Words by C. Paicely
Many series start off with an eyebrow-raising premise but, like a jammed gun, fail to execute it. It’s a rare occurrence when a TV show brings about a narrative seemingly adapted from socio-analytical literature. Think Prison Break. Others lose their initial intrigue and become overly entrenched in the characters, rather than the story. Think House. Then there are the masterpieces that pulled a Jordan and failed to realize when the run was over. Think E.R.
The Chicago Code, brought to us by Shield creator Shawn Ryan, could end up making any, if not all, of those mistakes. But I have five reasons to believe—and hope—the upstart show is great and will continue to get better. And what better way to prove my belief than by connecting the dots between The Chicago Code and the show I base all judgments on, The Wire.
1. The City Lives – Lance Reddick once said his favorite character on The Wire was the city of Baltimore. Every big city is organic and Chicago is overtly so, with vibrant varying colors clustered together within every cubicle-like community in the city. The accents are like nowhere else and everywhere else simultaneously. The South Side. The El lines. Pilsen. Wrigleyville. The Loop. All easily recognizable and unique to the city.
The Chicago Code embraces that exclusivity and uses it at every turn – in one scene, a cop’s character is judged based on one simple question: Cubs or Sox? With an episode coming up entitled “Cabrini Green,” it appears Chicago will stay a prominent aspect of the show.
2. Diversity – While this also fits into the “Chicago-as-character” argument, it’s important to note the value in representing such a wide array of races, ethnicities and cultural understandings. We’re talking about a city that is practically broken into thirds between whites, blacks and Latinos. Why wouldn’t the show reflect that?
The best aspect of TCC’s melting pot portrayal is the unapologetic role reversals, much like the real-life Chicago political scene. A mixed race police superintendent bossing around a White subordinate while trying to dig up dirt on a corrupt Black politician? Some would be angry at this seeming inaccuracy. And, fair enough, it has a Clay Davis from The Wire air to it, but I would not have been as interested if Delroy Lindo had been replaced with Robert Duvall. Bottom line.
3. Acting Chops – We have Delroy, the girl from Flashdance, an Aussie, and a bunch of unfamiliar faces carrying this show. On first glance, it sounds like a crap shoot. Wrong.
Jennifer Beals, a native Chicagoan, seems to easily pull off the confident but vulnerable boss lady with conviction. Supt. Colvin is not to be stopped and neither is Beals. Her ambition bares similarities to Cedric Daniels.
Jason Clarke, who plays Det. Wysocki, hails from Austrailia, yet his Chicago accent and Polish swag—if such a thing exists—stays in full effect throughout each episode. I’ll scale back my language a little and just say, dude ain’t no punk and will remind you of Jimmy McNulty.
Delroy Lindo is a scene-stealer, expressing multiple emotions with a simple eye movement. You can never tell what Ronin Gibbons is thinking, mainly because he looks so damn sincere, even when he’s lying to your face.
The cast is full of character actors that are clearly fully invested in the project. The acting and the development of those characters will keep the cast majorly busy. Well, maybe. That brings us to another Wire similarity…
4. Everybody Is Expendable – This is something else we learned from that HBO classic. On that show anyone could die at any point in any episode. Some deaths weren’t even on camera, adding another layer of real-time realism.
The Chicago Code is no different. Hell, a character died while introducing himself in the pilot. Now that we know this, don’t get too attached to these wonderful Windy citizens. In the end, the show’s only mainstay may be Chicago itself.
5. Failures – The Chicago Code is primed to be a narrative that follows the successes and failures of the main characters. There will be a story arc in every episode and an all-encompassing arc for the entire series. Best believe every moment in these miniature storylines will be in the interest of the grand scheme. That means Supt. Colvin and Det. Wysocki will not always or even frequently get who they’re looking for.
Think of it this way. Remember all those failures Jimmy McNulty and Lester Freamon had to endure? Remember what they had to sacrifice to achieve some semblance of success? Expect something similar for Colvin and Wysocki.
The Chicago Code isn’t The Wire… yet. There are some notable differences. Background music was transmitted through car radios and CD players on The Wire. The Chicago Code has a Kanye West soundtrack. The grittiness on The Wire was unmatched and The Chicago Code will never get there on Fox. Finally, there’s no Michael K. Williams. ‘Nuff said.
Still, The Chicago Code is worth watching, and it’s a show you’ll regret not getting into from the beginning. After two episodes, all signs point to a powerful story.
The Chicago Code airs on Mondays at 9pm EST on FOX. For more info, visit the official site.