Thursday, February 17, 2011

TV: The Chicago Code - Pilot

This is a little late, so I'll have recaps of the next two episodes when I return from Sydney in two weeks. Trust me, you don't want to miss this.

"You think you can change how things get done in Chicago?!" - Angry cop that looks pretty suspect.

I know about Shawn Ryan and his exploits; he turned Lie to Me into something a little more enjoyable, he was involved in the absolutely stunning Terriers, had show running duties on The Unit and finally, created the critically adored The Shield. Now, I’ve seen

all of these – except The Shield. Slap me over the head, yes, I haven’t seen The Shield, so when people compare this to The Shield, I have an understanding of what they are talking about, but not a complete grasp of the differences between the two of Ryan’s created shows.

This bad boy isn’t as gritty or slow burning as The Wire. It’s much faster paced and more importantly, fun. Wait, a cop show being fun? Indeed, in a sense that the characters help drive the story, which is a critical factor to the success of a series that could potentially rely on its serialised nature rather than a procedural approach. This isn’t Law and Order, this isn’t CSI. If you want procedural goodness, they’ll be over in the corner, rehashing boring garbage. What stood out for me with The Chicago Code was Ryan’s willingness to explore not just the law enforcement side of things but also the (sometimes weak) backbone of society - politics.

The pilot takes place as Superintendant Colvin (Jennifer Beals) sparks a tiny revolution within her circle of police best friends. Jarek (Jason Clarke), her old partner is the detective she turns to for quality and results driven detective work. Why does the Superintendant want to start a revolution of sorts in her own city? That’s where Ryan’s clever slip in of politics comes into play. Her target - Alderman Ronin Gibbons (Delroy Lindo), a man that shows a pure intent on the surface, but below we know what he’s capable of and what he seems to have done in the past. Gibbons is the primary target in her struggle to rid the city of corruption.

That there was the home run for me, political intrigue and corruption, coupled with two badass cops and a superintendant that had me feeling nervous, which is very rare for Beals to pull off, I wasn’t a fan of hers in Lie to Me and the L Word for that matter, but holy shit, she grabs the role by the horns and beats the hell out of it. It also feels like the characters have already been developed, Ryan drops us in at the right time. When, Colvin really wants to start making a difference, there’s a realisation for her and that’s an assertive trait for Colvin’s character – making her instantly fucking excellent. In particular, one of her defining scenes in the pilot is the cleanup of Chicago’s police departments with the promotion of a long serving officer, its effective stuff. Beals pulls no punches, she kicks ass.

I can say the same for Jason Clarke’s turn as Jarek Wysocki, the hard to get along with cop who hates having partners and refreshingly, swearing. Jarek – if you read this, I’m sorry about the language! There are no women or children around though, so we’re in the clear. He’s a guy who could write an encyclopaedia on how to police awesomely in Chicago. Ryan has crafted Jarek so well that we get an immediate sense of his direction in his introductory scene. We don’t need to know anymore, we just want to now see the character grow.

I can say the same for Matt Lauria as Caleb Evers; operating as a great sedative to Jarek’s relatively unchained behaviour. He’s the detective that manages to tick all the right boxes and at the same time match Jarek’s street smarts whilst also delivering straight up and solid police work.

You know what, I can say the same for the entire cast. Delroy Lindo sparks a superb balance of refined politician with very dark undertones. He’s charming, but at the same time knows exactly what the next move is going to be. The stakes are high for this guy; he’s got to be one step ahead all the time, if not, whatever he’s hiding will surely come out.

The best thing about the pilot is that these characters jump into a melting pot and it’s coupled with the authenticity of actually being shot on Chicago. I’ve never been there myself, but whoa, the show makes it looks fantastic, the skyline bursts into the sky as the sun seeps into the background. There’s a life to this city, it’s not all sets, what we’re seeing is a working city. Ryan knows how to write this stuff, the pilot smoothly introduces the audience to these characters and gets them ready for the season ahead. There’s not much work for us to do, the story is set for us and we just get to relax and unfold. Comfortable television, I’d say, if it weren’t for all the badassness that comes along for the ride. If I were the executives at Fox, I’d keep this for a long time, the potential for great stories with varying characters is nearly infinite, as one player steps down, another steps up. We’ve got a keeper here; make sure to watch it.

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