Spoilers for "The Shield" season seven, episode four, coming up just as soon as I draw a few self-portraits...
"How is that our problem?" -Shane
Michael Chiklis has been given lots of wonderful, profoundly crude dialogue throughout his run on "The Shield." And yet most of the scenes I'm going to remember involve Vic reacting silently to what's going on around him -- those brief, deliberately rare moments when Vic is forced to drop his own self-delusions and recognize the monster that he is, and the even worse monster he created in Shane. The look on Chiklis' face after Shane said he didn't care about Pezuela buying up all of Farmington for the Byz Lats was a beauty. Almost as good was his response to Cassidy's accusations about all the crimes we know he's committed. The closer we get to the finish line, the harder it's become for Vic to keep living this lie that he's just made a few bad choices for the greater good, and Chiklis is doing some brilliant freaking work showing the crumbling of the good cop mask.
With "Genocide," we're still knee-deep in Vic and Shane's attempt to puppeteer the Armenians and Mexicans into killing each other off, but this was one of the stronger episodes of the storyline for a few reasons. First, Rezian and Cruz finally got in a room together (Correction: A reader who actually watched the episode tonight, as opposed to a few weeks ago for me, reminded me that Pezuela was not, in fact, in the room, but sent Rios as his surrogate. We regret the error, but the rest of the point of this paragraph stands.), and while I'm still not fond of either actor, the parley scene meant less exposition and more action. In a similar vein, the assassination of controller Martin and the revelation that Olivia from ICE is in the blackmail box made the box seem less an abstract plot device and more of a tangible problem for Vic and Aceveda and the people around them. "The Shield" runs into trouble when the characters are spending almost as much time talking about the plot as they are experiencing it, and "Genocide" featured a much better ratio.
On the down side, when I was towards the end of watching this episode for the first time, I jotted down a note about how I'm getting tired of Dutch seeing serial killers everywhere he turns. It's in some ways as fundamental a part of the character as Claudette's pragmatism or Shane's short-sightedness, but there's a part of me that had hoped he had outgrown this particular fetish by now. Once it became clear that The Stray Cat Incident was a one-time thing and not the beginning of Dutch's own criminal career, I wanted to see the Dutch-man go in a new direction. They've done quite a bit of that lately, with his partnership with Billings and, recently, his attempt to look after both Claudette and Danny, and having him chase after one more budding serial feels less a bit of full-circle storytelling than taking a step back.
I don't want to say too much else about "Genocide," because we're getting deep into the period where my knowledge of what's coming up could too easily color anything else I write. But good stuff is coming -- or bad stuff, depending on your loyalties to various characters.
What did everybody else think?