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'The Chicago Code' 1.09 'St. Valentine's Day Massacre' Review

Brittany Frederick Brittany Frederick
April 19th, 2011 6:45am EDT

I loved last week's episode of The Chicago Code because it focused on character with a simple plot. I love this episode for the opposite reason: it's got one heck of a plot that still revealed more about our characters. As a writer, I have an incredible amount of respect for a show that changes its approach to best serve its stories. It proves that they're willing to do whatever it takes to do the best job possible, and they have done an outstanding job all season long.

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On-screen, doing the best job possible is a major issue this week. Teresa gets thrown under the bus twice this week, first by one of her own officers (you have to love people who say things anonymously rather than be willing to put their name behind what they say) and then by the mayor in front of the press. It's made clear publicly that her job is on the line. Yet that doesn't stop her from doing her job, whether it's working with her detectives or confronting the people she needs to. I believe what she says and I feel like I would follow her. I've heard a fair amount of comments over the years about the lack of strong female roles on television; well, here's a strong woman in power, played by a very capable actress. Jennifer Beals has really impressed me in this part. Every time I watch her, I just think that there are so many ways lesser actresses could have messed this crucial character up, and Teresa Colvin avoids every single one of them.

Being fully developed also means being human, and Teresa isn't omnipotent. She needs a save and she needs one in a hurry. It's up to Jarek and Caleb to solve a grisly multiple murder as soon as they possibly can, and they quickly connect the dots to a gang that was extorting the victims for protection money. But with the gang leader braindead in custody, the question is who's really calling the shots (literally). He's got two kids, felon Deon (Leverage star Aldis Hodge, doing equally well in a completely different role) and court employee Bernadette. It's not really a surprise that the so-called "good" one turns out to be the real villain, but as I've said before, not every plot can be novel - and I don't mind a familiar plot if it's worth the watch.

These two things come together as the police union reps are looking to have a vote of no confidence against their superintendent. Jarek is willing to fight for his former partner and friend, and it's an episode that shows how Jason Clarke really is a "force of nature," to borrow Shawn Ryan's words. There are some great moments for Clarke this episode. There's the scene where Jarek decks a fellow officer who dares to accuse him of sleeping with Teresa (you just know he would have taken him outside and beat the stuffing out of him), and later one where he's willing to end his partnership with Caleb when he believes his partner doesn't support her. It's not him playing favorites because they're friends; he honestly believes in her. One of the things I love about Jarek's character is that he's got the courage to stand behind his convictions; in fact, I almost think he likes it when he's pushed. There's an intensity to his character that is a joy to watch each week.

Equally important is that this allows us another look at Jarek and Teresa's friendship; she might now be his boss, but that doesn't erase the bond they've had for years. He's fighting for her job just as hard - maybe even a little harder - than she is. It brought a smile to my lips to see Jarek at the union meeting as Teresa gave her impassioned (and so well delivered, and oh so true) speech on her own behalf; that's right where I'd expect him to be. I've said it before and I'll keep saying it: it's refreshing to see a strong, complex friendship without sexual tension between a male lead and a female lead on television. It only helps that Jason Clarke and Jennifer Beals have fantastic chemistry together. Put two outstanding actors together and of course they're going to be marvelous.

Meanwhile, Isaac and Vonda are grilled by a lawyer (that's Cathy Cahlin Ryan, wife of series creator Shawn Ryan) over their response to a domestic violence incident. There's another unique approach here, as we're told the same story three times over, from various points of view. We're never told which one is right and which are wrong. It's up to us to decide what we think happened, which is a really fair way of presenting the story. We want to believe Isaac, but do we? Beyond that, Todd Williams really sinks his teeth into the subplot; Isaac's frustration is perfectly understandable. (How many times have we heard of frivolous lawsuits, not just against the police but against all sorts of people?) This is probably his best episode yet.

And while I lack any real opinion on the Vonda/Isaac romance yet, I have to say that I do appreciate how the writers handled it. Though they introduced it last week, they didn't make a big deal of it this week, perhaps recognizing that it wouldn't have fit in this episode at all. And they raised the realistic concern of how that relationship will impact their professional credibility. I'm still waiting for what I'm sure will be an epic moment when Jarek finds out about them, but so far, I have no complaints about how it's being handled.

"St. Valentine's Day Massacre" is another great episode for The Chicago Code. I suppose the best thing I can say to sum up my feelings on the episode is this: in my household, we normally watch TV while doing other things, whether it's having dinner or surfing the Internet. This week, we weren't doing anything else but watching this show. It had our complete attention. This show has always had that power with me, and I'm so glad that there's a show this amazing out there when there's so much that's forgettable.

For more The Chicago Code, head over to DigitalAirwaves.net and ChicagoCodeFan.com.

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