Among the many things I love about The Chicago Code, one of the biggest is that it is never formulaic. While there’s an individual story each week, it’s more often than not just a springboard for the sprawling tale that the show really has to tell, with us uncovering new pieces every episode. This is one of those episodes. It starts simple enough, but it’s not at all like it first appears. This is television at its smartest.
This week, after a city Waste & Sanitation official named Darren Wall sees his corruption trial end in a hung jury, the prosecuting attorney (Tamlyn Tomita, who’s also the medical examiner on Law & Order: Los Angeles) gives Jarek and Teresa just days to prove the tampering or risk losing Wall for good. However, that’s just part of a bigger conspiracy which provides headaches for several of our main characters. This is not a neat show, and it never will be. I think that’s one of its charms.
Jarek is all too happy to sink his teeth into this one, which means plenty of scenery-chewing for Jason Clarke, including a great confrontation with Wall in his office where Jarek nearly hits him with a baseball. I know I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: Clarke really is a force when he’s on screen, and he makes the most of substantive material like this. The writers for The Chicago Code do a great job of giving him things to work with, without making Jarek’s behavior over the top and therefore implausible as a real cop. It’s great to watch unfold.
The pursuit of Wall doesn’t go unnoticed by Alderman Gibbons and his associates. While Gibbons tries to point Teresa in other directions, Liam (whose real name is Chris, btw) meets with Hugh Killian and his daughter (Shannon Lucio, from The Gates and the original Beth Turner in the unaired pilot of Moonlight). With Caleb and Jarek finally able to connect the two to each other, Gibbons tells Killian to take care of the situation personally – which to him means shooting the bought-off juror in the back in front of Liam, and having him dispose of the body. This lands Liam in a tough position: does he risk blowing his cover to nab what could be a sure thing?
Liam proposes a sting operation to bust Killian with himself as the bait. It goes well enough, as Jarek and Caleb bust a truck driver who’s willing to testify against his boss, giving the team a lot more than just jury tampering. With Killian on the chopping block, it also officially puts Alderman Gibbons squarely in the Chicago Police Department’s sights. “You’re declaring open war on the most powerful man in the city,” Teresa is warned, but convinces the DA to file papers to start a secret investigation we know won’t be secret for long. It’s game time, and our heroes are ready for the fight. So am I.
There’s some great personal stuff in this episode as well. Through flashbacks, we finally get our first look at Jarek’s brother Vincent, both alive and dead. Jason Clarke doesn’t get any dialogue as Jarek arrives at a crime scene to find his brother’s body, but the expressions on his face convey anguish as powerful as any I’ve ever seen on television. Caleb reveals that he’s read Vincent’s case file, which doesn’t go over well with Jarek. The flashbacks aren’t just poignant; they’re also relevant to how Jarek approaches this new undercover operation. We also get further insight into Liam’s background and what makes him tick; Billy Lush has been doing a wonderful job all season showing us how being undercover wears on him on a daily basis.
If there’s one thing that doesn’t work for me this episode, it’s the Vonda and Isaac subplot. It’s the first time I’ve felt like something on this show could’ve been left out. While it’s worth a chuckle, it feels like it exists to include their characters in the episode, not because it works with the episode.
This episode gets The Chicago Code to the moment we’ve all been waiting for: when Teresa and Jarek publicly take Alderman Gibbons head on. The show is definitely going to pay off what it set up, which I appreciate, and I have no idea how, which I love. It’s nice to find a show that can still surprise and engage my cynical self after all the TV I’ve seen. Most importantly, we see what it’s taken out of our characters for them to get this far. We’re clued in to more of how Jarek’s loss affects how he thinks and behaves, and how Liam continues to struggle wit hthe pressure his job puts him under. It hasn’t been an easy road, and the journey of the characters is just as important as the final score.
I can’t wait to see where this show goes next week. Then again, I say that every week…and I feel incredibly blessed that I do. Shows like this only come around once in awhile.