Home / TV / TV Review: The Chicago Code

TV Review: The Chicago Code

Please Share...Print this pageTweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook0Share on Google+0Pin on Pinterest0Share on Tumblr0Share on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

As a born and bred Chicagoan (and one who still lives in the area), it’s always a treat to note movies and television shot in our beautiful city. Chicago’s colorful history of power politics and crime (and the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive), make an interesting setting for Fox’s new crime series The Chicago Code. Created by Rockford, Illinois native Shawn Ryan (The Shield), the series explores the seamier side of our fair city, far from the lights of Michigan Avenue (although we do get glimpses) and into the confluence of politics and crime.

Chicago makes a great backdrop for any movie or television series. We have one of the most beautiful skylines in the world: a mix of old and new—from the elaborate architecture of the Wrigley Building along Wacker Drive to the monolithic alabaster of the Amoco Building; the stateliness of the Water Tower and Marshall Fields (I still refuse to call it Macy’s) to the sleek blackness of the John Hancock building and Sears…Willis…Tower.

Our shoreline stretches from south to north lined with parkland; expensive apartments, homes and condos have to live on the other side of Lake Shore Drive. The Chicago River (dyed Kelly green for St. Patrick’s Day) slices the downtown as it heads for Lake Michigan, giving the city a series of functional, yet appealing bridges and the dual level Wacker Drive (claustrophobic feeling Lower Wacker is a favorite for movie car chases, used to great effect in 2009’s The Dark Knight).

But Chicago is a city of neighborhoods, even beyond the southside-northside divide. There are Polish neighborhoods, Irish neighborhoods, Indian neighborhoods, Jewish neighborhoods, African-American neighborhoods, Hispanic neighborhoods. There are neighborhoods that reflect the culture of the Greek, or Chinese, or German immigrants who populated the city. And the cultures sometimes clash (and I don’t mean just over Cubs vs. Sox). And it is in these neighborhoods that the heart of The Chicago Code resides.

The hero of the story is a Polish-American cop named Jarek Wysocki (Played by Australian actor Jason Clarke). Wysocki is a bit of a maverick, whose brother had been killed in the line of action. With an uncompromising reputation and a slight chip on his shoulder, he goes through partners quickly. Wysocki’s integrity is legendary, and it’s made him no friends among the rank and file, some of whom are not so squeaky clean. He is disliked and disdained by a lot of veterans, but he’s a good cop from a generations-long police family. 

Early on in episode one, Wysocki is recruited by the new Police Chief Teresa Colvin (Jennifer Beals), a friend and one-time lover. They share a common distaste for corruption and fat cats, so they seek out together to nail a corrupt alderman who seems to be deeply involved in the Chicago crime scene, Alderman Ronin Gibbons
(Delroy Lindo). A powerful political force in the city, and Colvin’s mentor, Gibbons thinks he can control the young female top cop to his own ends. But quite to the contrary, Colvin believes herself beholden to no one but the citizens of Chicago. And herein lies one of the series major dramatic conflicts.

New to the job and eager to rid the force of corruption, she quickly makes enemies of half the police force by putting out to pasture several veterans, whom she believes are on the take. Her earnestness to do her job right and clean up the city does not come without a very high cost, right from the start. But the cost doesn’t deter her, and with Wysocki as her trusted confidante working cases the way he chooses, they set out to clean up the city.

Having seen the first three episodes, I find The Chicago Code engaging, and with a lot of potential. The petite Jennifer Beals makes an unlikely top cop, but she makes it work with a Chicago toughness that seems to come natural to the area native. She’s no stereotype, bringing to the table the right amount of bravado, arrogance and tenderness.

In Wysocki, she has good partner as her maverick ally/protector/henchman. He’s a clean cop in a city of the corrupt. Clarke plays the Polish-American South Sider well, but his accent (especially in the first couple of episodes) seems more Boston than South Side of Chicago to my North Side ears, but I doubt it’s noticeable to many outside this small stretch of geography. There are enough Chicago references and inside jokes to make any Chicagoan smile, even if the Cubs vs. Sox/South Side vs. North Side feud is a bit cliché for most natives.

One of the things I especially liked about The Chicago Code over its first three episodes is that despite being on the side of right, our heroes can be wrong—and it can cost. With two appealing leads in Clarke and Beals, and Lindo’s disingenuous creepiness as Alderman Gibbons, I think Fox may have a winning combination. There is defnite chemistry between Beals and Clarke, and I’m curious to see where that goes. Populated with an interesting array of secondary characters: cops, crooks, and family members, The Chicago Code  is definitely worth a peek. 

The Chicago Code airs on Fox, Monday nights following House, M.D. at 9:00 p.m. ET.

Powered by

About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics, (blogcritics.org). Her Bram Stoker Award-nominated novel, called "Anne Rice meets Michael Crichton," The Apothecary's Curse The Apothecary's Curse is now out from Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus Books. Her book on the TV series House, M.D., Chasing Zebras is a quintessential guide to the themes, characters and episodes of the hit show. Barnett is an accomplished speaker, an annual favorite at MENSA's HalloWEEM convention, where she has spoken to standing room crowds on subjects as diverse as "The Byronic Hero in Pop Culture," "The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes," "The Hidden History of Science Fiction," and "Our Passion for Disaster (Movies)."
  • Flo

    Of course I only watched the Pilot and I’m French but I liked it. I found it interesting and like you, full of potential.

    There were some stuff I didn’t like, like the voice over for example which made the episode overly explanatory. Also the filming seemed to hesistate between action “speed” and a thing more calm therefore the rythm seemed a little off.

    However, the story didn’t seem too manichean ans there are some strong characters that can hopefully drive the story to more ambiguous territory.

    All in all, I thought it was promising Pilot.


    The article by Barbara Barnett was great and represented her opinion. However, my opinion of the initial segment of “The Chicago Code” is totally different. It is difficult for me to believe that the producers of such fine shows as “Wire” and
    “The Shield” produced Chicago Code. As a retired Phila. Homicide Detective I must say that this show is so unbelievable that I, and perhaps many others find it laughable. Firstly, Jennifer Beales, great actress that she is, is totally miscast is this role.She too young to portray the position of highest ranking Police Officer in the Chicago P.D. Even worse, NO RANKING
    OFFICER is involved in the “running around” with a detective investigating routine cases as she does. Police Brass as that rank are administrators not “street cops.” The main character who portrays the
    investigating detective is running around like “The Prince of the City” with all kinds of authority a police detective would not have. Please have the writers pay attention to what is realistic and believable as portrayed in Wire and The Shield. By comparision the show starring Tom Selleck, as Police Coimmissioner is credible in a way Chicago Code is not. He looks and acts the part. Mrs.Beale, through
    no fault of her own sashays around like a fashion model, and is not seen as what is cast in the show. Thank You.

  • MrUniteUs

    After 3 years of attempting to portray,
    Barack Obama as a corrupt Black Chicago thug political bogeyman, Fox created one.

    Rubert Murdoch owner of Fox is Australian. So is the hero cop. That’s probably explains why they chose to use an Australian not an American to play the
    hero cop. But his
    character is white by defintion.

    From Merriam Webster’s

    : free from spot or blemish: as a (1) : free from moral impurity : innocent (2) : marked by the wearing of white by the woman as a symbol of purity

  • FunTimesEh?

    disingenuous- Adjective: Not candid or sincere, typically by pretending that one knows less about something than one really does.

    How was Lindo’s character Lindo’s disingenuously creepy? That doesn’t make any sense.

    Oh wait, but neither did your review- so it all makes perfect sense.

  • Sorry to have insulted your sensibilities, Fun. I know what disingenuous means. And Gibbon was all sweetness and innocence. All he has is Colvin’s interests at heart–NOT. He was creepy (and that’s a good thing for his character). I loved Lindo’s performance. He was perfect.

    I’ve always enjoyed him–he’s an interesting character actor.

  • I have to agree with you Gross. I am also from Chi Town like Barb. Scenes at the L and a bunch of folks just standing around while real, are not enough to make a hit show. I’ve lived in Chicago from Beverly Hills to Bronzeville. Hell, they should consult me. I was also into Chicago politics.

    I know DAs and lawyers and cops in Chicago and what they are selling I am not buying. I do like Beals but she cannot carry a show by herself or on the strength her hair! My word what were they thinking?

    I demand more than pacification I demand quality from a Chicago show. Maybe when they get into the gangs of Chicago it will be of some interest. I mean Chicago after Long Beach is gang city. Where was that?

    Well written of course by Barbara, but can’t say the same for the show’s dialogue.


  • You can’t tell where this is going after one episode (I’ve seen the first three, and I do like it). Beals is no spring chicken–she’s 48 years old, and I can completely see a manipulative and powerful (and on the right committees) alderman placing someone he thinks he can own in high places.

    As with any series, even one shot here, I’m willing to allow dramatic license. Like every city, Chicago has good and bad (and corrupt). I worked in the Harold Washington administration and Chicago politics from the inside is brutal.

  • AGLN

    I watched the first episode and it was not too bad. They need to work on the accents, Sox is not pronounced sucks and I never met a Chicago cop that didn’t swear. I grew up in the Back of the Yards neighborhood.

  • t

    I have been born and raised in chicago for my whole life. I know many chicago cops and feel that this new show is very unrealistic after watching the first episode. This show is terrible. The character’s really dont fit real chicago police officer’s and having a female top cop that is more of a supermodel run chicago and a head detective that runs the city with an australian accent is not too believable.

  • Michael

    Wow intelligent comments!

  • arams

    Use to like the show until the morons decided to paint Nigeria in such negative light- kidnappers of children in Chicago, really? This movie producers have to stop defaming countries inorder to sell or get high ratings; just so unfair to the hardworking people or even professional from there…

  • Costello

    Arams is right. How could a country that has so many lottery winners from around the world be that bad?

  • jo jo


  • jo jo

    plain and simple there is no other better word to describe this show than above, which is it sucks