“The cops are going after the landlords.”—Superintendent Teresa Colvin, trying to fulfill a dream of the late Mike Royko.
And so The Chicago Code comes to an end, with a rushed, overstuffed episode that nevertheless poses provocative questions related to the central themes of this series: How do you really fight crime in a city where the politicians are in league with the racketeers? What good is the code of honor among policemen if it works against the closing of cases? And how do you weigh true justice against the needs of the many good people who might be hurt by it?
Look, I liked this series a lot, even though I rarely felt it lived up to its potential, so I’m not going to spend much time going over the parts of “Mike Royko’s Revenge” that didn’t work for me. Instead, I’ll just dump them all into this paragraph: I thought the arrest of Gibbons’ informant was too abrupt, and didn’t lead to anything; I have a hard time believing that “Liam” has been posing as a wastrel (with a different name, no less) in front of his family; I saw no need to bring Wysocki’s ex-fiancée back into the picture (aside from setting up a sweet reconciliation during the closing montage); I don’t know how Elizabeth Killian could know that her father had been shot, but not know that Gibbon’s aide/lover Lily pulled the trigger; I thought the late Vincent Wysocki’s magic box of evidence was a way-too-convenient twist; and I found the idea that Wysocki betrayed his family by introducing Vincent’s dirty deeds into the public record to be an unnecessarily overwrought complication. Mainly, it seemed like this episode tried to introduce a lot of new, frequently insignificant information, while bringing this season’s main storyline to a reasonable resolution.
All of that said: I thought “Mike Royko’s Revenge” was pretty sweet.
There were two elements in particular that I thought elevated this episode past its flaws. First: the idea that Alderman Ronin Gibbons would try to get ahead of the scandal about to rain down on him by turning it around on Colvin. He knows she can’t say anything to the press so long as her grand jury is still weighing evidence, and he knows that the mayor has a resignation letter from Teresa on-file, ready to be accepted if she slips up. So he goes to the press and claims that Colvin has an ethics problem and that there are rumors that she may have had an inappropriate relationship with her dead driver, Antonio. The superintendent then has to shrug off the hostile questions from the press (some of whom are Gibbons’ plants) and bear in mind that she’s “after jail-time, not a PR win.” Meanwhile, Gibbons continues to play the angles, by persuading Lily to shoot Killian and by keeping an eye on the status of the comatose Liam. (When the alderman hears that Liam’s under close watch by the CPD, he asks, “Who’s the surgeon?” Always looking for an in, our Ronin.)
The second boon to “Mike Royko’s Revenge” is the revelation that Vincent Wysocki was a dirty cop. Even if Vincent’s helpful evidence file was a bit much—topped off by a corny “Last Will” videotape that for some reason Vincent never finished after getting interrupted by Little Vonda—I appreciated the thought behind it. Vincent took money, no doubt. But he also found that he got more done off-the-books: from pitting the Russians against the Irish to getting dirt on mobsters and politicians alike, in ways he couldn’t have done under the official bureaucratic policies. That’s The Chicago Code in a nutshell: How do you fix a city where the only way to make progress is to make illegal deals? The very act of cleaning up corruption splashes the filth back on you.
This episode didn’t have much in the way of the car-chases and shoot-outs that The Chicago Code has done so well all season, though the raid on the Irish mob’s veterinary hospital—where Elizabeth Killian gets treated for her gunshot wound—was funny and thrilling, and the scene where Evers covers for Wysocki by placing a call from Hugh Killian’s hotel phone was a smart way to reinforce Evers’ loyalty to his partner and to keep the hero out of bigger trouble. And of course there was something deeply satisfying about Teresa Colvin arresting Ronin Gibbons in the middle of a council meeting, in front of the press. (If there’d been a second season of The Chicago Code, it would’ve been fun to see Gibbons try to work from prison to clear his name and bring Colvin down. As it is, I did like his enigmatic smile in his cell at the end, which could be read as him plotting or him secretly admiring Teresa for what she accomplished.)
Mostly though, the action in “Mike Royko’s Revenge” is on more of a conceptual plane. From the moment Gibbons gives Wysocki a picture of Vincent with Hugh Killian, the wheels start spinning. Is Killian responsible for Vincent’s death? If so, isn’t putting a cop-killing mob boss in jail more important than jailing Gibbons, who at least does some good for the city? Even when it turns out that Hugh’s innocent of Vincent’s murderer—and that Vincent was on the take, to boot—there’s still a question of whether it’s worth sullying his name in the process of bringing Gibbons down. (It’s a dumb question in my book, but I recognize it as a question.)
And though I felt like a lot of major characters got short shrift in this finale—like Isaac, who barely appears—I appreciated the focus on Superintendent Colvin and the price she pays for doing her job well. Lily accuses her of making everyone else’s life miserable because she’s got no one to come home too, and when Special Agent Adam Arkin asks her out, she says she’d love to, but can’t because it might be read as conflict-of-interest. (“So… you want me to quit my job,” he jokes. I love Adam Arkin.) At the end of the episode, we see her pretending to be an out-of-towner, hitting on a conventioner as a way of getting some anonymous action. Because apparently that’s the only way you can stay clean on this job: You can’t be human.