“Moral rigidity, Jarek, always got you into trouble: ‘If I can’t be perfect, why bother being good?'”
– Sister Paul
It’s fitting that the name Jarek sounds so much like “jerk,” because Jarek kind of is one. As he tells Sister Paul at the end of the episode, he’s cheating on his fiancée with his ex-wife, all the while keeping it a secret from his teenage son. The fact that Jarek has slipped so much in his personal life makes it easier to justify his unorthodox police work to himself. He has few qualms about disobeying Teresa’s orders. In this episode, though, Liam, Isaac, Vonda, and even Teresa all have to let a bit of Jarek rub off on themselves in order to get the job done. Our heroes aren’t doing anything that would be considered playing dirty, but they’re on a slippery slope.
The episode’s plot is kicked into motion by Liam’s tip, a reckless breaking of protocol. He lets Jarek know that a guy named Brady is boasting a little too much, and he suspects that Brady may be Antonio’s killer. Jarek lets Brady go in order to preserve Liam’s cover, but Vonda and Isaac think Jarek is in the wrong and is being his usual reckless self. It doesn’t help matters that Jarek can’t and won’t explain his rationale for doing what he did. This leads Vonda and Isaac to pursue Brady until they can nab him for a drug charge.
The Chicago Code is careful not to paint these actions as acts of heroism. In fact, Liam’s tip turns out to be wrong, and Antonio’s death had absolutely nothing to do with Gibbons. Because of their pursuit of Brady, Isaac and Vonda manage to get invited to work on an organized crime task force with Ernie, but this happens so early into the show’s run that you just know that there will be complications.
Our heroes are getting more reckless, bolder, sloppier. The same is true of Teresa, who unleashes a torrent of verbal abuse on Sgt. Wirthin during his interrogation. In an instance where she should have shown restraint and kept her composure, she let her emotions get the better of her. She wants to be principled, but she’ll have to let go of some of her ideals if she wants to get things done. Take Antonio’s family, for example. Gibbons manipulates city officials into denying death benefits for Antonio’s family, because Antonio wasn’t wearing a vest at the time of his death, in contravention of police protocol.. This means that Teresa has to go to Gibbons in order to secure a special exception. Gibbons’ actions are nothing but a display of power and intimidation, but Teresa still needs a favour from him, which cuts her up inside.
Teresa is starting to discover that there’s a difference between rules and justice, that the letter of the law is not always fair. It’s something that Jarek knows himself, and he doesn’t mind bending the rules in order to get things done. He even butts heads with Teresa over her media blackout in order to lay a trap for Antonio’s killer. Still, even though Jarek knows there’s a difference between what’s on the books and what’s right, he struggles with doing what’s right. There’s a certain amount of self-loathing inside him, and though he’s too headstrong to show it to Caleb or Teresa, he can speak to Sister Paul about it.
But salvation doesn’t come from prayer, as demonstrated by Sister Paul’s horrified reaction to Jarek’s plea that God help him kill his brother’s murderer. Jarek will have to learn to become a better person through his actions. If not, his recklessness could rub off even more on those around him, and that could spell bad news for the people he loves.
For more information on The Chicago Code rewatch project, please click here.