“You know what? If I’m revoking sick days and calling off vacations, I’m certainly not going to do it from an air-conditioned office.”
“Wild Onions” is a slow-paced installment of The Chicago Code, evoking the dog days of summer in the way it unfolds. This is not an episode with a great sense of urgency, nor is it one where our heroes are overly concerned with nailing Gibbons to the wall. Their first priority here is dealing with the oppressive Chicago summer heat. The problem is, as is repeated throughout the episode, that the heat makes people go a little crazy.
The episode starts off normally enough, with a voiceover from Teresa about how high the temperatures can get during Chicago summers, and how crime rates tend to go up on hot days. But when Teresa says that she’s going to be patrolling the streets herself, despite being the superintendent of police, we can sense that perhaps she’s doing something she wouldn’t normally do. It’s possible that she’s doing this just to put her new driver to the test, but more likely, it’s because at heart, Teresa is a cop, and she would rather be on the streets than behind a desk.
Meanwhile, Caleb and Jarek are investigating the murder of an ice cream truck driver whose death left his son orphaned. Caleb empathizes with the son and promises to catch the guy who killed his dad, despite the fact that cops are never supposed to make promises of that nature, as Jarek reminds him.
Luckily, these two heat-induced lapses in judgment have positive results. Teresa and her driver are able to foil a robbery in progress, while Caleb and Jarek catch the murderer. Sure, Caleb may begin to pay careful attention to how much he personally invests in a case, but there are no long-term consequences here. However, in the summer heat, other characters make decisions that could have repercussions down the road.
First, let’s take a look at Isaac and Vonda, who have been sidelined for most of the series thus far. They’re on a regular street patrol, and they don’t really run into anything too out of the ordinary. But when shots are fired at Isaac and Vonda loses sight of him, instead of thinking rationally, she begins to fear the worst. Under different circumstances, perhaps they would have stayed in each other’s orbits, gently flirting with each other, but instead, this drives them into each other’s arms. This doesn’t seem like a one-night stand, so it will probably have consequences later.
Liam and Gibbons also make strange choices of their own in the summer heat. Gibbons tasks Liam and his buddy to deliver water to the elderly. When Liam goes to visit one old woman’s house and she doesn’t reply, but her dog continues to bark, Liam suspects the worst. He risks his cover by breaking into the house to save her life, a choice he normally wouldn’t make. Gibbons is impressed and offers Liam a “job” with the city as a reward. This is Gibbons’ first slip-up, and it’s a mistake he wouldn’t likely make if he were thinking rationally.
“There’s nothing more fulfilling than public service. Don’t you ever forget that.”
But the heat is really starting to mess with Liam’s judgment. He knows that Gibbons spent the entire day personally helping his constituents, even those who don’t like him. Liam is having trouble reconciling this facet of Gibbons’ character with the corrupt, vicious villain that Teresa suspects the Alderman to be. It might take some jarring for Liam to remember that good and bad can simultaneously exist within the same person and that villains are rarely ever completely evil.
There’s an odd irony in the way “Wild Onions” unfolds. While its pace certainly evokes the dog days of summer, there’s nothing particularly lazy about it. It’s an episode that actually breaks characters out of their holding patterns. Even Teresa reaches a turning point when she wakes up in the morning to see her driver dutifully standing watch outside her home. She realizes that while she may never be able to replace her old driver, Antonio, at least she can begin to put her faith in someone else.
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