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Taylor Kinney returns to 'Chicago Fire' after yearlong absence. What happened to Lt. Severide?

After 11 years on the show, Kinney temporarily left "Chicago Fire."
Chicago Fire - Season 3
Severide has settled back into his routine at Firehouse 51.Elizabeth Morris / NBC

It’s been almost a year since “Chicago Fire” fans said an abrupt goodbye to Lieutenant Kelly Severide (Taylor Kinney). But they got to see his long-awaited return on the show's Season 12 premiere Jan. 18.

Titled "Barely Gone," the episode addresses Severide's return to Firehouse 51 and showcases the tension that his absence has created between him and his wife Stella Kidd (Miranda Rae Mayo).

Here's what happens in the premiere and why Severide was gone in the first place.

What happens during Lt. Severide's 'Chicago Fire' return?

Severide is first seen in the opening scene as he sneaks into the shower with his wife. Things get steamy quickly and they seem to be on good terms.

Trouble brews when he returns to work and immediately begins investigating a series of fires he thinks are connected. But his wife isn't as enthusiastic as his new obsession, especially since he just got back from significant time away at an arson investigation training program in Alabama.

“If you don’t want me to do this, I won’t. We can go back to never talking about arson, pretending everything is normal,” Severide says to Kidd.

“I don’t want to act like this is some random rule that I laid out, Kelly,” she replies. “I basically had to fly to Alabama, put you in handcuffs and drag you home.”

Miranda Rae Mayo as Stella Kidd, Taylor Kinney as Kelly Severide
Miranda Rae Mayo as Stella Kidd and Taylor Kinney as Kelly Severide.Adrian S Burrows Sr. / NBC

Clearly, there's trouble in paradise. Kidd makes it clear she felt neglected while her husband was away.

"You get so caught up in these arson cases. It's like a drug. I didn't even know where you were on that last case and it's taken six months for us to even try to build back any kind of real trust," she explains. 

"You know how sorry I am for that, but it's not going to happen with this case. I'm here. So are you. We're in it together," he says. "I have a gut feeling this could be big, Stella, and a lot of lives could be at stake."

Kidd looks apprehensive as she says, "Go solve it then."

Later in the episode, Severide reveals he thinks the person setting these fires is deliberately targeting firefighters. Turns out his gut instincts are right. They eventually catch the arsonist.

Chicago Fire - Season 4
Severide in action.Elizabeth Morris / NBC

Afterwards, Severide catches up with his wife and admits that it "felt good to be on the arson beat again."

"Yeah, I could tell," she replies.

Which brings them to a problem. How will his career in arson investigation impact their marriage?

"Stella, I do want to keep it in my life somehow without pushing the two of us apart," Severide adds.

"And I want to be able to just say, 'Hell yeah, go for it.' But it still hurts. That time you spent away left some pretty deep scars and this one case is not gonna make that all just go away," she says.

"I know," he replies. 

"No matter how much I love you," she adds. 

Why did Taylor Kinney leave 'Chicago Fire'?

Last season, after 11 years on the show, Kinney took a leave of absence from "Chicago Fire." In January 2023, a source close to production told TODAY.com that the star was handling a personal matter. His final “Chicago Fire" appearance was the February 2023 episode titled “Run Like Hell.”

Writers worked his absence into the show by having Severide travel Alabama to take part in an arson investigating training program.

What does the future hold for Lt. Severide on 'Chicago Fire'?

It's unclear if Severide will appear for the entire season or just a few episodes.