Halsteads and Headcannons

Gina and Bryna both write for the pop-culture website, Talk Nerdy With Us. Back in March 2017, they collaborated on a post about questions they hope to see answered about Jay and Will’s pasts. You can check out their original post here or keep reading to see the whole thing.


Here’s a secret about the One Chicago fandom: we have wish lists, and I don’t mean the Amazon, click until you can’t click anymore kind. We all have our favorite characters, ships, and shows within the universe, and with that comes things we want to learn or see for those people. The writers have occasionally delivered (Dawsey are actually married, and it still hasn’t sunk in), but also like to keep us on our toes (any day now with Burzek, y’all).

The writers room at Chicago Med will join in on the fun before their season is wrapped, because the upcoming episode “Generation Gap,” scheduled to air April 13, will include the long-awaited introduction of Pat Halstead.

Yes. Halstead. As in Jay and Will Halstead’s father.

Learning about Jay’s past, and meeting the Halstead patriarch, have been high on fans’ wish lists since the early days of Chicago P.D. P.D. is currently delivering on the former, and Med looks to deliver on the latter, but it begs the question: now that we’re getting what we wished for, are we going to like what we find?

Since we’re big fans of the universe, two of us collaborated to discuss the ten most burning questions we hope to see answered about Jay and Will’s pasts. Check out our takes, and then let us know what theories you have.

What was their childhood like?

Bryna: I imagine the Halsteads’ childhood was pretty normal. Will mentioned at one point on Med that they were third-generation Chicago residents; I like knowing they once played and hung out on the streets that they now serve as adults. However, I’m most interested in how their personalities were as children. Was Jay as serious yet compassionate as he is now? Was Will as reactive yet caring as he is now? I hope if we ever (fingers crossed) learn about the Halsteads’ past that we learn about this aspect of their lives.

Gina: I’m just going to say it: I think Jay was abused. He reacts so strongly to cases involving children that, for me, it raises flags. A history of abuse would explain why Jay had such a visceral response to Lonnie’s season one storyline, episode 3×7 with the abusive swim coach, and even the recent episode when he went undercover at the home for troubled girls. While this narrative would make sense given what we know about Pat Halstead, the part I’m unsure of is whether Will was abused, too. I could see Will being the favorite child growing up and Jay being the troublemaker- especially since Will was willing to visit their father upon his return from New York. When he mentioned it to Jay, however, Jay proudly proclaimed he hadn’t spoken to his father in two years.

Were Jay & Will close growing up?

Bryna: I think Jay and Will were close growing up, especially considering they are close in age. Even though it was clear when Will showed up the first time in Chicago P.D., episode 2×17, that they had obviously had a falling out, there was something about the way in which they interacted that proved the tension between the two was not always there.

Gina: We don’t know the age gap between Jay and Will, but I’ve always imagined it being about four or five years. In childhood, the gap was probably no big deal, but then took its toll in their teenage years. I could see them having been close as kids, and then drifting apart as they grew up. The distance probably reached its peak when Will was “out partying” while their mother was sick.

When did their mother die?

Bryna: I think their mom died while both of the boys were away, Jay being overseas and Will being in med school. I think Jay didn’t have the chance to say goodbye due to not being able to get leave, which upsets him. I also think Will had the chance to say goodbye to his mom but chose not to due to medical school, which he now regrets.

Gina: I think their mother died when Jay was in high school. This would put Will around the prime “going out and partying” age Jay referred to in episode 2×18 of Chicago P.D. I imagine Jay joined the military right out of school, and if Will were in college at this point, his mother’s death would have been the ideal catalyst for him to get his life together and pursue medicine.

What caused the eventual falling out with their father?

Bryna: I definitely think Jay’s fallout with his father has to do with his mom’s death. I think Jay blames his father for their mom losing her battle with cancer, although I don’t know whether it was because his father did not get her the proper care she needed or he was not there for her as she was going through a rough time. Since Jay physically couldn’t be there (as I assume she passes while he is overseas), he assumed his father would step-up and be the man of the house he is supposed to be. However, he didn’t and that really upset Jay.

Gina: My guess is that this one comes down to coping with their mother’s death. When Nick Gehlfuss was cast as Will, an article mentioned medicine was the Halstead family business and their father was a doctor, as well. At that point, the falling-out made perfect sense. Jay’s father probably didn’t pursue a particular method of treatment, and that eventually cost their mother her life. Jay blamed him, and subsequently froze him out of his life. It looks like the writers are now going in a different direction, and Will is most likely the only doctor in the Halstead clan. Despite this, I think my theory still stands. All of the articles we’ve read about Papa Halstead indicate he was “hard on them” growing up and was an “unsupportive” father. Jay probably reached an age where he could get out from his father’s grasp, and cutting ties came with that.

What made Jay choose the military? 

Bryna: This aspect of Jay’s life is the thing I’ve always been the most intrigued by. We’ve learned throughout Chicago P.D. that Jay’s time in the military is a big part of who he is and that it was a choice he seems to be proud of. But we still have no idea why he joined. I go back and forth about whether I think the Army was Jay’s choice or someone else’s plan for him. Most of the time I think it was his choice, but one made on impulse. Once Jay got involved with the service, he realized he couldn’t go back and therefore was forced to live with his decision. It isn’t until he is in training that he realizes he was meant to serve his country and community in some way and joining was the best choice he could have made.

Gina: If Mama Halstead passed when I think she did, joining the military was probably Jay’s way out. With an abusive father at home (if my above theory stands), his mother’s passing might have been his breaking point. Jay was most likely too young to go off to school like Will did. The military was an avenue to help others- just like his big brother- while also serving as a way out.

What made Will choose medicine? 

Bryna: I think Will, as the older brother, was pressured into choosing a medical profession. I believe Papa Halstead wanted both of his sons to follow prestigious career paths. Will felt obligated to do what his father wanted and not disrupt the family dynamics. He complied and went to medical school, but, by electing to attend a medical school in New York, still got a chance to build a life of this choosing.

Gina: Will strikes me as the more sensitive Halstead, so I imagine he became a doctor to make sure what happened to his mother doesn’t happen to anyone else. It would not surprise me if he felt a bit helpless; his mother passed, his brother left and his father does not sound like a pleasant individual, so Will most likely had nobody to talk to. Studying medicine and becoming a doctor may have been Will’s way of gaining some control over the situation.

How was Will impacted by his mother’s death? 

Bryna: I think her death impacted Will immensely, especially in the way he goes about treating his own patients. In 1×09 of Chicago Med, when he is trying to convince his DNR patient to join a medical trial, Will tells Natalie his mother died of cancer and if she’d had access to a drug, like the one in the medical trial, she could still be alive. He constantly seems to be thinking “what if” and uses his mother’s situation as justification for some of the more “questionable” medical decisions he makes.

Gina: We don’t know much about Will, but we have seen he’s more open with his emotions than Jay. Don’t forget he let Nina see his emotions in episode 2×05 of Chicago Med. I imagine when their mother died, Will handled her death like Jay (no thanks to their father, I’m sure) and buried his feelings. Since he’s not Jay, however, that strategy didn’t work for him. In the years following his move to New York he became more comfortable with showing and acting on his emotions, which is why he is so quick to advocate for his patients, now.

What happened to Jay when he was overseas? 

Bryna: The only thing we know about Jay’s time in the military is that he saw some pretty terrible stuff and it messed him up pretty bad. I think Jay, Mouse and the rest of their unit were likely attacked by a bomb or terrorist group. They were the only two who survived so Jay suffers from survivor’s guilt, especially as he was the one responsible for the attack. I think that, combined with his mother dying and his life back in the states essentially falling apart while he was gone all, contributed to Jay’s PTSD.

Gina: There is an old episode of Grey’s Anatomy when a very intoxicated Owen jumps into Cristina’s shower fully clothed. At first, Cristina is unsure how to handle the situation, until a very vulnerable Owen tells a heartbreaking story where his entire unit- except for him- was killed after their Humvee drove over an IED. I imagine something like this happened to Jay, and maybe even Mouse, too. There’s an entire period of his life that Jay refuses to talk about because it’s too painful. He’s a tough guy, so I have to think something really bad happened during that time.

Why did Jay join the CPD after he was done with the military? 

Bryna: I think Jay’s reaction to Mouse wanting to reenlist in the Army revealed a lot about why Jay initially joined CPD. His reaction was a mix of him feeling torn between what was the right choice for him and what is the right choice for Mouse. I think Jay’s insistence that Mouse join CPD was due, in part, to CPD giving him a way to cope with his PTSD after he returned home. Jay believes the force kept him from getting high on drugs or doing something stupid and he fears Mouse might make those exact poor choices if he gets even more messed up returning overseas.

Gina: This is one I’d be curious to hear Jesse Lee Soffer answer. It’s tough because we don’t know exactly what Jay went through during his time overseas. If we go off of the previous question, though, perhaps Jay and Mouse were discharged, and Jay thought policing was the best way to transfer his skills? Mouse may have had the same desire, too, but coped with his emotions in a way that landed him in hot water. There is an endless amount of speculating that could be done on this question, but what I find interesting is that, despite Jay and Will’s different experiences, and maybe even a falling out, they are both motivated by a desire to help people.

Do you think it’s possible that there are other Halstead siblings out there? Would it surprise you? 

Bryna: After learning Jay was/is married, a plot twist I never saw coming in a million years, nothing about the Halstead family would surprise me. I think, depending on how long it has been since Jay has been estranged from his father/how old Jay was when it happened, it’s possible Jay and Will have a baby step-sibling they don’t know about.

Gina: No. I briefly contemplated changing this answer following PD’s 4×17 bombshell that Jay is married, because the writers love to switch things up, but I think it’s just Jay and Will. There is something about the way they interact as adults that tells me they had to stick together to survive their formative years. If another Halstead sibling shared that experience, they would not leave him or her hanging, even now.

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