After Chicago P.D.'s Clues About Upton's Departure, Is Atwater Getting A Juicy New Story For Season 12?

The eleventh season of Chicago P.D. is approaching its end, but that doesn't mean NBC's hit cop drama is slowing down. With a serial killer still to catch, the show also has to bid a farewell to Tracy Spiridakos' Hailey Upton. At the time of writing, P.D. hasn't revealed how or why Hailey will exit the action, but recent episodes have dropped some clues that left me wondering if LaRoyce Hawkins' Kevin Atwater could be set up for a juicy storyline for Season 12 later in the 2024 TV schedule.

So, with time running out before One Chicago's summer hiatus begins, read on for some ideas about what P.D. might have in store next!

Tracy Spiridakos as Hailey Upton looking intense in ponytail in Chicago P.D. Season 11x10

(Image credit: Lori Allen/NBC)

Clues For Upton's Exit

Fans have known since before Season 11 even began that it would be Tracy Spiridakos' last as a series regular, just one season after Jesse Lee Soffer left as Upton's on-screen husband. Recent episodes have shown her trying to find a healthy way to process her feelings and frustration; while running herself ragged isn't the best option, it certainly beats Jo Petrovic's drinking on the job. As the episodes have been counting down until the end of Upton's time on Chicago P.D., my eyes have been peeled for clues.

In "Buried Pieces" on May 1, Upton had a chat with a rehab caretaker that she had a history with due to her dad's drinking problems. The woman asked after Upton's father, with the detective revealing that she hadn't spoken to him in a decade. When the woman then asked if Upton's brothers were doing okay, Hailey responded:

I think so. They left Chicago as soon as they could.

While I would have loved to get this information sooner than when Tracy Spiridakos was a few episodes away from leaving the show, the woman from rehab responded by saying "good for them." She then spoke up with a message that I think the detective really needed to hear and could inform her decisions in the last two episodes of the season:

You know, Hailey, when people stop trying, it's not about you. It doesn't mean you're not worth trying for.

That statement hit home for Hailey, as she looked near tears as it sunk in. Maybe she could have used this woman as a confidant rather than Voight! While this exchange wasn't exactly an explicit hint about how Upton could leave, this is a show that has written out characters in ways ranging from death to off-screen exits to excuses that are divisive among fans. (Case in point: Halstead rejoining the army when Jesse Lee Soffer left in Season 10.)

So, I take Upton acknowledging that her brothers got out and really hearing that she has worth as a sign that she's going to leave the CPD by her own choice rather than due to a far more tragic twist. As far as what Chicago P.D. has revealed over the years, Upton's mom is seemingly the only family member Hailey talks to in Chicago, so there aren't too many strings attaching her to the Windy City. Even if she doesn't exactly get a fairy tale ending, I see this conversation as a solid hint that Upton will leave on her own terms.

And if that's the case, then the stage could be set for Season 12 to hit the ground running with the remaining series regulars, including Kevin Atwater.

LaRoyce Hawkins in Chicago P.D. Season 11x05

(Image credit: Lori Allen/NBC)

What The Future Could Hold For Atwater

The latest episode of Chicago P.D. on May 8 was Atwater-centric, and revealed that he was still preoccupied by the death of the civilian from the smash-and-grab case earlier in Season 11. The man's wife didn't want Atwater's help, leading to a confrontation at the precinct that was tense enough for Platt to get involved. The case was personal for the cop as well, as a former CI resurfaced with information.

All in all, it was an emotional case for Atwater, but still fairly procedural in ways that seem unlikely to carry over into the future. At the same time, I take it as a good sign that the last episode of Chicago P.D. Season 11 before the finale two-parter was centered on LaRoyce Hawkins' character.

I've been waiting years for Atwater to finally make detective, and the timing couldn't be better than for him to get the promotion in Season 12 after Intelligence lost Upton at the end of Season 11. Of course, Petrovic is a detective from the CPD's Special Victims Unit and seemingly being set up to join Intelligence full time, but there's no rule that the unit can only have one detective.

Perhaps it's wishful thinking, but I'm going to take it as a good sign that Atwater was the last character to get the solo spotlight in Season 11 prior to the finale two-parter, and I'd say that no other cop is in a better position to make detective. He could be in the perfect position for a juicy story in early Season 12.

Jason Beghe as Hank Voight in Chicago P.D. Season 11x07

(Image credit: George Burns Jr./NBC)

How Chicago P.D. Is Ending Season 11

While NBC hasn't billed the last episodes of the eleventh season as a pair, Jason Beghe told CinemaBlend back in late March that they were "going to have a two-parter at the end" with the last two episodes picking up the serial killer case again. The first of those last two – which was directed by Jesse Lee Soffer – will air on May 15. Called "Inventory," the episode's description from NBC sheds some light on what to expect:

Intelligence chases down a lead in the ongoing serial killer investigation as news of the case reaches the public.

The promo for "Inventory" reveals that that the Intelligence Unit might have more problems than just the news of the serial killer going public. Based on the footage, the real killer might actually be a member of the CPD. Take a look:

if the serial killer truly is a cop, the big question is whether that cop is somebody who has been featured on Chicago P.D. before. It wouldn't be the first time in Season 11 that a seemingly innocuous member of the force turned out to be dirty, as Burgess dealt with that very issue after the murder of a migrant woman in February. I can't really think of a candidate for a reveal that somebody we know is the killer, though.

Luckily, we don't have to wait too much longer for answers about the serial killer, how Upton leaves, and how Season 11 sets the stage for Season 12. The penultimate episode of Chicago P.D. this spring airs on May 15 at 10 p.m. ET on NBC, following by the season finale on May 22 in the same time slot. You can also revisit earlier seasons of One Chicago's cop drama streaming with a Peacock Premium subscription now.

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).