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'The Chicago Code' Series Premiere Recap

by Piet Levy, posted Feb 8th 2011 6:45AM
'The Chicaog Code' S01/E01['The Chicago Code' - 'Pilot']

If you did an inventory of the top creative minds that ushered in The Golden Age of Television, Shawn Ryan would have to be on the top of that list. Ryan's gritty, provocative cop show 'The Shield,' featuring Michael Chiklis as one of the TV's greatest all-time antiheroes, was the first basic cable drama to showcase the kind of cinematic urgency we'd come to expect from movies and HBO. Now we expect nothing less from FX, the network that brought 'The Shield' into our living rooms.

One can expect less, however, from FOX, the network airing Ryan's return to the cop drama, 'The Chicago Code'. It's not that FOX hasn't shown its fair share of solid dramas, it's just that a show on a broadcast network can't explore as many nuanced, dark themes, or get away with as much, as a cable network like FX.

In its first hour, 'Code' wasn't as revelatory as 'The Shield.' But it's definitely ambitious, keen on addressing corruption on top of the standard chases, gun play, detective work and bursts of tough guy bravado. And, as a Chicago guy, it's great to watch a show about Chicago that was actually shot there.

Unlike the by-the-numbers 'Detroit 1-8-7,' distinguished only by its on-location setting, 'Code' in its premiere hour distinguished itself with unique Chicago backdrops (no reliance on Wrigley Field or Navy Pier ... yet) and was authentic to the city where it's set (a real-life Chicago reporter, Robin Robinson, even appeared as herself in a news report). The pilot set up a season of exploring corruption amongst the police force and politicians, something Chicago has had its fair share of dealing with.

We were introduced to the good guys slated to fight the good fight and right the wrongs more powerful people have caused. Leading the way was Teresa Colvin (Jennifer Beals), the city's first female superintendent of police, new to the job after six months. Blaming a checks and balances system built on bribery for forcing her father's hardware shop to go out of business, Colvin is set on cleaning out the corruption and turns to her old partner, a renegade super cop (hey, every cop show needs one) named Jarek Wysocki (Jason Clarke) to lead her unofficial task force. You had to love how Colvin coldly demoted a sleazy Chicago cop ('This is my city now') or how Wysocki talked a pistol-wielding carjacker into dropping his gun and turning himself in while in the middle of a high speed car chase. So, maybe everything about 'The Chicago Code' pilot wasn't that realistic. But I believed the characters' convictions, thanks to Beals' and Clarke's performances, and Ryan's swift dialogue.

On Colvin's hit list is Alderman Ronin Gibbons (loosely based on one of Chicago's most powerful real-life aldermen). Gibbons, nicely played by ace character actor Delroy Lindo, is clearly up to no good. "They say Chicago is the city that works. What they don't understand is it works in a lot of different ways," Gibbons said ominously via voiceover while he stared out of his office window (something powerful people do, as Jack Donaghy can attest). And later, Gibbons ordered his assistant to kiss his ear after seeing on the news that one of his adversaries had been gunned down. This is a bad man. But Lindo gave some ambiguity to a character that, under Ryan's care, could be an interesting one to watch develop.

Gibbons, it seemed, has some connection to the Grant Park murder of the comptroller of a major construction company who'd come across some documents indicating some rigged city contracts. Gibbons is on the board of the construction company she worked for, so she sought his advice on coming across the illegal proceedings. Big mistake. Wysocki and Colvin got pretty far down the rabbit hole, nailing the guy who killed the comptroller and the guy who ordered the hit, but had nothing on Gibbons himself by the hour's end.

The pilot also squeezed in a promising young partner for Wysocki (Matt Lauria), who has the misfortune of being a Cubs fan. Other characters included Wysocki's niece, Vonda (Devin Kelley), a young beat cop on the force whose father was killed in the line of duty; her partner Isaac (Todd Williams), a hothead she has feelings for; Liam Hennessy (Billy Lush), a cop working undercover in the Irish mob, who's trying to get close to Gibbons; Wysocki's ex-wife (Amy Price-Francis), who he's cheating on his 27-year-old fiancée with; and Colvin's right-hand confidant that she rescued from the slums. But he's gunned down and killed in a genuinely surprising twist at the episode's end. That, at least, makes the cast of characters and the abundant story lines a little bit easier to navigate.

That assumes enough people will keep watching. I think they will. The show is more challenging than your typical broadcast cop show, but not so challenging as to alienate viewers as FOX's last ambitious drama, 'Lone Star,' did. So no, 'The Chicago Code' is not as great or as compelling as 'The Shield,' but it's already a pretty enthralling cop drama. We can expect nothing less from Ryan.

'The Chicago Code' airs Mondays, 9PM ET on FOX.

Watch the full episode here:

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can i ask a question

May 20 2011 at 6:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I am SO disappointed that CHICAGO CODE is being cancelled. I thought it was riveting and had super interesting characters. I loved Jennifer as a strong woman doing a difficult job very well, Delroy Lindo was fabulous and menacing, Jarek was a great cop with flaws and was kinda grungy but interesting, his partner had a freshness but competence about him. FOX just should give it more time--it is a great show. Promote it! Help people become more aware of it. Please don't give up on it.

May 11 2011 at 8:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to geigo1's comment

is any1 there

May 20 2011 at 6:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to brotherman's comment


May 20 2011 at 6:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down

So sad that this show is being canceled (Fox 5/11/11). Just when its getting really interesting Fox pulls the plug.
Thought this was a show worth keeping. Great story lines..guess we'll never know if Gibbons gets caught.

May 11 2011 at 11:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I thought "Chicago Code" had a good premiere, and like you said, they showcased things that are very Chicago (at least to me) beyond downtown or famous spots like Wrigley and Navy Pier, showing places like Devon Ave and Illinois Masonic Hospital (that one stands out to me only because it's where my mom and a few friends work). I don't get into many cop shows, mainly Law & Order SVU, but like a whole lotta other people I got very into it; it shows the gritty-ness of Chicago, not just the typical parts. I searched the blogs and woohoo! found a little behind-the-scenes of what the season finale will be like -- someone WILL get shot, haha. I saw it on this blog http://bit.ly/dMkbQb. Looking forward to seeing what the rest of the season will be like.

February 08 2011 at 2:28 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Saw the show last night, it was great. Very happy to see Chicago being used. As a chicago native, its interesting to see all the politics and corruption going on. The show is very honest in that.
I look forward to the next show, I'm hooked already!

February 08 2011 at 2:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

BTW, No one is posting because no one watched! Bring "LIE TO ME" back!

February 08 2011 at 10:52 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mixnmatch4's comment

I can't say I agree with you. This pilot was miles better than the twisted up mess Lie to Me has become in its latest season. I'd be more than fine watching episodes of The Chicago Code instead of Lie to Me.

February 08 2011 at 6:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


February 08 2011 at 10:51 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

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