'Chicago Fire' Boss on 'Suspenseful' Fall Finale and Stella Kidd's 'Dramatic' Return (Exclusive)

Chicago Fire
Adrian S. Burrows/NBC

Chicago Fire returns just in the nick of time -- to celebrate the holidays!

NBC's firefighter drama may have been off the air for a few weeks, but when it comes back Wednesday for its fall finale, the squad at Firehouse 51 is about to ring in a festive Christmas season. Titled "Winterfest," the episode follows Brett (Kara Killmer) as she prepares to present her paramedicine program to an oversight panel, Severide (Taylor Kinney) faces Stella's absence and 51 gets into the holiday spirit.

"This is always the time of year where you sort of shift gears. You told your stories that you wanted to tell in the winter and then you have a middle third of a season where you're telling new stories, but then you kick into that last third where you're really driving towards a new finale. So it always feels good to get to this point," executive producer and showrunner Derek Haas tells ET in previewing the final episode of the calendar year.

"It's our first time we've done a Christmas episode in a long time, probably since season 2, I think. We have a lot of festive Chicago events going on that the holidays really play into the episode, and so that makes it a unique one," he adds, noting that there were specific guideposts he wanted to reach by the end of the first half of the season. "That's what you usually look to do when we set up stories at the very beginning of the season, such as Brent's paramedicine program and we set up our trio of millennials going into the business for themselves with their micro brewery. Those are the things that you set up and then in your mind say, 'All right, that's where we'll resolve some of those stories in the winter finale.' You're always trying to surprise the audience on where they're going to go."

He also addressed Chicago Fire star Miranda Rae Mayo's prolonged hiatus, which will be directly acknowledged in Wednesday's episode, leading to a new slew of potential conflicts for Severide and Kidd. 

"With Stella being gone for so long, we just knew we wanted to see her again before the end of the year and we wanted to do that in dramatic fashion because the open lieutenant spot after Casey left has been a concern," Haas hints, adding that "that [storyline] takes up some time in the winter finale."

But Haas promises the winter episode will be a memorable one, as it leaves on a cliffhanger that will have viewers impatiently counting down the days until the show's return in 2022. "It's going to be suspenseful, funny and answer a lot of questions that have been lingering from the opening of season 10," he teases.

Chicago Fire returns for its fall finale Wednesday, Dec. 8 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC. For more, watch below.

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