Stars: Delroy Lindo, Billy Lush, Matt Lauria, Jennifer Beals, Jason Clarke, Devin Kelley and Todd Williams
Writers: Patrick Massett, John Zinman
Director:  Clark Johnson
Network: Fox, airs Monday nights
Original Telecast: February 14, 2011

I said last week, I’ll say it again, THE CHICAGO CODE is shaping up to be the next great Fox drama.

I really don’t care for TV cop dramas. Aside from the occasional LAW & ORDER, they bore me – and it’s clear they bore most TV writers, because very little has been done with the genre to shake things up since Shawn Ryan (CODE’s creator) concocted his brilliant FX series THE SHIELD.

Of course, THE SHIELD got away with murder, literally, because it was on cable outlet FX. THE CHICAGO CODE is on network TV, so, despite its brilliance and amazing writing, it doesn’t mean it has earned a secure place on the line-up just yet (remember, LONE STAR lasted two episodes last fall on Fox, and it was critically lauded).

Still, it would be wise for Fox to not be trigger happy with this one, because if the pilot and this week’s stellar episode “Hog Butcher” are any indication, this show has found a way to tweak the cop show conventions and make it exciting and fresh again.

The on-going mythology of the show is simple: Chicago’s first superintendent Teresa Colvin (Jennifer Beals) wants to take down corrupt Alderman Gibbons (Delroy Lindo), but in order to do it, she has to do it covertly and carefully. She can’t broadcast her moves and be blatant – she has to play a careful game of chess and move each piece so she’s one step ahead of Gibbons and he’s one step behind.

However, as “Hog Butcher” points out – he’s a master chess player, and his game is to make everyone his pawn, so he has to make the least amount of power play moves as possible.

Most of this episode deals with the aftermath of the death of Colvin’s partner and bodyguard who was killed mercilessly at the end of last week’s episode. The entire police department is on a manhunt for the shooter, who Colvin and her ex-partner (and closest ally) Jarek Wysocki (Jason Clarke) believe involvessome ties to Gibbons.

Of course, this doesn’t turn out to be true, and actually is an indirect result of a frustrated cop shooting off his mouth to the wrong people.

Gibbons pulls some strings to make Colvin feel like she’s indebted to him and the master game of THE CHICAGO CODE is set perfectly into motion.

Unlike most cop shows, THE CHICAGO CODE has a flavor of its own, using the city to its advantage with on-location local color and occasional injection of Chicago blues creeping into the soundtrack. Big moments are often not played front in center, but are left behind closed doors. The show also moves at a perfect pace – keeping things moving and interesting, without dwelling on over-the-top melodrama.

Heck, one of the episode’s most poignant and powerful moments occurs at the end when Wysocki visits his Church which he’s avoided for some time. His thoughts and words really get to the heart of the show and make you realize just how fully realized his character is. Clarke is an incredible actor, and manages to keep his character in control and out of control – often times within the same scene to create one helluva dynamic performance.

THE CHICAGO CODE is going to have to pull off some pretty amazing miracles in the coming weeks in order to keep the mythology moving forward, and not getting bogged down in any nuisance “case of the week” nonsense, but I have faith in Ryan and his super-writing team. By episode’s end, I sensed I was watching something utterly special developing, the beginning of a show that has the potential to break new ground and have people talking about it the day after it airs.

All the ingredients are here from the acting, writing and direction – now it’s all about the audience, and hopefully they’ll continue to show up and allow this show to grow and have continued life on a network. After all, Fox desperately needs a series former 24 fans can rally behind and not feel guilty about it afterwards.

AGREE? DISAGREE? Let us know what you think – leave your comment below.

CLICK HERE for AX’s exclusive interview with CHICAGO CODE star Delroy Lindo

CLICK HERE for more exclusive CHICAGO CODE reviews and news

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