Spoilers ahead for Episode 8 of Chicago P.D. Season 8 on NBC, called "Protect and Serve."
Chicago P.D. finally revisited Atwater's arc as he deals with racism within the Chicago police department in "Protect and Serve," when an officer-involved shooting caught on camera left a Black college student dead and a white cop claiming that he did absolutely nothing wrong. After LaRoyce Hawkins' character spent most of Season 8 since the first couple episodes as more of an ensemble character with focus shifting to other Intelligence cops, he was back in spotlight for a truly intense episode that put Atwater at odds with Ruzek, and Atwater also crossed paths with the person who will become the next member of Intelligence.
Chicago P.D. newcomer Cleveland Berto actually didn't get too much attention in his debut episode, unlike how P.D. introduced Lisseth Chavez's Rojas back in Season 7. He was first seen in the footage of the shooting as Officer Andre Cooper (despite the character originally being announced as named "Jalen Walker"), a cop fresh out of the academy partnered with veteran cop Officer Dave Whelan. Despite Cooper's attempts to calm Whelan down, Whelan shot and killed the Black college student who had been pulled over for going seven miles above the speed limit and was clearly not reaching for a weapon.
Samantha Miller revealed that Cooper gave a statement about the incident that never changed in any of his retellings; on top of the footage of the murder, it was pretty clear that they had to bring Whelan in. Cleveland Berto turned up again when Atwater and Ruzek showed up at Whelan's house to arrest him, when Cooper wanted to hear from Whelan why he pulled the trigger, to which Atwater answered: "You know why."
The rest of the episode followed Atwater and Ruzek's efforts to save the life of the racist cop when people were gunning for him, while the rest of Intelligence was trying to bring them in safely from afar, so Cooper was far from the center of attention. In fact, the escalating situation resulted in such a rise in tension between Atwater and Ruzek that it was frankly easy to forget everything that happened in the first half of the episode while things got ugly between the partners and brothers-in-arms.
The episode ended with the bad guys either caught or killed, and there was an uneasy peace between Ruzek and Atwater when Atwater wondered aloud if something might happen that Ruzek "might not see it coming" like Whelan. Considering this happened in an episode where Ruzek denied ever having anger issues and was called out for a potentially problematic loyalty to the CPD, there are reasons for concern about what's in store for him next. But hey, at least this was a stellar episode for Atwater and debuted the next member of Intelligence!
Personally, I'm still waiting to find out what happened to the last new member of Intelligence, and Cooper's arrival seems like the natural window for Chicago P.D. to reveal what happened that Rojas is gone. The description for the next episode of Chicago P.D., called "Impossible Dream," reveals that Miller will come to Voight with a special request about Andre Cooper, while a local business owner being gunned down in a neighborhood that Atwater patrolled as a young cop makes the case personal for him.
I'm feeling pretty confident that "Impossible Dream" will be Cooper's formal debut in Intelligence after his introduction in "Protect and Serve." In the original announcement of his casting, when the character went by a different name, the new cop was described as an idealistic and intelligent family man who turned down a Wall Street job to become a cop with the CPD. That sets him apart from the cops already in the Intelligence Unit, all of whom have been on the job at CPD for at least the better part of a decade now, so it should be interesting to see how he fits in.
The next episode of Chicago P.D. airs on Wednesday, March 17 at 10 p.m. ET following Chicago Fire at 9 p.m. and Chicago Med at 8 p.m. My fingers are officially crossed that the episode not only sheds some light on the newest cop to join Voight's unit, but also finally delivers answers about Rojas and keeps the spotlight on Atwater after spending so much of Season 8 more or less in the background, after the first two episodes tied up the plot that had gone unfinished due to the early end of Season 7. And why not a love interest at some point?