‘The Chicago Code’ Series Finale Recap: “Go for the Head; That’s Where the Teeth Are”

‘The Chicago Code’ is one of the most painful cancellations of this now-ending TV season. Although the show never quite reinvented the police drama, as some of the early promotion may have promised, it was a very solid series with some interesting political corruption storylines. The show was also really starting to build up steam near the end. Fortunately, if we have to see it go, last week’s season finale brought a fair amount of closure and functions well as a series finale. That’s a lot more than many other shows can claim.

The finale episode, ‘Mike Royko’s Revenge’, picks up with undercover cop Liam (real name Chris) in the hospital after being shot by Elizabeth Killian, the daughter of head mobster Hugh Killian. Superintendent Colvin (Jennifer Beals) needs his testimony in court to link the senior Killian to corrupt Alderman Ronin Gibbons (Delroy Lindo).

Gibbons has found out about Colvin’s secret grand jury investigation, and has gone on the attack in the media by claiming that she had an affair with her murdered driver (she didn’t) that led to his death, and implying that she’s also sleeping with her current driver (she’s not doing that either). Colvin’s career is on the line. The mayor (John Heard) is going to force her to resign if she can’t indict Gibbons ASAP.

Gibbons also finds a way to sidetrack Det. Wysocki by leaving him with a photo that suggests that his dead brother was a dirty cop in bed with Killian, thus implying that Killian murdered him. Wysocki may be willing to ruin the current investigation if it means that he can get revenge for his brother’s death.

Colvin brings Killian in, sets him up in a fancy hotel room, and arranges with her almost-boyfriend in the FBI (Adam Arkin) to have him put in Witness Protection if he’ll testify against Gibbons. Wysocki busts into the hotel room to question/harass Killian, who owns up that he was running Wysocki’s brother as a dirty cop, but insists that he had no reason to kill him. He doesn’t know who did.

Wysocki lets Killian go, but Gibbons gets his girlfriend to assassinate the mobster in the courthouse before he can testify. She’s more than willing to go to prison for her man. Colvin’s case appears to be in shambles, until Liam/Chris comes to and convinces her to cut Killian’s daughter loose if she’ll testify. She did the books for her father and has a ledger that shows payoffs to Gibbons, but this may still not be enough to take Gibbons down.

Wysocki digs through a box of his brother’s old stuff looking for any other connections that may lead to his killer. What he finds is an old videotape his brother recorded with an “If you’re watching this, I must be dead” message. Between that tape and some other files in the box, Wysocki finds plenty of evidence tying Gibbons to organized crime. He races the box to Colvin, who marches in to arrest Gibbons right in the middle of a City Council session where he’s calling for her removal. Gibbons defiantly bellows out that he’s been framed, and promises to fight the charges. “Your days in Chicago are numbered, Theresa,” he says. To which she replies, “Whatever the number, it’s more than yours.”

A wrap-up montage shows Liam/Chris reunited with his parents, so that he can finally reveal the truth to them that he’s not just a deadbeat. Wysocki has mended fences with his fiancée (he’d told her that he was cheating on her a couple episodes ago). Wyscocki’s niece Vonda is officially a couple with her partner, and has even told her uncle. Colvin is seen at a hotel bar picking up some guy from a convention for a one night stand (which is really weird and sad). Finally, Gibbons is led to his prison cell, and already begins the process of forging a strategic alliance with a guard. It’s a pretty emotional scene, and nicely wraps up all of the season’s major story arcs.

For shows known to be “on the bubble,” this should be a textbook example of how to finish off a season in such a way to offer viewers closure while still leaving open some possibilities of places to go in case the show gets renewed. I’m sorry to see ‘The Chicago Code’ canceled, but this is an excellent series finale.


  1. Bryan

    This series did finish strong, for which I’m grateful. The last three episodes were pretty fantastic. If the show had been more consistent in its quality earlier on, I think the audience would have hung with it long enough for it to get renewed.

    I agree with you on the end bit with Colvin in the bar. It was woefully out of character and (more likely) an excuse to show Jennifer Beals in a cleavage-baring outfit.

  2. Brian H

    In the last three episodes, the show became a lot more engaging as it focused on the Gibbons storyline. Of course that would be after the show had already been cancelled. I agree about the show ending with some closure on the story and characters and yet some storylines ready to be picked up. The scene with Colvin in the bar was definitely sad.

    It will be tough one day to explain to young people the concept of timeslots and Nielsen ratings. On Hulu, they must have exact metrics for every single time a show and its episodes are watched, and the exact moment when the viewers decide to stop watching an episode. Instead of spending a third or more of a commercial break advertising other shows on the same network, Hulu viewers actually spend time looking for shows to watch, and Hulu probably has metrics showing how long a viewer browsed, if they watched a preview, if they went on to watch an episode or a season, if the clicked an add, etc.

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