The Chicago Code Review: It Can Do Better
Following another decent, but far from spectacular, episode of The Chicago Code, I can think of a few ways for this show to improve.
Most of "O'Leary's Cow" suffered from the same problems I've experienced over the drama's opening set of installments, leading to the following list of changes I'd make to what is clearly a promising series...
Make Jarek's role more clear. Is he on Gibbons duty full time or not? Why did he take this Chinatown case if his mission is to expose the Alderman? Yes, there was the connection to his past, unsolved murder. But we've been led to believe that Wysocki and Evers have been assigned to one job; this is the second consecutive week they've taken over a case with no real connection to it.
Give us an overarching storyline. This would help solve the aforementioned issue. Every week seems to offer another example that Gibbons is corrupt (here, the speech about how he hand-picked Lao), but how about setting up a long-running plot that puts this corruption into action? It would give Jarek an excuse to take on other cases - in order to throw Gibbons off the scent of someone tracking him - and would simply give viewers a specific, serialized element that the show is missing.
Go one episode without saying the words "Chicago" or "corruption." We really do get it at this point. We don't need individuals giving some variation of the same speech each week. This is how things get done in Chicago! Show, do not tell.
Kill off Liam. Or replace him or... something. Maybe we can blame Leonardo DiCaprio's outstanding portrayal of a cop undercover in The Departed for making all subsequent roles pale by comparison, but Liam is a bland character, played by an actor who looks like he's reading from cue cards instead of actually emoting. There's potential in the idea of an officer struggling with this kind of assignment, but it kills the character's credibility when Jarek is giving him (obvious) advice on how to act.
Why was Liam chosen in the first place if he's clearly so unaware of what to do?
End the voiceovers. I've complained about this from the premiere, but it really bothered me at the outset of this episode. Jarek kicked it off by giving talking about himself and the bare-handed game of softball - but he then transitioned into the undercover world and the scene switched over to Liam. What? Huh? The gimmick at least makes sense as a way to provide background about each individual, but it becomes irksome if characters literally act as the narrator of the show.
Overall, there's a lot to like here. It was interesting to get a glimpse into Teresa's personal life and to see Caleb strike out with Natalie. Colvin, Evers, Wysocki and Gibbons are solid, well-defined characters.
I'd just love to see them actually put into action. It feels like the show is spinning its wheels each week, constantly telling us how dirty Chicago is and offering up weekly examples. But there's been little progress overall. I'm hoping The Chicago Code becomes less of a procedural and can set a long-running plot into motion that really captures my attention each week, unfolding in exciting, unexpected ways.