Chicago Justice deserves a second chance on NBC’s streaming service Peacock—if the revival stays true to the series.
NBCUniversal made headlines this month by announcing that it had ordered a new Law & Order series exclusively for Peacock, with Christopher Meloni reprising his Law & Order: SVU role as Elliot Stabler for the first time since 2011.
But if the company and Dick Wolf are going to grow one franchise on the streaming platform, it’s just good business to do the same for One Chicago. The One Chicago franchise is at the height of its popularity right now, so there’s every reason to also continue to push that brand forward.
Especially not when the perfect opportunity already exists: reviving Chicago Justice.
The fourth One Chicago series never should have been cancelled to begin with; it had better live ratings than five of the shows NBC renewed in 2017.
And while there may not have been room on the NBC schedule for Justice three years ago, that’s not a problem when it comes to a streaming service. Especially right now, when pilot season is at a total standstill because of the coronavirus pandemic—companies like NBCUniversal are going to have a lot less options to choose from going into the 2020-2021 season, both on TV and online.
Justice would be much easier to resurrect because all of the actors are reasonably available. Carl Weathers has a co-starring role on Disney’s The Mandalorian, but he doesn’t appear in every episode. Philip Winchester, Joelle Carter and Monica Barbaro aren’t on TV at the moment, and while Jon Seda was cast in an NBC pilot, that’s also being delayed indefinitely.
But this is only an excellent idea under one condition—any Chicago Justice revival would have to stay true to what the series first established, and correct the major mistakes that have been made since.
Here’s how NBC could revive Chicago Justice
While Winchester’s Peter Stone and Seda’s Antonio Dawson got new leases on life by joining SVU and returning to Chicago PD respectively, those second chances wound up destroying both of their characters—and that would have to be addressed if they were ever to play the roles again.
Stone moved to New York and served as Assistant District Attorney for a mere season and a half on SVU, during which time the show killed off both his father and his sister, had him deal with his grief in the most cliched way possible, saw him falsely accused of sexual assault, and then ended his run by having Peter sacrifice everything he believed in because of possibly romantic feelings for Olivia Benson.
He wound up being a shadow of his former self. So how would a revival address that and explain his coming back to Chicago? He’s got a lot of anger to get out, both at the legal system as well as some self-loathing, so he needs a reason to step back in the courtroom.
Maybe this is a sort of redemption story; Peter wants to prove something after the mess that happened in New York, and Jefferies offers him his job back because things have gone so far downhill in Chicago (more on that in a second) that his replacement just quit due to burnout. And Peter, now with an axe to grind, comes back in with a vengeance—he has even less tolerance for wrongdoing and a much shorter fuse, and he’s not going to let anything or anyone stand in his way.
Now his team has to keep him in check every now and then, until he makes peace with his mistakes and sees that he can still make a difference. Not just be an effective prosecutor, but see that what he’s doing is helping to improve the city of Chicago.
Then there’s Antonio. The one thing Chicago PD gave him in his final season was a drug problem that got him sent to rehab not once, but twice, and even that was never developed to the extent it could have been. The only silver lining is that Chicago Fire stepped in and told us that he was doing well and reunited with his sister in Puerto Rico; otherwise, it was an ignoble sendoff.
Not only that, but we have to consider that when he did return to Intelligence, the PD writers had him make a couple less than flattering comments about his time as an SA’s Investigator. One such moment came in “Promise” where he said his old boss was “afraid to get involved.” And in his first episode back “Reform” it was mentioned how he was unhappy in his then-job.
So again, why would he return to the Windy City—and to a role that canon made it look like he hated? Both of these characters got so disjointed in their final seasons, and the writers have to, no, should dig them out of these holes. It’s frustrating that these are the arcs we left them on, and the actors can do so much more, too.
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But there’s hope—as well as a perfect reason why Chicago Justice is needed back in the One Chicago fold. The legal perspective has been completely missing since the show’s cancellation. The One Chicago fandom doesn’t have many flaws, but that’s a big one.
In fact, the only legal drama Dick Wolf has right now are the courtroom scenes in SVU episodes. That’s a far cry from the man who revolutionized the procedural with the hybrid cops-and-lawyers format of the original Law & Order. It would be wonderful to see him do another legal series, especially in this universe.
Right now, the police on Chicago PD and even the doctors on Chicago Med are doing whatever they want, and there haven’t been many consequences. PD has rarely shown any State’s Attorney since Michael McGrady appeared as ASA James Osha in season 5, and without Antonio and Alvin Olinsky (Elias Koteas), there’s no one to rein in Hank Voight (Jason Beghe).
This universe needs lawyers almost more now than it did in 2017. Not just to prosecute cases, but it’s time for somebody to step in and push back against Intelligence; could you imagine if that was Antonio? He filled that role enough times when he was on the team, and knowing that his friends were on the hot seat might be enough to coax him back, in a sort of “better me than anyone else” scenario. Even his scenes with Kevin Atwater (LaRoyce Hawkins) when Atwater was a defendant were electric—it would shake up the franchise if he were permanently on the other side.
Barbaro’s character Anna Valdez was still a practicing ASA in Chicago when last we saw her; she could have gained a lot of experience and confidence since then, and be more of an equal or even a rival to Peter. Maybe she was gunning for the top job when he came back for it?
And then there’s Carter’s character Laura Nagel, whom we never got to really know. As a former addict herself, she could help Antonio in that respect, and perhaps she too replaced him as lead investigator. How would he take to being her number-two instead of the other way round? How would Jefferies deal with his team being more flawed now, but also more hardened and ready to dig into even more volatile situations than they did before?
Whether it’s for a full season or even as a limited series, there is so much potential for storytelling with a Chicago Justice return, not to mention perfectly expanding the franchise both in a creative sense and a business sense, and getting the chance to rebuild some amazing characters and recall some wonderful actors. All it takes is the creative commitment to write the show that the franchise needs and the fans and talent deserve.
If Stabler can come back after nine years, Stone and company can return after three—giving Peacock another franchise title to build around, Wolf another established property to reinvigorate, and NBC another show to be proud of.
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