CHICAGO PD Review: An Old-School Cop Show with the Right Balance of Action and Drama

     January 8, 2014

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“You tell me the truth so I can lie for you,” is how Sergeant Hank Voight (Jason Beghe) instructs his Chicago Intelligence Unit, proving himself to be a loyal, if unconventional leader.  Chicago PD is a spin-off of NBC’s windy city series Chicago Fire, and while there are some crossover characters and plots, the show not only stands on its own, but seems to improve upon its parent series.  Unlike FirePD is not just produced by, but created by veteran TV content magician Dick Wolf, and PD feels (in the best of ways) like those early years of Law & Order — plus a little more melodrama, but that’s not a bad change.  Hit the jump for more.

chicago-pd-sophia-bushHaving only read up on, but not seen, Chicago Fire, I can’t speak specifically to all the connections the two share, except that PD doesn’t require knowledge from its parent show to be enjoyed (although there are lots of built-in references for fans of Fire).  Though the inaugural season smartly opens with a two-part story focusing on a crossover character from Fire (Detective Antonio Dawson, played by Jon Seda), the premiere episodes also work to orient viewers who aren’t familiar with the show’s world.

Like Law & OrderChicago PD has a lot of rough and tumble action, hard-boiled cops and a great number of twists in each episode that lead the officers down the rabbit hole of street villains to their ultimate goal.  Yes, the show is a procedural, but it doesn’t necessarily feel like one — there’s enough action happening away from the Cases of the Week to keep things fresh and fast-moving, and the show does an excellent job of introducing the characters with minimal exposition.  Though there’s certainly more of an exploration of the characters outside of the job than classicLaw & Order, it makes the show that much more engaging.  And like so many other police dramas, the key element lies in the chemistry and camaraderie, which PD has in spades.

The number of characters and subplots can be dizzying at first, but by the second hour it becomes clear exactly where the main characters stand with each other, and on the force.  The Intelligence Unit is led by Voight, the most grizzled of grizzled cops, who was “dirty” on Fire, but redeemed as a deep undercover agent who was really looking to bring down actual dirty officers.  He’s a tough, no-nonsense white-hat: he will help get a kid out of a life of crime, but he also doesn’t mind beating the hell out of a street thug who disrespects him.

chicago-pd-stepping-stoneVoight’s division includes a very fun undercover duo (Alvin Olinsky and Adam Ruzak, played by Elias Koteas and Patrick John Flueger), a tough former-street-kid-turned-cop, Erin Lindsay (Sophia Bush), the aforementioned Dawson, handsome Jay Halstead (Jesse Lee Soffer – another character who appeared on Fire), put-upon Sheldon Jin (Archie Kao) and the doe-eyed Kim Burgess (Marina Squerciati).  Around the Unit and force are also other great characters that help flesh the series out from all sides — one of PD‘s greatest strengths is its cast, and so far, the show seems to know how to use them to full effect.

There’s nothing particularly new or different about the setup of PD, but there is just the right balance of action and drama, and the stories are multi-arced in a way that proves characters met in one episode won’t just disappear after the hour is over.  That kind of storytelling is unusual on network TV these days, and PD clearly knows how to work within its restraints while also being creative and engaging.  For fans of police procedurals, or just solid dramas, this one is a keeper.

Chicago PD premieres Wednesday, January 8th at 10 p.m. on NBC

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