'Chicago P.D.' premiere: Cartels, decapitation, and one very angry octopus

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Image Credit: Matt Dinerstein/NBC

Ever since Southland was canceled, I’ve had a police drama-sized hole in my heart, which is why I was excited to give Chicago P.D. a chance. But instead, Chicago P.D. reminded me of another cop show I’d previewed several months ago — Low Winter Sun.

For me, Chicago P.D., Dick Wolf’s latest project, was partly just another police procedural, not unlike an episode of Law & Order, and partly Low Winter Sun-esque in that the Chicago Fire spinoff was clearly attempting to have a darker tone. (Read: Cartels, big crime, dirty cops, etc.) Perfect example: The show’s opening scene featured Sgt. Henry Voight (Jason Beghe), the unconventional raspy-voiced leader, taking a drug dealer out on a gravel road and putting a gun to his face before telling him to stay out of his city. Oh, and he took a couple grand off the dealer that he didn’t exactly seem to turn in to evidence. Just like that, we had a complicated character and a procedural that was doing its best to feel gritty.

I felt Voight was a little much to take in. Perhaps it was the fact that he was in prison a matter of months ago, or it was his portrayal as equal parts bad cop and sweetheart who saves kids from the street, but it all felt too extreme. Either he’s a walking cliche or he’ll end up being a fascinating character study, but I couldn’t quite figure him out yet. Then again, maybe that’s the show’s intention: Keep viewers coming back to get his whole story. Hey, it might work.

Voight is head of the Chicago P.D.’s Intelligence Unit, currently on the case of a cartel leader called Pulpo (Octopus), who’s running around town cutting out tongues and decapitating drug dealers. (Yeah, we get it. Chicago’s rough.) Voight’s fairly new team consists of six leather-clad officers and the occasional patrolman. There’s the young male-female partnership that is practically begging for a mid-season hookup. There’s the older, trusted partnership between two officers who both seem to have it all. And then you have the new kid fresh out of the Academy, and the guy who seems to have known Voight forever. Any questions?

I have to admit that I was reluctant to get in too deep when the episode first began. Maybe it was Voight’s voice, or maybe it was the fact that I’m not a big lover of procedural cop shows. That being said, by episode’s end, the show had already killed off one of its main players, a move that forced me to pay attention.  But the decision to then kidnap the child of another main player? That just made me cringe. The whole kidnapping-an-officer’s-kid thing is a great card to have up your sleeve, but it might have been better played further into the season, you know, when we’d actually had time to get to know the kid or his father.

All in all, Chicago P.D.‘s appeal is simple: If you like procedural cop shows, you will enjoy it. Even if you don’t like procedural cop shows, you still might enjoy it. It certainly isn’t boring, but it also hasn’t found its groove just yet. I need a little something more to make me tune in. Drug dealers, bad cops, and just a pinch of sexual tension are good and all, but they’re not enough. Right now, the show is building a solid case, but I’m still looking for the motive.

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