‘The Chicago Code’ 1.02 Recap: “If I Can’t Be Perfect, Why Bother Being Good?”

When I recapped the pilot episode of ‘The Chicago Code’, I mentioned that the show seemed to have potential, but lacks the moral ambiguity and complexity of Shawn Ryan’s most famous series, ‘The Shield’. While that’s still the case with the second episode, the show is already exhibiting signs of growth.

‘Hog Butcher’ picks up hot on the heels of the first episode. After the murder of her aide Antonio, Superintendent Colvin (Jennifer Beals) dedicates all of her resources to finding the shooter, who she expects will be able to lead her to a connection with corrupt Alderman Gibbons (Delroy Lindo). Meanwhile, Gibbons plays oblivious. He glad-hands Antonio’s grief-stricken mother, all the while secretly arranging that the officer’s death benefits will be denied due to a technicality. (He wasn’t wearing his bulletproof vest, which is a violation of regulations, because he gave it to Colvin.) The intent obviously is to drive a wedge between the community and Colvin.

Wysocki leads the search for the shooter. He starts by shaking down the city’s petty criminals. In a nice demonstration that this series might actually be taking place in the modern world, his partner Caleb uses Twitter to offer up a reward that helps locate the getaway car. This then leads them to the driver, who was shot by Colvin during the event and dies before he can be arrested or tell them anything.

It turns out that the driver had a connection to Sgt. Worthen, the old cop who Colvin had demoted the previous episode in her showboating attempt to clear all the lazy and incompetent officers out of the police force. Colvin of course suspects that Worthen must have ties to Gibbons, or at least that he must have arranged revenge for his public humiliation. Of all people, Wysocki stands up for Worthen. He understands that not every bad cop is necessarily corrupt. Some are just burned out from the job.

Worthen in fact was only indirectly responsible for the killing. He made the mistake of shooting his mouth off about his hatred of Colvin in front of a couple of hot-headed kids who had been denied entrance to the police academy due to Colvin’s new policies. Fueled by their own righteous indignation, they tried to get back at her themselves. When Worthen realizes his culpability in this, he kills the shooter himself. “I clean up my messes,” he says.

Much to Colvin’s disappointment, Gibbons had nothing to do with any of this. There isn’t just one supervillain behind everything happening in the city. Colvin’s own actions, her rigid moral inflexibility, and her need to grandstand made her enemies that she wasn’t expecting or prepared for.

During all this, Isaac (the cocky partner/boyfriend of Wysocki’s niece Vonda) still doesn’t know when to leave well enough alone. He disobeys Wysocki’s instructions and continues to harass low-level mobster Liam, because he doesn’t know that Liam is really a police mole. Liam’s trail leads Isaac to a pretty big drug bust. Ironically, Isaac’s initiative impresses his superiors enough that he and Vonda are both promoted to the Organized Crime Task Force. The more they inadvertently work against Wysocki’s operation, the more they’re rewarded.

The episode ends with Antonio’s mother suing Colvin for negligence and for the unpaid death benefits. Colvin then has to eat crow and ask Gibbons (who doesn’t yet know that she’s actively working against him) for a favor, which he is more than glad to offer up, assuming that it will put her in his pocket.

So far, ‘The Chicago Code’ has a very different vibe than ‘The Shield’. It’s a little safer, and is clearly designed to appeal to a broader mainstream audience. Nonetheless, it has a bunch of interesting things bubbling beneath the surface. I’m interested to see how this develops.


  1. Tim

    After episode 2, I’m not sure I’ll be tuning in. The problem, for me, is that I’m so used to gritty, realistic cop shows. If the show doesn’t push the boundaries, it’s “just another cop show.” Really, what new does TCC add to the genre that hasn’t been done dozens of times before? Crooked politicians: check. Crooked cops: check.

    I’m not saying it’s a bad show, but it needs to be more than just a cop show for me (and for most others, judging by the ratings).

    Further, I don’t find that main male character all that appealing. He’s abrasive and has this irrational and unrealistic(?) hatred of anyone who cheers for the Cubs. He’s messing around on his too-young fiance with his ex-wife, and his accent annoys me a bit.

    I’ll keep watching and hope that Ryan has something up his sleeve that’ll blow me away. However, I’m not sure it’s going to last long enough for that.

    • Josh Zyber

      I think what The Chicago Code has going for it is that it’s much more political than most other cop shows. This isn’t a case-of-the-week procedural (so far). It does a good job of showing how all these different players are entwined with one another.

      The show isn’t as gritty as The Shield or The Wire, but that was never going to happen on a major network.

      • Tim

        Right. There are certainly more political under/overtones to the story so far. The political side of things just isn’t grabbing me (so far).

        More importantly, it doesn’t seem to be grabbing many others. The American public, or Neilsen families at least, don’t seem willing to invest in arc-heavy shows, unless it’s truly unique (Lost, for example).

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