“You know, this may sound sentimental, but I consider all my constituents family – the ones who voted for me, anyway.”
– Alderman Gibbons

Jarek and Gibbons have very different ideas about what constitutes family. For Jarek, family is the people to whom you’re related by blood. On the other hand, Gibbons sees his entire constituency as one big family. This may seem like empty political posturing on Gibbons’ part, but he sincerely means it. “Black Hand and the Shotgun Man” centres around these diametrically opposed views of family.

“I know we live in cynical times, but have we really reached the point where you are too good to walk in another man’s shoes and feel their pain?”
– Alderman Gibbons

Normally, Jarek doesn’t have much sympathy for drug kingpins like Daniel Romero. He’s only too eager to put the guy behind bars where he belongs. But things get complicated when Jarek learns that Daniel’s son, Marco, has been kidnapped. As a father himself, Jarek begins to feel an odd sort of kinship with Daniel, and he’s able to step into the man’s shoes.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Jarek, it’s that he feels an immense sense of loyalty and devotion to his blood relatives. His niece is one of the few people to whom he genuinely feels close, for example. However, Jarek has few real friends, and he finds it difficult to maintain romantic relationships, as evidenced by his inability to choose between his ex-wife and his fiancée. The relationships he best understands are the ones that are determined by blood, not the ones in which he voluntarily chooses to participate.

That’s why Jarek buries himself in his job instead of dealing with his personal life. Jarek understands the world of police work. It’s black and white. There are good guys and bad guys. Dealing with personal relationships is harder; it’s all about emotions and shades of grey.

By contrast, Gibbons is a man who lives in the grey, which is why he’s so good at dealing with others and why he sees his entire constituency as a sort of “family.” He intuitively understands human emotion and how to exploit it. When he sees Liam’s unease at dealing with the widow of Marcel Reid, the man he killed by arson, he perceives an opportunity to put Liam under his thumb. And so, he invites Liam into his inner circle, the “real family,” if you will.

Gibbons: Looking out for the people of Chicago is not something you can be half-assed about. At a certain point, there is no turning back. You are either in or you are out.
Liam: I’m in.
Gibbons: Yes you are. Welcome to the family.

This is an interesting exchange, laced with dramatic irony. As far as Gibbons knows, Liam is just a small-time crook who got in over his head with an arson. Little does he know that Liam is an undercover cop; he’s just pulling Liam into his inner circle because he believes he can easily blackmail the guy. But Liam is aware of the kind of person Gibbons is, and he catches on to the manipulation. Seeing how Gibbons is willing even to manipulate the people whom he considers family, Liam is driven to anger and vows to do whatever it takes to bring Gibbons down.

Say what you will about Jarek, but at least he’s loyal to the people whom he truly considers to be family.

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