Spoilers for "The Shield" season seven, episode two, coming up just as soon as I dance in my slippers...
So here's my fundamental question with this one, tied in part to my recent comments about "The Shield" at its most convoluted: Do you honestly believe, under these circumstances, that Vic would let Aramboles live?
Now, the key to Vic is that, no matter what kind of bad thing he does, he justifies it in his mind and convinces himself he's still a good cop. His body count over the life of the series is relatively low -- Terry, Guardo, Margos Dezerian, plus a few others (like Kern) by inaction -- because it would be much harder for Vic to rationalize his actions if he was killing people right and left. All three men he murdered posed threats to Vic's life and/or livelihood (Terry less so than the others, which is why I've always had a problem reconciling that murder with the way Vic has been written over the life of the series), and while Aramboles can't physically harm Vic or his family, he can sure as hell put him in the crosshairs of either Pezuela or Rezian if the truth starts to come out on how Vic and Shane are playing puppet-master in this manufactured gang war. At this stage of the game, with so much at stake and so many bad guys in a position to kill him if they get even a sliver of information, do you really think Vic would just send Aramboles south of the border and chance word getting out? Yes, Aramboles is scared now, but anything can happen in Mexico, where we've learned in the past Vic has no real reach or power.
Vic's moral compass has a tendency to point in unexpected directions at times, so I'm not going to flat-out declare his decision here to be out of character. But it was distracting enough -- especially since the far less conscience-driven Shane never suggests the more permanent solution -- that I had a hard time keeping track of the latest twists in the Armenian-Mexican "war" at the same time. I was able to follow the plot well enough in the end, but of the eight episodes I've seen of this season, "Snitch" was probably my least favorite.
Most of my issues, though, were with the arc stuff. This was a rare "Shield" hour where the episodic storylines -- Vic trying to clean up the mess made by the Top 10 list, Dutch and Billings getting on each other's nerves enough that it inspired them to close the cinderblock case -- were more entertaining than watching Vic and the strike team find a way out of the latest corner they'd painted themselves into.
In particular, I loved seeing Claudette tear into one of the junior Spook Streeters over his embrace of the worst aspects of the stereotypical gang culture. It didn't make a dent at all -- and wound up giving Claudette, who already isn't feeling well, another headache to deal with -- but stories like these are a reminder of the larger point of "The Shield." Yes, it's perversely entertaining to see Vic escape the latest trap, but the question at the heart of the series isn't "Will Vic get away with it in the end?" It's "How much power should we entrust to a man like Vic to maintain order in such a perverse and violent world?"
As Phillips puts it to Claudette, "I'm under no illusions, but a day like this one? I can live with him."
Some other thoughts on "Snitch":
• I'm glad that Michael Chiklis loves his daughter enough to want her to be on his TV show, and when Autumn first got cast as Cassidy six years ago, the part was small enough that it wasn't a big deal. But as Cass has grown in prominence -- and especially now that she's being forced to confront the truth about her old man -- I really wish there were a stronger actress playing her. Cassidy going to Billings and demanding that her father be charged with a crime is a moment that should have had a lot more bite than it did.
• "On a clear night, you can see Guardo's house from here." Ha! Even funnier if you know the blasphemous joke about Jesus on the cross. And speaking of which, I loved the old lady witness with the two sons in jail, the lesbian daughter who wouldn't give her grandchildren, and an urgent desire to see Jesus as soon as possible. One of the better throwaway expository characters I can remember the show using.
• The Al Qaeda thing eventually turned out to be an excuse for Vic to sic Olivia and her buddies at ICE on Aramboles' weapons stash. But it also reminded me of all those times on "The Wire" where the cops would go to the FBI for help with various homicidal drug lords, only to be told the feds weren't interested unless terrorism or corruption were involved. As McNulty said there and Vic more or less says here, in what way is what's being done to the civilians in these neighborhoods not terrorism?
What did everybody else think?