Thank you, Shawn Ryan.
You've given us the magnificent show "The Shield" and the gone-too-soon and wonderful "Terriers."
And now there's "The Chicago Code" (Fox, 9 tonight), an excellent, almost immediately absorbing, gotta-see-the-next-one cop drama with great writing, strong performances and beautifully shot too.
It's easy to make Chicago look beautiful because it is beautiful, but "The Chicago Code" is also shot cinematically. The city is as much a character as the people in the plot.
"The Chicago Code" stars Jennifer Beals as Teresa Colvin, Chicago's youngest and first female superintendent of police. She's made it her mission to clean up the department and to stop corruption in city government -- to change the culture or the code of Chicago. She enlists her former partner Jarek Wysocki (Jason Clarke) and together they take aim at the powerful alderman Ronin Gibbons (Delroy Lindo). Also on board for the mission is Wysocki's current partner Caleb Evers (Matt Lauria).
"The Shield" is a good reference point for this show; it too dealt with corruption and the complexities of good and evil. And yet the change in locale makes a big difference; three episodes in and "The Chicago Code" doesn't feel as grim, perhaps because here the cops are primarily a force for good. There's a lot more gamemanship than violence too.
The show allows each character in voiceover to narrate his back story and it absolutely works; in just three episodes I feel like I 'get' these characters. In one instance, the device is more than a storytelling technique.
Beals wouldn't have come to my mind for this part. Good thing I'm not a casting director. As Colvin, she brings this interesting quality; you can see her toughness, her steel, even a guardedness. And then there are her big brown eyes emanating caring and vulnerability. It's a great mix. You'd never guess Clarke is an Australian; as the smartest cop around, he feels authentic, lending a wiry energy to his Polish/Catholic crusader. Lindo, so fresh and so clean in his custom shirts and expensive suits, knows how to be menacing without breaking a sweat. His Gibbons won't allow himself to get ruffled or a step behind. Lindo approaches greatness in villainy.
It'll be interesting to see how Ryan manages his material on a station that isn't basic cable. So far, it doesn't seem to have great effect, and honestly, I don't mind the break--sometimes "The Shield's" intensity made me fear for my cardiac health.
You might think you have no room for another cop show in your rotation, but you do, and you should, and it's "The Chicago Code." Shawn Ryan deserves your loyalty.