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Chicago Med Stars Talk Ethan's 'Breaking Point' And Archer As New Chief Ahead Of Season 7 Finale

Chicago Med was missing Dr. Ethan Choi for much of the seventh season, first due to his gunshot wound at the end of Season 6 and then due to him needing surgery after reinjuring his back saving a patient. Dean Archer stepped up as ED chief in his absence, but after his return, Ethan made a big decision that officially puts the power in his former Navy commanding officer’s hands. Stars Brian Tee and Steven Weber spoke with CinemaBlend about whether Ethan had a “breaking point” that motivated him to give up the job, and how Archer will handle the new situation. 

There was a bit of drama about Ethan getting the ED chief job in the first place, although not many people other than Will seemed to think that Will was a realistic candidate for the job. The situation became more complicated when Ethan brought in his former Navy commanding officer to work under him at Med, and it hasn’t been without tension. Still, in the latest episode, Ethan decided that Archer should hold onto the chief job even though he’s back. When I spoke with the actors as Season 7 winds down, Brian Tee weighed in on whether Ethan had a breaking point that led to the choice to give up the leadership position:

Well, I think the breaking point was the end of last season. I think that's kind of the start of his evolution.... Being shot and nearly dying, also losing his love, and his father passing away really has to change a person, a human being. I think what Ethan is kind of going through in this last five episodes is this sense of change.

A whole lot has happened for Ethan over the course of the year, with April leaving (and actress Yaya DaCosta landing a new role over on Fox) shortly after he sustained a gunshot wound. His father died in an emotional episode of Season 7, followed by the discovery that his father had a separate life with a long and loving relationship with another man. He’s been through enough that he earned a break from all the responsibilities of being chief. Brian Tee continued:

That's what I love that the writers have implemented, and that's what I love about our show is that it continues to evolve. We're in Season 7 going into 8, and you'll still see new things, you'll still feel new things, you'll still be with the characters and really experience the evolution of all of them. You'll experience surprises that you may not have expected from seasons past into now.

Chicago Med received a renewal through Season 8 back in early 2020, so there hasn’t been any pressure or concern about the show ending with its upcoming Season 7 finale. Ethan continuing to evolve demonstrates that even the characters who have been around from the very beginning can find new directions, as Tee pointed out how his character has changed:

I feel like Ethan is definitely evolving. I don't know if there was a particular breaking point. I think each episode and each moment, kind of takes him and moves him steps forward into more areas of gray instead of it being so black and white, and him learning and experiencing things through his heart and not necessarily through his head.

Dean Archer was the natural choice for the new ED chief, whether Ethan was going with his heart or his head. Although he didn’t have the smoothest transition into the ED at Med, he kept the Emergency Department running smoothly enough in Ethan’s absence, and has the most experience with leadership. 

The only other doctor with any seniority in the department is Will, and Will has plenty of other responsibilities at the moment, even if Goodwin had decided that he was worth considering for the top job this time around. But how does Archer feel about officially becoming permanent chief, in light of how he was introduced with some complications in Season 6? Steven Weber explained:

I think probably his narcissism thinks that he's finally justifiably in a position of authority. I think inside he also knows how grateful he is, mostly to Ethan, who absolutely gave him this opportunity. You know, there's not a lot about Dean's background that we know. But I suspect that he was not probably in the best of places when Ethan kind of found him and called him and said, 'Come aboard,' which might account for how difficult that transition back into a functioning workplace is for him.

Fans have learned enough about Dean’s background to know that there’s plenty of baggage for him from his time in the Navy, but the character hasn’t exactly been an open book about his past. Even though he’s still probably not everybody’s favorite coworker, he has more than proved himself to be a capable doctor and leader, and he too has changed over his two seasons on the show so far, as Weber went on to explain:

But I think he's grown and evolved as a character, I think the writers have seen to that. I think his relationship to the other doctors has grown and evolved, and most particularly the relationship with Ethan. They've developed a bond that still can be testy and tested, but it's a bond nonetheless.

“Testy and tested” may be the perfect way to describe the working relationship between Ethan and Archer, and it seems like that dynamic is likely to continue even though they’ve switched positions in the ED. Ethan making that choice to step down and seeing that Archer is good at the job could be beneficial for both characters, and Weber pointed out that the authority helps Archer: 

I think his settling into this position of authority gives him a sense of self, it gives him a sense of purpose. This is a guy who's really looking for purpose, and now that he's settling into that, feels good about that, he's become less volatile, less unpredictable, but it's allowing him and the show to focus a little bit on his personal life. And hopefully, we'll be seeing a little bit more of that.

Of course, Archer hasn’t lost all of the edge that meant he wasn’t making fast friends with everybody back in Season 6, as he wasn’t the most welcoming to Hannah when she made her return and stepped into the ED”s vacancy following Stevie’s departure. When I noted that the character hasn’t seemed to be Hannah’s biggest fan, the actor responded: 

I mean, look, he's one of these guys that, unlike me, in real life, he does not coddle younger people. [laughs] Like, I coddle my kids. I'm the easiest. I'm probably destroying them by giving them 'Here, take this! Take this!' He's the opposite. The hospital is a place where you can't slack, and you can kind of go for a ride and take it easy. It is literally life or death. And so given Hannah's unfortunate history that she's dealt with, he's hard on her. He's hard. He doesn't want to leave anything to chance. It's a failing of his because it makes him hard and it keeps people away, and that I think he feels from time to time.

There aren’t too many episodes left in Chicago Med Season 7 to show off the new dynamic with Dean Archer officially as permanent ED chief with Ethan back in his former role, as the finale is fast-approaching. For now, keep tuning in to NBC on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET for new episodes of Chicago Med, followed by Chicago Fire (which is bringing back Jesse Spencer for the Season 10 finale that will apparently be "nonstop") at 9 p.m. and Chicago P.D. at 10 p.m. For when more of TV’s biggest shows are wrapping for the season, check out our spring TV finale schedule

Laura Hurley
Laura Hurley

Resident of One Chicago, Bachelor Nation, and Cleveland. Has opinions about crossovers, Star Wars, and superheroes. Will not time travel.