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Chicago P.D. Characters Ranked By Likability

The reality in NBC's hit show "Chicago P.D." can be a cold, grim place — one filled with murders and assaults, lives ruined, relationships torn apart, and systemic injustices running unchecked. It helps to have a likable group of characters at the center to help the audience get through it all. But what happens when it is those very same characters making for such a cold, grim place?

Bending, if not outright breaking the law has been a cornerstone of the Intelligence Unit of the 21st District of the Chicago Police Department since the very first episode. Led by Sgt. Hank Voight (Jason Beghe), the IU is not above extralegal means if the end is justice. The characters are righteous, dedicated, and fiercely loyal to one another. Likable, though? In some cases, perhaps — in others, not so much.

Here is a list of "Chicago P.D." characters ranked by likability, which in this context is judged on a combination of professional competence, personal affinity, strength of relationships, and the ineffable perfection satisfaction of seeing the right actor paired with the right role.

11. Sean Roman

Sean Roman (Brian Geraghty) makes a poor first impression when introduced as Kim Burgess' (Marina Squerciati) new partner at the start of Season 2. He doesn't like female cops, which is strike one, and the reason he doesn't like them is that his romantic relationship with his last female partner was a dramatic mess, which would be strike two if this weren't "Chicago P.D." Then, Burgess gets shot in the line of duty while Roman is squabbling with said ex, a definite strike three.

Nevertheless, he and Burgess' slow-burn attraction is worth something, and he eventually proves himself to be a worthy partner — just in time for him to also get shot on duty. While in recovery he reconsiders his career, deciding to leave the force and move across the country to San Diego. Ever the gentleman, he asks Burgess to come with him; ever the Chicago cop, Burgess chooses to stay. Probably a good idea.

10. Antonio Dawson

Is it a character's fault if they are not likable? Intelligence Unit second-in-command Antonio Dawson (Jon Seda) has all the makings of a compelling lead on a Dick Wolf show: Driven, capable, tough yet sensitive, willing to bend the rules in pursuit of justice, and of course, unrealistically good-looking. He's a cop on the edge, struggling to keep his personal and professional lives separate.

The problem is that he is not the lead. He is a member of the ensemble, serving under Sgt. Voight (Jason Beghe) who is similarly a loose cannon with a righteous sense of justice. After a while, it became clear that there was just too little room on the show for both Dawson and Seda. During Season 4 he was shipped off to the first and only season of the spin-off "Chicago Justice," and when he returned to "P.D." in Season 5 there was still too little for him to do, despite a surprisingly sweet romance with "Chicago Fire" EMT Sylvie Brett (Kara Kilmer). Season 6 saw him get injured on the job, hooked on painkillers, and go to rehab, leading to an off-screen exit in Season 7 — a poor way to go out for a character who began the show with such promise.

9. Adam Ruzek

Sometimes likability comes not from what a character has done, but what we might wish for them. This is the case for Adam Ruzek (Patrick John Flueger), recruited fresh out of the police academy for undercover duty with Intelligence Unit and quickly indoctrinated into its shadowy methods. If there is a persistent storyline for Ruzek beyond his romance with Kim Burgess, it is the threat to his soul as he is pulled further into violence and manipulation.

But it is that romance with Burgess that keeps Ruzek from plunging fully into darkness. From the very first season, when Ruzek was engaged to someone else, their relationship has had its ups and downs, hot and cold spells. In Burgess, Ruzek has found someone as dedicated to police work, and as eager to prove themselves, as he is. Theirs is the show's great love story, as well as Ruzek's most likable quality. Viewers just want to see these two kids make it work, once and for all.

8. Jay Halstead

The men of "Chicago P.D." are a certain Dick Wolf breed of soft-spoken tough guy, defined by their service to something greater than themselves. Jay Halstead (Jesse Lee Soffer) gets this twice over, as he is both a dedicated cop and an Army veteran whose time in Afghanistan left him scarred inside and out. A Season 6 episode involving a fellow vet threatening to bomb a mosque brings this pain to the fore, as Halstead realizes how close he is to falling apart at any given moment.

Halstead's resilience is key to his likability, especially in the show's middle seasons as he reeled from his breakup with Erin Lindsay (Sophia Bush) while embarking on a new, stronger romance with his new partner Hailey Upton (Tracy Spiridakos). Like his fellow "P.D." hunk Adam Ruzek, Halstead is too often defined on the show by his couplehood, but he appears to be learning and growing from past mistakes. The Season 9 midseason finale saw "Upstead" get married after a very short engagement; Halstead finally got to put a ring on somebody.

7. Hailey Upton

Detective Hailey Upton and actress Tracy Spiridakos both had an uphill climb, joining the main cast in Season 5 to replace Sophia Bush's Erin Lindsay. From the beginning, it was clear that Upton and Halstead would become romantically involved, even as the show took some detours through other people along the way. While that might read as a cynical move on the show's part, replacing one beautiful, driven detective with another, Upton has proven to be very much her own character.

Even when her storylines echo Lindsay's, Upton's responses show the ways harmful cycles can be broken. It's Upton who convinces Halstead to go into therapy for his unresolved traumas. She can confront Voight more directly than Lindsay ever could. When history repeats itself in Season 8 and Upton is offered an FBI job in New York City, she talks to Halstead about it, laying their emotional cards on the table. After five seasons and counting, it is clear that Upton is no one's replacement.

6. Kim Burgess

Though Sgt. Voight is ostensibly the lead character on "Chicago P.D.," Kim Burgess is often the show's audience surrogate. From her earliest days as a patrol officer in Season 1 to her making detective in Season 4, Burgess is the show's eyes, ears, and heart. Her on-again, off-again relationship with Ruzek (aka "Bruzek") is the show's longest-lasting love story, but Burgess is the exception that proves the rule, in that it is her professional life, rather than her personal life, that makes her so likable. Because we've ridden with her from the beginning, her achievements and setbacks hit stronger than nearly everyone else.

One large caveat to her likability, however, is the Season 3 plotline in which Burgess shoots an unarmed Black teen. As the state's attorney's office investigates the incident (providing an introduction to the world of "Chicago Justice"), Burgess remains not only sympathetic and remorseful, but justified in her action. That isn't the fault of the character or the actor, but it is an uneasy reminder of how the show's treatment of police violence has evolved over the years.

5. Kevin Atwater

Kevin Atwater (LaRoyce Hawkins) was Burgess' original partner, and the first patrol officer on the show called up to detective. He is also the only Black member of the Intelligence Unit, and other than a few recurring roles, the only Black regular cast member. Season 6 saw him gain an unlikely mentor in a South Side alderman played by Wendell Pierce, but for the most part, his status as a Black man and a police officer have left him lonelier than most. His on-screen romances have all been outside of work as well.

Atwater has often been called on to be the face of Chicago's persistent issues with race and policing; in the last two years, however, that has become nearly all he does on the show. It is a meaty role for Hawkins, as he squares off against a stonewalling CPD after a white detective shoots an unarmed Black suspect in the back before being killed himself by an unknown assailant. Atwater can play as rough as any of his Intelligence Unit partners, but it's a burden that neither he nor the actor playing him should have to face alone. He might not be the most likable character, but he certainly is the most sympathetic.

4. Alvin Olinsky

Alvin Olinsky (Elias Koteas) is a grizzled lifer who has seen a lot of stuff. As much as he loves his wife and daughter, their relationships are constantly strained by the pressures of the job, and Olinsky's many years spent undercover have left him fragile and prone to violence. 

His avuncular presence in the squad room marks him as a guy who might be fun to get a beer with, and an unwavering loyalty to his partners makes him good at his job — but it is that loyalty that ultimately gets him killed. Taking the blame for a murder that Voight committed, Olinsky is arrested and sent to jail; while Voight is working to get the charges thrown out, Olinsky is fatally stabbed by a fellow inmate.

Like Dawson, Olinsky shares many of these same qualities with Voight, which often left him a bit afloat in the ensemble. But his likability is elevated by ace character actor Koteas' performance. Koteas is a hard actor to hate, especially for geriatric millennials with fond memories of Casey Jones in the first "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" movie. He made Olinsky sensitive and sympathetic to the very end.

3. Erin Lindsay

Erin Lindsay (Sophia Bush) was the only female detective in the Intelligence Unit, and when she left at the end of Season 4 it took two characters to replace her. That's a testament to the importance of her character, both within the world of the show and to the show itself. Lindsay was no damsel in distress, but she wasn't a supercop either. The series put her through the wringer of shootings, abductions, and addictions. She left the police force, only to return in order to rescue her partner/lover Halstead.

Lindsay and Halstead, aka "Lindstead," were a great, doomed couple, but it was a relationship with her sergeant that truly set Lindsay apart from the pack. Voight took her under his wing when she was a juvenile delinquent, and their relationship as adults and comrades was one of the most affecting on the show. 

When Lindsay's trainwreck mother (the late Markie Post) turned back up in her life in Season 3, she was caught between two opposing forces — the birth mom who was never there for her, and the surrogate father who always had her back. When Lindsay left Chicago for an FBI job in New York City, it was Voight whom she bid a tearful goodbye to; poor Halstead, finally ready to propose, was ghosted — perhaps not the kindest thing she could have done, but that messiness was what made Lindsay so compelling and likable.

2. Hank Voight

This is perhaps the list's most debatable ranking. Is Hank Voight likable? Of course he is; he's on television and played by a handsome, charismatic actor. Is he more likable than Lindsay or Burgess or all the rest of them? That's a harder question to answer, in part because the show itself isn't quite sure how likable Voight is, or how likable he's supposed to be.

On the one hand, the character's integrity shines brightest in his relationships with his fellow officers. Despite everything that's happened, Voight's respect still means a lot to the show, and whether a character has it (Mykelti Williamson's former-partner-turned-IA-auditor) or doesn't (John C. McGinley's murderous mayoral candidate) is a good indication of how the show wants us to view that character.

On the other hand, he is not a good cop. He might not be on the take, as the audience was led to believe in Season 1, but his constant use of violence as a means to an end was always a red flag, and has only become more glaring as real life police violence has come under increased scrutiny in the past several years. Does that queasiness outweigh his friendship with Lindsay, or Jason Beghe's sensitive tough guy performance? It's debatable.

1. Trudy Platt

As controversial as the last entry may be, this one is a no-brainer. Staff Sergeant Trudy Platt is easily the most likable character on "Chicago P.D." Dispensing tough love and wisecracks from behind her bullpen desk, Trudy seems like someone who would be a blast to hang out with in real life. 

But her desk duty belies what a good cop she really is, and in those rare instances when she gets the chance to step into the spotlight (as in Season 4's "All Cylinders Firing") she proves herself to be among the best the show has to offer (Voight's respect for her carries a lot of weight). She has great relationships with the other characters, and thus far is the only character on the show to make a long-term crossover romance (with Mouch McHolland of "Chicago Fire") work.

The other element that makes Trudy the show's most likable character is the actress playing her. Amy Morton is a Chicago stage legend, and one of the few local actors in a lead role on any "One Chicago" series. She embodies that sense of place as well as (and sometimes better than) the show's on-location filming. Morton lends the show an effortless authenticity, like a tavern-cut pizza come to life.