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It’s rare for a side character to take up the space necessary in an ensemble series to become someone fans profoundly adore. Chicago Fire is full of astounding heart and, by extension, remarkable characters who leave a mark no matter how long viewers know them. Every death stings deep, and every death stings hard. And amid some questionable decisions in a single season, killing off Evan Hawkins still feels like an unnecessary gut punch.
The loudest fans will always argue that killing off characters isn’t necessary, and most of the time, they’re right. As realistic as it makes the show, it’s still escapism at the end of the day. In hindsight, who’s watching Chicago Fire at nine o’clock on a Wednesday night? Certainly, most people are looking for ways to destress after grueling workdays. Sure, maybe most of these viewers aren’t phased by such deaths because they aren’t as invested as the die-hard fans, but it’s still a palpable fictional loss in a season that feels like it’s tearing every romance in multiple directions.
Chief Hawkins Was a Breath of Fresh Air and a True Romance Hero
People who read romance novels have a type—there’s a book boyfriend for everyone. And Evan Hawkins is every #CinammonRoleSoftBoy brought to life exquisitely. From the first moment he appears on our screens to his last scene, Hawkins is a sweet baby angel whose heart is bigger and softer than anyone else’s on Chicago Fire. As similar as he and Casey can be in certain areas, Hawkins is a little different—a little more grounded outside of Firehouse 51 and entirely multifaceted.
The character isn’t around long enough for us to know every minute detail about him, but we get enough where it’s easy to understand how trustworthy he is, how deeply he cares, and how far his loyalty spreads. This isn’t to say that the character lacks flaws or complexities; instead, the character is a rare depiction of tenderheartedness.
Characters who are soft, vulnerable, and kind are portrayed through intricate lenses on TV. They’re either the butt of every joke or presented through stereotypical forms that degrade them. Rare treasures like the titular character of Ted Lasso are still very much sporadic in TV and film. Yet, Chief Evan Hawkins is a kind character laced with exceptional, raw range on Chicago Fire. He was soft but smart concurrently. He was soft but charming and confident. He was soft but assertive, doing everything in his power to fight for the things that mattered to him and, subsequently, Violet. He was soft but commanded respect consistently. He was soft and selfless.
Thereby, that very selflessness leads him to his death, resulting in a moment of heroism that works to a point but begs the question of why? Why do we have to kill characters in this trend to magnify the veracities of tragedy in procedurals? The circumstances these characters find themselves in are disturbing enough without finality to nail the concept shut. It makes the series less appealing when viewers find themselves devoted to a compelling character only to wonder if or when the next big calamity will take them away. Fan fiction can only heal for so long, but it’s upsetting to have a shortage of thoughtfully crafted characters brought to life by captivating actors.
There are a few concerns throughout Chicago Fire Season 11 that make it less riveting than previous runs, and much of it simmers down to the idea that the romances aren’t safe. It’s confusing to stumble into what was once the most heartfelt show in the One Chicago universe, only to consistently spectacle if our favorite characters are going to make it to the next episode. And after Evan Hawkins’ death, it’s been one tragic, inexplicably unnecessary blow after another.