Review: 'The Chicago Code' - 'Black Sox': Batting for the home team

Jarek and Caleb look into the murder of a prominent gay citizen

<p>Matt Lauria on &quot;The Chicago Code.&quot;</p>

Matt Lauria on "The Chicago Code."

Credit: FOX

A review of last night's "The Chicago Code" coming up just as soon as I help you put the white flag back in your pocket...

After last week's episode focused heavily on the Colvin/Gibbons war last week, "Black Sox" puts that on simmer, allowing the two combatants to make some chess moves against each other, but mainly setting up the bigger battle to come in the season's final two episodes. Instead, the episode split most of its time between Jarek and Caleb investigating a murder in the city's gay community, and on the infidelities of the brothers Wysocki.

It was a lot to deal with in one episode - maybe a little too much. Though I've complained in the past both about the cases Jarek works that are unconnected to Gibbons and about Jarek himself, I found myself engaged to a point with both stories, then frustrated when there wasn't quite enough time to deal with either one properly.

There were some good scenes in the murder story, particularly the killer's self-loathing confession, but there also seemed to be more set-up than there was room to pay off. Nothing ever came of Jarek's lie that Caleb was batting for the other team, nor of the gay alderman's threat to insert himself into the investigation. I think there was potential to do a story like the Chinatown one about the unique politics of different Chicago neighborhoods and communities, but this one glanced in that direction and then went with a more straightforward police procedural structure.

And while I thought Jarek was a much less obnoxious character than he was last week or in some other episodes(*), both his half of the personal story and Vonda's were hamstrung by how off and on the show has dealt with both. We didn't hear anything about Jarek's brother for a very long time, and then he was reintroduced as a topic last week, and he still doesn't feel quite real or important enough, even with how much he obviously matters to Jarek and Vonda. Similarly, Jarek's ex-wife has appeared fairly infrequently, and his fiancee only once before; the final confrontation with Elena would have had much more kick if she'd had a real presence on the show rater than as an occasional subject of conversation.

(*) I'm still not sure Jason Clarke has the charisma the role needs, but I liked watching Jarek work last night, where in some previous week's he's come across like a sanctimonious bully with little to back up his attitude.

I know this show has a lot of balls to juggle: Colvin/Gibbons, the case of the week, the personal lives of the characters, Chicago politics, etc. And overall, I thought this was a much more engaging episode than last week's. But 11 episodes into the season, this is a show that's still finding itself. I think there's enough strong raw material here that I really want to see what happens when Shawn Ryan and company do figure out how to make it all work, and I'm hopeful there's a renewal for it on Monday.

What did everybody else think?

Everything: The Chicago Code

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Alan Sepinwall
Sr. Editor, What's Alan Watching
Alan Sepinwall has been reviewing television since the mid-'90s, first for Tony Soprano's hometown paper, The Star-Ledger, and now for HitFix. His new book, "The Revolution Was Televised," about the last 15 years of TV drama, is for sale at Amazon. He can be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com
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