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TV Review: The Chicago Code Does It Right

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There are far too many cop / legal shows on the air right now. That should be apparent to anyone casually glancing at the network prime time listings. That’s why I was extremely pessimistic about FOX’s The Chicago Code, and wasn’t looking forward to reviewing it at all. This, despite the fact that the show sponsored me on Examiner last week, so I owe them one, which has no bearing on my opinion of the show, but still… I figured I would reluctantly sit through it, and then I could dash out a couple of quick paragraphs about what drivel it is, copying everything else already on the air.

That opinion was dead wrong. The Chicago Code is not at all the basic procedural drama. It’s a mystery about corruption in a city known for it. It’s an heroic tale about those who are finally willing to stand up to that corruption. Classic David versus Goliath, in modern-day law enforcement and politics. It seems equal parts reality-based and dark, crime-fighting, comic-book inspired. Most of the first episode dealt with those major themes, and I am very much hooked.

Alderman Gibbons (Delroy Lindo, a familiar face) has run the city for decades, relying heavily on the Irish mob, whom he seems to control, despite not being of that nationality himself. Six months after being named police superintendent, Teresa Colvin (Jennifer Beals, The L Word) is transferring ineffective cops to dead end beats, and is ready to tackle the source of the city’s problems. Gibbons denies her request for a task force, but she doesn’t let that stop her. Instead, Colvin approaches her former partner, Jarek Wysocki (Jason Clarke, Brotherhood), and asks him to do some investigating. Joined by his newest partner, Caleb (Matt Lauria, Friday Night Lights) and undercover detective, Liam, (Billy Lush, formerly of the canceled-too-soon The Black Donnellys), Jarek promises to do what he can.

The road ahead will surely not be easy. But then, the show wouldn’t be worth watching if it was. Gibbons has his hands in everything, and the people around him do not hesitate to take out whoever threatens their boss, without waiting for him to ask them to. Despite the resources at her disposal, if Colvin comes at Gibbons too strongly before she gets enough evidence to fully send him away, he could likely just have her removed from her job. How do you go after a man so powerful? It’s a great question, and I look forward to a weekly series that answers it.

Of course, the fight with Gibbons cannot go on indefinitely. I am thinking one, maybe two, seasons, tops. For those who may argue with me, thinking it would kill the show, Alias did it, toppling their big, bad organization a year and a half into the series, and they continued just fine for another three and a half years. A plot with such a defined villain cannot go on forever, and the series will get boring if it attempts to stretch it too long. At some point, things have to come to a head. Based on the progress made in just the first episode alone, this series is looking at a showdown sooner rather than later. Which is fine. I’m sure there are plenty of other problems the police of Chicago need to solve.

Also in the main cast, besides all of the people mentioned above, is Jarek’s niece, Vonda (Devin Kelley), and her partner slash lover, Isaac (Todd Williams, In Plain Sight). They are regular beat cops, sort of filling the role of the youngest brother on Blue Bloods, without the contrived conspiracy. That’s because the conspiracy is the show. They are connected with the show’s main plot only on the fringe. Instead, they simply add another layer, and a family element for Jareck. I predict they may get drawn into the larger story eventually, and hope they do. Otherwise, I don’t see them needing to stick around for season two.

One of the strongest elements of the show is how it can jump perspective. It did this several times, with narration alternating characters, including Jareck and Colvin. This format allows the show to add new central characters with little effort, or allow stand alone stories for single episode guests, such as they did in the pilot.

If you have not watched the pilot, do not read this paragraph. If you do, the best surprise of the episode will be ruined. Antonio (Manny Montana), who was Colvin’s driver and assistant, was right in the middle of his narration when he was gunned down, soon pronounced dead. I was shocked, and impressed. The episode really had me liking Antonio, and his death hurt. I wish he had stayed around, because he seemed like such an interesting character. On the other hand, what a neat, bold twist for a pilot to take! It’s been done before, but seldom as well as done here. Major kudos.

If you’d like to check out The Chicago Code, and I certainly recommend you do, it airs Monday nights at 9 p.m. on FOX.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com