Spoilers for "The Shield" season seven, episode three, coming up just as soon as I take a midterm...
"We all had choices once, and we made them, and now we have to live with them." -Ronnie
Though Vic and Shane are still in the middle of the Armenian mess, "Money Shot" was significantly stronger than the previous two episodes because it focused much more on the characters and how this ever-spiraling fiasco is destroying their relationships with one another.
Vic and Shane were already estranged, and it's a sign of Shane's fear and delusions that he actually thinks he can win back Vic's trust. But their mission to hijack the confiscated guns gave Vic a front row seat to watch the monster he created. Vic is an awful man in so many ways, but there are some lines he simply won't cross -- lines that Shane barely even notices before he leaps to the other side. Vic might kill a cop who's trying to investigate him, but he wouldn't murder a friend who could potentially turn rat to save himself. Vic might help gangbangers get business done, or get over on rival gangs, but he won't put a massive arsenal in the hands of the Armenians without having the first idea what they'd do with them. Shane doesn't see those distinctions, which makes him less of a hypocrite than Vic, but also a much scarier human being.
But it's Ronnie who really drives home how bad things have gotten. While Vic and Shane are busy trying to save their own skins and find a way to appease the Armenians, Ronnie has to do actual police work short-handed, and he literally gets bitten for it. Ronnie's the Strike Team's thinker, and he's not as tied into this weird father-son dynamic between Vic and Shane, and so he can step back and see that there is no way this ends well. As he puts it to Vic at episode's end (in a line I've already quoted in a few other pieces on this season), "Jesus, Vic, everything we do to get out of this s--t just drags us down deeper."
It's always been this way; Vic just doesn't want to see it, because it gets in the way of his own personal narrative as the good cop who's had to make a few bad choices for the greater good. But if he can't step back and see the situation with Ronnie's clear eyes, his pride's going to destroy all of them.
Some other thoughts on "Money Shot":
• After the experience with the money train cash and other shenanigans with the "retirement fund," how could Vic have not anticipated Aceveda snatching up the blackmail box at the first opportunity?
• Speaking of blinding oneself to the truth, how many times does Corrine need to witness Vic with the kids -- in this case, getting way too rough and loud with Cassidy (though Cassidy deserved some kind of chewing-out) -- before she realizes he shouldn't be in their lives any more? I know she tried running away once and failed, and that Vic is a hard man to keep away, and that Corrine is overwhelmed and not doing such a hot job of parenting herself, but so many of their problems -- including Cassidy's recent behavior -- are caused by Vic.
• Dutch gets yet another case with an unexpected sexual twist, but what was most interesting here was seeing Billings go from apathetic to dedicated once the particulars started to come out. He may be lazy 90 percent of the time, but he's not stupid and he has his hot-buttons, and when one of those gets pushed, he can be a useful cop.
• I also loved watching Dutch successfully play Dani and Claudette -- two women who have both made him look very foolish at various points in the series -- into helping each other with their respective weaknesses. A nice growth moment for the Dutch-man.
• Another curtain call of sorts, as Axl the granny porn magnate from last season's premiere returns and once again gets entangled with Julien, Tina and Claudette. His previous appearance is one of many "Shield" stories I'm going to wish I could scrub from my brain.
• Another returning character: Burnout, whose car Vic borrowed for the gun scam, and whom I don't remember from season five's "Man Inside."
What did everybody else think?