TV REVIEW : Don’t Mess with Papa Bear in Chicago PD’s “A Material Witness”
Chicago PD’s latest outing is heavy on gang violence, drugs, shootings, and retribution. But the single most driving force of the episode is love – a father’s love for his daughter and the cops’ sense of duty and caring for each other. The gritty police drama offers another powerhouse of an episode with the focus being on Detective Alvin Olinsky (Elias Koteas) and of course, the main man himself, Sergeant Hank Voight (Jason Beghe). The plot is a tight one coming together one piece at a time, never losing focus with the distraction of unnecessary subplots. A few secondary storylines flow in from older episodes adding layers, not distracting or seeming superfluous in the least.
We begin right where we left off last week. Closeup on Voight’s face. He’s in custody after being arrested. Internal Affairs replacement Edwin Stillwell (guest star Ian Bohen) is still the uptight weasel from last episode. He greets Voight in an interrogation room marvelling that “they still have the bracelets” on him. Stillwell shares that his doctor put him on a heart healthy diet. Wait. He has a heart? He says their new relationship is like the diet. It goes on forever till you die. Voight asks, “What if you die first?” And then adds, “From that diet your doctor put you on.” The tension in the room just reached nuclear level with Stillwell saying Voight better listen to him, or else. Because I said so. Because I’m your father, Luke. Just because. I cannot wait to see the look on this guy’s face when he gets Voighted right out the door.
The case of the night is the shooting of a low level gang member, Russell – so low he said the word “gang” three times in the mirror and had to get a pledge pin. Problem is that Olinsky’s daughter Lexi (Alina Jenine Taber) is the only witness to the crime, and she can ID the shooter, a high level gang banger named Calaca in the Latin Priests. I’m thinking this isn’t a religious organization. Olinsky goes into hyper protective Papa Bear mode and for a minute it’s hard to tell who’s the bigger badass, Voight or Olinsky. Alvin tells everyone that there is no way his daughter’s testifying. Witnesses become targets.
His vow becomes harder to keep when a gang unit guy shows up saying he’s been investigating the Latin gang for months and needs Lexi to testify. We know that Olinsky will do anything to protect his girl even taking Atwater’s crime scene notes, and more surprisingly, believing that his baby is still the innocent little thing she was when she was in the 7th grade. The love he has shows in his every action and the sweetness of Voight backing him up shows how far back these two go. Did I just use the words sweetness and Voight in the same sentence? So sorry.
The rest of the episode is a race to find the shooter, Calaca, who will hopefully give up the higher ups in his gang. Ruzek (Patrick Flueger) and Olinsky gripe at each other more like an old couple married for years not the newlyweds they are. Olinsky’s busy protecting his daughter, so Ruzek pairs up with Burgess (Marina Squerciati) in a surprise move to no one. He volunteers her for an undercover assignment and the two spend more time flirting than crime fighting. Ruzek even flashes a girls gone wild shot his fiancée sent him. Neanderthal, really? Okay, Burgess, you cannot pair up with this bonehead. Run, don’t walk back to your cute, hunky partner Atwater.
In the creepy subplot of the night, Jay Halstead (Jesse Lee Soffer) is still on a mission to bring down a duct tape loving pedophile, Lonnie Rodiger. Halstead has Jin continuing to track credit card transactions and is sure someone’s going to end up dead when Lonnie buys camping equipment, rope, and duct tape. Yes, I don’t think he’s planning an Eagle Scout excursion. Jay’s actions have garnered the attention of IA, and Voight is less than thrilled. He pushes Halstead to really let the Rodiger thing go. When Jay pushes back with a “why should I listen to you, jaybird,” Voight threatens to have him yanked from Intelligence and basically throws up his hands saying he’s been warned. Erin Lindsay (Sophia Bush) knows something’s up, but Jay’s not talking.
The cops are closing in on Calaca with Lindsay tackling a member of a rival gang in the takedown of the night. Was anyone else shocked when she told Halstead to stay with some witnesses while she gave chase to the bad guy? She brings him down like a linebacker and our love of this cop grows exponentially.
Does Erin have to solve this dang thing alone? Antonio and Lindsay check out a barbershop owned by Calaca’s uncle. It’s a haven for PCP and even features a torture chamber in the basement. They know they’re getting really close when they find the gang member’s pinky in the room, apparently a warning for him to behave. I think Ruzek wants to charge the offending finger, but Voight’s holding out for the rest of Calaca.
Finally, our heroes track him down at a relative’s house and take him into their own special, little fenced in torture area. I’m thinking he’s going to be missing more than a pinky. Voight roughs him up, but the bad guy just laughs. He’s competing for the coveted Miss Badass award because even Voight can’t break him.
Lexi ends up telling Dad that she needs to testify to put Russell’s killer away. With one look, Olinsky conveys pride and fear in a heartbreaking way any parent can relate to.
As Voight leads Calaca to a squad car, the scum makes a comment about how pretty little Lexi is. In the best Voightism of the night, Hank warns, “If anything happens to that girl, I’ll have your new boyfriend turn you inside out for a stick of gum.” Ouch.
The final scene is ripped straight from the Shonda Rhimes’ playbook. In a what the heck ending, Stillwell and Voight meet up at the scene of a crime, both wearing the grim looks that indicate someone’s dead. Lonnie Rodiger, looking a lot like Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon, lies dead on the ground, strangled. Jay, did you pull a Benny Severide (like that crossover review moment) and get a little revenge? Nah. Who else thinks that perhaps dead perv’s dad pulled a page from the George and Lennie looking at rabbits scene in Of Mice and Men?
I know I’ve been put on repeat week after week with my reviews of Chicago PD … another great episode, cop drama with a heart, acting unparalleled on network TV, storylines that don’t manipulate, instead they authentically tug at the heart, and so on. As hard as I try, I just can’t find much to criticize. Yes, I’ve jumped in that police cruiser, looking forward to next week’s episode where Jay stands accused in the Rodiger death. Even more exciting than that is the news that NBC’s renewed this outstanding series for a season two. Now, let’s see if we can’t bolster those ratings a bit. Spread the word. This cop drama is here to stay.
- Sergeant Platt (the amazing Amy Morton) shows she’s got a soft spot for the oldies – Olinsky and Voight. She tells Voight to try to stay out of handcuffs today. “It’s hard to explain to the kids.” She also encourages Olinsky to hang in there. I’m thinking Plansky will be the newest couple trending on Twitter next week? Are you with me?
- Ruzek shows his brawn and humor when he tells a granny with information on the case “I’ll hog tie you with cuffs so fast your dentures will spin.” Burgess looks impressed and interested. Ruzek’s also burdened with sexy pictures from fiancée Wendy the whole episode. Does this girl not work? He finally tells her, “I love you naked. It’s distracting. I’m working.”
- Poor Atwater (LaRoyce Hawkins) is temporarily paired up with a new guy who can barely breathe on his own let alone use the restroom. A gun is definitely out of the question.
- Papa Bear #2 of the night, Voight, lets Ruzek and Halstead have it. They’ve been called to the principal’s office and it’s not pretty. You gotta love Voight.