Spoilers ahead for the Chicago Med Season 5 fall finale episode description.
The fifth season of Chicago Med has been a rough ride for Natalie Manning as she struggles with the lingering effects of the traumatic brain injury she sustained in the Season 4 finale, and there are still major holes in her memory moving into the fall finale. Fortunately, the fall finale, called "I Can't Imagine The Future," will see Natalie's memory from the accident start to return.
Chicago Med showrunners Andrew Schneider and Diane Frolov spoke with CinemaBlend ahead of the episode, and they explained how Med will go about resolving Natalie's TBI arc, restoring her memories, and what that means for Will Halstead. Let's start with the TBI. After Andrew Schneider confirmed that the fall finale "is the resolution of her TBI," the showrunners went on to explain where Natalie is coming from:
Diane Frolov: Really, it's been about self-doubt and other people doubting her even when she was making medical decisions. She was correct but she had self-doubt because of her injury.
Andrew Schneider: And they were controversial decisions.
Diane Frolov: Very. Her decisions were always put in the context of her TBI.
Natalie was really given no room for error in the first half of Season 5 due to her TBI, and even Will was watching her for mistakes. While she did have genuine physical problems early on, such as when she needed Chicago Fire's Casey to perform a procedure for her, she also didn't really get much support after she was on the road to recovery. Her exemplary performance in the "Infection" crossover didn't even win her much good will.
Of course, she crossed some lines when she was trying to prove that a young boy needed more than natural remedies to survive what was definitely not just a common sinus infection, but she was definitely under closer scrutiny than doctors who hadn't suffered a TBI. Chicago Med's showrunners went on to explain what happens in the fall finale, a.k.a. the ninth episode of Season 5, that starts bringing back Natalie's memories:
Andrew Schneider: But lately, her physical infirmities really are over. It's only the question lately in the series of her memory and what that means. And now it comes back in [Episode] 9--
Diane Frolov: Because there are triggers. She gets really specific triggers in 9.
Andrew Schneider: And that's [why] really, by the end of 9, any question of her TBI is resolved.
Triggers are what will do the trick to restore Natalie's memories, after eight episodes of Natalie doubting herself. She did finally give Phillip the boot after he'd spent the early episodes deceiving her into thinking they'd gotten engaged right before she'd suffered the TBI, but it wasn't because she remembered.
If Philip lying to her about what happened didn't trigger her, and if seeing Will on a daily basis and presumably riding in a car since the Season 4 finale didn't trigger her, what will set her off in the fall finale? Hopefully it's not because another criminal rams her car with his own! Still, maybe it's a combination of time and healing with just the right things at just the right moments.
Regaining her memories will obviously be a very big deal for Natalie, but she's not the only one. She'd gone after Will in the Season 4 finale for a heart-to-heart about their relationship, not to break his heart with a Phillip bombshell. The latest episode proved that Will is dating again; will that change once Natalie gets back into her pre-memory loss headspace?
When I asked Andrew Schneider and Diane Frolov about where Will stands on Natalie going into the fall finale, they told me this:
Andrew Schneider: For four years he's had very strong feelings about Natalie.
Diane Frolov: And she's been, you know, 'Get out of my life, stay out of my life.' So that was a wake-up call. We saw in Episode 7, with the vampire story where the woman had a kind of spell over her lover and at the end that spell was broken, and that was really a metaphor for Will. We were seeing that [for] Will, the spell of Natalie was being broken.
Andrew Schneider: The question is, is it really? Has it really been? And what does that mean for them going forward now that her memory returns and she knows what she was going to say to him when she got in that car? The return of her memory affects her feelings in a big way.
For a couple that would have gotten married if not for some bad guys forcing Will to go into witness protection, Manstead really has nailed the art of a will-they-won't-they dynamic! Will spent the early episodes of Season 5 looking out for Natalie as much as he could despite Natalie (and Phillip) telling him to back off, and he did ease off after Natalie dumped Phillip and she was more herself again. And then there was the vampire!
That said, it may take more than Will relating to a vampiric patient for him to shake off his love for Natalie, and that may be a conundrum he faces in the fall finale once Natalie remembers what she was feeling before the TBI. As for whether Will's opinion of her changed based on her actions while dealing with the TBI, the Med showrunners said this:
Andrew Schneider: I don't think that has really affected his feelings for her.
Diane Frolov: I think their whole relationship, he's coming to look at the whole relationship with new eyes.
Even if Natalie comes back to herself and her feelings for Will when her memories return, their relationship might not ever return to the way it was since Will has seen another perspective. That's not to say Manstead 2.0 -- no, not that Manstead 2.0 -- would be any worse than before the TBI, but whatever happens between Natalie and Will in the fall finale (and beyond) should be very interesting.
Whatever complications arise between Natalie and Will won't be the only romantic wrinkles in the fall finale. The official episode description for "I Can't Imagine The Future" reveals that April will question her future with Ethan after getting some unfortunate news, while Maggie and Dr. Charles face tough times in the future.