, according to showrunner Rick Eid, was being set up as a possible romantic interest for Atwater. Unfortunately, while she's given some decent development as a character, we only get a few peeks at her backstory and the connection between her and Atwater doesn't make it past Ship Tease territory. She only lasted one season, due to COVID-19 cutting the season short, Lisseth Chavez's contract not getting renewed (which Chavez has stated wasn't by her choice), and Chavez being subsequently cast as a regular in DC's Legends of Tomorrow. Worse yet, unlike with other characters who were Put on a Bus or Killed Off for Real, no one even mentions Rojas when Season 8 premieres, leading some to wonder if she has been retconned altogether.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: One of the most consistent complaints fans and viewers have about the show is that the writers will develop a suspenseful storyline and then either end it as anti-climatically as possible or drop it altogether, in either case never to be brought up or elaborated upon again before jumping to a new story with little to no connection to the previous one. Seasons 8 and 9 provide many of the most recent and egregious examples, with Atwater's blue wall storyline, Voight's redemption arc, Burgess's injury and recovery, and the way the investigation into Roy Walton was wrapped up all suffer hard from this.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: The CPD commits various acts of police brutality, even assaulting unarmed people and then covering it up. They also have a very distorted view on loyalty, as Atwater finds out to his dismay. Yet, in the times they are accused of police brutality, they're innocent. But, it's hard to root for them given how they do commit such acts and get away with it. This becomes a plot point in Season 8, with the show attempting to incorporate police reform.
  • The Woobie:
    • No one on the Intelligence Unit can say they've had it easy in life, but Rojas fits the bill here, due to spending her entire life in foster care and aging out of it, having to partially resort to crime (specifically carjacking) and squatting to survive, and still being homeless after becoming a cop.
    • Lindsay, who would have stayed stuck in foster care had Voight not taken her in. Her ongoing issues with her grifter mom didn't help.
    • Burgess, due to all the hell she's put through post season 2.
    • Poor Nadia Descottis. Starts out as a drug-addicted prostitute, manages to turn her life around after several relapses with some help from Lindsay and Platt, and just as she's realizing her goal to become a CPD officer she's abducted and brutally raped, tortured, and murdered just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!:
    • The departure of Erin Lindsay has caused this reaction from some fans, particularly those who ship a Linstead relationship. The unexpected murder of Alvin Olinsky and the departure of Antonio Dawson have met similar responses.
    • A sizeable number of fans see Season 8 as this with its focus on minimizing police brutality against (mostly minority) suspects.
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