It feels awesome to have The Chicago Code back with new episodes. (Even though I watched the last two weeks of reruns anyway.) While the trailer played up that this episode is set during a heat wave, that really just provided the backdrop for solid stories for each of our characters this week. No games, no gimmicks, just good TV.
I find it adorable that Jarek is picking up Teresa every morning to drive her to work. They clearly deserve each other, and I mean that as high praise. He's handpicked some potential new drivers for her, and she finally picks one - ex-Marine Ray Bidwell (Warren Kole). When there's a robbery call in their vicinity, Teresa decides they'll take care of it. "Do I look like I wanna wait in the car?" she tells Ray, shortly before defusing the situation. (Best. Boss. Ever.) Though she's reluctant to warm to Ray, he proves himself more than capable as an equal partner to her, if not in title than in personality, at least. I love their final scene together, as Ray calls Teresa out on selecting him because he was the only candidate without a spouse or children. He knows she's afraid to do damage to another family. Now she has a chance to move forward past her grief. I still miss Antonio, but Ray won me over with that speech of his, and I think that his relationship with Teresa is going to be plenty interesting.
This episode of The Chicago Code is as hilarious as it is compelling. Also awesome is the fact that Caleb is still mouthy with Jarek, who seems to be enjoying having a partner who's unafraid to banter back at him. Watching their relationship continue to grow is one of the highlights of this show for me. Jarek, in turn, is tetchy with the detective from whom he swipes the murder of a local ice cream vendor. ("Stop looking at my ass, Lassiter," he snarks.) Thanks to Matt Lauria and Jason Clarke, I was laughing out loud a few times this episode. There's no reason a drama can't also be funny.
There's still plenty of serious business, though. Caleb makes an understandable but ill-advised mistake: he promises the victim's son that they'll catch his killer. He's willing to do whatever it takes to back up his words, including burning one of Jarek's informants (The Game's Marcello Thedford), tangling with the Russians, and making one heck of an open-field tackle. Caleb is truly gut-checked by the emotional reality of the case, and I can't say enough about how Matt Lauria gets that across so poignantly, without drawing attention to himself. There's no time or place for Caleb to go cry in a corner, but it's not necessary; he breaks our hearts regardless. I even got a little choked up. I'd say this is Matt Lauria's best work to date.
And Alderman Gibbons isn't sitting in his office thinking up evil schemes. He's out helping his less fortunate constituents - the ones who don't have or can't afford air conditioning - to stay cool in the record heat. He dispatches Liam and his friend to personally visit the people who haven't responded to phone calls. Liam ends up breaking into one house and saving the life of an elderly woman. It's a fine subplot for Billy Lush, and also advances the ongoing story - because of his heroism, Gibbons offers Liam a job on the city payroll, which could be the break he's been working for.
Meanwhile, after partners Isaac and Vonda have a scare while on patrol, they become more than partners. I don't mind that they're a couple (in fact, all I can think is that it's going to be interesting when Jarek finds out), but I'm more impressed by the first part of their story. As I mentioned in my advance review, the sequence where Vonda loses her partner in the apartment building is so well shot (kudos to Adam Arkin, fresh off his guest-starring turn in the previous episode). Not only that, but there's the great creative decision to stay with Vonda throughout. We don't see Isaac; we don't know that he's okay. That allows us to feel Vonda's fear and confusion ourselves, as well portrayed by Devin Kelley. All the way around, it's a great few minutes of film.
I'm in love with "Wild Onions" because it's a character piece, not just for one or two but for all of our leads. Each of them has a story here, one that shows us something new about them, or gives us a quotable line, or a memorable moment. It immerses us into Chicago so well, and more importantly, it's time spent in the hearts and minds of everyone. At the end of the episode, with a smile on my face, I feel like I know these people better, and that I'm a real part of their lives. It's episodes like these, where the line between fiction and reality blurs that little bit, which make watching television so worthwhile.