This week’s The Chicago Code touches a subject I know all too well: hate crimes. When Lance Dolan, a prominent gay man, is murdered, it’s a firestorm of a case. As tough as the idea is to tackle, the writers handle the material with class, and it’s another solid episode from a show that’s hardly missed a beat all season.
An episode about a hate crime contains sensitive subject matter by its very nature, and this one is no exception. Dolan’s companion, who survived the attack, is a married man with a kid who’s resistant to testify and risk destroying his family. In fact, that’s what led him to commit the murder. A little obvious, perhaps, but does it make sense? Absolutely. I can understand why it played out that way, and that’s what matters to me. As I’ve been a victim of hate crimes myself, it means a lot to me that this episode treats the material with respect and doesn’t sensationalize it.
The Chicago Code has always done a fine job reminding us that the ongoing war never stops regardless of the battles being fought. Teresa enlists the help of Dennis Mahoney from the mayor’s office (did I mention yet how much I love Steven Culp?) to debunk Gibbons’ candidate for commander of the CPD’s gang unit – who would be in prime position to interfere with their campaign against him. “You’re not the only one who has concerns over the stranglehold Ronin Gibbons has,” Dennis tells her. I really hope that line means that we’re going to see more of him in the future. It would certainly be interesting for Teresa to have a political ally in addition to having Jarek on the streets.
On the personal front, it’s the anniversary of Vincent Wysocki’s death, and Vonda receives a random package containing his watch. She traces it to a woman and infers from the subsequent conversation that her father was having an affair. Jarek doesn’t want to, but he admits to her that her father’s personal life was much more fractured than she knew, a reveal which is doubly painful because he’s in the same position himself. This leads Jarek to tell Dina that he wants to reconcile. I am in love with this moment so much, because it needed to be done. He makes the choice he needs to make, and the show has put me in his head enough to understand why he wants his family back. Yet because I feel like I know the character so well, I can also understand why Dina doesn’t want him back. Not to mention, Jarek has to suffer the wrath of his fiancee, which he absolutely deserves. It’s all handled in a fair, mature fashion. It all makes sense. Painful sense, but I’m satisfied with the resolution. In fact, I was crying through the last five minutes, despite my expressed dislike with the subplot to begin with. Taking me from disgust to anguish? Well played, show.
There are also quite a few little things which work in this episode. I adore Jarek’s implying that Caleb is gay in order to keep them on the case, not necessarily because it’s funny but because it reminds me of a real-life situation involving the Baltimore Police Department (and later used in the show Homicide: Life on the Street) where one detective claimed his partner had a sex change in order to escort a female prisoner. I also enjoyed this week’s car chase, partly because I know it’s Jason Clarke doing his own driving and because footage from it is used in the opening credits. Yes, I’m a nerd.
Things which are awkward and perhaps a bit tired: Jarek and his fiancee mingling with his ex-wife and the new boyfriend she is obviously not serious about. It makes sense given later events, but it’s been done. Vonda meeting her father’s mistress has been done before, too, but at least that allows Jarek (and the audience) to reconsider his behavior yet again. The only concern I have is that Vonda and Isaac continue to not quite fit into the plot. While her subplot this episode does contribute something meaningful, it’s more about Jarek than her, and Isaac is pretty much just the supportive boyfriend. I appreciate that the show wants the two characters around every episode (being that they are credited as regulars), but I don’t mind if they’re not around if there really isn’t good material for them. They’re good characters and I want to see them at their best, not just accounted for.
It’s clear that this episode is one which is a turning point for several characters. Teresa and Gibbons pretty much declare open war on each other without actually doing it. Jarek’s personal issues get the resolution that they needed before they lapsed into melodrama. Sometimes, episodes like this one seem like filler, because a certain amount of time has to be spent on wrapping up plot points. I didn’t get that feeling this week. I never noticed the slowness because I knew this was a journey we needed to take. I knew this was the right time to say goodbye to certain plot points and characters. At the same time, I never lost that feeling of excitement for what comes next. This is how great television is done.