“They say you can never go home again. A truism for some, but me? I never left, not really.”
– Alderman Gibbons (voiceover)
Alderman Ronin Gibbons came from humble beginnings. He was raised in Cabrini-Green, a large public housing project in Chicago. At first, it was a peaceful place, but during the 1970s, it fell prey to crime and anomie, becoming a haven for graffiti, gangsters, and drugs. Seeing this breakdown of law and order, Gibbons made it his mission to one day tear down the project.
There’s a strange irony in Gibbons’ narration when he says that he “never left” Cabrini-Green. As a powerful alderman, he’s so far removed from the projects now that one would have trouble imagining that he grew up there. Still, Gibbons has never been able to mentally shake off that aspect of his past, and his lack of self-awareness in this regard is surprising. He has never really come to terms with the fact that he left the projects behind, and the only way he can finally disassociate himself from Cabrini-Green is to tear it down. Back when he was a kid, Gibbons was powerless to stop the wave of crime that had overtaken the project; now he has the power to put an end to it, once and for all.
Gibbons is no stranger to exerting his power in other places, though. He uses his influence to grease the wheels and set things “right” – not necessarily in a way that’s morally correct, but in a way that engages people’s sympathies. Slice it how you like, but what Blakey Sims did was wrong. However, that doesn’t stop Gibbons from painting him as a tragic figure, adrift after his grandfather’s death, and promising to push for the least severe charges possible to be brought against the boy. It’s a narrative that appeals to his mother, Sanora, and it allows Gibbons to take the boy under his wing.
It also has an ulterior motive. By gaining Blakey’s trust, Gibbons is able to find out who put him up to the stick-up at the barber shop. With that knowledge, he’s able not only to ensure the safety of Blakey and Sanora, but also his own. Contrast that with Jarek and Teresa, who attempt to investigate the shooter’s ties to the mob through traditional means before getting stonewalled by Sanora.
Jarek’s moral rigidity, while admirable, can push him to do things that are unsympathetic. For example, he arrests David Argyle, despite the the fact that he helped the police catch the bomber who was terrorizing Chicago. Moreover, he arrests Argyle while the man is making a speech at a fancy gala dinner. To Jarek, riches and power aren’t boundaries; they’re merely arbitrary designations to be ignored. In that way, Jarek is an equalizer, going after crime wherever he sees it.
However, for Gibbons, riches and power can be used to ensure protection. At the end of the episode, we see that Darius, the man who told Blakey to shoot Gibbons, has been found dead. Ironically, this happens shortly after Cabrini-Green has finally been torn down, thereby severing Gibbons’ symbolic link to his past; no matter how much Gibbons symbolically distances himself from Chicago’s seedy criminal underbelly, he’ll always be involved with it in some capacity. The only difference is that now, he’s the one holding the power.
For more information on The Chicago Code rewatch project, please click here.