Is ‘Chicago Justice’ The Stealth ‘Law & Order’ Reboot We’ve Hoped For?

Senior Television Writer
02.28.17 13 Comments

NBC

It’s been almost seven years since NBC retired the original Law & Order. Every now and then, the Hollywood trade press will suggest that Dick Wolf and NBC want to bring back the series, but then little comes of it, perhaps because Wolf has been so busy overseeing his new empire: the Chicago Extended Cinematic Universe, which began with Chicago Fire and now also includes Chicago P.D. and Chicago Med.

We may still get a proper version of the mothership at some point — NBC boss Robert Greenblatt loves reboots, and so does most of the industry in this era of Zombie TV — but in the meantime, Wolf has come up with a stealthy way to do it: Chicago Justice, which is technically another spin-off of the Chicago shows, but has so much Law & Order DNA that the main character is literally the son of one of the original L&O leads.

Philip Winchester from Strike Back plays Peter Stone, son of Michael Moriarty’s Ben Stone from the first L&O cast, now working as a prosecutor in the State’s Attorney’s office in the Windy City. And Stone (who first appeared in a couple of Chicago P.D. episodes last year) finds himself in a show formatted(*) very much like the one that used to feature his old man.

(*) NBC for some reason elected not to give critics the first actual episode of the series, which debuts tomorrow night at 10pm ET as part of a three-way crossover with Fire and P.D. (plus appearances by the Med doctors). All I’ve seen is the first episode in the show’s regular timeslot, Sunday at 9 p.m.

Like the mothership, Justice‘s storytelling is represented by two separate but equally important groups, with much of the first half of the episode dedicated to State’s Attorney investigators Antonio Dawson (Jon Seda, transferring over from P.D.) and Laura Nagel (Joelle Carter from Justified), while the second half has Stone and Anna Valdez (Monica Barbaro) going into court and taking marching orders from wise old boss Mark Jefferies (Carl Weathers, his voice having graveled into something approximating the late, great Steven Hill).

It’s still obviously a Chicago show, not just with Seda, but with guest appearances by several other P.D. regulars, not to mention a case in Sunday’s episode where the defendant winds up being one of the P.D. cops(*). But it’s just as blatantly a L&O sequel, with Peter Stone displaying the same sense of flinty self-righteousness that fueled his dad, and with frequent appearances by mothership alums. Lorraine Toussaint returned as sneaky defense lawyer Shambala Green in the P.D. episode that introduced Peter Stone, Tovah Feldshuh is going to reprise her role as Danielle Melnick in tomorrow’s Justice part of the crossover, and Stone’s opposing counsel in Sunday’s episode winds up being none other than Richard Brooks as Paul Robinette, who was his father’s deputy for the first three L&O seasons.

(*) The Chicago franchise in many ways leans more on crossovers than even the CW’s Berlanti-verse comic book shows, not just with full-fledged events like tomorrow’s, but characters from one casually wandering into the others. As with superhero crossovers, it’s the kind of thing that’s fun if you watch all the shows (or read all the comics), but can grow tiring if you’re only into one or two of them. As someone who hasn’t watched P.D. since early in its run, a good chunk of the Justice episode had little emotional resonance for me.

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