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"The Shield" Goes Dark . . .

Posted by 2 Dollar Productions Monday, December 08, 2008

"The Shield" closed its doors recently with a 90-minute series finale which delivered a powerful punctuation mark for a show that advanced the relevance of original programming on basic cable and provided a riveting slant on the tired cop show genre.

When "The Shield" premiered on FX, there was very little programming that dealt with anything remotely edgy outside of what was being done on HBO with "The Sopranos" and others such as "Six Feet Under." Luckily, "The Shield" caught on immediately and set records for basic cable viewers after critics hailed its raw, gritty style and terrific ensemble cast.

Early in Season 1, Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) says something to the effect of "Good cop and bad cop have left the building. I'm a different kind of cop." Indeed. Despite a stellar supporting cast, it was Chiklis's turn as Vic Mackey which gave the series its propulsive adrenaline rush, and over the course of seven seasons, he carved out one of the greatest antiheroes in television history.

Mackey led a police department "Strike Team" that was designed to infiltrate gang activities in Los Angeles and control the streets. Along with three other members - Walton Goggins, David Rees Snell, and Kenny Johnson - the Strike Team utilized every legal and illegal method they needed to advance their work.

It was their illegal methods, however, that placed them in the cross-hairs of the internal affairs department and led to a season one murder that haunted the group until the end. This was a quick turning point in the series, and showed viewers that Mackey and the Strike Team would stop at nothing to cover their own trail.

Unfortunately, their trail got progressively messier with each successive season. The team certainly concerned itself with ridding the streets of dangerous drugs, guns and gang members, but they also were constantly looking out for opportunities for themselves in the midst of loose money and favors.

Season 2 was my favorite year in this regard as it was a white-knuckle ride from start to finish and found the team taking on an illegal Armenian money train while hiding it from the department. It was a phenomenal and brutal ride that would resonate through the end of the series.

One of the show's strengths was allowing the Strike Team's sins to constantly be re-visited, a stance which forced Mackey to remain on edge as he tried to keep his family and his friends on the Strike Team safe from being caught. Mackey's ability to remain a few steps ahead of his pursuers both on the street and inside the police department only enhanced his appeal for me.

I could appreciate someone who was at least smart about breaking the law versus some bumbling moron who deserved to be caught.

This was another fine quality of the show as it blurred the lines around which characters viewers should be rooting for to triumph. Despite his many sins, I found myself constantly pulling for Mackey to make it through the muck even when he certainly deserved to get busted.

Each successive season found the Strike Team embroiled even deeper in trying to save their own asses, and by the final season, it had become apparent that no matter how many smart and resourceful methods that Mackey tried that the deck had been stacked too far against the group for them to win.

It was simply a matter of trying not to shatter everything.

Outside of the Strike Team, the show also benefited from a cast of regulars and guest stars who provided no weak links. CCH Pounder, Glen Close, Forest Whitaker and numerous others were capable foils for Mackey even though many found themselves pulled down to his level when chasing him.

The pursuit built nicely during the series, and this final season kept the momentum high. Unlike many shows, "The Shield" ended its run well. The quality and catharsis climaxed with the extended finale with nearly all threads coming together for a satisfyingly bleak conclusion.

The only missteps in the last episode was focusing too much attention on a former police captain's run for mayor, but that is a minor complaint because so many shows absolutely butcher their final moments. "The Shield" didn't sully itself one bit.

Instead, it exited the same way it entered the television landscape: With gritty production value, stellar acting, and a perverted sense of justice that was powerfully addictive.

I don't generally care for cop shows. Police procedurals do next to nothing to hold my attention. I loved "The Shield" and it will definitely be missed.



  1. JLee Says:
  2. I'm not much for cop shows myself, (except "Dexter") but some of my coworkers just love this show, so I was curious about it. I didn't have FX for a while, so that's probably why I've never seen it.

  3. idobcool Says:
  4. I'll miss that show too but I'm happy it ended like it did.

    Great post! It explains the show perfectly.

  5. Heff Says:
  6. Never saw the show. One of my buddies loves it, but he never pushed me enough to watch it.

  7. Jlee - I agree about Cop shows (including "Cops"), but this one might be worth renting sometime to see if it grabs you. It did for me.

    Idobcool - Thanks as I wanted to to the show justice. Ha. It was a great ride & you're right - it ended well.

    Heff - Try renting it sometime and give it at least a few episodes to see if you like it. I don't recall much about Season 1, but Season 2 was great and it kept it up from there.

  8. Boxer Says:
  9. where the Hell is Troll? He whined about this for WEEKS. :-)

    I never got into the Shield, but I know a lot of people who really liked it and I'm glad it got a chance to end properly rather than being cancelled with no closure for its loyal fans.

  10. TROLL Says:
  11. Excellent recap. Best I've read.

    I'll repost it tomorrow so it'll get a somewhat larger readership.

    I'm gonna describe you as a "working screenwriter".

  12. Anonymous Says:
  13. I never watched this show. I usually don't watch cop shows unless Dick Wolf is involved. And even then, not religiously.

    I'm always hesitant to watch a drama series because they tend to fall apart quickly and loose all direction. Looking back, The Sopranos wasn't actually that good of a show. It had some cool moments, but the stories got weak very quickly. Nip/Tuck became nothing more than shock of the week. The only thing that saved those shows for me were the breasts and beatings. And Nip/Tuck lost me after last season.
    I guess I'm being really picky. I either want the storylines, if they are going to arc, work perfectly without getting sidetracked or repititive; or just don't arc at all, like Law & Order.

  14. Boxer - I know . . . Ha. Troll was right behind you, and I was glad it went out with a bang too as there's nothing worse than a poor ending to a great book/movie/tv show/etc. Nothing.

    Troll - Thanks and I'll take that title over several others that I can imagine. Sorry for the delay, but honestly, I almost didn't want to watch the finale because then it would be over for good. It will be missed.

    WhatIgot - This is a very valid criticism, especially on "Nip/Tuck" as I couldn't take it after season 2 or 3 . . . can't remember which one now. And cop shows do nothing for me as a general rule (not sure who Dick Wolf is), however, 'The Shield' tracks really well in terms of overrall story arc, so you might give it a try. I won't say you won't be disappointed, but I would say there was never a season that was a true stinker.

  15. Anonymous Says:
  16. I've never watched the show to be honest but you certainly made me want to see it. Bad luck for me it's too late.

    I'm glad it didn't "Jump the shark". So many shows that were once good go for one season too long and leave you with a bad taste in your mouth. Glad it wasn't the case here.

  17. BostonPobble Says:
  18. Amazing this is the same man who played the title role in "The Commish" isn't it?

  19. Gypsy - I agree, and always have liked the 'jumping the shark' term. It happens a lot, so that's another reason 'The Shield' was impressive.

    Bostonpobble - You're right as I heard a lot of people say the same thing about Chiklis & 'The Commish.' I never saw that show, so I have no reference point, but he's apparently far different from that character. Ha.

  20. vivavavoom Says:
  21. I have never watched this show but this was a great tribute

  22. Deja Vu. I just read your Guest Blog over at The Troll Report. I'm going to have to watch this show.

  23. Vivavavoom - Thanks as it was a really fine show (and there aren't too many of them out there).

    Native Minnow - Deja Vu all over again, eh? Rent the first season, but give it a little time to grab you as I can't recall much about that season, but season 2 is phenomenal.


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