Chicago P.D premiered to Australian audiences with a double episode last night. The series is the newest in but a long line of crime dramas by Law & Order mastermind Dick Wolf, and so it makes sense that all the experience will pour into making the show something special, right?
Law & Order has been around for countless years now, but it wasn’t until recently that it became much more than entertaining crime-of-the-week popcorn TV; the show began to benefit from years of slow-burning character development to the point where we were constantly drawn in again and again for reasons other than the thrill of watching plots unfold amongst all the genuinely intriguing police drama. Another show Wolf is involved in, Chicago Fire sped things up a bit in terms of character-driven drama and has successfully arrived at a desirable point much earlier than Law & Order did. Now Chicago P.D – which is a spin off of Chicago Fire – looks to be doing much of the same in terms of their focus on fleshing out characters quickly and using the dynamic between them to the shows full advantage.
Our first foray into the world Wolf has created for the series is brought to us by the primary character Sergeant Hank Voight (Jason Beghe) and wasted little time in letting us know that this is a cop who doesn’t exactly follow the law books. In the opening sequences he squeezes personal gain out of a small time drug pusher, beats him for information, and throws him a little death threat; and while his character is a bit darker than your typical crime show protagonist, there’s something friendly about him. Voight plays out as a cop who isn’t just dirty for the sake of it; he is dirty because it’s the only practical way to make some serious ground in the brutal underworld of Chicago.
His team is known as the Intelligence Unit in the Chicago Police Department, and he is far from the only one with corruption weighing on him. There’s a sergeant who uses lower ranked cops to run personal errands for her, and a rival officer who frustratingly withholds information – and gets someone killed doing so, both who balance against Voight’s character as two people who are less-than-ideal cops but out of a sense of arrogance rather than utility.
Voight’s intelligence unit includes Detective Erin Lindsay (Sophia Bush), a once-amateur mentored by Voight, and Detective Antonio Dawson (Jon Seda), who represents the straight-laced and sincere cop of the show. It’s these two characters who share the greatest chemistry with Beghe’s character, each teasing a back story that seems mostly withheld for later episodes; but most importantly, back stories which actually seem like they’d add greatly to the dynamic of the team.
Spectacular performances aren’t why we are drawn to TV crime dramas, it’s the thrill of the chase and abundance of sustained intrigue that keeps us coming back for more. In this sense, the first two episodes of Chicago P.D played to the genres strengths, while threading through an engaging on-going plot to ensure the show doesn’t rely too much on action. Wolf understands that intensity is what is needed in the current landscape of serialised television, so Chicago P.D delivers the kind of brutality that isn’t readily expected from an NBC crime drama, with the first episode featuring decapitated heads strung along a supposed cartel drug case that ends in one detective – Dawson – reeling from a family emergency.
It’s the second episode in which the dynamic between this intelligence unit is nicely stepped up; with Voight admirably stating that Dawson’s family issue might as well belong to the entire unit, since they are such a tight knit, and caring group. It isn’t an attitude one would initially expect from a character like this, but such is Voight’s delicately layered persona. It makes for a lead that is much more interesting and exciting to unravel than the standard.
Shot in a gritty, realistic style that calls back to a time when crime dramas were still fresh, Chicago P.D is a well-handled series that shows a heap of potential despite it’s lack of creativity. The setting of Chicago complements the raw nature of the show, and many shots – especially in the second episode – seek to take advantage of the unique warehouses and structure of the city in order to create an effective atmosphere.
No show comes without faults, so Wolf has done his best to veer away from making common crime tropes the crux of the story, leaning towards a more tightly focused character driven drama to mirror the formula which has worked so well for Chicago Fire. The dynamic within this intelligence unit is likely to only get stronger as the show progresses, and with characters that we actually want to get to know, it’s looking like Australian crime show enthusiasts have their new TV obsession.
Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Chicago P.D continues on Universal Channel, Thursdays at 8:30pm – if you missed last night’s premier, you can catch the encore double episode on Saturday at 5:30pm or Sunday at 8:30pm AEDT. For more information on the show head to Universal Channel’s Facebook Page HERE