Chicago Fire “The Center of the Universe” Review: The People To Hold Onto

Chicago Fire 11×04 “The Center of the Universe” Spoilers Ahead

CHICAGO FIRE 11x04 -- "The Center of The Universe -- Pictured: (l-r) Alberto Rosende as Gallo, Hanako Greensmith as Violet, Kara Killmer as Brett, Daniel Kyri as Ritter --
(Photo by: Adrian S Burrows Sr/NBC)

What did Evan die for? It’s hard to answer this question in the wake of grief as much as it is to grieve. But Chicago Fire’s “The Center of the Universe” tries its best to. On a show like this, it’s easy to get attached to many of its characters. It’s why you can’t stop watching when something terrible happens to a favorite character. Firehouse 51 is a special place with genuinely good people who’d do anything to protect one of their own and those in the world.  

Chicago Fire 11×04 is a harrowing episode to break down, maybe even worse than “Completely Shattered” because grief is seldom an easy topic to examine. However, much like the title suggests, grief is at the center of the universe. It’s a part of all of us. If you haven’t experienced life-changing grief yourself, the chances are you know someone who has. It changes you, wraps itself around every junction of your being, and stays with you for the rest of your life. This episode frames the ravages of grief through Violet and Chief Boden while making it abundantly clear that the heart of the series remains this work family.



Safe and Sound

Pictured: Eamonn Walker as Wallace Boden --
(Photo by: Adrian S Burrows Sr/NBC)

The writers must have heard our pleas last week because Chief Boden telling his son that he is safe and sound felt like a reassurance to us. At least, it better mean that because if there’s any character in this series that continues to be a beacon of hope through everything, it’s Wallace Boden. And he isn’t allowed to die, ever.

Eamonn Walker’s shattering performance deserves a shoutout as we watched him furiously dig to try to save the kid stuck in the sand. He wasn’t just a father picturing his own kid at that moment, but he was also a man who could not bear the thought of seeing another person lose their life trampled underneath something right now. It’s one thing to lose someone close; it’s another to watch their death as it happens. As I mentioned last week, the folks at Firehouse 51 need therapy. Grief isn’t a linear process, and a few conversations, no matter how heartwarming or beautiful, aren’t enough to move forward through all the pain.

Chief Boden has seen too many horrors in his life. In a sense, he needs therapy more than anyone, and perhaps it’s something that happens off-screen, but it wouldn’t hurt to show it to the audience as well. Still, his arc in Chicago Fire 11×04, “The Center of the Universe,” lets us understand that these firefighters are genuinely good people. They aren’t just doing a job—they know the risks and take them every day because protecting people matters significantly to them. Thereby, when the little boy’s father came to talk to him and voice his concerns about how he blames himself, I loved watching Boden take the initiative to go rock climbing with them later. 

It’s these little moments that make it so hard to quit this show, even after we spend hours crying because of it. These exact moments also allow viewers to understand how different grieving processes are for people.

“The Center of the Universe”: A Woman’s Love

CHICAGO FIRE 11x04 -- Pictured: Hanako Greensmith as Violet --
(Photo by: Adrian S Burrows Sr/NBC)

It is downright frustrating that awards seldom acknowledge network procedurals because Hanako Greensmith has been absolutely notable throughout the season. And in more ways than one, Chicago Fire 11×04’s title, “The Center of the Universe,” looks into the big, gaping hole right at the center of her being. And unlike the physical heart wound she cuts open on the job to save a life, she can’t bleed her way out of grief. In the same way that Anna is still a part of Severide’s story, Evan’s death isn’t going to leave Violet, no matter where her life goes. 

She will move forward someday, but the hole inside her will not close or lessen in size—the pain will merely lull. It will be there through everything that she does because Evan’s love isn’t something that will leave her either. It’s a tremendous piece of her life’s puzzle and adoration that’ll shape and make her. He is a part of her story, and she was a part of his, and today, he’s also going to be a part of the family he reunited.

Greensmith’s portrayal of grief was heart-shattering. If my eyes hurt from all the crying I did, I can’t imagine how she must have felt, bringing it all to life. There’s also the matter of how well the episode handles Severide being the one to talk to her because as much as I adored the group hug upon her return, the quiet moment with Severide worked better to encompass grief. You have to get out of bed eventually, and you have to surround yourself with your people. While sometimes being alone is necessary, other times, the company provides the warmth that a person needs.

It’s not going to be easy, and I sincerely hope the show continues to showcase what heartache from grief feels like. Violet didn’t deserve this—Evan didn’t deserve this, but a family getting to reunite with their father is something I can appreciate profoundly as a woman who’s lost her dad.

On a few critical notes, while I understand that Carver is now part of the story, his arc doesn’t fit into Chicago Fire 11×04. Hermann and Mouch and their shenanigans technically don’t either, but Molly’s being such an integral part of the show provided the necessary balance in an otherwise profoundly heartbreaking episode. In place of Carver’s arc, I would have preferred to see some version of Evan’s funeral and the speech his big brother gives—the part of the story that would have allowed the audience to grieve as well. 

Further Thoughts

  • Stella looking at Severide and Violet talking then smiling!? Melt my heart, why don’t you.
  • Seriously, what on earth is Carver’s deal and why should I care?
  • Violet showing up at the hospital every day to visit the patient shattered me. And then wanting to tell him about Evan? (Actually crying while I write this.)
  • Everyone being scared of Hermann’s daughter is hilarious.
  • Look, I’ll say it now, get Tracy and Gallo together and keep him and Violet as friends. PLEASE, SHOW. DON’T GO DOWN THAT ROUTE.

Now streaming on Peacock: What are your thoughts on Chicago Fire 11×04? Let us know in the comments below.


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