Spoilers ahead for Episode 5 of Chicago P.D. Season 7, called "Brother's Keeper."
Chicago P.D.'s Ruzek lost everything by the first episode of Season 7 thanks to his determination to cover for Antonio (who is now indefinitely gone from the Intelligence Unit), and he was a mess for the brief time he had to go without his badge and his gun. Although he did get them and his job back after Voight pulled some strings with Kelton's interim replacement, it seemed clear that this wasn't something Ruzek could just shake off. In "Brother's Keeper," however, it was even more clear that Ruzek isn't ready for the straight and narrow.
"Brother's Keeper" saw Ruzek get into a conflict with patrol, after roughing up a suspect got him in hot water with a young cop. When the veteran patrol officer who covered for Ruzek was caught in his lie, Intelligence lost the support of patrol, and the veteran cop received three days of suspension. Ruzek's attempt to make everything better by paying the cop off didn't work, and he ultimately learned what the guy wanted: a fight. The episode ended with Ruzek handing his badge and gun to Voight, making sure Voight didn't intend for Ruzek to let his opponent win, and then walking toward the fight.
This was not the behavior of a man who fully recovered from his scare at the beginning of the season and was now living a healthy life without crossing professional lines. Patrick John Flueger, who plays Adam Ruzek, weighed in on how his character changed after everything he went through in Season 6 and the beginning of Season 7. CinemaBlend's Adrienne Jones was among the reporters in attendance at the One Chicago press day, where Flueger said this:
I just think he’s a lot older than he used to be. He lives and breathes the job. I think about how I played the character the first couple of seasons – and even how he was written – he was kind of funny sometimes, he messed up all the time, and I don’t think you’re going to see that guy again. He’s a little broken and mature [now].
Before he got his badge and gun back earlier in Season 7, it was pretty easy to see that something in Ruzek had broken. He didn't handle his brief stint in solitary behind bars well at all, nor was he really processing the likelihood that he would go to prison for a long time if not for some strings ultimately being pulled. He really hasn't had much time to adjust to being back on the job, since last week was the all-hands-on-deck "Infection" crossover between Chicago P.D., Fire, and Med.
Was "Brother's Keeper" the first real demonstration that something in Ruzek is broken and going to get worse before it gets better? In my book, roughing up a suspect was the last thing Ruzek should have done if he was thinking straight, considering breaking police rules is what resulted in an arrest for obstruction at the end of Season 6. This is a lot more extreme than him being comic relief and messing up in entertaining ways. Does it guarantee Ruzek's loyalty to Voight even more than when Voight returned his badge and gun?
Of course, there is a lot going on that Chicago P.D. presumably won't spend every week dwelling on what's happening with Ruzek, and it's possible that the rekindling of his relationship with Burgess will help steady him out. P.D. is also slated to explore a relationship between Atwater and Rojas that can "do something very different," potential division within Intelligence, and perhaps even a romance for Upton and Halstead, all on top of all the worst crimes that can happen on broadcast network television.
See what's in store next for Ruzek, Voight, and the rest when new episodes of Chicago P.D. air Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC, following new episodes of Chicago Fire at 9 p.m. ET and Chicago Med at 9 p.m. ET.