The Chicago Code is back, and it’s different backdrop, same amazing storytelling.
I’ve said before how much I enjoy this show; I’m so impatient that these last two weeks of reruns have seemed way longer than that (though that didn’t stop me from watching anyway). The fundamental reason why is that it’s refreshingly free of BS – it’s simply a fundamentally great television series. “Wild Onions” is a perfect example of that principle in action. Rather than sensationalizing itself, the script by Virgil Williams creates simple drama with the characters, and plays some damn fine emotional chords along the way.
As you’ve deduced from the previews, the setup for the episode is that Chicago is enduring a massive heat wave that leads to power outages and sets the stage for less than reputable behavior. Unlike other shows where that would be an excuse for all sorts of mayhem, on The Chicago Code that’s really just the backdrop to get us going. The heart of the story comes from each of our characters, all of whom face things that will stick with them, and with us as a result. Much has been made on TV of the very real fact – and I can attest to this from personal experience – that in law enforcement, you experience things that you don’t forget. Unfortunately, on TV and film, mostly this is played for melodrama. Not so here, and that’s something which I deeply respect.
Each character has their own separate story in this episode. Teresa (Jennifer Beals), with a little help from Jarek (Jason Clarke), finally gets a new driver to replace Antonio – Ray Bidwell, an ex-Marine. Over the course of their eventful first day together, she learns just as much if not more from Ray as he learns from her, and finally starts to move on from losing her dear friend. It’ll be interesting to see how much we see of Ray going forward, and how his relationship with Teresa develops, because it’s entirely different from the one she had with Antonio. As much as I still miss Antonio, by the end of the episode, I was saying out loud, “Good job, new guy.”
Meanwhile, Jarek and Caleb (Matt Lauria, who turns in his best episode yet) handle the case of an ice cream truck driver gunned down in front of his young son. While Jarek really doesn’t like the detective he swipes the case from – which leads to some laugh-out-loud lines from Jason Clarke – the real story lies with Caleb, whose heart goes out to the now-orphan. He makes the completely understandable mistake of promising the kid that they’ll catch his father’s murderer, and then has to back up his words with actions. Caleb gets another reality check in this episode, and Matt Lauria really sells the emotional sucker punch that comes with it. I wanted to hug him something fierce by the end, but I’m also impressed with his acting. There’s a real authenticity. We see his conflict and grief, but he doesn’t draw attention to it; it just is what it is. This is an even better episode for him than “The Gold Coin Kid” was.
(In fact, Caleb continues to have more snappy comebacks for Jarek. If this keeps up, I’m putting The Chicago Code up with Justified as one of the funniest dramas on TV.)
Liam (Billy Lush) is tasked with helping Alderman Gibbons (Delroy Lindo) look out for his constituents in the midst of the heat wave. It’s another episode where Gibbons is not a villain, which only further muddles our perceptions. Does he really care about these people? Is it that unbelievable to think he does? On paper, Gibbons may be our bad guy, but things aren’t that simple on the show. He can be a bad guy doing good things, and as Liam gets more confused about his true intent, so do we.
Partners Isaac (Todd Williams) and Vonda (Devin Kelley) get into some trouble of their own this week. To say more would be too large a spoiler, but there’s a particularly brilliant sequence where they’re separated and the camera stays with Vonda for a stretch of several minutes. It really allows us to see those moments through her perspective and feel her panic. She doesn’t know where Isaac is and neither do we. I thought it was a truly ingenious piece of filmmaking. There’s a twist for these two that the previews gave away already, and all I can say is that it’s going to be fun when (not if) Jarek finds out.
This is a really simple, straightforward episode, and that’s what I love about it – about the whole show, really. There’s no gimmick, no games, no hype. Even the promos are pretty simply cut. This is just a good show with great characters. “Wild Onions” drops them all into a unique situation, but it doesn’t forget that the heart of The Chicago Code are these strong, complex characters that we’ve embraced. Each of them goes on a journey that we want to take with them. And as they change because of it, so do we see them just a little differently. With episodes like this, I really feel like I’m part of their world, and more importantly, that I want to be there.
Other shows can keep their fanfare. I’ll be over here with the one that’s quietly, fundamentally perfect.
“Wild Onions” airs Monday at 9 PM ET/PT on FOX.