“I’ve learned two things about fighting crime in Chicago. One: it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and you’d better be ready to go the distance. And two: go for the head; that’s where the teeth are.”
– Teresa (voiceover)
Over the course of the 12 previous episodes, The Chicago Code has presented a sprawling, tangled version of Chicago with a memorable, diverse cast of characters. But “Mike Royko’s Revenge” brings everything back to the show’s central duo, Teresa and Jarek, and their quests. Teresa’s quest is to finally put Alderman Gibbons behind bars. Jarek’s is to avenge the death of his brother, Vincent. Both quests reach turning points in this episode, but only one succeeds.
Teresa has been able to get Hugh Killian to flip on Gibbons, and now she’s within spitting distance of putting the corrupt alderman away. Meanwhile, Gibbons knows Teresa is getting close, and he’s getting worried. So he’s resorted to throwing out desperate plays, like openly calling for Teresa to resign as superintendent of police.
But lest you think Teresa is the angel here, The Chicago Code is slightly more nuanced in that regard. Sure, Teresa is the “good guy,” and Gibbons is the “bad guy.” But the show repeatedly points out that catching Gibbons has become an obsession for her – one that may be compromising other aspects of her job. She even says she would let known murderer Hugh Killian go free in exchange for being able to nail Gibbons to the wall. Moreover, in the process of her crusade against Gibbons, she has totally wrecked her personal life.
“You’ve got nothing in your heart.”
– Lily, to Teresa
“You can’t let the job be your whole life, Teresa.”
– Cuyler, to Teresa
If only Lily were to tell Teresa that the job had ruined her personal life, then Teresa could simply dismiss it as emotional manipulation by an enemy. But the fact that Cuyler, her sort-of love interest, expresses the same sentiment, lends credence to the idea that Teresa really has let the job overwhelm her entire life – specifically her quest to put Gibbons behind bars. We saw back in “O’Leary’s Cow” what happened when Teresa put her job and integrity above her family, and now in her time of need, when she needs the support of loved ones to deal with Gibbons’ attacks, she doesn’t really have anyone.
She doesn’t even have Jarek, who is off on his own little adventure. In an effort to get Jarek to do something stupid to Hugh, Gibbons hints to Jarek that Hugh might have killed Vincent. It’s enough to send Jarek off on an investigation of his own, where he discovers that Vincent was actually a dirty cop. The fact that Vincent was a cheater already broke down Vonda. But as a man with a history of infidelity himself, Jarek couldn’t hate his brother for that. He could, however, have the image of his hero ruined by finding out that he wasn’t “good police.” Jarek is now devastated. Not only did he fail to discover who killed his brother, all he found out was that his brother was crooked to the bone.
There is a silver lining, though. After Gibbons convinced Lily to kill Hugh, there is literally no one whose testimony can put Gibbons behind bars. But it turns out that Vincent had been hiding dirt on Gibbons under the guise of “evidence” all along. Jarek discovers it over the course of his investigation, and he knows it’s what’s needed to put the Alderman away for good. The only problem is that turning over all of that dirt will expose Vincent as the corrupt policeman he was. It would tarnish the Wysocki name forever, which would make life difficult for a rookie cop like his niece. But Jarek knows it’s the right thing to do, so he turns over all the evidence to the Chicago PD, angering his father in the process.
But that’s the cost of going on a crusade. You can’t get anything without giving anything first, and boy, did Teresa and Jarek get something. They got to send Gibbons to jail, where he will likely spend the remainder of his life. But Gibbons still smiles, even while sitting his cell. Perhaps he knows something we don’t know. Or more likely, he knows that in a way, he brought himself down. If he hadn’t gotten Jarek to look into Killian, then Jarek would have never found Vincent’s evidence. Nonetheless, in the process of bringing himself down, he brought everyone else down too. Jarek’s family name is now tarnished in the eyes of the public and the police force, and Teresa’s personal life is in shambles, especially after the accusations that she was sleeping with her driver.
The Chicago Code doesn’t leave us with a content Teresa. Instead, it shows her at a hotel bar, pretending to be from out of town in order to score a one-night stand from a conference attendee. That’s the cost of fighting crime – no intimacy, no emotional connection. On the other hand, Gibbons had the loyal love of Lily until her arrest for murdering Hugh Killian, and he had a large following of Chicago residents who loved him. Even though it ended in a prison cell, he had a great run. On the surface, The Chicago Code’s conclusion puts a fine bow on the series – Gibbons is behind bars; the good guys won, and the bad guys lost. But on a deeper level, the series’ ending is discomforting: Gibbons is clearly happier than Teresa – in the end, who really won?
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Well, that does it for this summer’s rewatch. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed revisiting one of my favourite series. Stay tuned for more bloggy goodness.