(Warning: This post contains spoilers from Chicago P.D.'s Season 7 premiere. Read at your own risk.)
Chicago P.D. may not have provided a definitive exit for Antonio Dawson (Jon Seda) in the Season 7 premiere, but the tense hour did offer up more details about what happened after the struggling detective was last seen relapsing in his car.
The episode, titled "Doubt," revealed that Antonio disappeared after breaking his sobriety, leaving his badge behind and his apartment in shambles. Later in the episode, we learned that Voight (Jason Beghe) eventually found Antonio and helped him back into rehab--a detail that was kept under wraps so he wouldn't be fired for his drug addiction. However, Antonio's sudden sabbatical came at a rough time for Intelligence, which was still reeling from Ruzek's (Patrick John Flueger) arrest for hindering an Internal Affairs investigation (he covered for Antonio, who shoved a man through a window to his death). Plus, the rest of the crew were tasked with figuring out who murdered Kelton (John C. McGinley), a guy who was hellbent on bringing down the unit while he was alive.
Making matters worse, Voight's ominous words about "doing what needs to be done" before the newly-elected commissioner's untimely passing left Halstead (Jesse Lee Soffer) suspicious about the sergeant's involvement in Kelton's brutal slaying. In following his instincts, though, Halstead overstepped several boundaries and earned the ire of his boss. Things came to a head towards the end of the hour when Halstead, believing Voight to be helping Brennan (Anne Heche) — the confessed killer — charged into her home and stopped her from an attempted suicide. Halstead's brash move earned harsh words from Voight, who told the younger detective to leave the unit if he didn't like his way of doing things. If their angry exchange is any indication, this might be the start of a larger problem between the pair.
"It complicated the relationship," showrunner Rick Eid told TV Guide. "They both agree to move on and make this thing work, but I think there's always, just beneath the surface, a little conflict and tension and hints of mistrust between the two of them despite all of the respect that they have for each other."
With tensions brewing between Halstead and Voight, Eid added that there will be "a lot of interpersonal stuff going on that they're gonna have to work through" as a unit. Additional problems may also stem from a potential romance between Halstead and Upton (Tracy Spiridakos), which was hinted at throughout last season. Upton has been in a steady relationship with Ruzek, preventing both Halstead and Upton from expressing how they really feel about each other. That could soon change, according to Eid, who teased that a potential Upstead romance may be on the horizon.
"We plan to explore it," Eid said. "Whether it is consummated or not, we'll have to see, but those two definitely have chemistry."
This season will also explore Atwater's (LaRoyce Hawkins) dueling identities as both a police officer and a black man in a city teeming with racial tension amid police brutality. The premiere alluded to that internal struggle in an emotionally-charged scene that saw Atwater simultaneously prevent several white officers from shooting a black suspect while convincing the young black man to surrender. It's a delicate balance that Atwater will have to walk throughout the season, which won't be easy.
"He's a strong, proud, aware African-American man in Chicago and he wants what's best for his community. But he's also a proud police officer and often finds himself so stuck in the middle of both, trying to figure out what the right move is," Eid explained. "He wants to be a great cop and he wants to be a leader in his community but sometimes, there's tension between both of those things." The series previously touched on Atwater's dilemma in last season's Black Lives Matter episode, which saw him witness the shooting of an unarmed black man by a white police officer.
Season 7 will test Intelligence in new ways, as the unit figures out how to best do their jobs while grappling with internal upheaval and a city fed up with racial injustice. With Intelligence down a member, the team will receive some back up in feisty young detective Vanessa Rojas (Lisseth Chavez), who enters the fray in the next episode.
"She's got that street-smart instinct that helps her navigate the world she's working in. She was plucked from the academy and put under right away so she's had very little formal training," Eid said of the incoming character.
Although a little rough around the edges, Rojas might be just what the unit needs right now.
Chicago P.D. continues Wednesday at 10/9c on NBC.