Chicago Justice: Season 1
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Chicago Justice: Season 1

Few devotees of television crime procedural show would contest the statement that Dick Wolf is the Master of the art of interconnected series. His New York City-based ‘Law & Order’ generated over half a dozen direct spinoffs with a sizeable number of shows exported to other counties. For decades Mr. Wolf was considered a significant factor in keeping the AFTRA membership of the city employed steadily. When he shifted his focus to the Mid-West settling in Chicago, he began the process anew. Starting with ‘Chicago Fire’ which was quickly followed by ‘Chicago P.D. and Chicago Med’, Mr. Wolf accomplished the rare trifecta of encompassing police, fire, and hospitals in a single franchise. Only Jack Webb of ‘Dragnet’ fame has come close to this achievement. Mr. Wolf has the well-earned reputation as one of the most loyal showrunners in the business. Actors are frequently utilized in multiple shows even going as far as casting them in multiple roles. It is not a surprise that several of the actors from now-canceled series have found their way to Chicago. In a masterstroke of franchise consolidation, the Chicago shoes have had a crossover between New York and Chicago. Not every one of his shows has been a success, a few have lasted only a single season. The first casualty in the Windy City has occurred in the form of ‘Chicago Justice.' To fill in the gap of courtroom drama, this show followed the men and women of the Cook County State's Attorney's Office. As an agency with Statewide jurisdiction, there was the potential to address cases beyond the prevue of the municipal authorities. Unfortunately, the considerable potential intrinsically imbued in the premise. The current paradigm controlling the art of television scheduling there are so many possible pilots ready to go that more so than ever if a new series falls short of the expectations of the network executives, the cancellation order is dispatched. I enjoyed this series and regret what is a hasty and regrettable decision.

The fundamental construction of the series is based on the xenon half of ‘Law & Order’ prime. The apex of the hierarchy is the big boss, State's Attorney Mark Jefferies (Carl Weathers). His function is basically to scold his direct report when he inevitably uses some legal maneuver to convict the criminal. That erstwhile bastion of justice is Assistant State's Attorney Peter Stone (Philip Winchester). He serves as the Deputy Bureau Chief of the State's Attorney's Office Special Prosecutions Bureau. Acknowledging the fact that the collective Wolf franchises have persisted for almost three decades Peter Stone is the son of Benjamin Stone (Michael Moriarty), the Executive Assistant District Attorney for New York County; he was the first to initiate the series and predecessor to the illustrious Jack McCoy (Sam Waterson). It is exceedingly rare that a franchise last long enough for a character to have a child who grows up goes through many years of school and more establishing a reputation. The connection is overtly stated a few episodes into the season, but the references were subtle and organically inserted in the dialogue. He has inherited his father’s immovable sense of justice and unwavering compulsion to do what is morally right. In the army of social justice warriors /the Stone, men are generals. Another trope inherited from the original ‘Law & Order,' is to fill the second chair position in court with an attractive female lawyer. It prevents the ensemble from appearing too male-dominated and helps in securing a male demographic. This position is filled by Monica Barbaro portraying Assistant State's Attorney Anna Valdez.

In a direct tie-in to a sponsoring series Stone’s Chief Investigator, Antonio Dawson (Jon Seda). This character is among the most pervasive in the franchise starting out as the police detective brother of a paramedic in Chicago Fire, Gabriela Dawson (Monica Raymund). That placed the character in the primary cast of the first spinoff, ‘Chicago P.D.’. Within the context of that show, he transferred off to the office of State Investigator. His assistant is Laura Nagel (Joelle Carter). Although not shown in any of the other ‘Chicago’ series, Laura was a Chicago Police detective who left the force after a line of duty injury left her addicted to prescription pain medication. She has been clean for months but is desperately trying to regain custody of her daughter. A major difference between the basic structure of the Chicago shows and those set in New York City is the substantial inclusion of the families. Collectively across the shows, this does alter the focus from straightforward procedurals to in-depth character studies. This concept was initially introduced to the Chicago segment of the Wolf universe through the sibling relationship of Antonio and Gabriela. It has been significantly enhanced by utilizing Antonio’s wife and children as major plot devices; this is supported to a lesser degree by Laura’s custody battle and Stone’s father’s reputation.

To maximize the popularity of the other Chicago series, the first episode of ‘Chicago Justice’ was the capstone of a three-part crossover with ‘Chicago Fire and ‘Chicago P.D.’. Considering this was overtly a plot contrivance to strengthen the ‘same universe’ foundation that is crucial to the intersection of characters, places, and events, it is unusual that someone would require medical attention necessitating a visit to Chicago Med. This was such an expected ploy that it was refreshing it failed to materialize. For the most part, the trademark ‘ripped from the headlines’ approach was incorporated into the episodic storylines. The time frame for ‘ripped’ was more liberal than usual with one episode relating back to the Amanda Knox case from back in 2007. In the 9th episode ‘Comma,' the investigation of a murdered college student leads the detectives to a primary suspect, a college student who was acquitted of murdering her boyfriend in Spain. Stone undertakes his line of inquiring when he realizes he has doubts over the veracity of her involvement. Another case is a real-life tragedy that was already used as a basis for ‘Law & Order.' A crane used in the construction of a tall building collapses killing a man sitting in his car. The details are sufficiently ubiquitous, and the details alter just enough for consideration as a new story. In a twist, the victim is identified as the son-in-law of a very wealthy real estate investor. Under the broad category of murdering heroic victims both a Chicago police officer and a Navy SEAL veteran. In the later, the investigation uncovered evidence o a flash drive proving a Navy mission that went wrong.

It is a shame that the series wasn’t given a proper opportunity to establish its place in this new Dick Wolf city franchise. It did fulfill a specific void that exists in the Chicago shows. The original premise of ‘Law & Order was to follow a case from investigation through prosecution. Without a series covering the judicial system, this new franchise will remain feeling incomplete. The decision to cancel this segment denies the audience an occasion to be entertained by some very talented performers. For example, Joelle Carter is a solid journeyman actor who has been s steady performer who most recently contributed her intensity as a principal cast member on the award-winning series, ‘Justified.' Ironically, her first listed credit was on ‘Law & Order’ over twenty years ago. Knowing how Mr. Wolf rarely completely lets go of characters it is entirely forgotten.

Posted 12/02/2017

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