The Chicago Code: "Hog Butcher"
B+

The Chicago Code: "Hog Butcher"

B+

The Chicago Code

"Hog Butcher"

Season 1, Episode 2
B+

The Chicago Code

"Hog Butcher"

Season 1, Episode 2

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This second episode of The Chicago Code is all about twos: partners working at cross-purposes, pairs pursuing parallel missions, and mentors dealing with their unexpected influence on their protégés. For a show populated by rugged individualists, The Chicago Code has been unusually preoccupied so far with how renegades work in a team. And because I find that subject fascinating myself, I liked “Hog Butcher” just as much as I liked the pilot—and perhaps a fraction more.

Let’s break down our pairs, shall we?

Issac & Jarek: When Jarek Wysocki gets a tip from undercover agent Liam Hennessey that a mug named Colin Brady is mouthing off in a bar about shooting Superintendent Teresa Colvin and her right-hand man Antonio Betz, Jarek arrives to check it out, and quickly determines that Brady’s just a braggart, not the shooter. But Isaac Joiner—partner to Jarek’s niece Vonda—thinks Jarek’s giving up too easy and wants to haul Brady in to shake him a little. Jarek dresses Isaac down, but really, Isaac’s eagerness is just a reflection of Jarek’s, from earlier in the episode, when he practically begs Teresa to let him take Alderman Ronin Gibbons in for questioning, and she refuses. (As it turns out, both Isaac and Jarek are wrong about their line of investigation into who shot Antonio. But more on that in a moment.)

Jarek & Teresa: We learn in this episode that the former partners may not be as simpatico in their mission to bring down the Chicago political machine as we’d been led to assume in the pilot. Teresa’s been trying to effect change by starting with what’s under her direct control: the Chicago police force. But while she’s been paring away or reassigning cops who appear to be too lazy or corner-cutting (or outright dirty), she’s been riling up her employees, who feel she’s going too hard after her own kind, and punishing people who put their asses on the line every day. Jarek apparently agrees with his brothers-in-blue and tells Teresa as much after she lays into him for ignoring one of her orders in his investigation into the Betz-shooting.

Teresa & Caleb: Caleb Evers gets his first voice-over narration in “Hog Butcher,” and in it we learn that he sees Jarek Wysocki as “a living, breathing FastPass to the top,” perhaps because he saw what working with Jarek did for Teresa Colvin’s career. There’s a clever visual cue about midway through this episode in which Jarek and Teresa are yelling at each other in the foreground, and in the background, behind glass in an interrogation room, Caleb is trying to get info from the girlfriend of a the driver in the Betz case. He’s a reflection of the people he’s trying to be.

Caleb & Liam: Because of his grander ambitions, Caleb’s loyalties may not lie with the force, as Jarek’s do. Thus far, Caleb seems torn between the job he has right now—a job he’s very good at—and the job he wants someday, which may involve an even higher office than Teresa’s. In that way he’s a little like Liam, who’s torn between the part he’s playing with the Irish mob and his ultimate responsibility as a police officer. Every day, Liam deals with dozens of choices, as he watches criminals do their business and has to decide how much of an obstacle to be. If he knows the cops are closing in, does he tip off his cohorts? What will allow him to advance in the mob, without impacting his city too negatively?

Liam & Ronin: Even as a pretend-crook, Liam can do some good, though, as when he risks his cover to tip off Jarek about Brady. Similarly, Alderman Gibbons comes to Betz’s mother to pledge to do his best to get her the death benefits she’s owed—benefits she’s being denied because Betz wasn’t wearing a vest. Ronin is pressing this issue for his own advantage, yes, but he does genuinely want this grieving mother to get what’s coming to her.

Ronin & Jarek: Of course, actual generosity doesn’t prevent Alderman Gibbons from playing the angles and making sure that Teresa Colvin knows that the only way to get Mrs. Betz her money is to ask him for a favor, so that she’ll owe him. He wants her to understand—needs her to really—that favor-trading is an essential part of how power gets wielded in this city. And even Jarek would agree to that. He tells Teresa at one point that, “There is corruption, and there is the way things get done.” Jarek apparently has no problem with the latter, even if that means working around the official rulebook. He’s even part of the city’s old-boy network, as a member of an exclusive club for public servants.

Jarek & Isaac: Though Teresa issues an order that says no one but her is to talk to the press about the Betz case, Jarek feeds a reporter misinformation about the car the cops are looking for, so that he and Caleb could stake out the actual car, which nets them the girlfriend of its driver. When Teresa demands to know if he was aware of her order, he shrugs, “I didn’t think it applied to me.” Anyway, his defiance got the job done. Along the same lines, though Jarek doesn’t trust Isaac’s impetuousness, Isaac’s decision to stick fast to Colin Brady pays dividends when he catches Brady trying to smuggle pills in pig carcasses. Brady may not have been involved with the Betz shooting, but he is a bad dude, and Isaac’s diligence—Jarek-like, really—earns him a transfer to the Organized Crime division, with Vonda by his side.

There’s one more key pair in “Hog Butcher,” that being Don Werthan and one of his young drinking buddies, Kyle Lynch, the latter of whom is the man who actually shot Teresa and Antonio. Don was the veteran cop Teresa reassigned to “mops and brooms” in the pilot, and his drunken rant about how much he’d like to get rid of Teresa inspired Kyle and another wannabe police named Danny Bellick to do the deed themselves. Danny drove the car the night of the hit, and Kyle pulled the trigger. And when Don finds out that he was indirectly responsible for the death of a cop, he invites Kyle to a private meeting at the private cop club, and executes him.

Don’s storyline wraps up a little too quickly and neatly for my taste. One minute, he’s an antagonist, and the next, Teresa leans in close and gets him to spill everything: his drinking problem (and how it’s led to his reduced clearance-rate, which is what’s made him look like a slacker), and the name of Kyle Lynch. “Hog Butcher” also lays the fetishization of law enforcement on thick and spells out the subtext a little too neatly when Teresa tells Jarek that she doesn’t want them to become like the people they’re investigating.

But the considerable strengths of The Chicago Code pilot are every bit as strong in “Hog Butcher,” in particular the nuanced relationship between the characters and the procedural elements. There’s less of the Wysocki/Evers give-and-take this time out, but there’s a fine exchange when Wysocki admires Evers’ sketch of the crime scene, then asks him what he really knows about the shooter. (Like: “Is he a fan of the great game of baseball, or is he a Cubbie-lover?”) And when Evers uses Twitter to get tips from the public on the crime, Wysocki quietly enjoys watching how Evers’ plan backfires a little with his greedy tipster. (He also enjoys saying, “Set a meet, Mr. Tweet,” and when Evers starts to ask him about the death of his brother, Wysocki cuts him off with a curt, “This for for your Twitter feed?”)

And then there’s all the punchy scenes of real police-work, like Wysocki trying to rush the dying driver into a confession, or him staking out the shot-up driver’s car instead of waiting for an evidence team to take it out of play. Jarek Wysocki is giving Caleb Evers—and us—quite an education on how to close cases. What remains to be seen is whether Caleb is filing away these lessons to become better police, or to become something else.

Grade: B+

Stray observations:

  • What did y’all think of the theme song? It’s no “Gunfight Epiphany,” but I like it.
  • Now that I can talk about the first episode without avoiding spoilers, I can go back to the surprise shooting of Betz, mid-voiceover, which was a lot like the shooting of Hill and Renko in the pilot of Hill Street Blues. I wish I could say I was caught entirely by surprise, but though the suddenness of his death was shocking, I’d pegged him as a goner before I was even halfway through the episode. And for a dumb reason, too: I couldn’t find any information about the character or the actor who plays him in the press material. Every time a new character showed up in the pilot, I paused the screener so I could type the relevant names into my notes, but I could find jack-all about Antonio, either on the Fox press site or at any of the other websites dedicated to the show. Ergo: snuffed.
  • “We will find everyone that did this, and when we do, we will make them all pay.” Jarek Wysocki, letting Gibbons know the path he’s on.
  • Jarek Wysocki once protected a wrongly accused man by holding off an angry mob with a Carlton Fisk bat.
  • “Lotta history in that sausage.”
  • Nice detail of Vonda Wysocki having to step wide over over a puddle to get out of the car.
  • New character tonight: Ernie Moosekian (played by Brad William Henke, most recently seen as Bram on Lost and as one of the hillbilly gangsters on Justified). He’s the main man over at Organized Crime, who encourages Isaac’s pursuit of Colin Brady even though Isaac admits that Jarek wasn’t keen on it. “Wysocki,” Ernie scoffs. “That’s because he didn’t think of it first.”
  • Another new character: Sister Paul (played by Broadway legend and Eight Is Enough star Betty Buckley), who was one of Jarek’s teachers and is now someone he can confide in. One thing he confides tonight: He’s still looking for brother’s killer, and plans to exact revenge.
  • Among the changes instituted by Teresa: prospective cops now have to score a “highly qualified” on the exam, not just a “qualified.”
  • Isaac hustles in his own ways, like by delivering coffee to older beat cops. He also gets his own voiceover narration tonight, in which he says that he was picked on my the neighbor kids his whole life, and so he joined the police: the toughest gang in town.

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