Season/Series Finale — The Chicago Code, “Mike Royko’s Revenge”

I’ll be perfectly honest with you dear readers: I stopped watching The Chicago Code three or four weeks ago. With the end of the semester and various other things weighing me down, I had to free up some time and ditch Code was one of the things that helped me do that. I let episodes pile up on the DVR and I had full intent to watch them as soon as the semester was over. Of course, right around that time, FOX unfortunately canceled the series. Although I’m not one of those people who gets tremendously upset over every single cancellation (more on that in a moment), I also sometimes lose all interest once I know something isn’t going to make it (see: Dollhouse).

But last night, I burned through episodes 10, 11 and 12 and found them all to be pretty fantastic. I fired up the season/series finale, “Mike Royko’s Revenge,” on Hulu just a little bit ago and found it to be similarly tremendous. For all its rough moments in the early going, The Chicago Code really pulled things together at the end of its first (and most likely only) season. Even though I quit on the series temporarily, I was still very disappointed it was being canceled when I first heard the news. And after seeing the last four episodes, I am even more disappointed that I won’t get to spend more time with these characters and this representation of Chicago that Shawn Ryan and his team have created.

But much like with Terriers, I am still very satisfied with the 13 episodes of Code I was able to watch and I won’t be overwhelmingly sad when it doesn’t get picked up by FX, TNT or whomever. I understand the economic rationale of keeping series on the air for as long as possible with as many episodes as possible, but I’ve grown especially fond of the one-and-dones this season has brought us. For whatever reason, it’s brought us a number of them, from Code and Terriers to Lights Out and Rubicon. There’s obviously a reason audiences have clung to these series, which I detailed here, but I’m fairly satisfied with what I saw. Authors are able to write just one book in a world and we’re okay with that, but in film and television, success is determined so much on longevity, sequels, more, more, more and it’s just disappointing. I absolutely think that Shawn Ryan could make a fantastic second season of The Chicago Code, one probably better than the sometimes problematic first. But the ifs and maybes aren’t going to damage my enjoyment of this season, especially these last four episodes that proved the series had the ability to kick its storytelling engine into another gear.

In any event, this episode was really as good of a conclusion as we could have hoped. I actually didn’t expect the series to offer this many resolutions to the Gibbons story. All of these episodes were produced before the pilot even aired, so it’s kind of impressive (and a bit confusing) that Ryan and company had always intended on catching Gibbons at the end of season one. If you take a look at Alan Sepinwall’s review of the episode, he has a short interview snippet in there from Ryan that confirms that the series was going to move on to different villains in the second season, which is both interesting and annoying. On one hand, it’s surprising and great that the series wasn’t interested in dragging out the Gibbons story. On the other hand, if the writers had that plan from the beginning, I’m not really sure why they spent a good deal of those middle episodes on fairly standalone cases and developments. I assume most of that stems from trying to appeal to the largest audience, but it’s still disappointing and frustrating in some regard.

Nevertheless, this episode actually works really well as a series finale should that come to pass. Not only is Gibbons locked up, but the series smartly dove-tailed the mystery of Jarek’s brother’s death with Gibbons, giving these last few episodes a bit more drama and urgency that was well-played by Jason Clarke. After spending so much time being an arrogant, idealistic and oftentimes insufferable prick, Jarek finally realizes that his vision of right and wrong isn’t as well-backed as he might have previously thought. His brother was a dirty cop, but a good man and perhaps now Jarek recognizes that there’s value in that. He does’t have to be idealistic super-cop all the time, he can let go of his brother and move on with his life — which involves getting back with the fiancée. Teresa and Caleb get less closure, but I enjoyed the little moments this episode gave them. The runner about Teresa’s lack of personal life was nicely done, especially the final reveal that she actually just hooks up with strangers who are visiting down for conventions. And Caleb gets the respect he deserves from Jarek and the rest of the squad, which is nice.

Ultimately, The Chicago Code had its issues, especially in the middle episodes, but the series figured it out by the end. Not every series I spend time with has to be THE BEST THING EVER, and I’m definitely okay with watching 13 episodes of rock-solid B-to-A-minus television. It could have been better, but it was still pretty good. I won’t start any Twitter hashtags or join a Facebook group, but I’ll be somewhat sad to see Code go.

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