Sunday, 28 August 2011

The Chicago Code

To hear the TV announcer say "the last EVER episode" when introducing episode 13 of the first series of The Chicago Code was stunning. Not in a good way. By the time the episode aired in the U.K the news had already been announced that the show would be cancelled, and much discussion had taken place on the internet about that decision, much of it between fans and the show's creator Shawn Ryan on Twitter. But it was still shocking to hear those words. While disappointing for fans of the show, and I'm sure for Shawn Ryan as well, it seems it was sadly inevitable and a decision that appears to be purely financial.

We can at least be thankful that the first season was made, because in those 13 episodes Shawn Ryan has created one of the best cop shows on T.V ever. One that will go down as a classic of the genre. No doubt.

There is so much going on in each episode; stand-alone stories each week, overlapping with the main storyline of Superintendent Teresa Colvin, superbly portrayed by Jennifer Beals, and Detective Jarek Wysocki, a fully-rounded character from the first minute he is on screen, wholly inhabited by the excellent Jason Clarke, and their campaign to rid Chicago of corruption, their main target being the wickedly crooked Alderman Ronin Gibbons, another superb acting master class from Delroy Lindo. Each episode packs in thrilling car chases, excellent pitch-perfect dialogue, brilliant characterisation, moral dilemmas, family drama, and of course the eternal battle between copper and criminal.

I won't go into the plot too much here but I will say that the road to the final scenes of the show is littered with death, sex, violence, love, heartbreak, sadness, joy, laughter and tears (both the characters and this viewer’s).

As mentioned above the acting on the show is astounding. Jason Clarke as Jarek Wysocki is a tortured whirlwind of a cop, carrying the murder of his brother around with him like a second badge. This is beautifully crystallised in the final episode when Jarek watches a video-tape of his brother confessing to taking kick-backs from criminal gangs while working as an undercover cop. The look on Jarek's face makes me feel his frustration, confusion and anger. He looks like he wants to dive into the TV and save his brother from the deadly situation he couldn’t find a way out of.

Jennifer Beals as Superintendent Colvin has an amazing chemistry with Jason Clarke, the two characters linked by a history as partners on the streets of Chicago, before Colvin began her fast rise to the top of the police department. They both have an unwavering respect for each other's motivations, if not always agreeing with their methods. Colvin is a strong woman in a traditionally male world, and the barriers she faces are tackled head on by a combination of intelligence, skilful political manoeuvring and a potentially destructive conviction to doing what she feels is the right thing, no matter what collateral damage is caused on the way. The pain caused by some of the decisions she makes is etched in Beal’s face, a magnificent portrayal of one of Shawn Ryan’s most memorable characters.

Delroy Lindo as Alderman Gibbons appears to be on a different plane entirely. A self-deluded, malevolent force of a man, corrupted by power, with his sights ruthlessly set on the Mayors office. He hands out orders to kill as easily as handing out bottled water to his power cut constituents in a super-hot Chicago summer. The beauty of the portrayal is that even though we know Gibbons is a bad motherfucker, Lindo makes us like the character, drawn in by his deadly charm, just as the many people who vote for him are done.

This series moved so damn fast it felt like Shawn Ryan knew only had one chance to tell his story, just as the cops in the show had only one shot to bring down their main target Gibbons. The tension this created made the show a pure pleasure to watch (after my heart had stopped beating a thousand times a minute that is).

I can't recommend this show enough. Watch it. It will make your life better.

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