Man, of all the weeks to be away from home with minimal writing time. I feel like I want to write an opera about all the brilliance contained in this here episode (the last of the ones I've already seen, so you and I are now on the same playing field, knowledge-wise), but I don't have nearly enough time to do it justice. So I'll just focus on The Confrontation and then move on to ye olde bullet-point list of all the other goodness (plus the one obvious bit of badness).
How amazing were Chiklis and Goggins in that final scene? Shane has been a liability to Vic for a long time, but because we know more than Vic does and because we're not blinded by personal feelings the way he is, this is the first time he's really, 100% recognized what a monster he created. And yet Shane is absolutely correct: Vic has no right to claim the moral high ground after what he did to Terry. Vic can go on and on all he wants about how Terry was "a traitor" -- which is, in a way, the writers justifying that act in light of everything that's happened since as much as it is Vic trying to defend the worst sin of his miserable life -- but the two of them are equally damned.
Actors (the good ones, anyway) like to say that they never play villains, that when they play people who do bad things, they have to find a way to rationalize why their character might have done them. Both actors delivered textbook examples of that here. Vic is horrified by what Shane has done (Chiklis has rarely been as scary as when Vic told Shane, "YOU MADE THAT DECISION ON YOUR OWN!") and doesn't want to admit his own role in this, while Shane has had weeks to convince himself that he did the only thing he could to save Vic, Ronnie and his own family. A great duel by our resident Emmy winner and our resident Oscar winner.
That said, I hope it's a bit more clear why I was so concerned about the series' endgame by the time I got through this episode. There are only four more episodes in this season, and Vic and Shane have now gone past the point of no return. One or both has to wind up dead or in jail, and if that doesn't happen within this season's final four episodes, then all the tension the writers have been creating over the last six weeks will be wasted. My fear: either they wrap up this storyline over the next four and then risk the entire final season being an anti-climax, or they try to stretch it out and make a great thing less great. As I said at the start of the season, I hope and even expect to be proven wrong, but I can't wrap my head around how they're going to do it.
Anyway, on to the bullet points:
- Bad news first: Chiklis' daughter is still a weak link in the way that, say, Cathy Ryan isn't. I never want to see Cassidy again, much less in the middle of an otherwise tense episode like this one.
- The one plus of the Cassidy story was that it gave Vic yet another problem to deal with, all of it coming to a head in that great sequence where Vic is freaked out about Cassidy, Hiatt wants him to follow a lead in their case, Dutch tries to lure him into the trap with Guardo's girlfriend and Ronnie gives him the head shake on the grenade count. Lots going on for this man, and Vic pushed to the limit is a more interesting character.
- Anthony Anderson! Always good to have Mr. Mitchell back to mess with Vic.
- A very special guest of a different sort: Frank Darabont behind the camera for this episode, making this two straight nights of "Shawshank Redemption"-related TV. He obviously contributed in no small part to the awesomeness that was the climax of this episode.
- Billings and Dutch are really turning out to be an interesting team, aren't they?