Review: 'The Chicago Code' - 'The Gold Coin Kid': The girlfriend experience

No Delroy Lindo, but a solid focus on our main partners

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

Jason Clarke and Matt Lauria on "The Chicago Code."

Credit: FOX

A review of last night's "The Chicago Code" coming up just as soon as I dress my dog up thematically...

"The Gold Coin Kid" was obviously an episode designed to air earlier in the show's run. Vonda and Isaac are still brand new to Moose's team, and more importantly, Jarek and Caleb are still pretty new to working together and wary of each other. (Jarek even learns about Caleb having gone to Northwestern, which I think was mentioned more matter-of-factly in a recent episode.)

FOX is kind of notorious for reshuffling episode orders, thanks to instances like airing the "Firefly" pilot last. But the thing is, every network does this from time to time with new shows - it's just usually less noticeable than the "Firefly" example or this episode, because most shows on network TV aren't heavily-serialized - under the operating philosophy that they want to put the episodes they feel are the strongest(*) up first. In theory, that allows the show to firm up its audience as much as possible, so that when the allegedly weaker episodes finally see the light of day, the audience has developed a habit and won't run away.

(*) Long before FOX messed with "Firefly" and other shows, NBC had a habit of routinely switching around episodes of "Homicide" - most infamously airing an episode in which a character's death was discussed before they ran the episode in which he actually died. The funny thing there was how completely the fans' opinion of those reshuffled episodes diverged from the network's, where all the "weak" ones that kept being pushed back were considered by the fans to be among the show's best ever.

And I can see how FOX execs would feel that one of the season's two episodes to not feature Delroy Lindo would be one they'd rather not put upfront. Gibbons is definitely the show's breakout character, and Lindo's presence has really livened up some otherwise uneven recent episodes. Yet I think I enjoyed "The Gold Coin Kid" more than the last few episodes featuring Gibbons.

For one thing, I've been clamoring for some backstory on Caleb, and some more time spent on showing that partnership develop, and the episode was largely about that. It was awkward that this stuff was taking place after episodes in which the two were working well together, but it still gives me a better sense of who the Boy Wonder is beyond the white teeth, of how he regards both the job and his difficult partner, etc. Given that large chunks of each episode are going to be devoted to Jarek and Caleb working cases that have nothing to do with Gibbons, it's important that both men really come alive as people. Because when I'm invested in the characters on a cop show - as I was on "The Shield," or "Homicide," or "NYPD Blue" - the details of the cases often become irrelevant. But if one or both are ciphers, then I actually have to care about the particulars of each story, and it's hard to make those super-interesting in a limited amount of time.

For another, I liked seeing Teresa and Jarek navigate a few complicated political issues that had nothing to do with Gibbons. While he's allegedly the worst of the worst, Chicago's still a complicated city, where even people who aren't corrupt still have agendas and favorites and can still make life difficult for our new superintendent. So it was nice to see them dealing with a few issues - the radios, the influential family who wanted special attention to their case, the politicans annoyed about attention on the brothel - where the stakes were lower but the potential minefields just as frequent. Also, keeping with what I said in last week's review, I think Jennifer Beals' performance is strongest when Teresa is either more relaxed or acting more relaxed, so this was a good episode for her; I really enjoy those scenes where she and Jason Clarke are just bantering. Given Tim Minear's presence on the writing staff, I have to assume that either this season or (hope hope) next season, we'll get an episode flashing back to the days of their partnership, which I imagine will give us even more of that.

Vonda and Isaac still aren't as compelling as our main characters, but it was nice to see Vonda learning to protect herself with Moosekian(**), realizing that the same Wysocki name that was a liability with him was an asset witht he superior officer.

(**) The character's named after Vahan Moosekian, who worked with Shawn Ryan on "The Unit" and "Lie to Me," and I'm amused that he would put the name on a guy who keeps making these huge screw-ups.

Overall, not a riveting episode, but a solid, necessarily world-building one. Some of the recent episodes suffered in the material not related to Gibbons, so it's a relief to see a completely Gibbons-free episode that largely worked.

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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