Beware of spoilers ahead for "Doubt," the Season 7 premiere of Chicago P.D. on NBC!
The Intelligence Unit of Chicago P.D. is back in action with the Season 7 premiere, but not every member of the team was assisting in the investigation into who killed newly-elected Mayor Kelton. Jon Seda's Antonio Dawson, last seen taking a pill in his car in the Season 6 finale, was nowhere to be found. While this shouldn't have come as a surprise to fans, the characters definitely weren't expecting him to be suddenly absent. Showrunner Rick Eid has revealed that P.D. wanted Seda back for the premiere and explained Antonio's story.
Despite Jon Seda's absence, Chicago P.D. had to explain what happened to Antonio, since the Season 6 finale didn't do something drastic like kill him off, send him on the run, and/or show him saying goodbye to the unit. While most of Intelligence was busy investigating Kelton's murder, Voight put Ruzek on the case after bailing him out of jail. Ruzek was no longer part of the CPD due to the obstruction charge, so he had the time to dig into where Antonio was.
As it turns out, he really was in a bad way in the Season 6 finale, but he drove himself to his sponsor for help. The trail went cold on Ruzek after he reached Antonio's sponsor, and Voight eventually revealed that he'd taken Antonio to an off-the-books treatment facility so his career wouldn't be ruined. The reveal came at a price for Halstead, though, who spent "Doubt" trying to figure out what Voight was hiding and how it was connected to Kelton's murder.
Halstead had good reason to suspect Voight, but Voight wasn't happy that Halstead didn't trust his word and just leave everything alone. Halstead was satisfied with Voight's explanation about where Antonio was, even though neither he nor any of the other members of Intelligence spoke to him on-screen. So, why did Chicago P.D. choose this route of setting up Antonio's absence, and could it have gone differently?
Chicago P.D. showrunner Rick Eid explained to CinemaBlend, saying this:
There were a lot of the things in the air when we were writing that, so it sort of morphed. But I think the idea is that we wanted to take his character seriously, where he was at the end of Season 6, and imagine what would happen to him in Episode 1 of Season 7. What really would have happened, regardless of whether he was on or not on the show? So we tried to take it seriously. The only difference is we didn't get to see him in the actual show, so we imagined what would he be doing if he were here and what would those scenes look like, and then we took him out of the scenes. There was a moment that we were hoping he was actually going to be in the show for that episode. So we really had him in the show in an honest way, and then for whatever reason it didn't work out that he was gonna actually do it. So we just played those scenes off camera and alluded to them.
At some point before the Season 7 premiere of Chicago P.D. was filmed, there was hope that Jon Seda would reprise his role as Antonio Dawson. Unfortunately for fans who would have liked to see Antonio in the flesh rather than just the Intelligence Unit looking for him, it just didn't work out. Still, Antonio's ending with the drugs in the Season 6 finale set the stage well enough that it made sense he would be MIA.
Antonio was struggling to overcome his addiction but still fell back into it, so it made sense both that he took the pill and that he took steps to try and make up for it. It's fairly easy to see how "Doubt" could have included Jon Seda as Antonio without actually having to change too much. Would it have been nice to see Seda back? Sure. Did it damage the episode that he wasn't on screen? Definitely not. The episode was jam-packed with the investigation into Kelton anyway!
The show isn't done with Antonio's story despite Jon Seda's departure, and Rick Eid explained that viewers will find out what happened to Antonio in Episode 3. While that means waiting another couple of weeks to learn the truth, it also means that the truth will come out before all things Chicago get wrapped up in the big three-show crossover.
Now, does Antonio's absence in the Season 7 premiere and Jon Seda's departure from the series mean that Antonio is gone for good? Not necessarily. When I asked Rick Eid if the door would be open for a return, he said this:
I think the door's always open for someone like Jon. Everybody here loves him, thinks he's a great actor. Of course.
So, there's hope for a return of Jon Seda as Antonio Dawson! Rick Eid's comments didn't confirm that we'll see Antonio back again any time soon, or even at all, but they are enough for fans to enjoy the possibility of a return. As long as Episode 3 doesn't kill Antonio off, surely there's no reason why he can't come back, right?
The Intelligence Unit could probably use some good news sooner rather than later, and Antonio getting clean -- even if that means leaving Chicago -- would definitely qualify as good news. They got a lot of bad news in the Season 7 premiere, even if it was confirmed that nobody in Intelligence killed Kelton.
Ruzek is still out of CPD, as getting out of jail on bail doesn't exactly mean he was exonerated and is free to return to work. Tension is building within the unit, with potential division between Voight and Halstead.
Hey, at least one of the characters will probably be getting some love this season! The new character could be a fun addition as well, assuming "gritty" characters can also be fun. Oddly enough, the darkest of the three Chicago shows also had the least deadly season premiere. Both Chicago Med and Chicago Fire featured a game-changing departure in some shocking ways.
There's a lot to look forward to in Chicago P.D. Season 7, not the least of which is the three-show crossover between P.D., Fire, and Med. You can catch all three Chicago shows on NBC Wednesday nights, starting with Med at 8 p.m. ET, continuing with Fire at 9 p.m. ET, and finishing with P.D. at 10 p.m. ET in the fall TV lineup.