Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Chicago Code "Black Hand and the Shotgun Man"/"Wild Onions" Review

I never wrote about "Black Hand and the Shot Gun Man" two weeks so I decided to write about that episode as well "Wild Onions" in one concise entry.

Opinion is divided over the show. Some fans adore the show and compare it to The Wire while some critics worry about the show's lack of identity. One critic wrote a piece that actually argued about how The Chicago Code's an innovative series with its balanced focus on the procedural elements and the serialized elements. The Chicago Code hasn't ushered in a new style of storytelling in network cop dramas. Thus far, it's an ordinary show with one outstanding character and a slew of ordinary characters. The role of Chicago as a character's no different from the role of Baltimore as a character in The Wire or the role of Alexandria in The Alexandria Quartet.

In "Black Hand and the Shot Gun Man," the two most important stories of the episode involved Jarek and Liam. Both characters needed an injection of something. Jarek's role as a livewire cop is interesting but only one can watch his antics for so long before they become tiresome. He's a complicated character solely because his love life is complicated. His story involved the collision of his two worlds. His son caught his father trying to leave the house. His ex-wife felt obligated to explain the situation to their son. More importantly, she wanted some idea for herself about her place in Jarek's life. Jarek dragged his feet, offered half-hearted declarations of love for his fiancé but bristled when his ex-wife informed him of a blind date she made following her ex-husband's refusal to commit.

Conveniently enough, the case-of-the-week paralleled Jarek's situation. A drug dealer was forced to choose between his family safety and himself. Jarek watched as the man said goodbye to his wife and child for the final time before they entered the witness protection program. Still, Jarek chose to keep his family at a distance in favor of his fiancé he doesn't particularly care about. His ex-wife even received her own narration so the audience knew what life was like for the wife of a cop in Chicago. Unfortunately, the whole story fell flat on its face. I have little sympathy for Jarek Wysocki and maybe I'd have more investment in the story if the writers showed more of their relationship and why it didn't work.

As for Liam, TV's worst undercover cop, he began driving Gibbons around Chicago to various services for the dead of Chicago. Wysocki wanted Liam to use the opportunity find usable dirt on the Alderman. Liam mostly squirms the entire time until Gibbons makes it clear that he knows Liam's responsible for that fatal fire, which makes Liam determined to help Wysocki and Colvin take down Gibbons.

"Black Hand and the Shot Gun Man" continued the show's slump. When the writers deepen different character arcs, the characters resemble characters rather than people.

"Wild Onions" didn't really end the slump of the show. A heat wave suffocated the citizens of the city. Colvin worried about the crazies going crazy because of the excessive heat. Liam continued to be the worst undercover cop on network television. Isaac and Vonda grew much closer. Colvin hired a new driver.

The episode consisted of vignettes rather than an actual story. Sure, stories existed but mostly we watched the characters do their jobs. Isaac and Vonda walked the streets, as they grew closer to one another and Vonda amped up the flirtation. Their street-walking showed images from life in Chicago like young boys selling drinks on a hot day for some money or a small fight between two women over a guy. The two had an exciting sequence when the power went out. A local tough shot at the police. The cops went into an apartment complex. Adam Arkin, the show's director, and the editor delivered the best sequence in the series thus far. The camera followed Vonda as she searched for Isaac, with only the light on her gun giving her guidance in the night. It was tense, exciting and visually fantastic. Unfortunately, the episode nose-dived following that creative high.

Liam continued his work with Gibbons. He and his mob friend took bottles of water to homes. Liam ended up saving the life of an elderly woman, and Gibbons offered him a job with the city that will lead the crummy undercover cop deeper into Gibbons' corrupt empire. Unfortunately, Liam SUPPORTS the Alderman now after witnessing his philanthropy and good deeds. Liam tried to defend Gibbons. Wysocki basically ignored him. My patience with Liam has disappeared. The character's an absolute moron and how he became an undercover cop is only possible in the world of network cop dramas.

The theme of the episode was partnerships. Wysocki and Caleb don't bicker and undermine the other so much now. The two had a friendly bet about the White Sox-Cubs game. Following their shift, and the successful completion of the ice cream truck case, the partners had beers whilst watching the baseball game in a local watering hole. Colvin and her new driver bonded through the new driver's insistence to protect her life at all costs, fully aware that she chose him because he's unmarried; however, he served two tours in the war and intends on living rather than dying. Maybe, just maybe, the partnership will extend beyond work and into romance. Shawn Ryan and the writers on Twitter have, at least, hinted that Colvin will have sex before the first season concludes. The episode meditated on partnerships, what fuels them, what makes them succeed and fail.

Overall, The Chicago Code's probably not in my wheelhouse of television shows because I like the show less and less every week, even after a terrific "Pilot." But I hope the series excites me again. We'll see.


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About The Foot

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Originally, I titled the blog Jacob's Foot after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. That ended. It became TV With The Foot in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.