‘The Chicago Code’ – ‘Cabrini-Green’: Bombs away

Senior Television Writer
03.01.11 61 Comments


A review of last night’s “The Chicago Code” coming up just as soon as I butcher your favorite Neil Sedaka song…

I like “The Chicago Code” a lot, but the show has a number of potentially problematic elements, and several of them seemed more prominent than usual.

First, there’s this idea of Wysocki and Evers as this elite unit that gets to roam the city and bigfoot their way onto any case they want. I get that this gives the show a lot of built-in variety in terms of locations and types of stories so that the episodic stuff doesn’t get dull and repetitive. But I don’t think that that component of the series meshes especially well with the larger corruption investigation. Someone has to take down the mad bomber, but I spent a lot of that storyline thinking that the superintendent could probably put someone else on that while having Jarek look into this barbershop shooting.

He has to work regular cases to provide some cover to what he and Colvin are really doing, I suppose, but this week’s case wasn’t interesting enough for me to care. Last week’s bank robbery plot was also wholly disconnected from the Gibbons arc, but as I said in last week’s review, what made it compelling wasn’t the plot itself, but the way the case revealed the tensions between the other cops and Colvin’s pet detective. This story dabbled in the idea that it was really about Caleb proving himself to Jarek, but only a little; when they had their final conversation in the locker room(*), I didn’t feel like Caleb had done anything special enough throughout the rest of the episode to merit it. Had it been more about the partnership and less about aging counter-culture radicals, I might have been more invested.

(*) That scene, combined with Isaac and Vonda’s return to uniform, had me wondering if perhaps the bomber plot was originally from an episode meant to air earlier in the run. But I asked the episode’s co-writer Tim Minear about it on Twitter and he said it was always intended to be at this spot. (He also explained that Vonda and Isaac will go back and forth between uniform work and Moose’s task force. Quote Minear: “They’re still uni cops. They get to play with the organized crime guys, but it’s both.”)

The investigation into the barbershop incident, meanwhile, featured one of the more awkward scenes the show has done so far, with Teresa meeting with Liam to get intel. Liam’s a character I imagine is tricky to incorporate into the show on a weekly basis, since the only regulars he can interact with are Teresa, Jarek and Gibbons – the latter of whom it would be implausible at this point if he saw in every episode – and that scene felt particularly shoehorned in. It didn’t help that Jennifer Beals’ delivery of most of her lines was weirdly stilted, as if she had just gotten new script pages a few minutes earlier. (She doesn’t usually seem that way to me, so it stuck out here.)

That scene aside, that storyline was definitely the stronger of the two, given that Gibbons is so far the show’s most compelling character. Delroy Lindo was wonderful throughout – I particularly loved his reaction to Little Monster’s demands, since Lindo has such a full, expressive, ingratiating laugh – I liked getting more of his backstory and seeing more of his relationship with his own community while at the same time addressing the idea that an alderman from a black district is so heavily tied to white organized crime.

I’m not sure how I feel about giving him so much narration, though. The use was still consistent, in that it was still all about the character’s history, and revealed details that would be difficult to incorporate into regular dialogue. But it was slightly jarring to go from the idea that we would get little snippets from various characters each week to having one character do all of it. Maybe that’ll be the design going forward much of the time, in which each episode’s narration is designed to turn the spotlight on a specific character (Caleb could probably use an episode like this, and soon), and if that becomes the case, I’ll get used to it.

The word on the street (or on the Twitter) is that the numbers were up last night, which is very good news, indeed. Though it wasn’t my favorite of the four episodes so far, hopefully most of the new people will stick around for whatever the show has to offer next week.

What did everybody else think?

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