They’re fighting City Hall like no one’s done before.
Or so declares Det. Jarek Wysocki during the second episode of “The Chicago Code.”
The new cop drama on Fox brings everything you’d expect from the genre but it’s based in Chicago – and the city itself is one of the main characters.
That’s why I love it.
The series shows all of Chicago, from the grittiness to the beauty. The opening scene in the first episode has a guy fleeing the cops under the El line in what appears to be the Northwest Side, though it’s hard to tell.
First, it’s actually Chicago, not New York or a sound stage in L.A.
Second, the cop cars chasing the guy look like actual Chicago squad cars, complete with the tell-tale blue lights flashing atop the Crown Vics.
Cubs vs. Sox barbs fly and the characters come from diverse backgrounds rooted in Chicago’s neighborhoods, including the very Polish Wysocki (played by the very Australian Jason Clarke.)
To sum it up, the references to the city actually make sense.
In “The Chicago Code” the Chicago Police Department is now run by Teresa Colvin (Jennifer Beals.) She’s a tough-as-nails street cop turned superintendent who is looking to uproot the city’s infamous corruption.
“Growing up, I witnessed firsthand the effects of the Chicago Way,” she says during the first episode. “My dad had to pay off city inspectors for building code exemptions. He paid off precinct captains to get the trash collected on time. He paid off thugs for protection.”
She’s started a task force, led by Wysocki, that will have one job: Stop Ald. Ronin Gibbons’ (Delroy Lindo) corruption.
Gibbons is basically running Chicago – obviously a departure from a city where mayoral control is literally a birthright (for a few more months, anyway) – and he’s doing a bang up job of making himself rich in the long run. He’ll apparently do anything, including kill cops, to keep control.
And that’s where the magic of “The Chicago Code” really lies.
Sure, the cop stories are, at face value, the point of the show. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find the show is telling Chicago’s story.
It’s the story of the city that works, albeit with corruption although the show isn’t quite all there.
For one thing, the Chicago accents are terrible. As Wysocki, Clarke is trying to get the accent down, but he doesn’t have it. It’s a weird mix of New York and Chicago that wouldn’t work for anyone who has ever heard a true Chicago brogue. Beals is a little better, but it still sounds like she’s trying too hard. With a little more coaching, the accents will come, and it was good not to hear too many of the stereotypical des, dats and dose.
In addition, much of the show’s premise revolves around the Irish Mob’s actions. What the hell is that?
The only Irish Mob in Chicago has been running City Hall for a few decades. It’s not to say the mob isn’t in Chicago, but it’s of the Italian variety, if anything.
But I’m willing to overlook those shortcomings, especially in the beginning, and it’s because this show has the potential to work wonders for my hometown.
Anyone from Chicago knows the Chicago Way, and with more than a few family members working for the city in varying capacities from the Fire Department to the Park District, I’m perhaps better versed than some in how the city works. This show looks primed to explore that phenomenon.
As a “Tribune” columnist pointed out, “The Chicago Code” has the potential to do for Chicago what “The Wire” did for Baltimore. That means telling a story while showing how a real city works.
I’m looking forward to it.