Spoilers for "The Shield" season finale coming up just as soon as I find an attractive but age-appropriate female colleague to mentor...
Sigh... Franka's come and gone and without a single "Scheisse." Last July, I was helping Shawn Ryan procrastinate by seeking advice for my impending baldness (like Vic Mackey, Shawn sports the Mr. Clean look) when talk turned to Franka Potente's upcoming guest stint on the show.
"She's going to say 'scheisse' at some point, right?" I asked Shawn and fellow producer Chick Eglee, noting how wonderfully that particular bit of Germanic profanity has sounded coming out of her mouth in nearly every film role to date. Shawn and Chick looked at each other, smiled and said, "She is now!"
Alas, my contribution to the creative process turned out not to be, and I'm actually okay with it. The character Franka wound up with was far colder and craftier than she's played in the likes of "Run Lola Run" and "The Bourne Identity," and it might have felt dissonant for her to start cussing, just for the sake of an in-joke.
But enough about me (though at some point I'll bore people with stories of my futile quest to have my name put up on the "Homicide" Board, or maybe start regurgiating "I made Turk dance!" stories). How 'bout that finale? Or should we even be calling it a finale? As I mentioned in yesterday's column (scroll down to "Jumping Ahead"), I feel like the season essentially ended with The Confrontation in episode six. The four episodes since have been like a prologue for the final season, with the Shane/Vic drama backburnered in favor of setting up Shane's problems with the Armenians and Vic's plan to keep his job.
One of my fears when I got done watching the first six episodes was that Shawn and company would try to stretch out this storyline into the final season and drain all the tension they had built up since the season premiere. And, to an extent, I feel that's been true. The writers haven't cheated, but the brother against brother dynamic was more riveting when it wasn't being expanded to include the stuff with the Armenians and Cruz.
Now, these last four episodes have been very good, especially the finale, which had Shane going into major damage control mode to stave off Franka's assassination attempts and Vic going off the reservation in a major way to keep his job. (Jumping into the consultant's car as it was pulling away just to beat the guy up? Damn.) They just don't live up to, say, the season premiere, Vic killing Guardo, or The Confrontation.
But let's dwell on what worked in isolation, which most of the episode did. Shane's learned plenty of bad stuff from Vic over the years, but it only seems fair that he's picked up the useful things, too, like Vic's ability to come out on top even in situations where the odds are hopelessly stacked against him. His move with Franka's daddy, for instance, was reminiscent of Vic taking on a roomful of Byz Lats with only a single bullet in his gun. And yet Shane has a natural gift to find himself in a major hole and then keep digging. Bad enough that he got into business with the Armenians at all, worse that he told Franka that Vic and Ronnie robbed the money train, but then to cast his lot with yet another Armenian? Not since Homer Simpson managed to cause a nuclear meltdown in a training simulator that contained no nuclear material have I witnessed such mind-boggling, dangerous stupidity on my television. Shane deserves every bit of misery he has coming to him next season, and I'm struggling to figure out a scenario that doesn't end with him dead, probably sacrificing himself to save Vic and/or Mara and Jackson (a "noble" death that will be too little, too late).
Meanwhile, I'm just picturing the Don LaFontaine-narrated trailer for the final season: "Vic Mackey was a tough cop who didn't like to play by the rules. David Aceveda was a politician willing to do anything to rise in power. In a world where Mexican diplomats get their arms cut off and then drive around with suitcases filled with cash, these two men have no choice but to clean up a very dirty town. Together again for the first -- and the last -- time, they are... THE SHIELD!"
What? Sorry, moving on...
They've played the "reluctant allies" card with Vic and Aceveda a time or twelve already, but it feels appropriate that the two central characters of season one will be working together in the final season. Aceveda's been pushed to the show's margins since he got that City Council seat, and I like the rhythm that Chiklis and Martinez have together, even if I can't for the life of me figure out how Cruz could have gotten hold of the cell phone picture, especially when the original story made a huge point about how the two rapists were too stupid to know how to send the pictures around.
Two parts of the finale that felt like part of season six proper and not teasers for season seven: Hiatt getting bounced as Strike Team leader so he can go star in David Greenwalt's new vampire detective show (that won't be anything like his old vampire detective show), and Dutch's pursuit of Tina. I raised an eyebrow when Tina claimed that Dutch had a shot and should have taken it before Hiatt made his move, but I'm glad the story didn't wind up with the two of them together. He tried the whole mentoring-as-seduction thing with Dani a long time ago (maybe back in season one?), so it felt right that he would return to her when the Tina thing blew up in his face. Some very nice work by Jay Karnes and Catherine Dent in the scene with Miracle Joe's nephew, and especially in the locker room after. These two have consistently gotten raw deals from the other characters on the show; it was nice that they could have this moment together, wherever it winds up leading next year.
So what did everybody else think? Are you with me that the season peaked too soon with Vic and Shane? How do you expect this mess to resolve itself next year? Will Cruz wind up working with the Armenians? Will Dutch tell Dani about his history with kitty cats? Will we ever again hear word one about Julian's personal life and inner struggle? And if the writers decide to bring back Franka, can they please, for the love of all that is good and decent, have her say my favorite foreign curse word?