I thought this was going to a 200-word blurb before class, but it ended up being much longer.
First of all, I really like this series. A lot. I think that it still has some kinks to work out, but I’m really hoping that FOX sees the value and is willing to let it continue onward into a second season so that Shawn Ryan can figure those things out. And really, some of the criticisms are probably too harsh because there were such high expectations for this series to begin with. That’s what happens when you create The Shield and co-create Terriers, I guess. But as a sprawling broadcast network police drama, there is a lot more to like about The Chicago Code than there is to dislike.
I was particularly interested in seeing last night’s episode “The Gold Coin Kid” played out after I realized that Delory Lindo’s Gibbons character wasn’t going to be involved whatsoever. I really like the Gibbons character, but as lots of critics have discussed, his continued presence only reminds us that Jarek, Caleb and Teresa cannot catch him because it’s not time for the series to have them catch him. That external controls on the series’ primary narrative can be frustrating, but less so when the episodes are damn good despite all that. Last week’s episode wasn’t so strong and so I was particularly intrigued as to how a Gibbons-free episode would play out. The answer? Pretty well.
It might just be me, but even with the external limitations of the pacing related to the Gibbons investigation, my favorite part of The Chicago Code has absolutely nothing to do with Gibbons. He’s a nice character and all, but I much prefer just watching Jarek and Caleb driving around together, shooting the breeze about their pasts, their interests, etc. I feel very similar about the Jarek-Teresa scenes, to which last night I tweeted that it probably made me a horrible person for being a minor shipper for their relationship. Jason Clarke’s performance is tremendously charismatic in this role and thankfully he also has fantastic chemistry with both Matt Lauria and Jennifer Beals.
Thus, I found “The Gold Coin Kid” fairly enjoyable, Gibbons or not. This was an especially strong episode for Clarke and Lauria, who do a great job of slowly building up the tension between their characters until Caleb blows up at Jarek by the end of the episode. There’s been some discussion about this episode, which I believe was shot earlier, just now airing and how that impacts the character beats and the narrative, but I didn’t have too much of a problem with the tension between Jarek and Caleb. Sure, it sort of felt like they were more antagonistic and suspicious of one another than they have been in the last two episodes, but it still worked because the conflicts here will still fresh and natural.
This might have been like day 15 on the job instead of day 22 or something, but new partners, especially when we’re talking explosive personalities like Jarek, are bound to get too far into one another’s business. Jarek is obviously the lead character and thus more developed, but for the series to become a real “great” series, Caleb needs to be just as developed and interesting. The cases are bound to be a bit of a bore on occasion and the series will need to rely on the audience’s affinity for the characters to prop up shoddier episodes. “Kid” is a nice step forward in making sure Caleb reaches that point and I thought Matt Lauria did well with the material.
Finally, it was smart to show us a case and situation where the corrupt and complicated politics of the city can still have an effect on Teresa and company even when Gibbons isn’t involved. He’s obviously the primary target and thus going to be like the “worst of the worst,” but I enjoyed the political subterfuge and interference from the mayor’s office here. Not only does this give us a better picture of this world of Chicago, but it also opens up the series to be more confident that it can tell stories that aren’t so Gibbons-heavy. Yeah, he’s the most interesting character on the series by far, but by suggesting that he’s not the only corrupt politician screwing up the police force’s work, The Chicago Code can now tell more of those stories without feeling like they’re totally diverting from the primary narrative. All in all, I actually enjoyed this episode more than I had the last two, which had been strong Gibbons efforts but problematic for a lot of the other characters. An episode away for that character was a smart move.