The Chicago Code, “Cabrini-Green”

The Chicago Code is so close to becoming a really great television series, but every week there are some random shortcuts or plot issues that bring individual episodes down just enough to annoy or frustrate me. This week’s effort, “Cabrini-Green,” is absolutely no different.

There is so much to like about Code. I think all three post-pilot episodes have done a nice job of establishing some of the motivations of individual characters without trying to throw too much at the audience. There are definitely some characters who have gotten more to do and who have been given more voiceovers and things like that, but I feel as if that works. There was a lot of character and narrative threads tossed to us in the first episode and I am really enjoying how each episode is slowly circling back to some of that stuff without trying too hard to make it all matter RIGHT NOW.

I think the interactions between the lead characters are fantastic. I think I mentioned in one of my reviews of the first two episodes that I didn’t especially care for Jason Clarke before this series, but I really, really love him now. Jarek is most certainly a television character, but he has a number of little ticks and moments that make him appear to be more real. Evers hasn’t been given a whole lot of individual screentime or development, but Matt Lauria is doing a great job in the scenes he does get. And Lauria and Clarke work well together, even if it feels like every scene involves them rushing quickly to a scene or forcefully interrogating someone in the precinct. Similarly, Jennifer Beals and Delroy Lindo are extremely strong in their roles, one of which is totally expected and the other which is still kind of surprising. I’ve liked Beals in the past, but I’m surprised at how much I enjoy and believe in her work her as Superintendent Colvin. What I like best is the duality of the performance: She’s strong and confident when Colvin is walking the street or participating in a press interview, but in the little moments with Jarek, she lowers her guard and there’s a really charming spark between the two of them. I’m not sure there’s an intentional layer of sexual chemistry between them, but I see it.

And of course, Delroy Lindo is the man. He’s particularly strong in this “Cabrini-Green,” an episode that gives him material to play both sides of the character. The voiceovers were mostly well-executed and I just love how all the characters have such a sense of history, especially Lindo’s Gibbons. That history allows the character to sit safely in this totally compelling gray area where he’s clearly doing some terrible stuff like having the gang member who tried to kill him executed, but he’s still also working for the betterment of the community (and himself, obviously). There was concern after that first episode about how the series was going to delay both Colvin and Jarek’s case against Gibbons and the outright evil-ing of Gibbons, and I think this episode succeeds in that by having him work towards tearing down the projects he grew up in and work to protect the kid who has hired to take him out. Again, he’s doing those things because he wants to improve his own circumstances as well, but Gibbons isn’t an outright EVILDOER. He’s a son of a bitch, but there’s a sliver of good in there.

So yeah, that’s all fantastic, but “Cabrini-Green” was still terrorized by some goofy, problematic plotting. I understand that Jarek and Caleb have been given free rein to cover whatever case they want and can’t be hunting down Gibbons every week without totally burning through the narrative at a quick pace, but it seems a little unbelievable that the two of them would be assigned to the city-wide bombings instead of working a case where GIBBONS LITERALLY SHOT SOMEONE. The episode tries to suggest that the reason for this is to keep Colvin’s chief of staff far away from the investigation into Gibbons so she gives Jarek the responsibility of watching over him, but it’s still a bit wonky. Last week’s episode covered some interesting territory by showing that the other police folks are annoyed with Jarek’s power, but there is absolutely none of that here. I still actually liked the bombing plot because it had some fun twists and turns and seemed ingrained in the historical aspects of the series I enjoy, but it was too apparent that the episode was working too hard to keep characters and narratives away from each other — and that’s not good.

And finally, the Liam character is not really working as of yet. The scene between he and Colvin felt totally tacked-on and hackneyed just to remind the audience that he’s still on this series. The character is always going to be limited because he can only have scenes with a small amount of characters, but after four episodes, I’m already bored with the one or two moments he gets to have a conversation with Jarek or Colvin in the dark somewhere. It just doesn’t work. I think the series might have been better off not revealing Liam’s place for a half-dozen or so episodes, at least then maybe the writers wouldn’t have felt a responsibility to keep hitting the audience over the head with the fact that he’s an undercover cop.

When The Chicago Code figures out how to solve those kind of problems, it will be a much better series. These still aren’t huge issues if we look at them in individual episodes, but the fact that they continue to pop up is troubling.

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