Thoroughly comfortable and relatively competent, “Blowed Up” nonetheless highlights a procedural that’s unsure of what it wants to be even as it delivers exactly the experience you were expecting.
This recap of The Code Season Premiere titled, “Blowed Up”, contains spoilers.
The Code is a new procedural so unsure of what it is, what it wants to be about, and how it wants to be about it that it could be mistaken for several similar but otherwise different shows that have been stapled together by a mad editor locked in a cubicle somewhere at CBS headquarters. And yes, to answer the inevitable follow-up question, The Code is a military-focused courtroom drama so of course it’s a CBS show.
The one advantage of The Code essentially being a composite of other similar-feeling shows it that the whole thing is put together with a general air of competence and confidence, at least as far as the broader structure of the episode goes. “Blowed Up”, The Code‘s season premiere, moves along at a decent clip, contains a fair helping of twists and turns, and presents characters with an easy, laidback charm. It flits back and forth between office politics, very brief scenes of character-building domesticity, overseas investigations, and court-set legal back-and-forths exactly as you might expect.
But the devil, as they say, is in the details, and the details of The Code are all over the place. On the one hand, it’s about a team of Marine Corps. legal eagles including Captain John Abraham (Luke Mitchell), Major Trey Ferry (Ato Essandoh) and Captain Maya Dobbins (Anna Wood) who all work out of the same office supervised by Colonel Glenn Turnbull (Dana Delany), yet the prosecution and defense are assigned seemingly randomly, leading to a weird sort of buddy-buddy community spirit even among characters who’re supposed to be adversarial. The idea that legal professionals would see another case as exactly that — just another case, not worth falling out over — runs contrary to the idea that we’re supposed to be invested in these people passionately advocating for victims. Or the falsely-accused, as the case might be.
The way “Blowed Up” gets around this is by having a seemingly clear-cut case — a soldier in Afghanistan stabs his superior officer for no reason — actually be an outgrowth of a much larger issue in which a camp-wide medical cover-up has left soldiers with traumatic brain injuries unable to be officially diagnosed with those traumatic brain injuries. The prosecution and the defense, therefore, are on the same side, and up against what amounts to a cartoon villain who is represented by a smug lawyer with an unpronounceable name whose nickname is “Princess”.
And there’s the other big problem. Is The Code a show about the hardships of military life, some of them unseen, and about asking tough questions of one of America’s most treasured institutions, or is it a show about fat lawyers called Princess and shouting out “Get that ***!” in court? Because I’d argue that it can’t be both.
Either way, The Code‘s familiarity will likely ensnare an audience who enjoy such things, and its ability to chew through storylines will no-doubt keep that audience engaged for long enough that they might miss some of the show’s internal inconsistencies and weird foibles. But it would be hard for anyone to suggest that The Code is anything more than an extremely average CBS military-procedural, and I’m not entirely sure we — or the network — need another of those.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.