After sustaining the mystery around Jesse Lee Soffer's departure from the show, Jay Halstead's Chicago PD exit ends up not just a massive disappointment, but also very insulting to the character. Just before the police procedural returned for its milestone year, news broke out that Soffer was leaving the series in the middle of season 10. Chicago PD didn't waste time sitting on his looming exit as after only three episodes, Halstead is now officially out of Intelligence, although the way he was written out could have been much better.
Halstead was acting differently throughout his appearances in Chicago PD season 10. Instead of his usual function as Intelligence's moral compass, he had been lying to Hailey Upton (Tracy Spiridakos) about what was really going on with him. In Chicago PD season 10, episode 2, he was needlessly more violent against a perpetrator. He also continued to evade Upton, opting to hang out with Hank Voight (Jason Beghe) instead. Everything came to a head when he accidentally killed a man in episode 3, causing him to resign and rejoin the army.
The way Halstead's departure played out was insulting to the character because it was both rushed and unearned. After years of covering up crimes for Intelligence, he supposedly reached his limit resulting in his decision to leave the police force. This was a great premise for his send-off, but instead of properly setting it up with a multi-episode arc, his departure revolved around one typical Intelligence case. It wasn't even explained what Halstead was doing with Voight in Chicago PD season 10, episode 2 after it was built up as a big mystery. Overall, the storyline didn't really make sense in the bigger scheme of things. Halstead had no issues breaking the law by covering up for a misguided suspect. Yet, when he accidentally killed another criminal for defending himself, he couldn't live with it. Ultimately, Halstead's Chicago PD exit narrative was unable to explain his identity crisis which was the core reason for his departure. He has been in Intelligence for years; he saw far worse things, and yet he never cracked. Given this, it's difficult to buy the idea that he was suddenly so torn that he was willing to leave his wife, his brother, and his job.
The idea behind Halstead's Chicago PD exit arc could have resulted in a compelling exit if NBC was able to execute the storyline differently. For starters, the whole plot shouldn't have been rushed. Instead of using a typical Intelligence case as the catalyst for his decision to leave, it should have been a series of events that led to his choice. The police procedural could have used the death of Roy Walton (Michael Maize) in season 8 and the demise of Anna Avalos' (Carmela Zumbado) in the season 9 finale for this. Secondly, and more importantly, Chicago PD should have established a stronger basis for Halstead's identity crisis because everything else he did in the episode, including resigning, was questionable. Showing his internal struggle better could have easily addressed this. Finally, instead of keeping the door open for his possible return (which is a cop-out), His final fate should have been more definitive. After setting up Halstead’s death, Chicago PD should have moved forward with it as it would have been a far more powerful and impactful way to write him out.
Halstead's role in Intelligence is immeasurable. He was the moral compass of Chicago PD, and he could have been the perfect replacement for Voight in case he retires or gets promoted. Given this, he deserved a much more cohesive and compelling send-off storyline than what he got. Frustratingly, they could have given it to him with some minor adjustments to how they handled his exit.