By John Hanlon
The title of the new CBS drama The Code refers to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, a set of rules that governs the behavior of members of the Armed Forces. Similar to the hit program JAG (which aired on NBC for its first season before moving over to CBS), this new program focuses on a group of officers who work in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. These officers are young, idealistic and patriotic.
Similar to other CBS shows about the military like NCIS, this new program follows a formula with each new episode featuring a new case.
In the first episode, for instance, a Marine at a military base abroad is stabbed and murdered by one of his own officers. Members of the Marine Corps JAG office are enlisted to take on the case. The cocky Captain John Abraham (Luke Mitchell) is tasked with prosecuting the case against the accused killer while Captain Maya Dobbins (Anna Wood) serves as the defense counsel.
Both captains work for the Judge Advocate General’s Corps but their different positions pit them against each other in the courtroom.
In their investigations though, the opposing sides sometimes work together to discover the truth about the cases. Oftentimes, both sides concede that understanding why an action occurred is more important than simply winning the courtroom battle.
The cases featured on the program are one of its strongest assets. The premiere’s case, for instance, seems like a simplistic set-up. However, as the case evolves, the situation changes. What may seem like an open-and-shut case becomes more complicated. In the first six episodes of the show (which I recently watched), many of the cases seem relatively easy to solve at first but there are always twists in them, leading to some surprising resolutions.
Throughout the show, there’s a focus on military service and the patriots who serve our nation. Captain Abraham, the star of the show, is the son and the grandson of military officers. Colonel Glenn Turnbull (Dana Delany), who heads this Corps office, has a son serving in active duty. The program shows multiple sides of service and even shows the heartbreak that comes with it.
Although many of the characters aren’t well-defined at this point (right now, the focus is more on the cases themselves), there are some intriguing ongoing storylines. One such story features the widow of the officer killed in the pilot episode. Captain Abraham, who was close friends with the late officer, remains close to the widow and even begins helping out with her young family.
That story is still ongoing but the program nicely keeps her in the show (instead of relegating her to the sidelines), reminding viewers of her loss and the sacrifices that military spouses and families often face.
The Code may seem like a traditional CBS procedural but the cases are intriguing and the cast have a natural charisma with one another. Luke Mitchell, the show’s lead, has a natural confidence that supports his character’s strong will while Dana Delany offers the program a natural gravitas. Her character’s arc — related to her son’s deployment — really showcases her subtle ability to showcase emotions while barely speaking. Other actors — like Wood and Ato Essandoh, who plays a Major in the JAG office — aren’t given enough to do early on so one hopes they are given more to do in the future.
In the meantime, The Code is a well-developed and patriotic drama that manages to stand out on its own.
The Code airs Monday nights on CBS.