Episode Title: "Pilot"
Writer: Shawn Ryan
Director: Charles McDougall
Teresa Colvin (Jennifer Beals) is the first female Superintendent of Chicago’s police force and she wants to clean up her city. To root out the corruption at its core, she recruits her ex-partner Detective Jarek Wysocki (Jason Clarke) to form an unofficial task force of the city’s best cops to battle crime as they see fit.
At a city counsel meeting, Teresa’s passionate request to create a task force to handle multiple layers of corruption within the city is shot down by Alderman Ronin Gibbons (Delroy Lindo). Afterwards, Teresa notes to her driver, Antonio Betz (Manny Montana) that Gibbons helped get her the job she has now, but she’s not afraid to go against him. Elsewhere, Jarek and his partner race alongside a high speed chase and catch up with the fugitive driver. In a risky move, Jarek offers to give the man a chance to say goodbye to his pregnant girlfriend before his arrest if he surrenders. The man agrees and gets his tearful farewell while Jarek’s partner chews him out. Jarek chides the man for swearing in front of children and tells him to get a new partner… after only a single day together.
Later, a woman named Linda Walling visits Gibbons to tell him about potentially illegal contracts at Fergus, a construction that she works for. Since he is on the board for that company, Gibbons assures her that she made the right choice in bringing it to him first. Soon after, Jarek is approached by his former partner, Teresa to look into the gruesome murder of Linda and her husband. He initially refuses her invitation to become part of an investigation targeting Gibbons, but he accepts a new partner: Detective Caleb Evans (Matt Lauria). At the Fergus office building, Jarek orders Caleb to pull the fire alarm which allows a sympathetic co-worker of Linda’s to tell them what she had discovered.
Across town, Teresa demotes a cop with several citizen’s complaints against him and he angrily threatens her. We also learn along the way that Jarek has a niece on the force, Vonda Wysocki (Devin Kelley), whom he raised as his surrogate daughter. He is less impressed with her partner, Isaac Joiner (Todd Williams) and suspects that they are sleeping together. Following up with Teresa, Jarek tells her that they have a lead on the shooter and she tells him that they have an undercover cop on the inside of the Irish mob that may help them link Gibbons to the crime. They give Gibbons the info about their suspect to see what he does with it, but only over Teresa’s objections.
The cops catch the suspect when he heads home, allowing Jarek and Caleb to slip inside. Shortly thereafter, two Irish thugs show up: Will and Liam (Billy Lush). Jarek makes a point of punching Liam before sending him and Will away. Back at the police station, the suspect cracks under pressure and admits that he was hired to kill Linda specifically. Later, Jarek secretly meets with Liam, Teresa’s inside man. But Liam admits that he hasn’t had any contact with Gibbons… yet. Under the pretense of allowing Gibbons to aid their investigation, Jarek and Caleb lead a police search of the Fergus offices. Caleb spots Liam again and makes a point of saying that there’s something off about him.
Realizing that the man who paid the shooter is attempting to flee the country, Jarek flags the man as a terrorist threat to ground his plane. Under interrogation, he admits that he planned the hit for Gibbons, per his intent. But because Gibbons didn’t specifically order him to kill her, there’s no tangible link to the crime. Elsewhere, Teresa prevents an all out gangwar, before an assassin shoots her and her driver Antonio. In his office, Gibbons watches the news report of the shooting while allowing his female aide to service him.
At the hospital, Jarek learns that Teresa survived because Antonio insisted that she wear his vest after the earlier threats made against her by the demoted cop. But Anthonio wasn’t so lucky and died at the scene. Finally angry enough to accept Teresa’s offer, Jarek agrees to bring on Caleb as well. He also insists that Chicago is a city that "knows how to punch back."
There was a moment in "The Chicago Code" that really won me over, but it’s a little difficult to get it across in the description. Throughout the hour, Jarek, Teresa and other characters narrate their histories of how and why they became cops. It’s an exposition devise that’s kind of clunky, which led me to start tuning it out.
But by the time it got to Antonio, we learn that he was saved from the gang life by Teresa and she personally kept him from bailing out of police academy. Just as he’s going on about how much she means to him as a cop and a person, the flashback is stopped in its tracks when Teresa takes a bullet and then Antonio is shot and killed. It’s such a great sucker punch that it elevated the rest of the episode.
"The Chicago Code" definitely has a lot of potential, especially with Shawn Ryan at the helm. Although, it does feel a lot tamer than his earlier work, "The Shield" and Jarek’s disapproval of profanity probably stems from broadcast network restrictions. I kind of wish that this was also an FX series so it didn’t have to hold back. Also, I can’t believe that this show was nearly called "Ride Along." That would have been the absolute wrong name for it. So it’s good to see that Ryan learned something from the "Terriers" debacle.
Aside from Teresa’s flashback at the start of the show, we don’t really learn much about our female lead. However, Jennifer Beals plays her with confidence and she seems believable in the role. Jason Clarke is also very strong as Jarek and we learn a lot about him. He intentionally cycles through partners in a matter of days and he’s cheating on his 27 year old fiancée with his ex-wife and the mother of his son. We don’t even meet his fiancée in this episode, although we see him race home to sleep with her at his lunch break. He’s a pretty well rounded character. He’s admirable, but not squeaky clean.
The early part of the episode where Caleb tries to get to know Jarek better through pop culture references was pretty tiresome. But Matt Lauria worked best when he demonstrated that Caleb has terrific cop instincts. There’s also a really funny moment in which his hand is marked after he pulls a fire alarm, despite Jarek’s insistence that it wouldn’t happen. There’s definitely an intriguing chemistry between them, but the pop culture references should be kept to a minimum.
I also like the idea that Jarek essentially has a surrogate daughter in the form of his niece, Vonda. But she and Isaac are the weak links of the cast, at least so far. I should also mention that Delroy Lindo is really good as Gibbons, but I’d like to see that storyline wrapped up this season instead of over the course of several years. Chicago is a great city for a show like this and there’s a lot of stories to tell.
If "The Chicago Code" can be this entertaining on a weekly basis, I’ll be there for the long haul.
Crave Online Rating: 8.5 out of 10.