I try not to let show cancellations get to me, if only because it’s all out of my hands. Besides, I’ve seen plenty of series that I once loved extend way past their welcomes. No, I won’t name names. But Fox’s The Chicago Code is inarguably gone before its time. Like Terriers, another one-season wonder from showrunner Shawn Ryan, The Chicago Code offered rich characters, emotional complexity, and moral ambiguity. Most importantly, these series breathed new life into the crime drama genre, which has become a pit of location-based procedurals.
At least The Chicago Code was able to offer a mostly satisfying two-part season finale. (Remember that Terriers, while solving the season’s case, did end on a cliffhanger.) The finale saw Alderman Gibbons behind bars (while awaiting trial, that is), Liam outed to his family as an undercover cop, and Jarek getting some closure on his brother’s death. It’s easy to speculate on how the series could have continued into another season—we still have to see Gibbons’ trial, for one thing—but at least we got something resembling a happy ending. Maybe bittersweet is more accurate.
I’m not sure why The Chicago Code didn’t resonate with more viewers. Outraged fans love to blame Fox, but the network deserves credit for taking a chance on this show in the first place. Perhaps the series, like Terriers before it, was too complex for casual viewing. You didn’t necessarily have to tune into The Chicago Code on a weekly basis, but it was a lot more rewarding that way. The development of the characters and the season’s arc, namely Teresa Colvin’s campaign to take down Alderman Gibbons, were the most engaging aspects of the series.
It’s not that I’m anti-procedural, because I do enjoy the occasional formula-based cop show. I just think it’s important to offer viewers a little diversity, and The Chicago Code was such a refreshing change of pace from anything in the Law & Order universe. There were weekly cases—some tied into the bigger picture, some standalone. And they did what cases on a show like this should do, deepening the relationships between the officers and underlining the larger-scale goals. In this case, ending corruption in Chicago.
Mostly, I hope Shawn Ryan isn’t discouraged from making more great shows, because he continues to wow me with his work. The characters on his series aren’t always easy to root for, and more often than not I find myself questioning their choices. But that’s part of what makes them such a pleasure to watch. When I want something easy, I have a number of guilty pleasures to turn to. Let’s hope we get something new from Shawn Ryan soon for when I want to do a bit more heavy lifting.
But hey, maybe it’s not too late for The Chicago Code. I hear Netflix is getting into the show-saving business, and if there’s any recently axed series worthy of renewal, it’s this one. I’m a loyal Netflix customer. They have to listen to me, right?