‘The Chicago Code’ – ‘Hog Butcher’: It’s the pigs!

Senior Television Writer
02.14.11 60 Comments


A review of tonight’s “The Chicago Code” coming up just as soon as I can taste the history in this sausage…

“But there is corruption, and then there is just the way things get done, and you have to know the difference.” -Jarek

Second episodes are tricky, particularly on dramas with a strong serialized component like this one. With a pilot, the goal is to make as big an impression – on both the audience and the network execs who might pick you up – as possible. With week two, you have to start worrying about the long haul, which means both making things still accessible for newcomers as well as modulating how the big story arcs you introduced in the pilot are going to play out. And I’d say “Hog Butcher” does a solid job moving over this difficult ground.

In terms of reintroductions, we get a few more backstory infodumps via voiceover, but they’re not just duplicating what we learned in the pilot. Teresa tells the story of her friendship with Antonio, which both teaches us about him after he’s gone but gives us more of a sense of what Teresa’s about. We get Caleb’s perspective on Jarek (while Caleb’s own history gets saved for later), and learn more about Isaac, as well as the relationship he has with Jarek’s niece Vonda and that Vonda has with Jarek.

As far as the story arcs go, there’s a definite sense of the brakes being gently tapped with regards to Teresa and Jarek’s pursuit of Alderman Gibbons. Gibbons winds up being a fairly minor presence in the episode – other than cleverly forcing Teresa to ask him for a favor when he arranges to have Antonio’s death benefits revoked – and we find out that the shooting had nothing to do with the corruption investigation and everything to do with last week’s argument between Teresa and the new Commander of Mops and Brooms.

Now, it’s entirely possible, even probable, that this was planned from the start – otherwise, the “You think you can change how things get done IN CHICAGO?!?!?!” scene from the pilot is just there to show Teresa ruffling feathers and giving FOX a line for the promos – but at the same time I found myself thinking back to those moments on “The Shield” when Shawn Ryan would periodically have to devise a way to slow down whoever was trying to bust Vic Mackey that season. Because Gibbons isn’t the main character on this show, we could easily come to a point – maybe even by the end of the first season, but hopefully not (since Delroy Lindo’s great) – where Gibbons gets taken down and Jarek and Teresa shift their attention to one of the many, many other crooked power brokers in town. So there won’t have to be as much stalling as on “The Shield.” But I’ll be curious to see how quickly this story moves going forward.

And as Jarek and Caleb looked into the shooting, we got a better sense of how Jarek and Teresa interact, and also a little of what Caleb’s about. (They shouldn’t push the whole tech-savvy young guy thing too hard, but I thought his use of Twitter here was clever.) I especially liked Teresa and Jarek’s argument about trust vs. respect, which was not only well-acted by Beals and Clarke, but a conflict that felt genuine, as opposed to the usual trite boss/underling scenes we often get on cop shows. (“Memphis Beat” pilot, I’m rolling my eyes in your general direction.)

And the final scene of Jarek speaking with Sister Paul (played by the great Betty Buckley) was a reminder that this is as much a character piece as it is a serial drama about a corruption investigation. It was another good scene for Clarke, and something that revealed Jarek in a way that he won’t to his partner, his boss, his niece, etc.

What did everybody else think?

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