If you’re like me, one of the best things about watching the Super Bowl Sunday was the numerous promos for The Chicago Code. And, if you’re like me, one of the best things about the numerous promos for The Chicago Code was the kick-ass presence of Jennifer Beals. So if you liked all that you’re going to love hearing that The Chicago Code is easily one of the best new shows of the season and Beals is at her Alpha Bette best.
The Chicago Code crackles with energy right from its opening with Beals delivering a flinty voiceover that expertly lays out the show’s main arc: Corruption runs deep in Chicago, but she is going to clean it up. The new Fox cop drama fromThe Shield creator Shawn Ryan follows Beals as Chicago’s first female superintendent of police on a mission to take down the crooked politicians and shady dealings that have plagued the Windy City throughout its history.
Beals’ Superintendent Teresa Colvin hand-picks a former police partner of hers, veteran Det. Jarek Wysocki (Aussie actor Jason Clarke), to run an unofficial task force to investigate the city’s heaviest hitter, alderman Ronin Gibbons (the delightfully devious Delroy Lindo). Gibbons is the city’s most powerful alderman (that’s city council member for us non-Chicagoans), with more power and more expensive suits than the mayor.
On its surface, the formula is pretty simple: A crusading chief and a maverick cop team up to take down a slimy politician. But it’s in the attention to detail and expert execution where The Chicago Code stands out.
The series is gritty (which is what people always say about crime shows), fast-paced (another thing people usually say about crime shows), smart (OK, slightly less often), quick-witted (though not in a campy Bones kind of way), character driven (whoa, crime shows are crime driven) and complex (wait, they don’t arrest, prosecute and convict people in an hour?). All the characters feel textured, so you know this isn’t going to be a simple game of catch the bad guy.
Those of us who loved Beals as Bette Porter in The L Word will recognize her with added steel rebar in Superintendent Colvin. And while the power suits are gone, the uniform fits her quite nicely. Clarke is a great match to Beals’ calm authority, confident and instantly believable as a seen-it-all Chicago cop. And, for my former Midwestern ears, he pulls off a great accent. For his part, Lindo makes Gibbons more than just the black hat, but the insidious inner workings of a system most of us would like to pretend doesn’t exist.
Supporting cast members also hold their own. Friday Night Lights alum Matt Lauria plays Wysocki’s new, young partner Caleb Evers and newcomer Devin Kelley plays rookie beat cop and Det. Wysocki’s niece, Vonda Wysocki. Though, really, the show’s fourth lead is the city of Chicago itself. Few shows feel as immediately connected to their host city as The Chicago Code does. This isn’t soundstage Chicago or Vancouver pretending to be Chicago — this is Chicago.
People like to complain about the prevalence of crime shows on TV. Like we need another series about cops or lawyers, right? But they’re popular for a reason, and when they’re as well done as The Chicago Code it’s a very good reason indeed. Still, if the prospect of a really good cop show alone isn’t enough to draw you in, Beals said loyal The L Word watchers might at least appreciate one thing about her new series: “I don’t know, but I think they’ll like the uniform.”
The Chicago Code premieres at 9 p.m. tonight on Fox.