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Chicago P.D.'s Newest Detective Really Can't Fill Upton's Shoes As Possible Replacement, But That Could Be A Good Thing

 Tracy Spiridakos as Hailey Upton in Chicago P.D. Season 11x09.
Tracy Spiridakos as Hailey Upton in Chicago P.D. Season 11x09.

Spoilers ahead for Episode 8 of Chicago P.D. Season 11, called "On Paper."

Chicago P.D. moved on from the grisly serial killer of the previous episode in the 2024 TV schedule with "On Paper," but one element remained the same: SVU Detective Petrovic (Bojana Novakovic) rejoined the Intelligence Unit for the search for an abducted baby girl. She partnered with Upton during the investigation, and Tracy Spiridakos' character learned that the SVU cop was hiding an awful lot... or was trying to, at least. Given that Petrovic got a two-episode launch in Spiridakos' final season, I can't help but wonder if the character was getting an early intro before being added as Upton's replacement in Season 12 following P.D.'s recent renewal.

"On Paper" definitely proved that she can't really keep up with the action of the Intelligence Unit like Upton can, but I also think that could be good for the show. So, let's consider the possibility and look at what went down with "On Paper" this week!

Petrovic and Upton in Chicago P.D. Season 11x08
Petrovic and Upton in Chicago P.D. Season 11x08

Upton And Petrovic's Partnership

Upton was the one who initially suggested that Petrovic help with the tender age abduction after the SVU detective joined the serial killer investigation last week, even though that case remains open after a gruesome reveal that prompted Jason Beghe to explain "the problem" with Voight. It didn't take long for Upton to start connecting some troubling dots about Petrovic, however.

It started with Petrovic saying that she always rides a desk with the CPD, which was particularly curious combined with Voight's reveal that she's a great cop but never puts her name on cases. Later, after Upton insisted that Petrovic join her in the field, a suspect escaped because Petrovic didn't take the clear shot she had at him. As the daughter of a violent alcoholic, Upton realized what was up when she noted the other detective taking cough drops, and checking Petrovic's water bottle for the smell of alcohol confirmed it. Petrovic was drinking on the job.

In as much of a defense as I can give Petrovic at this point, she did at least avoid firing her gun while inebriated, and keeping her name off cases to avoid court meant that she couldn't tank a trial while testifying. And she stopped drinking for a couple of hours before the climax of the episode, which... is something? I guess?

On the whole, Upton was not impressed with Petrovic's drinking, even if she was impressed by her profiling skills. That doesn't mean that she appreciated Petrovic pointing out what they had in common, including divorce and burying themselves in habits to avoid pain. Personally, I wasn't buying Petrovic's argument that they were the same at the end of the hour, as she said:

A couple of drinks to take the edge off? Punishing runs to trick your body into resting? It's all the same. Enjoy your run.

Ultimately, Upton didn't report Petrovic for drinking on the job, so Chicago P.D. hasn't ruled out a return. Petrovic thanked her for covering for her, and then promised that she was back on desk duty and wouldn't be leaving it. Upton just warned her that situations like this don't end well, and it's hard to disagree with her, not least because Petrovic insisted that she's not an alcoholic.

On the whole, if I didn't know that Tracy Spiridakos was just a handful of episodes away from leaving Chicago P.D., I wouldn't give Petrovic much thought beyond a detective who just popped up for a couple of episodes. Plus, on a meta (and admittedly somewhat unfair) level, it's hard to be too impressed by a cop bragging about working SVU for ten years when Olivia Benson is at 25 and counting over in the Law & Order corner of Dick Wolf's nine-show TV universe.

Bojana Novakovic as Josephine Petrovic in Chicago P.D. Season 11x08
Bojana Novakovic as Josephine Petrovic in Chicago P.D. Season 11x08

Petrovic As Upton's Potential Replacement

As bummed as I am that Chicago P.D. is losing Tracy Spiridakos after the end of Season 11, the show must go on, and there are several factors that suggest Detective Petrovic was being auditioned as Upton's replacement with the last two episodes. And as unimpressed as I was with her as a potential two-and-done character, I'm much more intrigued by her as a possible series regular for a few reasons.

For one, she's not Hailey Upton, and I have to see that as a good thing. Would fans really want to see an Upton 2.0 as a reminder that Tracy Spiridakos is gone once Season 12 rolls around? A pale imitation wouldn't be a great way for a new character to settle in. Just as Upton wasn't Erin Lindsay 2.0, an Upton-ish newcomer just wouldn't work.

Petrovic is a talented profiler, which the Intelligence Unit does not currently have. She prefers to ride a desk, which is definitely not the case for any of the current main characters. She's hiding a secret that's much more dangerous than the other cops occasionally taking a case too personally or – quite memorably, in Upton's case – forgoing sleep to work herself to exhaustion instead.

Petrovic as a series regular would bring some new elements to the show, for better or worse, and a show running for as long as P.D. has benefits from some fresh blood every once in a while. We're losing Upton anyway; why not see what a very different kind of character brings to the equation? Petrovic's irresponsibility combined with her talent would frustrate me if she was just a guest star, but I'd be invested if she was around full time.

Another aspect of the character as a possible series regular is how "On Paper" touched on her backstory beyond the alcoholism, including three divorces, her own methods of burying her pain, and ten years in Special Victims. If Law & Order: SVU is any indication, spending way too many years working Special Victims can take a toll. The Intelligence Unit has dealt with sex crimes regularly over the past decade, so if anything, it's weird that P.D. hasn't included Chicago's SVU on a semi-regular basis before.

And objectively speaking, part of the reasoning for my ongoing pitch for Atwater to make detective is that Intelligence has been down to just one cop holding that rank ever since Halstead departed in early Season 10, and there would be no detectives left after Upton leaves. Bringing in Petrovic as a detective would address that part of my argument in favor of Atwater (or another of the officers) getting a promotion.

Plus, Chicago P.D. introduced Tracy Spiridakos as Sophia Bush's replacement via three episodes of Season 4 before she joined as a series regular in Season 5; could the show be doing the same thing with Bojana Novakovic now? We can't rule out Petrovic returning later this season, as Jason Beghe shared with CinemaBlend that the last two episodes of Season 11 will revisit the serial killer case that brought her into Intelligence in the first place.

Of course, it's possible that I'm entirely off base and Novakovic will be a recurring guest star at best. The only way to tell for sure is to keep tuning in to Chicago P.D. on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET, following Chicago Fire at 9 p.m. and Chicago Med at 8 p.m., all on NBC and all also available streaming via Peacock Premium subscription.