The Chicago Code: "Mike Royko's Revenge"


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With Fox's announcing its cancellation and no cable network likely to pick it up (a la Southland), Monday's episode was almost certainly the series finale of The Chicago Code. If so, "Mike Royko's Revenge" made an impressive and fitting capper to the underappreciated rookie drama. Like a microcosm of the series, it spread itself a bit thin at some points, laid it on a bit thick at others, but overall delivered a kinetic and satisfying story.

Written by creator Shawn Ryan, the episode packed a lot of great stuff into its climactic hour: Jarek and Gibbons's LaSalle Street confrontation (more effective than their hard-boiled exchange last week for being more muted - and for being gorgeously staged in front of the Board of Trade); Jarek's desperation to find his brother's killer derailing his pursuit of present justice; Lily's sudden, shocking leap from an ornamental character to an instrumental one; the welcome presence of Chelcie Ross (Mad Men's Conrad Hilton) as curmodgeonly Papa Wysocki, a character I wish we'd met earlier.

But the lion's share of my praise has to go to Jennifer Beals, who had to hit a dozen different notes this week and completely nailed each and every one. Check out the repertoire she arms Teresa Colvin with in this episode alone. Stoic resolve to the scandal-hungry media and the mayor who's ready to ax her. Confidence tempered by flexibility in order to squeeze key testimony from first Killian and then his daughter. Sympathy eroding into pity towards the irretrievably manipulated Lily. Bittersweet flirtatious charm with FBI Special Agent Cuyler (the wonderful Adam Arkin, back again too briefly). Righteous courage in getting her hands on Gibbons at long last. And as always, the stern, steely, unflappable authority to weather the free-flowing rage of her number-one subordinate.

Beals, and Ryan, have created a magnetic character in Superintendent Colvin, one whose richest strains of personal and professional conflict were only hinted at so far. Her quiet closing scene, slipping so easily into an alter-ego in search of anonymous amore, is a perfect example, particularly in light of her lament to Agent Cuyler earlier. It was a quiet, surprising bit of shading as you both root for and feel sorry for her. It's Colvin, and Beals, I think I'll miss most in the absence of a midnight-hour, cable-ex-machina reprieve for The Chicago Code.

Though it was written with a second season obviously in mind, "Mike Royko's Revenge" ties the ribbon on season one's arc nicely: Liam (sorry, Chris) alive and out of deep cover, Jarek uncovering the painful truth about his deceased brother, Gibbons behind bars. The closing shot, a super-tight glimpse at the alderman's strained hint of a smile, teases how his vast and deep tendrils of corruption would have brought to bear on the judicial and media processes surrounding his trial in season two. Like the finale of Ryan's other canceled-too-soon series this season, Terriers, the quasi-cliffhanger leaves audiences plenty of story left to imagine but also seals this chapter gratifyingly.

The finale, like the series, wasn't an unqualified success, mostly owing to an excess of plot ideas (which might've gotten room to breath in a 22-episode season). Both the self-destruction of Jarek's fiancee, and their apparent reconciliation, felt pretty abrupt, the consequences of developments happening on the outskirts of the main story all season. And most disappointingly, we never got to see or learn much of Det. Caleb Evers (or the genial Matt Lauria). Even his snippet in the closing montage was pretty generic, just recounting a funny tale with some other cops - showing us what, exactly?

Apart from a handful of scenes exploring his relationship with the partner-averse Wysocki, the "Boy Wonder" never got much character development - less narrative was devoted to him than to Vonda and Issac, certainly. Perhaps that would've been rectified in season two, but for now I can only content myself with the notion that, after completing his commitment to the U.S. Army, Luke Cafferty changed his name and moved to Chicago to escape the legions of girls he knocked up throughout Dillon, TX.

So I have plenty of reason to be disappointed that The Chicago Code won't live on to tell those stories, especially given the momentum it picked up in the back third of the season once it edged away from case-of-the-week episodes. But, again like with Terriers, I'll choose to be glad that this season of television got made, aired for a few months, and will be available to rewatch as a self-contained story on DVD in the future.

Other notes:
  • "Detective Evers, book him very slowly. I think we all know who his first phone call is going to be to."
  • Sorry, but I'm declaring a moratorium on "You want the truth?" (which Killian utters to Wysocki) as a line of dialogue under the "Who're you gonna call?" Rule.
  • "I'm his witness."
  • "Chris Collier. That's going to take some getting used to."
  • "Mike Royko's Revenge" is a fantastic title, and the anecdote Teresa narrates about him captured the man well. I read most of his books in college, as an ambivalent journalism student. They're all worth your time even if you're not a Chicagoan, especially Boss, his polemic against the clout culture of Mayor Richard J. Daley which is apparently headed for the silver screen.

Comments

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  • great recap. I'll miss the show. I thought it was great!

  • Jennifer Beals did a great job in her role as did the other actors. The show was one of the best to come on TV in a while and it's a shame that it was cancelled......

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  • I'll miss this show. I could only watch it on the Fox website the day after each episode aired. I don't own a TV.

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