Why Chicago Fire’s Fall Finale Ended On That Huge Cliffhanger So Soon After Otis’ Death

chicago fire season 8 cast nbc
(Image credit: NBC)

MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD for the fall finale of Chicago Fire Season 8, called "Best Friend Magic."

The fall finale of Chicago Fire was undoubtedly one of the most highly-anticipated episodes of Season 8 by virtue of the return of Monica Raymund as Gabby Dawson, but who could have guessed that Dawson's heated reunion with Casey wouldn't be the biggest game-changer of the episode? Instead, the insane cliffhanger at the end of the fall finale left the life of none other than Severide in very real danger, and this not even half a season after poor Otis died a heartbreakingly gruesome death! Fire showrunner Derek Haas spoke with CinemaBlend about the fall finale, and he explained why the cliffhanger went down.

First, let's run down what happened. Severide's stint with OFI got into gear in "Best Friend Magic" as he and new parter Seager investigated an arson case that had ended in a conviction that seemed more than a little fishy. Together -- and with an assist from Casey -- they figured out that a man involved in the construction of some buildings had designed the roofs to go up in flames for shady owners who wanted to make a buck with fiery way.

The mystery was solved, the wrongfully convicted man was going to go free, and all the good guys had to do was help the techs pack up the arsonist's warehouse full of flammables and hope that the authorities caught him before he could do more damage. And maybe, if this was an episode other than a finale, Severide could have cleaned up the warehouse, had a friendly (and platonic) drink with Seager before going home to snuggle up with a sleepy Stella. Unfortunately, this was a finale, and the final moments left Severide in very real danger.

Severide went down into the basement of the warehouse, where he discovered the arsonist had been hiding. Cornered, the bad guy struck a flare, and the episode ended with Severide and the arsonist together in a basement packed with flammables with a burning flare just waiting to be dropped. To Severide's credit, he didn't even look all that scared, but I'm guessing fan reactions are a little less calm.

When I asked Chicago Fire showrunner Derek Haas about the decision to go with this cliffhanger and what he expected fan reactions to be after "Best Friend Magic," he told me this:

I think they're going to be worried, mad, all of the things that you want at the end of these things because on our show, we have a history of these things having consequences, not just Otis from last season, but in previous seasons. We try not to be the show that resets back to square one every time, because I think otherwise the audience just stops going with you on these adventures. They're not worried about the danger, and so we try to reinforce that the danger is real and this felt like a cool, different way to do an arsonist than we've done before.

Well, if you thought Chicago Fire would take it easy on the cliffhangers involving beloved characters just because Otis was killed off in the Season 8 premiere following the Season 7 cliffhanger, Derek Haas and the Fire team proved you very wrong with the fall finale! Haas certainly has a point about audiences no longer worrying about danger if suspenseful endings fail to result in major consequences on a regular basis, and Fire already pulled it off once in a big way with the Season 5 finale. They can't all survive every time!

Otis' death in the Season 8 premiere proved Fire can still pack a very big punch and gives viewers have major reasons to worry about Severide during the hiatus before the show returns in 2020. The good news is that Severide was keeping his cool even after the arsonist lit the flare in the very flammable basement, which would have sent a whole lot of other people running for the exit and quite possibly pushing the bad guy to drop the flare and ignite the whole building.

After all, with all of the chemicals in that basement and the rest of the building, Severide and the arsonist almost certainly wouldn't be the only ones roasted. Seager and a bunch of techs were just upstairs. While Severide has faced his fair share of unexpected twists while on the scenes of fires, he's generally wrapped up in protective gear, and this arsonist is different than ones he's faced before. Derek Haas elaborated on what makes this man stand out from past firebugs:

We've had arsonists with mental health problems, but we haven't done the cold, calculating contract arsonist, which to me is more dangerous. So, yeah [fans] are gonna be having to wait a few weeks to find out what happens!

Will Severide be better or worse off that this particular arsonist and cold and calculating rather than insane? On the one hand, a contract arsonist may be less inclined to do something that would result in his own death when that's pretty much the opposite of why he usually starts fires, and he could potentially be reasoned with. This doesn't seem like a man who starts fires because he likes to watch things burn or even because he has grudges to try and satisfy.

On the other hand, OFI and the authorities have plenty of evidence on him, and he might see that there's no way out of his situation without getting caught and sent to prison. If he decides that lighting the chemicals to kill the people responsible for ruining his business and outing him as an arsonist is the way to go, then he may be fully capable of dropping the flare before Severide can do anything about it.

Basically, there are a lot of questions and not a lot of answers regarding Severide's fate as of the end of "Best Friend Magic," and all we can do is speculate and hope for an illuminating trailer to release during winter hiatus. The good news is that even though Chicago Fire will be gone for some weeks, plenty of new offerings are hitting the airwaves in the not-too-distant future. See what's in store on the small screen on our 2020 Winter and Spring TV schedule!

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).