Who doesn't love busting a major drug dealer? Certainly not Jarek Wysocki, who gets to lead a task force to do just that this week. Because he's Jarek, this takes all of six minutes. (I certainly don't want to see him coming at me with a gun.) This only leads to bigger questions: can they keep him, can they fend off the FBI, and most importantly, can they rescue his kidnapped son? Basically, this episode of The Chicago Code starts where most other crime dramas would end.
I'd call this episode the most familiar of the season, but I mean that as a compliment, because it proves that even when it could coast, the series will never play things safe. There's a great scene where Jarek registers his moral outrage at the drug dealer likely ending up in a federal witness protection program instead of being punished for his crimes. This isn't the first show to make that argument, but Jason Clarke sells it so well that what should be a forgettable, familiar beat pops with a frustrated energy. Then there's the stuff that we probably don't even think about. Teresa (Jennifer Beals) has to convince the FBI why they need to build a case against the drug dealer in Chicago instead of letting him head off into the federal sunset. Who thinks about jurisdiction issues and repercussions when we talk about catching bad guys? Most of us don't, because we're not in a position to. But this show presents everything that goes on surrounding the situations it sets up. We see every consequence, and not just the ones that make for good drama. And who doesn't love a guest appearance from Adam Arkin (Life, Chicago Hope)?
Liam (Billy Lush) still has issues with having killed a man in the fire that he set, even if doing so got him on the good side of Alderman Gibbons (Delroy Lindo). Lush does a great job of articulating just how wound Liam is after more than a year undercover, gettting closer to reaching his breaking point. The problem is that he has no time to sort his head out. In fact, he ends up going with Gibbons to comfort the widow of the man he killed. Psychological drama is as interesting, if not more interesting, than physical action if played right, and this is definitely played right. It's creepy that once again, Gibbons actually makes sense, when he tells Liam that protecting the people of Chicago isn't something that you can go halfway on. I don't want him to make sense. I want to hate his guts. But that would be too simple, and The Chicago Code isn't going to let me take the easy way out. When Liam decides to stand his ground, I understand why even as I fear for him.
Meanwhile, Jarek's son finds out that his parents are still sleeping together. I don't know about you, but as much as I love Jarek, I'm sort of enjoying watching him finally take some flak for his lapses in personal judgment, whether it's from his son or from Caleb (Matt Lauria), who's still giving almost as much lip as he's getting. He's like my best friend - I'd lay down my life for the guy but sometimes, he needs to take a hit or two. And it's a credit to the writers that at least he's conflicted about it - really conflicted, not the fake "we're trying to make him likeable" conflicted. When he manages to screw even that up, I actually feel bad for him and start to be less angry with him. By episode's end, I want to hug him and tell him that everything's going to be okay. Well played, show.
That's the thing that I think is genius. Just when I think I know these characters, or get used to looking at them in a certain light, the series reveals another layer or changes the play. It's maddening, but brilliantly so; as a TV viewer, I live for being jolted, challenged, confronted. I love that this show pushes me back on my heels and never lets me get comfortable.
If you read my open letter this afternoon, you'll know that I love this show. One of the earmarks of a great show for me is that even the episodes that don't reinvent the wheel are still worth watching. That's the case with The Chicago Code. I now know that even if there was the simplest plot in the world on this show, I still could never sleep on it. My only regret is that now I'll be watching reruns for the next few weeks.
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