Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Shield, "Bitches Brew": Second verse, same as the first

Spoilers for "The Shield" season seven, episode seven coming up just as soon as I hire a cleaning lady...

"Guess we do this the hard way." -Vic

Vic has always chosen to do things the hard way, and what has it gotten him? His marriage is long over. His oldest daughter is into drugs. He's broke, a cop-killer, entangled in some bizarre scheme of Aceveda's to take down a cartel, 10 days away from losing his badge, and -- oh yeah -- his protege is trying to kill him.

Like "The Sopranos," "The Shield" has been accused at times of making its homicidal protagonist too sympathetic. And like "The Sopranos," "The Shield" is going out the door making sure you know exactly who and what this guy is really all about. We've seen a more desperate, reckless, openly hypocritical Vic than ever before, and "Bitches Brew" was like a Greatest Hits of some of Vic's lowest behavior.

Most obvious was the return of Farrah, aka Bottom Bitch, from the season three episode of the same name. (If you've somehow forgotten one of the sickest episodes of the series, it's the one that features Vic ordering Farrah to simulate oral sex with his service weapon in an attempt to show her who's boss.) That this story played out almost identically to the first one -- with Farrah manipulating Vic into taking out her pimp so she could choose her own whoring destiny -- was the point. It's vicious cycle time for Vic at this point: he's making the same mistakes again and again and again, and he's too stubborn, too arrogant, too tough to do things any other way.

Not only does he get suckered in by Farrah again, but he drives yet another mother of his child into packing up her life to keep her kid the hell away from Vic Mackey. Corrine took the kids and ran away from Vic at the end of season one, aware that physical distance is her only real shot (and even that's not a good one) of keeping her son from being influenced by this SOB.

And as a little side order to our vicious cycle sandwich, we got the return of Lester from season six's "Haunts" to stand in (in place of the absent Carl Weathers) as The Ghost of Mackey Future. When Vic says of the cop-turned-"security expert," "If you think he did something (poopy), he probably did," he might as well be talking about himself. Virtually everything that someone (be it Aceveda, Dutch, Claudette, Kavanaugh and on down the line) has suspected Vic of doing, he did -- and often did worse than his pursuers assumed. If Vic somehow survives Shane's wrath, and avoids getting killed by the cartels, Lester's life is the best thing he has to look forward to, and he has no one to blame but himself.

Some other thoughts on "Bitches Brew":

• Dutch forcing a cleaning lady onto Claudette is the kind of moment that great series earn over time. It's hard to imagine the Dutch of season one being empathetic or forceful enough to make that happen, but the Dutch of today is no clown. He knows his partner, cares about her, and she respects him enough to acquiesce to this slight loss of control, because she knows Dutch will make her let him take care of her, one way or the other. Great scene, perfectly played by Jay Karnes and CCH Pounder. I particularly liked Claudette finally confessing her weakness to Dutch; her clock may not be winding down quite as fast as Vic's, but the end of her time on this job is coming, and she's just as helpless to do anything about it as Vic.

• With the Armenians mercifully out of the way, the blackmail box takes center stage again as Vic brings the thing to ICE and then Vic quickly plots to give it back to Cruz to regain his trust. I don't care about the box itself, but as MacGuffins go, it's pretty good.

• This episode seemed particularly high on the crude poetry, whether it was Vic's "deep throat with no gag reflex" joke, or him referring to the first meeting with ICE as "another Mexican donkey show, and Aceveda had me playing the role of the reluctant virgin."

• I do like that, while Julien will always be an outsider in Vic's crew and has been treated as an inconvenience since he joined the team, Vic was genuinely upset to realize Farrah had placed them in a situation where Julien had to kill somebody. Vic may be a cop-killer, but he thinks of himself as a champion of cops and he would definitely feel for Julien under these circumstances.

What did everybody else think?

32 comments:

Tucker Stone said...

"How's your jaw feeling?"

Shane owns this show.

Jeff said...

I thought the highlight of the crude poetry was Vic's retort to the PBA rep's suggestion of getting Claudette to put in a good word.

Anonymous said...

What happened to Claudette's dog? I hope the poor thing didn't starve to death. :-(

Anonymous said...

Been a long time reader of the site and first time poster, but Shane is definitely shining these last few episodes.

anon said...

What a tremendously satisfying episode, for all the reasons you mentioned. I particularly liked how the episode threw Lester and Farrah into the mix without even a "previously on" reference, trusting the audience to remember them based on the storylines they were given. Add to that an interesting character moment for just about every regular cast member on the show, plus a foot chase, a shootout, and a cliffhanger ending, and you've got a very efficient hour (or so) of TV storytelling.

I hung on through the boring Armenian preamble, and now I'm really looking forward to seven more episodes of slow-motion trainwreck. (Alan, at one point will you be going week-to-week like the rest of us? Or have you seen the entire season?)

Anon

Anonymous said...

Would someone be willing to fill me in on the cliffhanger ending? My TiVo cut out while Dutch was talking to Claudette.

renton said...

Loved the moment between Dutch and Claudette.

Watching Mackey is always like watching a tornado coming through your area (it's intense, scary and you can't tear your eyes away from it)... but I've always liked the Dutch and Claudette relationship better.

Kensington said...

I hate to think of what this says about me, but I sympathize with Mackey, to a point. He should go down for murdering Terry back in the pilot, but I won't celebrate if it happens. I do believe that his intentions were good, even noble, but he just underestimated the power of casual corruption until it poisoned his whole life. That makes him, in my opinion, a cautionary tale more than a villain.

In fact, I think I'll enjoy an Acevedo downfall far more, if such a thing is in the cards.

Alan, do you know how many episodes are left? Did they do a full 13 this year?

Also, how stupid is Shane, really? Seriously, how can he think this plan is going to work out for him?

jim treacher said...

Would someone be willing to fill me in on the cliffhanger ending? My TiVo cut out while Dutch was talking to Claudette.

Let's just say Shane isn't content to let Vic run out the clock. (Speaking of which: Could somebody please blackmail a crack dealer into taking out FX's promo department?)

Poor Claudette. She's one of the few genuinely good people on this show, so it's doubly affecting when they show that she's not a superwoman. Her shame when she realized Dutch had been in her house... I almost couldn't look.

And yeah, Dutch has come a long way. I wish he'd stop stalking that nice doctor, though.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I thought the highlight of the crude poetry was Vic's retort to the PBA rep's suggestion of getting Claudette to put in a good word.

That was a good one, too. I just hadn't written it down, whereas I had transcribed parts of the other two.

Alan Sepinwall said...

(Alan, at one point will you be going week-to-week like the rest of us? Or have you seen the entire season?)

I've seen through episode 11, and there are going to be 13. I'm not sure yet whether I'll get to see the last two in advance or not.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Would someone be willing to fill me in on the cliffhanger ending?

To elaborate, Shane goes to see Two Man, accuses her of murdering the hooker, and blackmails him into helping Shane murder someone. When Two Man asks who Shane has in mind, Shane asks "How's your jaw feeling?"

Alan Sepinwall said...

Could somebody please blackmail a crack dealer into taking out FX's promo department?

One of the many pluses of getting to watch a show like this on DVD is that I don't have to run screaming from the spoiler-filled promos.

Jim remembered the rule, but it seems like a good time to remind everybody, just in case: no talking about anything shown in the previews.

jim treacher said...

Jim remembered the rule

Yay! Once in a while I get something right.

Thinking more about the box: You know, half the time I have no idea what they're talking about. And I only pick up that half because of the rewind button. Like in the meeting with the ICE guys? [sweeps hand over head] That's not just me, right?

And who else caught Julien's obvious urge to kick Ronnie's ass for trying to break off Two Man's face? They've kind of downplayed the intrateam racial tension since the Tavon days, but boy is it still there. Julien's always known the Strike Team is dirty, and I thought that moment was where it was all going to come out.

Speaking of coming out, whatever happened to Julien's family? I feel like I should remember the last time we saw them, but it's so long between seasons...

Nicole said...

I think that crack dealer needs to be deployed against several promo departments..

I did pick up on the Julien and Ronnie tension as well but then Ronnie seemed pissed the entire episode.

So much happens in one episode that I find myself rewinding after watching certain scenes because I miss so much if I don't focus 100% on watching the show. This is going to be a crazy ride to the end.

spkelly95066 said...

Nice crossover reference to SOA Jim!
Why did Ronnie "go off" so hard? Is it to show how much he has finally been corrupted?

Hey for those who don't know... there are some great vids on FXNetworks.com 1-on-1's between cast members (Vic and Lem, Aceveda and Wimms, Julien and Danny, Shane and Ronnie) also some sort of forum video that was shot...

Since Season 1, I've compared the show to the Sopranos... because both shows present a big "gray area" in someone's life. It don't feel that either show takes sides... They just show the appeal and the consequences of our choices...

Another great thing about watching on DVD... you don't have to wait a week between episodes!!

happy_go_lucky said...

Yeah Julien hasn't had much to do over the last couple of years. He had some big story arcs the first few seasons but now seemed to fall by the wayside. Nowadays he doesn't really do much other than strike team grunt work.

Who knows maybe this tension with Ronnie and this whole business with Danny and Lee might give him something to do. (afterall, he might have something to say about his friend and former partner running off.)

Anonymous said...

I miss the Danny & Julien relationship. I thought they were so close. Julien was there when Lee was born and he and Danny always used to confide in each other. I expected Danny to talk to Julien about the attack in the storage room and Vic threatening her. I'm sure that would certainly affect Julien's feelings about the Strike Team. Too bad the writers forgot about the Danny/Julien dynamic, which was right up there with Dutch/Claudette, as one of my favorite friendships on this show.

I could honestly care less about Vic/Shane. I despise both of them and I'm sick of their usual bullcrap. It's the same old, same old with those two. I hope the series ends with both of them dead or in jail so that Lem and Terry can finally have justice.

Oh, and where are Claudette's two daughters? It's sad that Bonnie and Rebecca aren't around to help their mother. She seems so alone.

Geoff said...

I thought Ronnie was acting out his frustation/anger towards Shane during that beatdown rather than a racial motive...not that Julien would have known about it...

Rev-Views said...

I think Geoff is quite right here. The look Ronnie leveled at Shane after he was pulled off Two Man was one of pure malevolence. Ronnie's looking more and more like the man who's going to pull the trigger on Shane. Vic's trapped between two very dangerous men and he created both of them.

[Pure Speculation here] If he does then it would explain why the writers had him shoot the Armenian hitman in the first episode.

Anonymous said...

I don't know. I doubt Vic would let that happen. Vic has always valued Shane more than either Lem or Ronnie. I suspect, deep-down, Vic does forgive Shane but feels guilty about it. Lem and Ronnie recognized that Shane is poison but Vic has a soft spot for the guy. I have a bad feeling that history will repeat itself - yet again - and Ronnie will die and somehow it will be Vic's fault because he has a weakness for Shane. Vic/Shane is like a toxic love relationship. They feed off each other. Nobody can come between them, even their own wives. Hell, Shane even kidnapped Vic's family and psychologically traumatized Corrine and Cassidy but Vic let it go.

I'm disappointed that Aceveda is so under-used. I was hoping to see more of him in the mix this season. I found him to be one of the most fascinating characters, especially in the first 3 or 4 seasons. Now he only pops up for a few seconds per episode. He's not much of a presence at all. I know he's busy at City Hall and running for Mayor but still... I was hoping to see him more involved.

Anonymous said...

Given that Ronnie was the guy doing the jaw breaking, I thought Shane was taking the hit out on him, not Vic.

Also add in that Shane might remember the only time his pistol was out of his sight that the other two had a chance to rig it Vic was talking and Ronnie was behind his back. Or maybe I'm digging too deep, and Shane just thinks Ronnie is an easier kill...or he wants to kill Vic himself, or...I digress ;-)


Matt
St Paul

Rev-Views said...

First of all, it's pretty clear now that Vic no longer has any real control over Ronnie, Ronnie was the one calling the shots last episode when Vic attempted to pull out. Ronnie's been tamping at the bit all season for retribution and it's not going to take much more to push him over the edge. A big part of this season has been showing just how little control Vic has left over events. He's systematically becoming powerless without even really seeing it coming. Vic's special combination of pride and arrogance is his greatest hubris.

Anyway, Shane is taking out the hit on Ronnie when he's talking to Two Man, but it's most likely that Vic will be in the firing line as well. Shane blames both of them and to go after just one of them would be an unwise move as it would have the other one on full alert and heading his way. It's a pair of deuces or fold for him now I think.

Kathie said...

I don't think Ronnie's actions had anything to do with race...... many of the guys they are after have been black. Ronnie is just full of aggression, most of it towards Shane and it just came out. That look he directed at Shane said everything. Ronnie's character has stepped up this season, he is proving to be very dangerous, he is the one that can't let go of Lem's death. I agree with the other posters that Vic & Shane have a very deep relationship........would be very hard for either of them to kill the other when it comes down to actually doing it.
Dani is right for getting out of town. Vic wants a "do over" with Lee since the rest of the family is so messed up (barely a mention of the two younger autistic kids this season)and the further he stays away, the better.
Love the relationship between Dutch & Claudette, he really cares about her, he seems like a decent guy..........in spite of the wierd cat strangling awhile ago.

Anonymous said...

Walt Goggins was on a radio show here in Dallas on Tuesday. And while he wouldn't give anything away, he said that he's thrilled with the way that they ended the show. He spcifically said that there will be resolutions to the stories of Shane, Vic, Dutch and Claudette.

He also said that it is fans like us that make him love what they have done with the show. In response to a question about whether he'd rather do the Shield or make Charlie Sheen money doing a crap sitcom, he said he'd rather have 3 million hardcore fans than 30 million people watching because nothing else is on.

He plays an SOB, but Walt Goggins is a good dude.

MikeV said...

Not sure if anyone mentioned this already, but I liked the line Vic shouted as he pulled Ronnie off of "two-man" and started administering his own brand of justice.. It was something to the affect of police brutality, as he looked at Julien...Couple seasons back Julien went to Acevada about Vic stealing some dope. The writers showed that Vics character still looks at Julien as outsider.

Mike said...

It would have been perfect if, when Dutch asked Claudette to give him a key for the cleaning woman, she'd responded "Just have her break a window."

jeff of g said...

Best episode of the season so far, the first few seemed muddled, as if the writers weren't sure how to get things going, but the various plot points are really starting to come into focus.
I hope Ronnie is able to avoid Shane's dastardly plot, one of my biggest problems with this season is that I don't think we've heard enough from Ronnie. He's always been a sort of afterthought character, but I really enjoyed him getting more screen time (and lines) this year. That said I wish we could learn more about what he's thinking, because at this point he's kind of coming off as a psycho which sort of contradicts his earlier role as the smartest member of the strike team. He's clearly got a lot of anger and violence within him (who can blame him, he once had his face burned off!) but I think a little more character development couldn't hurt. At this point, seeing Vic cut Shane so much slack must be making him crazy

Anonymous said...

Alan really wants to see Vic go down. Relax there Alan

Bix said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
jim treacher said...

I don't think Ronnie's actions had anything to do with race......

I don't either. He was just frustrated about Shane still breathing and took it out on that guy's face. Julian, on the other hand, probably saw it differently...

erin said...

Yeah, i'm thinking the hit is on Ronnie. I bet Shane, knowing that Vic tried to call his cell during the Armenian hit, probably thinks either Vic felt badly about it, or wasn't in on it. And they still have that weird dynamic going where they still kind of care about each other. Like family. But he knows Ronnie hates his guts and wanted to kill him (I LOVED that look he gave Shane after the two-man beatdown) and he needs to go. And i have this feeling Ronnie will get taken out. Which makes me oddly sad. That actor does a lot without saying much.

I really liked the scene between Corinne and Vic (and I really don't care for the actress who plays her) about him needing to think about fighting for Lee just to fight. He actually looked like he thought about it, and then...not so much. I can't believe Danny would actually leave! What would it tell Vic if your ex and son actually left rather than having you be in their lives...for the second time! That's rough. His level of delusion must just be on a grand scale.

Glad they got rid of the Armenian situation...didn't really care about that. but the black box is interesting. And is it just me, or are you waiting for Vic and Olivia to hook up? Every time I see an attractive cop/fed/what have you, I think she's Vic bait.

This show is DEFINITELY going out on the right note. I loved the scene between Dutch and Claudette. it almost brought tears to my eyes it was so sweet!