Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Shield, "Family Meeting": Goodbye, Vic Mackey

A review of the series finale of "The Shield" coming up just as soon as I take a closer look at my snake habitat...
"All those busts. All those confessions you got in this room, illegal or otherwise. All the drugs you got off the street tonight for ICE. You must be very proud of yourself. This is what the hero left on his way out the door." -Claudette Wyms
And, at the end of the amazing series finale of "The Shield," this is what Vic Mackey has left on his way out the door: one cop murdered by his own hands; another cop murdered by his protege; the protege having killed himself, his two-year-old son and pregnant wife; his last surviving partner doomed to life in prison because of his association with Vic; and a wife so disgusted by and terrified of him that she went running into witness protection to keep him from ever seeing their kids again.

As with "The Sopranos," the show we so often compared "The Shield" to, we didn't get either of the predicted endings, as Vic didn't die or go to prison. But the diabolical fate that "Shield" creator Shawn Ryan constructed for his anti-hero had elements of both. Vic may not be dead, but he's lost everything and everyone that ever mattered to him: his friends, his family, his reputation. And he may not technically be in jail, but his vengeful new federal boss has constructed his new job like a three-year prison stretch, with an ill-fitting suit as his uniform and a barren cubicle as his cell.

Now, I loved the "Sopranos" finale, but it was an abstract kind of love, because that show deliberately disengaged from its audience at the end, gave us a climax we're still puzzling over. "The Shield" has never been about abstractions. While it had thoughtful things to say about law-enforcement and urban life (and continued to do so through the finale), its pleasures were largely visceral. And you can't get more visceral than several sequences in the finale, which was the most satisfying end to a great drama series that I've ever seen.

Start with Vic and estranged, fugitive sidekick Shane's final showdown. Though it was on the phone, an in-person encounter couldn't have cut any deeper than the things each man said to each other: that Vic had negotiated a deal that would prevent Shane from saving his wife from prison, and that Shane knew Vic's own wife had turned against him to co-operate with police. And it was that call -- and Vic's taunts about going to visit Shane's kids while Shane rotted in prison -- that led to Shane's horrifying decision to kill not only himself, but his wife and young son, to ensure they remained "innocent."

(I take copious notes whenever I watch a show like this, part transcription of what's happening on screen, part capsule of my feelings as I'm watching, and when Shane's house was notably silent after he blew his brains out, I started typing "OH NO OH NO OH NO OH NO OH NO" over and over, realizing what Claudette was going to find when she went into the other room. Just a massive gut punch. It still upsets me thinking about it a month after first watching the episode.)

And Shane's murder-suicide led to the first of two astonishing, entirely silent scenes by Michael Chiklis. Vic's ex-boss Claudette, unable to prosecute Vic for a single one of his crimes due to the blanket immunity deal he scammed, hurt him the only way she could: by confronting him with the truth of all he had done. Ordering Vic into The Barn's interrogation room -- and insisting he sit on the side of the table ordinarily reserved for the perps -- she read to him from Shane's suicide note, then laid out the crime scene photos of Shane, Mara and little Jackson.

Chiklis has never been better than he was in that scene, attempting to shut down all his emotions, not show Claudette how much this affected him. Every mannerism -- the glazed look in his eyes, the slight facial twitches -- was perfect, especially the way that, after Claudette left the room, Vic had to roll his head down to look at the photos, as if it was just an accident that he was doing so, because if he actively chose to look at the pictures, then they're real, and they're his fault.

In that scene, and in the mesmerizing final sequence -- four silent minutes of Vic adorning his cubicle with photos of his lost loved ones, impotently watching police cars go by on the street below, and reflecting on all his sins -- Chiklis showed Mackey's tough guy façade crack ever so slightly. But in both cases, outside forces -- first Vic remembering the camera in the interrogation room, then the office lights automatically turning off at 6 -- snapped him back to attention and raised his emotional shields.

(Ryan told me that it was a coincidence that both "The Shield" and "The Sopranos" had final scenes punctuated by the lights going out, but the difference between the two shows did get summed up nicely by the way that "The Shield" continued to move forward afterwards, where "The Sopranos" just stopped.)

The finale was dominated by the death of Shane and the destruction of Vic's life -- which included another final humiliation by Claudette, as she made him watch the arrest of longtime sidekick Ronnie -- but Ryan was able to provide satisfying grace notes for most of the major characters.

Dutch, once the butt of Vic's barbs and practical jokes, now stood as the respected cop who got to slap the cuffs on Ronnie while the rest of The Barn watched approvingly. (In possibly the series' funniest line, when Ronnie asked what he was being arrested for, Dutch said, "The last three years.") He also met an interesting romantic prospect (Billings' lawyer, played by Jay Karnes' real-life wife, Julia Campbell), and he and Claudette also got to put one final serial killer into the interrogation room. Though Lloyd hadn't given it up by the end of the episode -- even after we got to hear one final entry from Dutch's Amazing Serial Killer Fact File, about how the streets of LA are literally paved with dead bodies -- it was clear his confession was just a matter of time.

Also, sadly, a matter of time: Claudette's impending death from lupus. In a moment as dignified as it was heartbreaking (CCH Pounder, like Chiklis and Walton Goggins, deserves serious Emmy consideration), Claudette told Dutch that her medication had stopped working, that, "All I have to do is deal with this pain every day, and every day that I can, I will show up. Until the day that I don't." She'll probably outlast Lloyd, and she was able to get some small measure of justice (karmic, if not actual) on Vic, but her clock is running down, fast.

Vic's old rival, cop-turned-politican David Aceveda, seems a lock to win the mayoral election after being tangentially involved in Vic's final, biggest drug bust, and it's clear he'll be just as effective at cleaning up City Hall as he was in corralling Vic -- that is, not at all.

Ryan didn't like to make the series' themes too overt, but in the finale he brought back Andre Benjamin from OutKast as neighborhood activist Robert Huggins (he first appeared in a season three episode as the owner of a comic book shop), this time waging his own fringe party run for mayor, talking about "a new paradigm" for law-enforcement and a change to the "prison-industrial complex." In the end, while Aceveda was busy doing TV interviews taking credit for Mackey's work, Huggins was shot and killed while picketing a crackhouse -- trying to effect change instead of just talking.

For a series that was as fast and loud as any in TV history, after this finale what "The Shield" may be remembered for are the slow, silent moments: Claudette and Dutch looking at the tableau of Shane's murdered family, Claudette watching Vic try not to look at the crime scene photos, or Vic stoically decorating his cubicle.

Our final image of Vic Mackey isn't of him on the verge of tears (that came earlier), but of him tucking his off-duty gun in his waistband and walking out into the night, a brutal expression on his face that said he was looking for someone to hurt. I wouldn't want to be that someone.

Some other thoughts on "Family Meeting":

• Next to the tableau of Mara and Jax lying so peacefully on the bed, the bouquet in her hands, the toy truck in his, the most disturbing part of that storyline was the small scene of Shane helping Mara go to the bathroom because she was in too much pain to even wipe herself. That's a classic example of what David Milch used to talk about with "NYPD Blue": people noticed the nudity and language, but the relaxed content standards also gave him a much greater freedom to show small, painfully honest moments in the lives of his characters. I suppose a network show could have given a version of that bathroom scene, but it wouldn't have been as explicit and humiliating, and in turn wouldn't have made it as clear just how horrible things had gotten for those two.

• For that matter, Shane and Mara's discussion about what to name their unborn baby daughter is devastating (especially on second view). Shane and Mara brought all of this doom down upon themselves, but in that moment, Walton Goggins and Michelle Hicks made you forget about the murders and just think about Shane and Mara as parents who might never get to hold their kids again.

• Clark Johnson returns, not only as director (forming a neat loop with the series pilot in the same way he did with "The Wire"), but in a brief cameo as the U.S. Marshal introducing Corrine and the kids to their new home in Rockford, Ill. (Shawn Ryan's hometown, not coincidentally.) In the closing credits, Johnson's character is identified as "Handsome Marshal."

• Some people wondered last week how Vic could have such amazing recall of every crime he needed to confess to ICE to make sure it was included in the immunity agreement. This week provided a good explanation: Vic had studied up on Shane's blackmail file (and that, in turn, inspired him to remember the things Shane forget to write down).

• I loved how much smaller Vic seemed in that suit (I suspect the wardrobe department deliberately picked out one that was a size or two too big), and how pained he looked throughout the HR reps' tour of his new hell. Note that for help, he now has to dial 912 instead of 911.

• As Shawn discusses in the post-finale Q&A, the songs bookending the episode are "Los Angeles" by X, and "Long Time Ago" by Concrete Blonde. He initially wanted the latter song to start during the final scene but was convinced (by Landgraf, I think) to let Vic's exit to play out in silence. As it is, the song and the montage of classic "Shield" moments (I had forgotten all about Shane with the earbuds) was a reminder of just how far all these characters had come (and, in many cases, fallen) since a long time ago. Plus, it forced FX to run the final credits at their full size, instead of squishing the names of all the crew people in their victory lap.

• You could argue that the three uniformed cops -- Danny in particular -- got short shrift in the finale, but Julien and Tina were involved in the very engaging, mission statement-y Andre 3000 story, so I'm okay with that. You can't fit everything in, even at 90 minutes. Shawn does talk at length in our interview about why he never revisited the matter of Julien's sexuality, and you may have noticed the moment, as he and Tina are driving to break up Huggins' stump speech, that his attention is briefly captured by the sight of a very happy and playful gay couple holding hands on the sidewalk.

• Nobody has a kind word or thought for Aceveda in this episode, do they? Huggins dubs him "Mr. Asses-veda," and Claudette wouldn't even dream of telling this clown about her illness in the way she opens herself up to Dutch. Dial back seven years (three years in show time), and I think she would have much more readily told David about the lupus than Dutch-boy.

• All the major personal stuff obscured the Beltran takedown, but it did give Vic an opportunity for one last bit of creative problem-solving -- sticking Santi's head into the poisonous snake's habitat to make him talk -- and there were some other nice action/character beats throughout, particularly Ronnie's desire to finish what they started, and Ronnie possibly saving Vic's life by warning him about the gunman in the warehouse. (Look how happy Ronnie seems when he starts talking about cowboys, and how heartbroken Vic looks when Ronnie's back is turned. Vic is a bastard for selling out his friend, but at least he has enough self-awareness to recognize what he did.) Hell of a moment from David Rees Snell as Ronnie's being dragged away by the uniforms and the entire precinct is glaring at Vic with disdain. (Also, loved his disbelief as he asked Vic, "You told them... all of it?")

• Before we screened this episode a few weeks back, everyone -- the critics, the FX publicist, everybody but Shawn Ryan -- kept getting the title confused and calling it "Family Matters." Finally, Ryan cracked, "Just call it 'Urkel.'"

• Hands up, everybody who took one look at Olivia back in the season premiere and assumed, based on the show's past history, that Vic would wind up sleeping with her. Ryan said he knew that would be the expectation, which is one of the reasons he went with an attractive blonde for Vic's ICE contact. One of the things that jumped out at me when giving the episode a second view is how often Olivia reminds Vic to report to her office at 9 a.m. sharp tomorrow, making it clear how much she's looking forward to giving him some slight comeuppance for what he did to her.

• Have I mentioned yet how much I loved this episode?

If you have the time (say, if you have a long Thanksgiving flight ahead of you) and aren't ready to let the show go just yet, don't forget to take a look at the Shawn Ryan Q&A, which addresses, among other points, his thoughts on doing some kind of "Shield" movie down the road.

What did everybody else think?

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at asepinwall@starledger.com

144 comments:

renton said...

Awesome, awesome, awesome.

And I'm glad neither of the "predicted" endings for Vic happened. This couldn't have been more perfect.

seaver78 said...

Mackey behind a desk.

A fate worse than any of his teammates.

Unbelievably great final episode.

I got nothing else to say.

Brian said...

Unbelievable. Great, great ending. Clark Johnson's work was brilliant, particularly with the close-ups.

Anonymous said...

For 85 minutes I had this sinking feeling in my stomach. The next 20 left me numb. The closing montage made me emotional.

Damn good show.

Zack said...

Small detail -- when Shane is on the phone with Vic, there's a weathered "Lost Cat" poster taped to it.

I'm reasonably sure that wasn't the same one Dutch strangled, but it was a bit of callback for me.

Ah, Vic. Cubicle hell. And he still has a bit of a smirk as he walks off.

Great show.

It's so cool to see these serialized shows start to reach their predetermined conclusions, and finally have them as complete units. It'll be fun to rewatch this and THE WIRE years from now and see how everything pays off.

Dan Coyle said...

Vic Mackey may be in prison, yet he's still free.

And perhaps somehow, some way, he'll get out.

"For tomorrow... is another day!"

That thought is terrifying and exhilarating all at once.

Thank you, Messers Ryan, Johnson, Chiklis, Goggins, Martinez Snell, Karnes, Marciano, Jace. THank you, Melle. Ryan, Dent, Garces, and most of all, above and beyond, thank you, Ms. Pounder.

seaver78 said...

OK, I lied, I have one more thing to say.

I loved how Vic's "prison sentence" lasts three years; it's one day of penance for each day since he murdered Terry.

Mark B said...

That was superb. This is brilliant writing to wrap up the individual character story lines. I especially liked the moment when Danni alertly darts into the break room at The Barn to make sure the suddenly unattended anniversary candle was blown out. This little detail of direction and editing captures the careful precision with which every component of this finale was constructed. Well done to everyone involved.

ire-consumer said...

I have this very strong feeling that Vic goes home and kills himself. I don't see him living that life. he's ratted out his family at work and his bio family ratted him out. it's over.

Since David Rees Snell is my baby brother, I held out hope that Ronnie headed for Mexico, so his arrest was upsetting to me. Still, the bastard deserved it.

The scene of Mara and Jackson was the most emotional of the hour. I still feel sick inside.

Wonderful ending to an amazing show!

Anonymous said...

I would have liked Ronnie to end up at the goat farm.

R.A. Porter said...

It's ambiguous, but I thought Vic's smirk at the end as he picked up his gun was the confident, self-assured Vic thinking he'd never take the coward's way out like Shane. Confronted with everything, everyone and everything in his life taken from him...he still thinks he's going to figure a way to spin out of it.

Brian said...

Since David Rees Snell is my baby brother

If so, give him my regards for some excellent, excellent work.

FlopEJoe said...

I think what struck me the most is that, in the end, every single turn of Vic's fate was his own fault and his face showed that realized that very well. He didn't have to make the deal that put him in cubicle prison and Ron in real prison. Vic is such a bullcrap artist he could have probably conned Shane into believing there was one. BUT WAIT, he needed to get Corrine a deal which he learned was fake. She needed a deal, Shane and the innocents died, and Ron was going to prison because of him.

Also, I was so crazy saying "oh no oh no" when he was sitting in his cube remembering HR lady saying the lights go out. I thought, "if it goes black and the credits roll, I will curse Ryan's name till the end of time!"

Anonymous said...

that ending sucked ass!!!! i want to know what the hell is going to happen now! What happened to the kid that killed his mom? What about Vic's family what are they going to do now? Will vic try and find his family? Olivia played vic and just wanted him to get her bust! great show and great series but poor ending i was excpecting more!

Clevelle said...

Really no words other than to say that it's been a privilege to enjoy seven fantastic seasons of one of the greatest television series of all time.

Anonymous said...

The deat scene of Shane and his family was just brutal. Especially, when I noticed the truck Jackson is holding is a police car vehicle.
I burst into tears when Shane pulled the trigger and the tears did not stop for a good 20 minutes.

Ok so Vic is in suit-ant-tie-cubicle hell now. He truly got what he deserved.

Thank you to the cast, crew and writers. I am so sad to see such an amazing show end. The acting was brilliant, the writing was impeccable. Kudos to Shawn Ryan and all involved.

* PS, if that truly is your brother...Ronnie's arrest scene was one of the best I have seen on television. He nailed it. Please tell him thanks for an amazing job well done

Anthony Foglia said...

Wow amazing episode. Though I pieced together a lot of this from where the last few weeks were going (Ronnie arrested, Vic in purgatory, which left death as Shane's ending) the details were amazing. I couldn't figure out how Vic could stay free with Corrine still out there, but witness protection was genius. And even the parts you knew were coming were wonderfully executed.

Next to the tableau of Mara and Jax lying so peacefully on the bed, the bouquet in her hands, the toy truck in his[...]
Correction, Alan. It was a toy police car. I imagine Shane told Jax one last time that his dad is a cop before Jax got his drink.

Meldrick is unrecognizable without the goatee.

Anonymous said...

ok...Emmy discussion time

Who deserves one most for this season?

Chiklis...for sure
CCH Pounder? without a doubt
Walton Goggins- should and must win an Emmy for his performace this season.

Vic has Jackson's death on his hands. If he had not taunted Shane with the birthday and tossling his hair imagery, Shane would not have killed them.

Dan Coyle said...

I think when Vic sees that gun, he realizes he's not beaten. That he's still got power. it's just a matter of time, whether it be three years, or three weeks, that he'll come up with a plan. He'll always come up with a plan.

Andrew said...

Great review as always. What an amazing finale to a great show.

Anonymous said...

Let's see...

Lem - Dead by grenade
Shane - Dead by gunshot
Mara - Dead
Jackson - Dead
Ronnie - In Prison. For the rest of his life. To be raped by Antwon & Co.
Claudette - Dying of Lupus

Vic - Desk work making $62,000 + Health Benefits. Um, that's more than I make at my boring office job.

So basically Vic is free, employed and surfing the net for the next 3 years? That's it? He's stuck behind a cubicle like the majority of working Americans and that's his punishment for all his sin?

Lame.

Anonymous said...

"Olivia played vic and just wanted him to get her bust!"

You think Olivia played him? Vic got her to cut him an immunity deal on what she figured was petty crimes and turned out to be for three years of murder, theft, and corruption. The fact that Vic Mackey avoids justice for all of his crimes comes down to the way he played her on that.

Her career will forever be marred by that immunity deal. She played him?

Anonymous said...

Vic Mackey = Marlo Stanfield

They got the exact same ending.

Anonymous said...

Complete BS. Vic's immunity deal was based on bringind down Bertran & "the blacks" in one bust, not 2.
Where was Vic going with his (uneeded)gun at the closing? To find Corrine & the kids? Julian still stays in the closet? Uh...OK. The kid serial killer never reveals the sick thrill he gets from killing? No one looks for the Mom's body NEAR WHERE HER BURNT CLOTHES WERE FOUND? Billings' counter suit just goes away (even though he was running a scam)? Ronnie couldn't "read" Vic well enough (after all they've been through), to realize the joint immunity deal wasn't gonna happen? Lastly, Vic's daughter is a slut one week, then she turns into the loving daughter. How?

Anonymous said...

Vic Mackey = Marlo Stanfield

They got the exact same ending"

Except that Vic is not wealthy.

Michaelangelo said...

"that ending sucked ass!!!! i want to know what the hell is going to happen now! What happened to the kid that killed his mom? What about Vic's family what are they going to do now? Will vic try and find his family? Olivia played vic and just wanted him to get her bust! great show and great series but poor ending i was excpecting more!"

Dude, answering all those questions would take another season.

"So basically Vic is free, employed and surfing the net for the next 3 years? That's it? He's stuck behind a cubicle like the majority of working Americans and that's his punishment for all his sin?

Lame."

No, because all he's got now is time to think about how much he screwed over every single person in his life. Death or even prison would have been the easy way out for Vic. Sitting behind a desk, knowing he essentially caused Shane's suicide, knowing he sold out Ronnie for nothing, knowing his wife set him up and ran with the kids, that's pure Hell for Vic. It may not be as satisfying for you, but it really is the most fitting punishment they could conceive.

I'd also like to point out that I called this ending for Vic in last week's comments, Alan. I've been arguing with everyone I knew, who were all convinced Vic would either be dead or in an orange jumpsuit.

Anonymous said...

It was a good ending, but I wasn't blown away for some reason. The murder-suicide didn't shock me, nor did Vic's fate.

But I'm not saying it was bad, not at all. But from reading all the reviews, I expected to be hyperventilating in shock after watching this.

Anonymous said...

No, because all he's got now is time to think about how much he screwed over every single person in his life.

Vic is a sociopath. He has no conscience. Putting him in a cubicle to "think about" all the bad things he's done? Is he twelve? Time-out might work on a small child but not a hardened psychopathic killer like Vic Mackey. This ending was a cop-out. LOL.

jim treacher said...

Hell, I knew for a fact when Olivia showed up that Vic was going to screw her. How wrong I was. Completely the other way around. And I was sure Ronnie was going to skate, too. Poor, poor loyal Ronnie.

You know, I figured Billings' lawyer was too cute to just pop up in the last episode for no reason, but I didn't realize that Dutch would close out the show by finally getting a woman's number. Without trying. So without trying! (And it was nice that Billings got to sign off with one more stupid, self-aggrandizing lie. I love that sleazy bastard.)

Shane. Holy crap. I didn't really start to mist up until I thought back to the scene with the convenience store clerk. Shane knew what he was about to do. Shane. Goddammit.

I have this very strong feeling that Vic goes home and kills himself.

I don't. No way. No way in hell. The idea that Vic Mackey will internalize any of what just happened goes against everything we've learned about him over the last 7 years. When he dies, it might be bloody, but it won't be at his own hand. No, I think he went out to get some $#!+ done.

So basically Vic is free, employed and surfing the net for the next 3 years? That's it? He's stuck behind a cubicle like the majority of working Americans and that's his punishment for all his sin?

Do you think the lions and tigers in the zoo think they've got it made too?

On a lighter note: Thanks for these reviews, Alan. This was my favorite show, and I can't think of how they could have done a better sendoff. Well, worse. But that's the kind of show it was.

Jeff said...

I thought this was an excellently executed piece of drama. Wonderfully acted, written, directed, just all around top notch work.

That it was made in the midst of the writer strike without Shawn Ryan's direct involvement is a testament to the infrastructure Ryan had in place and the talent he had surrounded himself with. I thought it was tragic that he was forced to sit out his own show's wrap... tho I was glad to read he picketed the set where they shot Vic and Corinne's goodbye.

The character's fates were all right where they should have been -- none of them really had any other way out and it not feel like a cop out.

I like that we didn't need to see Dutch break the serial killer -- we knew it would happen. I like that the writers give us as an audience enough credit to know that... and I don't feel robbed in the slightest for not having been shown it.

For the record, for all I love the show and the characters, I don't think I've heard a worse idea than a movie. (Maybe a Sopranos movie...)

The characters are where they are -- left only to our imaginations to determine their fates. Do I need to see how Vic slogged thru the next 3 years? Nope. Do I want to see Ronnie and some Schillinger-type knocking heads so he can survive? Nope. Do I need to see Dutch grieve at Claudette's wake? Nope. The characters are no longer who they are; their situations are greatly changed from when we knew and loved them... to visit them in such different circumstances would feel more than a little AfterMASH-y...

Some things are better left unsaid.

(All that aside, if they wanted to do a standalone "prequel" type thing -- a "Bunk and McNulty" standalone piece which took place sometime between the 2nd and 3rd seasons, maybe... I might be able to get behind that... but I don't want any part of a follow-up movie.)

toonsterwu said...

I loved the finale. It was a well-done episode. Now, don't get me wrong, I loved this show, and I loved this episode, but there is one thing I would've liked.

If there is one regret I have, it is that the show didn't revisit the moral ambiguity question and tried to paint it as black and white as possible. Well, they sort of did with Andre 3000 dying, but I wish it had taken it a step further.

To put it in another way, I would've been curious about revisiting the initial question. What are we willing to sacrifice? We've seen what Vic can do on the street. There is a certain relevance and significance to that type of individual. This is, by no means, a defense of Vic, as his crimes were heinous. But ... I have high doubts that the folks left at the Barn can control the streets as well as Vic could. They may try, and Claudette can show up each day, but there has been no suggestion that those left are up to the match. I would've liked to see a "things go on moment" where the streets are engulfed and the Barn is at a loss of how to handle it.

That said, fabulous episode. You can't hit everything, and they just about hit a lot of it. I wasn't as emotional as I thought (for example, Lem's death had me shaking). Shane's endgame, along with Mara and Jackson, was fairly clear by the end of last week, if not earlier. I also wasn't as excited as I was when Parricide happened. There was a tenseness to it. But for a series finale, moments like that would be somewhat flawed in many respects.

The beauty of the final episode was the character focus. We saw the small little interactions, with Vic and Ronnie's banter before charging in. We saw Shane getting coked up and losing it.

I don't think Vic kills himself. Shawn Ryan has essentially said he hasn't (in the interviews Alan posted). I think he wants to take out some anger, and it wouldn't surprise me if he was somehow motivated to vigilantism. Part of me wonders if he took his gun out to go downstairs to check on the cop situation below.

Is Vic Mackey a redeemable character? If so, there's a lot more they could explore, perhaps in different forms of media. Whether he is redeemable depends on how one perceives his role in society. To say he is an evil, bad man would be true, but also a limited view. He'll find his way out, though, and it would be interesting to pursue some sort of Vic Mackey story down the line, the redemption of Vic Mackey in some respects.

Btw, I liked the fact that they took pains to show that Claudette wasn't perfect. That she wasn't that strong that she could avoid spiting someone. I thought that was a good way to show the moral complexities of our world.

Hyde said...

I don't think the Vic/Marlo comparison is exactly the same, because while Marlo is exiled from the game, nothing he's done has or ever will weigh on him. Just by living as long as he has, he's beaten the odds. Whereas Mackey completely disgraced the job and lost his family.

One minor quibble with the finale was Shane's scene in the store when he bought the flowers. His behavior there--the forced joviality, the inexplicable gift of money--was textbook for someone who has decided to kill himself. It was always a strong possibility that he would go that route, but that scene eliminated any suspense.

jim treacher said...

His behavior there--the forced joviality, the inexplicable gift of money--was textbook for someone who has decided to kill himself.

I didn't get it until after. I just figured he was trying to do a good deed. But yeah, in retrospect.

Hey, I just realized: The presidential motorcade they've been talking about for weeks and weeks was a huge red herring! Ryan, you magnificent bastard.

KB said...

Excellent finale in every way. Vic, Shane, and Ronnie's fates were all very fitting. Dutch and Claudette rocked. Poor Mara and Jackson, that was heart wrenching. Man, what a crazy, intense, f'ed up television show this was! It will be missed.

Brian said...

Marlo ultimately rebelled against his forced choice of leaving "the game." Only time will tell if Vic does the same.

Anthony Foglia said...

Hyde wrote, "His behavior there [in the convenience store]--the forced joviality, the inexplicable gift of money--was textbook for someone who has decided to kill himself."

jim treacher responded, "I didn't get it until after. I just figured he was trying to do a good deed."

I just thought Shane was hitting on the checkout girl.

Andrew said...

I can't help but be amused at just how similar Vic & Marlo's endings are, considering how often these shows were compared. Hell, they were both even wearing suits in their final scenes.

Pete said...

Also...how great was it to have see Kellerman and Lewis again on the same episode of television? (O.K., Kellerman only came in flashbacks, but still....)

Anonymous said...

The Shield vs The Wire

(LOL, you knew this was coming)

Vic Mackey = Marlo Stanfield

Ronnie = Chris

Shane = Snoop

Aceveda = Tommy Carcetti

Mara = Squeak (the girlfriend of Bernard)

jim treacher said...

The last words we hear Mackey say: "I gotta see my kids."

Kensington said...

Poor, poor loyal Ronnie.
Any sympathy I might have had for him disappeared when he committed first degree murder in the season premiere, and I assume that was why they wrote that moment for him.

As for those concerned that there are still interesting things we now won't get to know about because the show is over, I assume that an old dramatic principal still applies: this series represented the most critical, memorable moments in these characters lives, and nothing that came before or happens after is as important or meaningful as what we got to see.

Aceveda's term as Mayor will be ineffective and unmemorable.

Claudette will finish out her time with honor and success. There will not be another Vic Mackey; she'll make sure of it. Eventually, she won't be able to come in anymore.

Dutch will finish out this case and his career competently and professionally. He will not encounter any more serial killers. Maybe he will hook up with Billings's lawyer and get married. He will not kill anymore animals.

Corrine and the girls will live a normal life in Rockford. Vic will never find them.

Ronnie will disappear into prison. His experiences will probably be typical for convicted cops. He'll probably get beaten up, maybe raped, but he won't be killed. He'll get old, he'll be forgotten, and eventually he'll die in there alone, unloved, and unmourned.

And Vic Mackey will waste away at his lousy job for the next three years, maybe packing on some pounds and letting his hair grow back, then he'll struggle to make ends meet via security jobs (if he can get any with zero references). He'll probably get another woman eventually, but she won't be smart or he won't be able to be real with her. Neither variation will be particularly satisfying. He'll just be, at best, a pathetic loser with little to suggest otherwise.

Kensington said...

On the other hand...

Corrine and the kids may be gone, but Danni is still there, and her kid is still Vic's?

But maybe Vic will be smart enough to know that he can't go there because she'll get a restraining order against him and jeopardize his immunity deal.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe its over.

What an amazing show, and what an amazing and satisfying finale.

One thing I've learned in all my time watching TV is that I want to be left satisfied with how they are portrayed in their final moments.

This show did ALL of that and was gripping and unblinking as it did it.

Just some moments that stood out to me:

- Vic saying goodbye to his kids at the house you just knew it was the last time he would see them.

- The short scene where Wymms looks down into the break room and sees Tina, Julian, etc. celebrating her 1 year anniversary. You could tell Wymms knew there was still some hope as good cops still existed.

-Wymms speech to the perp. So perfect in the way she defended Dutch and ended as she told him that he was a "guest of the county."

-Vic still not getting it that his life as he knew it was over. Practically begging Olivia for a new assignment to take down some Vietnamese gang-chacallit.

-Vic returning to the barn. He looked so foreign there and the "We're back a----les!" sign looked from another time and place.

-The last second, "Ronnie!" yell by Vic. As if his last gasp could somehow save his friend.

-His being led by the HR lady just screamed of a prisoner being led to his cell. Can you even imagine a brown paper bag with the initials "V.M." on it in the fridge?

-Vic is in the worst place imaginable. Its worse than prison. When he heard the sirens and just looked out the window knowing that he could never join the fight again is akin to taking away his freedom.

-His smirk at the end is part of Vic's behavior pattern that makes him who he is and what he is. His "plans" and thoughts that there's a way out, is what just continues to lead him down a road that led him to eventual nothingness.

I loved this show and I thank Shawn Ryan for being consistent all the way through its run.

Chris

toonsterwu said...

Kensington

I'm not sure I necessarily buy that, that this was the high point. Rather, I think Ryan's perspective, and it's something we see in modern media more, is that it is simply a point. That there is a past, and there is a future, perhaps better, or worse. Even Ryan somewhat hints at it with his comment of his curiousity of Ryans' life after these three years. In saying that, yeah, I could see a scenario where that is a highpoint.
_______________________________

Honestly, if I was to script what I would like to see ...

a) Barn falls apart. Claudette is ineffective as her physical struggles lead to people questioning her capabilities. This happens a lot in real life. Furthermore, the lack of an effective gang unit haunts Farmington.

b) Dutch doesn't do anything that great, but he is a friend to Claudette. He's not as good as he seems to think. Perhaps when Claudette is forced to retire, Dutch moves on and becomes some sort of profiler.

c) Much as I would like to see a good ending for Ronnie, it's hard to think anything like that could happen, considering all the enemies.

d) Billings, with the case behind him, becomes a surprisingly good cop ... but he cuts some corners. He's not Mackey, and he's definitely not as effective, but he makes some headways.

e) Acevada is the worm that he is. The self-serving individual keeps rising in power, although at some point, he'll meet a political match. Governor Aceveda? Wouldn't surprise me if he did put the hit out on Andre 3000.

d) Danny Sofer struggles to make ends meet, leading to her quitting the force to look for a private gig that's less dangerous. This wouldn't be too far out.

e) Julien Lowe eventually has a personal crisis where he has to confront his homosexuality again. As good a cop as he's become, he has to transfer. I also wouldn't be surprised if Julien, assuming the Barn falls apart, starts taking some chances. Not Strike Team level, but smaller. Perhaps this coincides with his personal crisis.

f) Corrine's life falls apart. This isn't a lady that can do witness protection. Family life also falls apart as the kids wonder, particularly Cassidy.

g) As for Vic, it depends. I don't think this is a man that gets stuck. For all the comments about Vic getting boxed in this final episode, when assessed within the spectrum of things, he is alive. He won and lost in the finale. We've had people like Marion Barry come back to power in the real world. Mackey is certainly as cunning as some of the best out there. I think he'd make it back ... but the question becomes, is it redeeming Mackey, or is it some form of vigilantism.

I would love to see Vic end up being the mentor to a young gun, sort of like what they potentially had with Kevin.

Captain Reginald said...

Having seen the brilliant finale of "The Shield", I can say that I think this show is the greatest television drama ever made.

I had been wondering for awhile if Shane might ultimately take his own life, but I never ever expected he'd also take Mara and Jackson with him. Wow.

I also loved Vic and Ronnie's reactions to what had happened.

All in all it was just a brilliant episode.

Anonymous said...

The finale was very good, but I have to say I disagree with you Alan that it was great. I thought it was solid and had some wonderful moments, it did not however take the show to another level where I would say The Shield is the greatest drama of all-time.

Shane was always the best character in my opinion and his ending was the best. In one of the commercial breaks I thought I would have him kill his wife and kids if I was writing this. Not because Im a sicko, but it was obvious that Mara and Jackson were slowing him down and if he had any chance to survive he would have to get rid of them and it was obvious Shane was not going to leave MAra for jail and Jackson to the system. The way that Ryan and Clark Johnson wrote and directed those final Shane scenes were excellent though. I guess Shane was tired of running and he probably would not have been abel to live with what he had done to his wife and kids, so his suicide made the most sense. I was glad that Shane was able to dish out some ether from the grave on Vic though. Shane's arc alone was worth watchin The Shield.

As far as Vic, I thought it was good but it had problems. Vic ending up without respect was the key thing in my opinion. Vic lived for respect and that was what his Shield epitomized. To see Vic without the respect of his peers and without his family and friends is a perfect ending for his story in theory, it is just that the ICE deal is so unrealistic that it bothers me. I just could not wrap my head around the immunity deal to completely enjoy Vic's ending.

The stuff with Ronnie was good. Dutch and Claudette had a solid ending, except I would have liked to have seen a confession. Acaveda's character was summed up nicely in the finale and I thought 3 stacks' character served as a nice parallel to the issue of cleanin up the streets.

A good run congrats to all involved. It is nice to know that we have Sons of Anarchy to kind of take The Shield's place. We have lost some amazing tv shows this year, The Wire/The Shield, and soon Friday Night Lights/Brotherhood.

Chris said...

It was great. Hard to imagine how it could have been better. But at the same time, the way you've been building it up for weeks now Alan, I have to admit, I'm not as blown away as I expected to be based on your hints. However, I've only seen it once and might change my mind on subsequent viewings. I'm still most devastated by Ronnie's arrest, since his loyalty was turned against him. Alan, thanks again for your efforts in reviewing the show, it's always helped me develop a deeper understanding of each ep.

Anonymous said...

I think Hyde is right about the telegraphing of the ending of the Vendrell story, but I admit I didn't catch it at the time. I did Shane's actions at the cornershop odd, but I was already disoriented by the fact that the family came home in the first place. Coming home clearly indicates they'd given up hope, but Ryan smartly showed us how Mara and Shane were still processing the fact that they were done for, as with Mara only beginning to think about what's going to happen to the kids. It worked as a nice diversionary tactic (in my case) with the actors playing characters in denial about hitting bottom distracting you (me) from the fact that they were way past it.

And I'll admit, while Chiklis was great in this episode, and the scene with Pounder and Chiklis in the box was truly cathartic, I'm ambivalent about the "office hell" ending. It just seemed to depend too much on the concept of global-super-plus-good immunity that I had a little trouble getting past in last week's episode.

On the other hand, I can see how Ryan wanted the Strike team to end up broken in all sorts of ways (murder, suicide, literal prison, metaphorical prison). And the great final shot of Vic heading out into the night felt incredibly right.

Kensington said...

toonsterwu said...

Yeah, I see from reading the Shawn Ryan interview that he doesn't see things the way I do either.

But artists aren't always the best authorities on their art. They often learn more about what they've done when they see how their audience responds. That's one of the things I love about art.

Chris said...

By the by, can anyone name any other series that's run for more than 2 or 3 seasons but remained so consistently good (BESIDES "The Wire")? I've been amazed by how good the Shield has been for so long. I feel like it never necessarily hit the highs that "The Wire" was able to reach, but that takes nothing away from Shawn Ryan and his team's accomplishments.

God, it was weird seeing Mackey in that suit.

HMM2 said...

Is it possible Dutch killed Rita? That he's been slowly progressing since the cat killing, albeit off-screen? That would've been a helluva twist.

domino87 said...

GREAT, GREAT episode, obviously. But Alan, better then The Wire.....Ehhh I'm not to sure. I mean, I loved it and I really need to watch it again, but I donno about "greatest drama finale ever".

David_NYC said...

I have to say I was a bit disappointed by the finale but...I'll live.

Here's my take on the Lady or The Tiger type of ending.....

Dutch....is a serial killer. He killed the cat, the mom and the lawyer will be next. His whole speech about the man working for the city who built all those roads and bodies he buried along the highways came out of nowhere. He is really describing himself...he works for the city...he came to LA in first episode ("Why do people come to LA?")...he's the one who planted the woman's clothes in his dumpster...he's the one who is "playing the game."

Mackey..."serves" his three years at ICE...if he didn't run from the feds and police when all this thing was hanging over his head...why the hell would he run now? He'll do his time and get out in three years, then go hunting for his kids.

The VIEWERS: will be bored stiffed out of our minds as the last great show on television ends its run. This is the only show I watch on tv and now it has ended. Might as well cancel that cable subscription.

Thank you to everyone involved for such a great great show. I've watched each and every episode and have enjoyed every minute of it. Thank you for your great work...can't wait to see you in your future projects.

M said...

Do you think the lions and tigers in the zoo think they've got it made too?

That's a perfectly valid analogy for a lifetime prison sentence. Lions and tigers don't get to leave the zoo premises on their own for up to two thirds of the weekday, with the weekend off as a matter of course. They certainly aren't released into the citylife after three years.

ire-consumer said...

I've re-thought it. Last night I thought Vic would kill himself. I think my opinion was colored by somehting my brother (DR Snell) said to me yesterday.

For seven seasons I've got nothing from him. Not a single hint about what was yet to come. (Unless you count "I shaved my beard")

Yesterday I begged him: just give me something. One thing. Does Ronnie kill Vic? Tell me that.
He said: Not technically.

So I went in with the idea that Vic would die.

Then I remembered something Ronnie Said to Claudette when he told her Vic was looking for Shane. He said Vic didn't want to kill Shane. Death was too good for him.

So, yeah. Vic serves 3 years in a cubicle.

Great show-great ending---

Small aside: Family Meeting was a perfect title in real-life. Last night everyone involved with The Shield watched it at an LA theatre, then had a party afterward. What a great way for them to say goodbye.

Now I have to get my hands on "The Wire" you guys talk so much about.

Thanks Alan for the blog!

Anonymous said...

What do I think? Personally I think you're overrating the ending. You don't even mention how similar Vic's fate is to Marlo's, so similar that the episode suffers for it in hindsight.

And Vic's fate is hardly a fate worse than death, as someone who works in an office I'm actually starting to resent this sort of idea. Your interview with Ryan makes it clear that Ryan himself doesn't think its a fate worse than death either, he pretty much said Vic gets away with it. If anyone thinks his fate is worse than death or being in jail they're fooling themselves.

Yes the series was visceral and moments of the finale were, but Vic's fate wasn't. Ultimately it was in keeping with his character to get away with it but I don't personally think the series itself demanded it, unlike say The Wire where Marlo's fate was perfectly in line with the thematic emphasis of that series.

Richardo said...

Vic being forced to work in an office isn't the primary punishment. Vic might not be in jail, but he has lost everything and everyone he cares about.

His kids are gone. He will never see them again.

His ex-wife is gone. He will never see her again.

His reputation is irreparably shattered. Everybody knows that he is a cop-killer, in addition to everything else he pulled.

Two members of his strike team are dead, and Vic is, although perhaps not directly, at least indirectly responsible for both of them, and also bears some responsibility for the deaths of Mara and Jackson.

His one remaining friend, he betrayed and sent to prison for the rest of his life.

He is off the streets and in an office where he will never be respected.

Vic didn't "get away" with it. He might be serving a legal sentence, but he has lost everything and everyone he cared about.

Even worse, he is faced with the knowledge that all of his sins were in vain. All of his crimes, the ONLY reason he did that was for Corrine, and more importantly, his kids. And they're gone, forever. All of that murder, that theft, that drug dealing, that betrayal, was ultimately for nothing.

He's lost everything...for nothing.

Every remaining Strike Team member met a tragic end in this finale.

What a brilliant episode. I still can't get over it.

Anonymous said...

And all that would mean something if Vic gave a shit, but he compartmentalizes and shrugs it off. Ryan himself pretty much said Vic got away with it. I will say that at least the final season got to the core of who and what Vic is, although some fans refuse to see it.

Since all the critics saw the finale we've heard that Vic gets the fate he deserves, well sorry I don't think it was.

Anonymous said...

Jaw droppingly good and so much more fulfilling than the Wire and the Sopranos. (I do like the Marlo analogy.) FWIW, I didn't really see any of this coming.

Personally, I would have ended two beats earlier, *before* Vic goes into his drawer for the gun. That was a redemption of sorts, and I'm of the "Vic is irredeemable" school, but that's just a quibble.

A few continuity things.

What happened to Dani and her son? They make this a major plot point midway through the season, but now she's back, Vic's back--and now without a family--and she doesn't seem to notice or care. I would have just liked to have seen a single shot of Catherine Dent mentally calculating what Vic's deal might mean for her.

And on Ronnie. Don't they need some actual, oh, evidence to convict him? In a conventional immunity deal, the flipper has to testify against the flipee.
But Vic's not testifying. What do they really have on Ronnie?


Did anyone catch the preview in which Chicklis says something to the effect of "the conventional wisdom is that Vic Mackey ends up dead or in jail. We don't do conventional wisdom on The Shield."

Tucker Stone said...

The only thing that I felt left wondering about was Danny, her kid, and what Vic could do about that now. With her back in the barn, and Vic free to do as he pleases, couldn't that thing start up again?

Other than that--this was one of the finest pieces of television I've ever seen, and I'm glad I got to watch it while it was happening. I hope the DVD collections make their way to a lot of the people who have missed it--this show was one of the best examples of what can be done with tv that I've ever seen, and it's a masterclass in storytelling.

Thanks Alan--you and your gang of comment-leavers was my first stop after an episode ended. I would've loved watching it with my wife and not coming here--I'm just glad I didn't have to. This site and the people who show up here made a great experience that much better.

jdj said...

Loved the episode. Like a few others, I didn't foresee Shane killing Mara/Jackson until this episode, when they're preparing the raid and Julien says "There's no sounds of children from inside the house". I had the same reaction as Alan to seeing it play out. Just a stomach punch feeling.

For the ending, I don't see Vic "trapped" in a cubicle. His grabbing the gun & smirking says he has other plans. Finding Corinne, definitely. But more immediately, doesn't his new position analyzing ICE intelligence on gangs put him in the perfect position to work both sides of the fence, and shake down those gangs for protection money? Yes, he's trapped in the cube by day, but he's always done most of his dirty work at night. He'll still be free to do so. I wouldn't be surprised at all if there's a movie (obviously more Vic/family based than Strike Team-based) down the line in a few years.

Anonymous said...

When Vic taunts Shane on their last phone call about taking his kid's out on the birthdays, while he sits in jail...and tussling their hair, buying them an ice cream cone...That is Shane's breaking point. That imagery is plain torture to Shane and he cannot allow that to happen. He cannot take the chance that Vik makkey could ever touch, see or communicate with his children...ever. That is too much for him to bear.

Thus, Shane buys Jackson a toy police car and plans to kill his family. When he buys pens and gives the checkout girl an 80+ $$ tip, I knew he was going to suicide on himself and take his family with him. Money has been a crucial component to them getting away and to give away a large amt of it, was the tip off to what was to come.

The bathroom scene with Shane and Mara. She is in too much pain to even wipe herself. She is humiliated and broken down. Shawn Ryan has said that he was not there for the filming of this scene, due to the writer's strike and had to re-work a lot of the scene to avoid it being too comical and light. Well, he did a darn good job. I thought that scene was devastating as it becomes clear to Shane that Mara is in no shape to "run" anymore. It is over. This is the moment he decides to turn himself in to save his family. And then the phone call with Vic, ends all of that.

Shawn Ryan, thank you for staying true to us. Your fans from the beginning. From ep 1, the people who tuned in each week to watch this show. You never once forgot about us. You didnt pander to new fans or do anything to jeopardize our ride. You stayed true to yourself, and to your characters and to us, the fans. (Sopranos writer, take notes from this man!!!)

Vic's sentence was appropriate. He is left without a friend in the world or his family. A fate truly worth than death to this man. He is a pariah in a station where he used to be a god. He is treated with disdain by the people who used to adore and respect him.
The scene between Vic and Claudette was just...perfection. She plays this just right and so does he. I didnt realize until after that he doesnt speak at all during this scene, only she does but his face does all the talking we, the audience, needs. wow...just WOW!

Dutch boy's ending is also right on the money and rings true to me. He will remain Claudette's keeper and continue with his unsensational career. He finally gets a phone number from an attractive lady without even trying. (That lady was his real life wife by the way)
I was expecting something a little worse for the Ditch boy....he never did really pay for killing that kitten. or did he? hmmm

I feel a little bit sorry for Danny now. With Vic's kid's gone he is certainly going to focus his interest on her son now. She did not get much air time on the finale and neither did Julian. I think Tina had more face time with the camera and lines than Danny or Julian.

Thanks to the cast...MC, CCH and Walton Goggins...you ALL deserve Emmy awards this year for your amazing talent and performances.

I will truly miss this show. I am not ready for it to go.

I have mixed feelings about a movie in the future. I really do. I do believe that if anyone could do a post script movie justice, it is Shawn Ryan. If he could get the same cast back and crew, and come up with a worthy enough of a idea, I trust him to do it properly.

Anonymous said...

I just have to say that all of the people who leave comments here on this blog are some of the most thoughtful, intelligent tv watchers around.

I have checked numerous blogs, and the comments on this one, are by far, superior in every way to any other blog.

Kudos commenters!

Carl Williams said...

I think the shock for those who weren't absolutely blown away by the finale (of which I would say I am one) rests with the fact that, really, there were no shocks. This all wrapped up in a very logical fashion, and it was all right there before us in the weeks leading up. Everything pointed to this. It was brilliant, powerful stuff and flawlessly acted, but it really wasn't a spectacle in the end.

The one thing I am having trouble with is that there is ABSOLUTELY NO PENANCE for Vic. None whatsoever. What did Vic lose that he didn't already know he was losing?

1) Corrine had told Vic earlier she wanted him out of her family's life.

2) At the end, Vic couldn't care less about Shane and had put him in the rear-view mirror as soon as he signed the deal with ICE.

3) Vic knew what he was doing to Ronnie when he signed the deal.

Sure, the suddenness with which everything occurred and how it all played out resonated with Vic, but only briefly. None of those endgames ultimately were a surprise to Vic. The band-aid got ripped off quickly, which we all know is better than having it slowly peeled off. Hell, we were led to believe he is now chained to a desk for three years with no hopes of working the streets again, and he dismissed that in all of four minutes at the end when he left with his gun and a smirk on his face.

Vic didn't lose. He won. Again. Like he always does. Antwon Mitchell-ville would have been his worst fate and it's not even close. You could even start a new series based around Vic's current landscape that would be pretty compelling. The curtain didn't drop on Vic in the least.

Anonymous said...

Just amazing. There are no words. I will say I think The Wire and The Shield both dropped the ball though. I wish that right after the finale, their main website changed over to some format that left some love for the fans!!!

I'd love to people to post some messages to the gang and tell them how much I appreciated all their work over the years.

SPA said...

me and everyone I knew thought Vic and the ICE agent would get getting it on... that's funny that Ryan knew those would be the expectations

Anonymous said...

All Billings got was two days back pay!!! HAHAHAAHHAHAHA!!! What a sap!

That just resonated with me!

Chris

Justin said...

"Personally, I would have ended two beats earlier, *before* Vic goes into his drawer for the gun."

I disagree. If the show had ended with Vic sitting at the desk defeated, then it would seem like his cubicle life is a fate worse than death and similar to prison. I'm inclined to side with the people here who think that three years of soft cubicle labor isn't exactly going to square Vic with the universe in terms of the horrible things he has done and that he is ultimately not as reflective as we have seen him at certain moments during the last two episodes. The last shot of the show really does suggest that Vic gets away with it, and that's how it had to be. As an audience, we have been rooting for him in the spite of some seriously evil deeds, and just because the worst of these (ruining Shane's family; selling out Ronnie; playing Olivia) have taken place right here at the end (and all of them were cataloged in the immunity confession) does not mean that the audience should be left off the hook by seeing Vic get what he truly deserves. In any case, what would that even be? Vic living to scheme another day leaves the audience in a similar purgatory to the one in which Vic himself mired at the end of the episode. I think this is the great accomplishment of The Shield, especially as compared to The Sopranos. Shawn Ryan implicates the audience for cheering the monster he created in a way that David Chase never really did with Tony Soprano. For those who suggest the finale wasn't visceral enough, I submit the real discomfort I felt watching it as evidence to the contrary.

Kevin Michaels said...

Absolutely incredible finale. Such an excellent wrap-up to a great series.
Everyone else has pretty much said everything there is to say - but a couple of moments stand out for me and demonstrate the beauty in both the acting and the writing:
-The utter desparation in Shane's expression while on the phone when he realizes that he is out of cards to play and that the situation is beyond hopeless. The pain and fear is incredible.
-Ronnie's excitement and elation after the ICE bust goes down to being told that one of the uniforms will give him a ride back to the station house, and then him back in the Barn in tears, after learning that Shane has taken not only his only life but Mara's and jackson's also (and this is before he realizes that Vic has sold him out)
-Vic in his nice little suit at his cubicle hell - forced to a nine to five hell for the next three years with no friends or family or respect (none on the street and none at the job....for a cop like him that's a killer). His face while being shown around by the HR lady was priceless.

What I will alsways remember about this show aside from the action was the beauty in the silences, the looks that passed between characters (the things said and unsaid), and the emotion each of the actors brought to their characters. Great stuff on a lot of levels.

I understand some of the angst about the unresolved issues, but I think some things are better left unsaid. Not every story needs to be tied up in a neat, tidy little package. Life isn't alwways about complete resolution and it's good to see that the finale stayed that course.

My congrats and appreciation to Shawn Ryan and his outstanding team of writers, actors, and production assistants for making this show happen. It was a great ride. And my thanks to you Alan, for giving us a forum to talk and trade thoughts/comments/ideas back and forth.

I'm going to miss this show -

Anonymous said...

I think Vic got what he deserved. It was towards the end of Season 4 that I began to think the proper end for Vic was to be left completely alone: no friends, no family, no one that wants to be anywhere near him. Death would've been too easy. Prison would've just been a new environment for him to master; it probably would've invigorated him rather than beat him down. Sure, in the office he can master 10-page reports and control the space around his little cubicle, but someone like Vic won't take any pleasure in that.

I also liked the image of Vic in the Barn, everyone staring at him like the pariah that he has become. Contrast that with the very first episode, when he completely owned the place.

It was always a strong possibility that he would go that route, but that scene eliminated any suspense.
Yes, it was telegraphed, but I disagree that it eliminated any suspense. I could see what was coming but I was still sitting at the edge of my seat with my hands over my mouth and my heart pounding. In fact I would say it was foreshadowed rather than telegraphed. Foreshadowing is a perfectly acceptable literary technique.

Nicole said...

I recall wondering why Shane would leave the salesclerk so much money because I knew money was tight for them, but I did not expect him to kill them and himself. That scene was definitely a memorable one, although I can't call it a highlight.

What I like about the ending is that it can be interpreted in so many ways. Some think Vic won't be able to handle the cubicle life whereas others think Vic will try to get back into it from another angle.

I can see why some think Vic being office bound is not punishment enough, but I think it will be more difficult for him than the average person because he just doesn't get it. His attempt to get in with the Vietnamese even after Beltran has been arrested showed to me that Vic can't accept reality even when it faces him directly. He will never give up trying to get his kids and Corinne back, which probably won't ever happen. That is why Shane's suicide got to him, because Vic would never have given up like that.

Claudette's reveal to Dutch about her health was truly heartbreaking and her outlasting Vic is another phyrric victory to the growing pile of them in this episode.

It is a much more satisfying conclusion than the Sopranos, but it isn't as definitive as I thought it would be, which is not a bad thing.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I have not seen or heard this anywhere...and maybe I am crazy, but are we sure Dutch is not the serial killer? Remember the episode several years ago where he killed all the cats?

Butch said...

I'm really shocked that some people are saying the ending left them unsatisfied ("What happens next?"). I guess if you don't do a Six Feet Under-style montage, there are always going to be people saying "yeah, but then what?"

Bryan Murray said...

That was really great and there's not much to else to say that hasn't already been mentioned. Looking back on the episode, it seems like that each characters' outcomes was predestined but it was still amazing to see how it played out. The Shane ending was the ultimate gut punch but as soon as it happened I felt at peace--crazy how they a tv show can do that to me.

Has anyone seen The Mist? It was directed by Frank Darabont (Shield guest director), Laurie Holden had a big part, and the ending is very similar to Shane's murder-suicide. The book was based on Stephen King's novella but Darabont came up with his own ending. Wonder if Ryan was inspired. Both great and terrifying endings.

PokerFool said...

(First time reader of your blog)

I haven't gotten through all the comments, but here are my thoughts:

I thought it was a very good episode. The only thing I really didn't like was the Andre Benjamin story line. Seemed out of place and just wasted time.

But the scene with Mara and Jackson laying on the bed is just haunting. I actually feel sick to my stomach thinking about it. This is coming from someone who has two children (and one more on the way). Killing ones own child just seem unfathomable to me.

I think giving Mara and Jackson that fate was unnecessary. I would have really liked it to end by Shane being able to get a deal for Mara (or some how him getting blamed for that girls death). Then Shane can either kill himself/get killed/go to jail/whatever.

My wife has watched most of the episodes with me (Even though she says she doesn't like the show). But last night, she fell asleep while watching the final episode, and I am really glad she did, because I would not want her to see the murder/suicide scene. When she woke up at the end, she asked what happened to them. I told her that Shane killed them and himself. I actually wish that I didn't tell her the truth and said that he only killed himself and they were fine.

I've never been affected like this about a television show/movie/fiction before. (Schindler's List comes to mind though). I guess that proves that this was great drama.

Rolly said...

The ending was awesome. The scene of Mara and Jackson was the most emotional of the hour and probably the most emotional scene I have ever seen on TV.

Everything Vic had ever touched has been destroyed. I could not see a better punishment for him than what he had to witness and deal with.

Thank you, to all that were involved with The Shield.

BT said...

Did anyone get the feeling that Billings was going to "miraculously" crack Lloyd and get the credit for it? Thus leaving Dutch as the "hard luck" Dutch Boy he was three years ago? Instead we get a confident, ladies man who will eventually head up the Barn...

I wish they built up the Mayoral race with Aceveda a bit more... as we can see from the finale, he will always be the political Mackey. I always thought they would off Aceveda throughout this series but he managed to avoid the cell phone pic scandal, the hooker obsession, the Mexicans, the Strike Team, and all the other predicaments the Barn put him in. It is so ironic that he managed to take credit for all of Vics success on the streets and the Barn and downplay the corruption. Though I imagine that with Ronnie being put away that Aceveda could be thrown under the bus as well.

This is my all time favorite show and it will be missed

Kensington said...

Vic really doesn't get away with everything. Getting away with it would have involved more than just escaping incarceration, it would have meant not being exposed. If Vic had truly gotten away with it, he'd maybe still not be a cop anymore, but he wouldn't be ostracized. He'd still have friends and connections.

Now, he's got nothing, and everyone knows everything. He can't go to a cop bar and pal around with former colleagues. He can't call in any favors. He can't help. Hell, he probably can't even get an audience with
a slug like Acevedo ever again. Imagine that.

If he's ever going to have a friend again, it will have to be someone new, and he'll probably never be able to let anyone know the truth about who he is, either. He's truly isolated now.

jim treacher said...

Is it possible Dutch killed Rita?

Let me put it this way: No.

That's a perfectly valid analogy for a lifetime prison sentence.

Might as well be. Mackey's like a shark. He has to keep moving. Is he going to put up with this? If that last shot is any indication, no. But that doesn't mean he can't see the bars of his cage.

Just went back and watched that scene of Shane listening to his wife and son talking, right before he yelled out the title of the episode. Damn, this was a good show. I don't remember any episode of any show where we spent so much time just watching the characters think.

Chuck B. said...

GREAT review! The only thing that I would disagree with is that..just maybe...Dutch wasn't innocent this time. He's always been a classic psychopath (remember the cat-strangulation?) and I think that this was left open on purpose. I had this thought when the kid told Claudette, "..sometimes you don't really know people".

LMO said...

I'd like to toss out a theory on the murder/suicide of Shane's family. I think Mara was in on it and agreed to it.

First, we know that Shane and Mara's relationship is the antithesis of Vic & Corinne's. Their relationship is characterized by true partnership and openness, and they've been in it together the whole way. I don't see Shane making this decision alone.

Mara says that she can't make a car trip. She's in so much pain and resigned to losing the children, and that thought terrifies her. She's worried about what Jackson will think of them as he gets older, knowing what his parents became.

Although Shane clearly states that Mara and Jackson didn't know what they were drinking, remember that he is invested in the idea of her being an innocent. He tells Billings that she murdered the girl in self-defense (sorta true? but an exaggeration) and in the heartbreaking bathroom scene, he says she was innocent before he effectively ruined her life. Another cleansing of the past, since we all remember that Mara was far from innocent (stealing the money train cash? There are reasons we've all hated her!)

I believe that he clears her of guilt in the suicide note as one last act of protecting her. He's convinced himself that it was all his fault.

The final piece of evidence, for me, was his saying, "family meeting." What else did they have to meet about?

I don't know if this makes the result more, or less horrifying.

Great episode. Thought about it all day!

LMO

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with LMO. Because Shane called the "family meeting" I assumed when we saw Mara and Jackson that he had discussed a family suicide pact with Mara, perhaps convincing her that they must include Jackson because he'll learn about what his parents had done when he grows up -- possibly even from Vic. I'm still not convinced that isn't the way it went down, as opposed to the murder-suicide suggested by Shane's note. If all Shane did was give them something to drink, why call for the family meeting? My money says Mara went along with Shane's plan.

Chris said...

I agree that this ending is definitely a purgatory of sorts - and NOT a temporary three year one.

While Vic does get off relatively light compared to his sins, it's hard for me to imagine a fate worse for him because in death, his suffering would end. As noted already, he's lost everything that matters to him - as a "Type A" alpha dog, Vic now has no one to lead, no fawning associates. In fact, as shown by his return to the Barn for Claudette's picture show, it was clear that he was a pariah amongst his peers.

Not only are Corinne and the kids gone, never to be seen again, but his claim on Dani's kid is over (what judge would permit custody to a cop killer - even California isn't THAT liberal)?

Finally, the job he loved is lost to him forever - he can never be in law enforcement again, as no agency would touch him, and even if he could, what cop could trust him as a rat and copkiller? There was some interesting foreshadowing about his relative impotence without his badge in the episodes leading up to the finale after he quit from the Barn. There's no doubt in my mind that were he to go out on the streets after his ICE term, he's engendered enough hatred from so many parties that without the protection afforded by his badge, even Vic would eventually get killed.

I love Shawn Ryan's metaphor for Vic about him being a shark - it just keeps moving - and despite the tremendous personal loss that Vic has been dealt by the end of the episode, there's nothing for him to do but keep moving. However, with the way the writers have written out the consequences of his actions here in the finale, it's clear to me that while he leaves that ICE office with a smirk, it's empty bravado.

Also, if Ronnie's fate isn't worse than Vic's, it's got to be at least equal. He gets to suffer the rest of his life betrayed by Vic, and the target of harassment if not attempts on his life by Antwon Mitchell and his ilk.

Anonymous said...

I know that being "out of the action" seems like a big deal, but Vic's punishment is not a punishment at all.

Consider all that happened before, and put it in perspective. Here's "Vic's Fate":

1 - An unfulfilling, possibly gruelling job, which he must go to for 3 years and be paid $62K a year with a 401K, vacation time, weekends off.

So, in Vic's world, it's worse to do 3 years in a job you hate than to be killed or go to jail?

But of course, that's not all. There's:

2 - He never sees his wife and kids again.

Vic already got a taste of this at the end of season 1 when Corrine fled. He seemed to adjust somewhat in that time. And Corrine told him to his face that he has to pay a price, and that price was that he is out of his family's life forever. While he probably thought he could weasel out of that by manipulating her later, he was not entirely unprepared for it. And when Olivia explained the situation, he seemed to accept it with the one thing bothering him that he did not have a chance to say goodbye.

So all of that aside, he's now a freewheeling bachelor with a nice government job and no real responsibilities or obligations.

Which leads us to his existential issues.

3 - Guilt over Shane.

Vic was willing to kill Shane and Mara himself. The real tragedy is that Jackson was killed as well. But given what lengths Vic was willing to go to, in fact even pondering for a moment having to kill Jackson himself (when he said Jackson is too young to be a witness... he reached that conclusion after wondering if he had to kill Jackson, meaning he was capable of it). So Vic's guilt over Shane can be overcome in his twisted mind because he was almost the man that did the deed to Shane himself.

4 - Guilt over Ronnie

This is probably the biggest thing that will eat at Vic. Because he ruined all those lives, killed all those people, and did all that damage to protect the team, and in the end he is the one who ratted out the last guy on his team. But again, if Vic can get over the guilt of Shane, he can get over Ronnie, probably believing that what he did to Ronnie was the only really bad thing he'd done because he went against his own personal code of loyalty. But, Mackey has an internal card to play here even, because he rationalizes that it was either Ronnie or his family, and turning on Ronnie was to protect his family. And the fact that Corrine played him even further removes his culpability because he's now a victim of all these circumstances.

All things said and done, Vic Mackey got away with it all, with a paycheck and a steady job to boot. He's doing better than alot of people. And he deserved worse.

M said...

Might as well be [a lifetime prison sentence].

You have absolutely no sense of perspective, do you?

Ron Epstein said...

RE: Family Pact Suicide

Why wouldn't Shane share drinks with Mara and Jackson? Maybe he wanted to give them a proper burial?

Anonymous said...

I thought a brilliant end to a fantastic series. I am still haunted by the images of Mara and especially Jackson. That little boy holding his little police car is just too tough to take. A couple of things though.

When Shane called a family meeting I thought he was going to go off and kill himself alone. Did Mara know what she was doing or did Shane decide by himself that this was the fate that should befall his family?

I have to disagree with anyone who thinks Vic has fate worse that prison or death. So are you telling me given the 2 situations that you would rahter be Ronnie than Vic? I wouldn't. I am not saying that Ronnie will die in prison (Don't convicted poilce get put in protective custody?) but the implication is that he is going to be in prison for the rest of his life. Vic is going to work a job that "is not him" for 3 years. That is hardly a fate worse than death.

Also even though Shane killed his entire family I actually find him to be the better person than Vic. Vic has turned on everyone in his life. He truly is a sociapath with no remorse and no guilt. No pictures of Ronnie on his desk. If the goal this season was for people that were rooting for Vic to turn against him because of all the horrendous things that he did then they got me.

I'm surprised that anyone felt left hanging by the Dutch-Mom killing kid story line. Claudette said that all they needed was a little time and he would break. I do think that the whole Dutch is the serial killer after his "road paved with dead bodies" speech but after Claudette tells the kid to get ready for his close up I think he kid showed a noticable smile. Maybe it was just me.

The final scene for me is just confirmation that really nothing has changed for Vic. He will eventually find his family or least go down trying to. He is the shark always moving forward and is not going to be slowed down by little things like not having a badge or "hey wait a second this is illegal". Be it vigilante or whatever you want to call it he is still going to be Vic Mackey.

Carl Williams said...

As one who wasn't completely blown away initially, I gotta change my tune after rewatching it a couple times. It "rewatches" very, very well and truly was excellent. I still think I expected more after Alan's initial comments some weeks back, though.

scooter said...

Mackey is a freakin rat. He left his boy Ronnie out to dry. Vic should have tipped Ronnie off and sent him to the farm in Mexico Lem was gonna go to.

Anonymous said...

Ron, Shane wouldn't share drinks because then it would appear to the rest of the world that it was a family suicide pact. Even though I believe that is what it was, that's not what Shane wanted people to think. He wanted to take a bullet for the family (pun intended) and pin it all on himself, keeping the others "innocent."

Anonymous said...

I thought the ending was strong, but I think that the FX channel kept it from being truly exceptional.

Recognizing that ad revenue is what allowed FX to create The Shield and air it for seven incredible seasons, I felt that the number, frequency and timing of the commercials in the finale severely detracted from my viewing experience. Throughout the final season, the commercials were noticeably limited because of an exclusive partnership with Bud Light, which presented the show with "limited commercial interruptions." Several episodes had huge blocks of time, 20 to 30 minutes, without commercials, allowing the tension to build as the plot continued full steam ahead. When there were commercials, I don't remember them coming at a time that frustrated me or interrupted the drama in a disappointing way. In fact, they were sometimes used to gracefully progress the narrative, like during Vic's confession scene, when we don't see him confess to everything because we really don't have to.

But last night was different. For example, when the team from the Barn goes to Shane's place. That scene was absolutely brilliant, perfectly scripted, shot, acted and edited. And just as the dread is sinking in, just as the full extent of it becomes clear and we sit there shocked, taking it all in, FX cuts to some blaring commercial pimping a different show or crappy beer or whatever it is. The same thing happened at other points, like after Ronnie's arrest, and it really took me out of the moment and left me feeling disappointed in the network.

I'm sure that some of my disappointment was just realizing that one of my favorite shows was really ending for good. But I'm also disappointed that FX wouldn't let the show that redefined basic cable and made the network a success go out a bit more gracefully with regard to keeping its loyal viewers in its universe and truly savoring the experience, rather than subjecting them to the same loud Nip/Tuck previews or images of flying mutants. I thought it was in really bad form, because if any show deserves to remain uninterrupted in its final hour, it's The Shield.

Alan, since you were privileged to see the episode without commercials, do you have any insight? Did the creative team have anything to say about how commercials affected their work, especially the finale? Obviously commercials are part of the deal when writing for TV, but I can't help but think that the finale in particular will play much, much better uninterrupted on DVD, and I wonder if there were any scenes edited down or cut entirely to accommodate the commercials.

Butch said...

Not to be too morbid about it, but I'm pretty sure Shane wanted to be the last man standing to make sure everything went as planned with Mara and Jackson.

jim treacher said...

So, in Vic's world, it's worse to do 3 years in a job you hate than to be killed or go to jail?

Yes. It's not about what you and I think is Hell. It's about what he thinks is Hell. And it's entirely of his own making.

You have absolutely no sense of perspective, do you?

I think I do, having watched every episode of this show. I think I understand this character, and why this ending is perfectly fitting for him. But if you'd care to provide the perspective you think I'm missing, I'm sure we'd all benefit.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alan, since you were privileged to see the episode without commercials, do you have any insight? Did the creative team have anything to say about how commercials affected their work, especially the finale? Obviously commercials are part of the deal when writing for TV, but I can't help but think that the finale in particular will play much, much better uninterrupted on DVD, and I wonder if there were any scenes edited down or cut entirely to accommodate the commercials.

As I mentioned in last week's review, I'm sure being able to see the final two episodes together in a darkened theater, without any commercial interruption, enhanced my appreciation of them. There were no breaks in the action for me, no jumping from Mara and Jax on the bed to a beer commercial.

But one of the things Shawn talked about that didn't wind up in the transcript was how being on basic cable instead of HBO or Showtime helped drive a lot of what made the show great. When writing ad-supported television, you want the scene right before the commercial break -- known as the act-out -- to be especially strong in some way so viewers will be motivated to stick around. Because Shawn wanted the freedom to rearrange the chronology of episodes -- deciding that the A-story worked better if it had three scenes in a row together instead of trading off with the two subplots -- he told his writers, "Write every scene as if it was an act-out." In other words, try to make every scene end on such an interesting note that it could work as the end of the act, no matter how Shawn would rearrange things in editing.

In this case, I could see how frustrating it would be -- Vic walking off into the night worked much better if it was immediately followed by the "Long Time Ago" montage -- but for most of the run of the series, the ad breaks were oddly beneficial.

Anonymous said...

In this case, I could see how frustrating it would be -- Vic walking off into the night worked much better if it was immediately followed by the "Long Time Ago" montage -- but for most of the run of the series, the ad breaks were oddly beneficial.

I was so fed up with the commercials throughout the show that I actually turned it off when Vic walked off, Shawn Ryan's name came up, then the show went to commercial. During the series I didn't like to watch previews for the following episode, so I didn't even realize that there was an ending montage to the finale. Maybe that would've created a bit more closure that I thought was lacking.

Thanks for your insight about how the writing staff used commercials throughout the show. Indeed, they were masterful at doing that. But I think that technique (again, a necessity of the medium) was handled much more effectively during action-packed/heavily plotted sequences, especially when capped off with a badass laugh line from Vic or Shane. The breaks were effective in building anticipation and making us look forward to what lay ahead, and even gave viewers a chance to catch their breath.

But when delving into much more emotional territory--as so much of the finale was--the breaks definitely did the show a disservice, taking me as a viewer out of the show's universe and ultimately reducing the power of some key scenes.

Thanks for doing such a great job leading a thoughtful discussion of this show, which was my last remaining reason to keep cable. Perhaps we'll get lucky with something, like if Sons of Anarchy continues to improve as it has from the first episode, but I doubt we'll be seeing anything as significant, groundbreaking and entertaining as The Shield anytime soon.

Nicole said...

I don't think that Dutch is the serial killer, despite the cat incident. First, the kid was played by Kyle Gallner and he's been the go-to juvenile psychopath in most shows recently. Second, Ryan himself said he didn't think that the cat incident was a big deal, so it doesn't appear as though he was writing Dutch to be this secret serial killer. Dutch and Claudette were set up to be the anithesis of Vic and Shane, and so her confidence in him was not misplaced. Dutch was never as slick as Vic both as a cop or with the ladies, but in this case socially awkward doesn't mean secret killer. This would have required Ryan to have been deliberately deceiving the viewers, and he was brutally honest about the despicable nature of the Strike Team, so I can't see why he would chose to do so with Dutch.

And I completely agree that jail would have been easier for Vic to handle than this office job. He would have been able to work deals in prison and probably would have lead a gang or two.

I don't see any scenario where Vic would have chosen death though. Only going out on a blaze of glory would have fit Vic's perception of himself as hero, and now he has to deal with the fact that others know that he is absolutely not one.

Anonymous said...

What a show! The ending was perfect. Everyone connected to the show did a wonderful job for seven seasons. Thank you thank you thank you!

It is my hope that this show continues, on some level. Vic could spring Ronnie from Jail. Dutch could corner the kid for the killing of his mother. Acevada could lose the mayors race. Face it, the show could continue in many directions. I am so sorry that we are losing one of the best shows on the air. You will be missed.

Ryan, if you’re reading this please consider some type of future for this show and their characters.

Gary said...

LONG TIME AGO

When you turned out the light
and walked out the door
I said to myself
what did I come here for?

Did you have a good time
drinking whiskey and ryhme
and did you want to be
Bonnie and Clyde?

What goes on in your mind,
what goes on in your head?
Who did you think I would be
ha, well you got me instead.

You think there's some connection
that I'm your female reflection
but no...

I can be loyal
and (a) I can be true
but that's for somebody else
and it will never be you.

You think we're predetermined
but babe you're learning
way to slow...

But it seems such a long time ago.

He can see things
you'll never know how to see.
He's three times the man
you'll never know how to be.
I'll do anything he wants
and I'll go anywhere
he wants me to go.

And if that isn't love
then I guess I'll just never know.

But it seems a long time ago...

Anonymous said...

Come on now, get real. Vic got off very, very easy. The fate worse than death/jail is a wonderful literary concept, but in real life? Please.

First, it assumes that people are static, and can't change when forced to. Life and human experience shows us that people can and do change. So Vic won't see his family or be a cop ever again. That's too bad, but he's free to meet someone new and start a new family. Earlier in the series, Vic talked about how he loved golfing. Maybe he'll go be a starter at a golf course. Whatever. He's got OPTIONS. He's got FREEDOM, even though he doesn't see it yet because the wounds are too fresh. If he gets through the first few months without blowing his ICE deal, he's got the chance to find some happiness, which is a lot more than we can say for Ronnie or Shane. You can always start over.

Seriously, this "cubicle hell is worse than prison" talk reminds me of the 90 year old guy who drove his car though the Santa Monica farmers market and killed 10 people, and argued that he shouldn't be prosecuted for the deaths because the anguish he felt for killing the people was worse punishment than any prison sentence could be. Yet he's going to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow at home, at ease. Just b.s.

jim treacher said...

Come on now, get real. Vic got off very, very easy.

Don't tell us, tell Vic.

Anonymous said...

That said, I've loved this show from the beginning, and thought this season was the best season of any show ever. I don't know if I've ever seen better acting on TV or at the movies. I loved loved loved the ending too; I just don't feel that Vic's fate is all that bad. He's got an opportunity to land on his feet.

That said, based on the very end of the last scene, he's letting that opportunity slip by. Let's face it, Vic's going out into the night with a purpose, and that purpose is going to bust up his ICE deal. What card can he play then? Who's going to come to his aid when the audio file of his confession gets leaked?

Kensington said...

In her final scene, Corrine tells Clark Johnson that their new home is "perfect."

Does she mean it?

Anonymous said...

"Don't tell us, tell Vic."

Clearly there's no telling Vic, now. He's feeling sorry for himself, just like that 90 year old. But in 3 months? When he's on a weekend golfing in Palm Springs, having a barbeque with some new friends, enjoying the little things in life that freedom lets you enjoy?

Anonymous said...

One last question that I have is what case do they really have against Ronnie. Would they be able to use Vic's testimony against him? Without it they have nothing.

I don't think they could do a movie with the Shane character...unless they go the prequel route.

jim treacher said...

He's feeling sorry for himself, just like that 90 year old. But in 3 months? When he's on a weekend golfing in Palm Springs, having a barbeque with some new friends, enjoying the little things in life that freedom lets you enjoy?

Sounds like you've got it all mapped out. Ryan should call you to write the TV movie.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure Vic's gotta testify against Ronnie. That should be fun, although Ronnie's probably going to plead out to get some extra protection or TV credits or something

toonsterwu said...

Kensington (don't know why I am directly responding to your posts)

I think she means it, relative to the moment she is in. Right then and there, it seems right for her.

I am just not sold, though, that

a) She is a woman that can live in witness protection

b) That her family life will be alright. At some point, the children will ask what happened, particularly considering how curious Cassidy was earlier in the year.
________________________________
And for all the claims about Vic being emasculated, it was clear that the ending was meant to show that he still had some reach, albeit on the wrong side (the whole reach out to an old CI heard about the Vietnamese plot aspect).

Anonymous said...

Nah, Jim T, I'm not a writer, just a human. I don't know what Vic's gonna do (Ryan might not know either). I do know what cubicle-hell Vic CAN do, and cubicle-hell Vic CAN enjoy a golf weekend and a bbq. These are not options available to Ronnie or Shane.

Vic's human, and given time, humans can adapt. They can accept new circumstances, and they can adapt. Think Christopher Reeve (or Jason Street?). Think Bob Packwood. Think Tammy Faye Bakker. I'm sure they all felt like they were in hell, better off dead, etc etc. It's a heck of a thing, self-pity. At the moment, Vic's grieving for his former life, and feeling very sorry for himself. So right now, Vic may well feel that he's worse off than Ronnie or Shane. But grief is transient. Ask Vic in a year, if he makes it that long. If you still think Vic would answer the same way, if you think his perspective wouldn't change, then it seems to me you're saying that Ryan created a 2D character, which Ryan could take as an insult to his writing.

jim treacher said...

If you still think Vic would answer the same way, if you think his perspective wouldn't change, then it seems to me you're saying that Ryan created a 2D character, which Ryan could take as an insult to his writing.

Just because Mackey doesn't think the way you or I would doesn't make him two-dimensional. But if Shawn Ryan takes anything you say as an insult on my part, I guess that's his problem.

Anonymous said...

Shawn Ryan states outright in his interview that Vic got off easy compared to the other Strike Team members.

Do you view what happens to Vic as a fate worse than death?

As a shark and a survivor, no, I think as long as a shark's alive it can find some place to swim to, I think this is a bad situation for him, and I don't think he's gonna enjoy those three years. The tank's very tiny at the moment.


This is just another hurdle for Vic. A speed bump. He'll survive.

toonsterwu said...

I agree with anonymous in that Vic will land on his feet. I had another post that assessed my several of the core characters endings were true to their characters throughout this series. The point is, Ryan has noted several times, in different formats, that Vic will find a way. He noted in an interview that Vic gets away with things because he deals with the same 3% of the population 97% of the time. Ryan notes the whole "shark" bit.

The ending fits. One thing not analyzed was that ICE got to Mackey a bit, as Mackey was caught off guard about his future, because ICE was a different animal that he hadn't had as much dealing with before. One of the strongest comments in the finale that no one mentions a lot is when Vic told Shane that Shane wasn't as smart. That's the one thing many often overlooked. In looking at Vic as a man who barged in and banged things down, we often failed to see that he was a man who could process and analyze information as quick as anyone.

In the end, the question becomes if he is redeemable. That, though, is a discussion for a different venue upon sociological needs. I think, in regards to Vic, that he'll find a way to get back on his feet. That's the thing with sharks ... you gotta find a significantly stronger predator to lock Mackey down, and he hasn't met that yet. They've peeled some skin off, but he's still there. Now how one views his future, though, comes down to how redeemable people feel Mackey is. I think he's redeemable, and I think that the ending opened a new chapter that could really be explored (the redemption of Vic Mackey), hence all the hinting about potential future Vic Mackey stories and not the Shield (as the Shield without the Strike Team isn't the Shield).

__________________________________

I think one thing I liked about the ending was how Julien came full circle and he was who Danny was at the start of the series, the veteran leader.

Barfly said...

"All things said and done, Vic Mackey got away with it all, with a paycheck and a steady job to boot. He's doing better than alot of people. And he deserved worse"

Everybody is giving Ryan too much credit. It was a cop out ending in hopes for a movie or follow up mini-series. He followed the mighty dollar and you're all praising him for that.

He should have taken a cue from David Chase. Chase had the balls to kill off his main character (and his cash cow)but did it in a poetic and beautiful way that will have all of us discussing it for years.

This finale was sound and fury signifying nothing.

ElReyalto said...

I continue to be baffled by the people who say there was no closure or too many loose ends. I have a feeling those people might not have been following the show since the beginning because the finale was exactly the way it should have ended. Shawn Ryan was talking specifically about his ICE gig but the fact Vic lost his family is the biggest cut of all. Almost all of his more extreme actions were driven by his desire to make sure his family was taken care of - such as the money train heist. He was also driven by the need to be the biggest, baddest player out there and that's been reduced to nothing. He'll keep moving forward because he's a shark but any traces of humanity have now been shattered. Simply amazing finale and the fact that we're still talking about it a day later proves how powerful it really was. On to Sons of Anarchy!

Anonymous said...

Just a great show.I watched from the first to the last and never missed one.It is without question one of the best I have ever seen.It will be missed.my only question is when does the dvd box set come out so I can start it all over again ?

Anonymous said...

I think the ending would've had more of a WOW impact if the last scene had been seeing Shane & his family dead. Show Vic & his dismal surroundings, looking at his pictures, then cut to the "shots fired" call that Dani & Co. responded to- could've been a report of the gunshot from Shane's house. Shane would've been dead when the police arrived, then cue the "Concrete Blonde" song.

Anonymous said...

Since Vic is addicted to power, corruption, & control, he can always moonlight with his old partner (Carl Weathers), and do moraly questionable "security work." That's IF Carl will have him-surely he heard that Vic killed Terry.

Anonymous said...

A well done ending, but not exactly shocking. By the way it was described, I was expecting torture of Vic or his family by the cartel. Or the Vendrells gunned down in plain sight.

The Vendrell ending was predictable, but beautiful. After Mara passed on the deal with Claudette, you knew death was imminent. But it was a great progression to get there. Losing the 100k, Shane's drug use, Mara capping that girl, and her mother not willing to take Jackson.

On the other hand, they missed an oppurtunity to do something with the Andre Benjamin character. What a good story that could have made- a threat to Aceveda, the black/Latino friction in LA, and a nice story arch with Tina. Instead, we get an Oz-like hour and a half. Imagine that story told over five or six episodes, where we got close to him.

A few other observations-

I watched for Francis Fisher's name in the credits. As soon as I saw Lloyd in the episode, I knew she was toast.

Cool to see Dutch's real life wife. Pretty lady, and I recall her way back in Herman's Head, and Seinfeld a few years later.

Antoine Mitchell was easily the best villian on the show. I found his killing of the young girl, far more shocking than anything that happened this season. Fitting that his name would be invoked last night.

Ronnie. Vic could have told Ronnie to escape several times in the past few weeks, and of course last night. Shane was right, Ronnie really was Vic's whipping boy.

Sean said...

I liked the way Shawn Ryan ended the series. It was good to see Vic in his own personal hell and not go with the obvious of either having Mackey go to prison or die. The fact that Vic has to live with the fact that he's responsible for the deaths of Shane, Mara, Jackson and Shane's unborn child is enough to for his conscience (if he even has one). But to know that he's ICE's, well Olivia's personal b**** for 3 years has to be eating at Vic's ego. He knows if he doesn't do what Olivia tells him to do, he'll wind up right where Ronnie is, prison. Just Ronnie's reaction when Dutch arrested him was priceless. I liked Andre 3000's character because it showed what Aceveda could have been instead of a weasly, self-serving jackass like a certain Tommy Carcetti. Like Carcetti, Aceveda let his ambition get in the way of doing the right thing. It was funny to see Billings' attorney flirting with Dutch and see Dutch be typical Dutch. I'm going to miss this show. It's like all of the good shows are gone now: The Sopranos, The Wire and now The Shield. Thank you Shawn Ryan, Michael Chiklis, Walton Goggins, CCH Pounder and the whole cast and crew for 7 great seasons.

Mo Ryan said...

Thanks, Alan, for your interview post and for this recap. It's been great reading -- all of that plus the comments.

I don't really have anything to add, except this bit of trivia, which a reader of my site pointed out. Clark Johnson also had a bit part in the movie "SWAT," which he directed. He was billed as "Deke's Handsome Partner."

I look forward to his next Handsome appearance...

M said...

Come on now, get real. Vic got off very, very easy.[...] I loved loved loved the ending too; I just don't feel that Vic's fate is all that bad. He's got an opportunity to land on his feet.

I don't really have anything to add to this, except maybe that in situations like this I always apply the Newspaper Test™: if you read a news article about this cop who had, among other things, murdered another cop but cut an immunity deal and was now free with the only condition being working a desk job for three years, and the writer tried to convince you that this was somehow a horrible punishment, I'd think even the most haemorrhaging liberal would go blind from eye rolling.

Anonymous said...

For anyone looking for the song from the closing credits...

Concrete Blonde...Long Time Ago

The person who posted this made a very nice change at the very end...

Tommy Christopher said...

Alan,

thanks for the awesome review, saving me the trouble of watching the finale.

I loved Season 1 of The Shield, but I've always thought that the show took a serious wrong turn with the "Co=pilot" episode. Ever since then, I've had trouble becoming invested in the story.

That left many pleasures still to be had from watching, but removed much of the emotional heft.

The course they set in that first episode was for an emotionally gripping tightrope for the viewer, in which the writers dared us to like Vic. In that co-pilot, they let him almost completely off the hook, and largely de-fanged the golem angle.

New Vic was much more like Andy Sipowicz than Bad Lieutenant, so the question of what we are willing to trade for order and security became an easy one.

Watching the show wind down was a reminder to me of how good it was, but how phenomenal it could have been.

Tim said...

SImply amazing, and I'm still emotionally overwhelmed by it all. Wednesday night I rewatched the episode, and watched the closing credits to "... Long Time Ago" a few times to relish those past moments, and then I deleted the entire season off my DVR. The finale was so tough, watching Shane do what he did and seeing Ronnie getting tossed under the bus, along with the fact that knowing my favorite show of all time was over with. It was just too much to revisit, like I need a break till the put out a complete series DVD collection (hopefully soon, and hopefully on Blu-ray).

I was a Mackey fan from the get-go, even after he dropped that rat Crowley, but I think the finale (after a second viewing) is the first time I've looked at Vic differently. Selling out Ronnie, that to me was the worst of his sins throughout all seven seasons. It just makes me sick.

And anyone who still puts "The Sopranos" ahead of "The Shield" is crazy.

Anonymous said...

"And anyone who still puts "The Sopranos" ahead of "The Shield" is crazy."

Or has, you know, taste.

Tim said...

Thinking ahead to the Emmys, Chiklis, Pounder and Goggins have to be sure things. Here's what I think:

• Chiklis --- "Possible Kill Screen"
• Pounder --- "Family Meeting"
• Goggins --- "Family Meeting"

All three were strong throughout the season, but the penultimate episode clearly had to be Chiklis' strongest (that f-ing pause!), and Pounder and Goggins (especially Goggins) were just so great in the finale.

Also, for the finale, Gus Haynes has to get a directing nod and Lisa Randolph a writing nod. And overall, if "The Sopranos" took home the series statue for that hackneyed final half of S6, "The Shield" has to be bringing it home next year. I mean, as great as S2 of "Mad Men" was, it wasn't even close to being the Final Act of "The Shield."

jim treacher said...

Or has, you know, taste.

Or has, you know, different tastes.

Mike Wilkerson said...

I thought this was an outstanding showcase of quality to a show that clearly deserved it. This was one of the best written series in television history and I loved that we had the opportunity to see so many quality stories and characters wrap so wonderfully. I had Vic's final play by play as:

"——— Vic Mackey: After providing a heinous hour-long, mostly off-screen confessional of his crimes over the last seven seasons, Vic starts off this episode with the capture of both a cartel wheeler & dealer (Beltran) and a giant truckload of forbidden product. He finds out from Shane that Corrine has been cooperating with the police and has gone into witness protection. He is witness to Claudette’s reading of Shane’s terribly poignant goodbye letter. Vic stands numb stewing after seeing the crime scene photos of Shane and his Family and then becomes even more numb as Ronnie is arrested in a prelude to a very long prison stay. Vic’s final path ultimatley has nothing to do with CI’s, guns, footwork, or anything other than sitting at a cube-based desk and comptuer system, staring at summaries of gangland reports looking for patterns that will be detailed in one of 5 weekly reports - which shall be “10 pages-single spaced” - while searing a suit and tie. Vic will spend the next three years at a desk, staring at his incredibly small 14″ LCD monitor, listening to the sound of sirens, helicopters and buzzing/humming light fixtures in a non-descript office building, straining to breathe and not look terribly uncomfortable in his ill-fitting dress shirt and necktie."

The "answers" that are given here wonderfully underscored from one true fact: While he has the "control" to put the "people that love him" around him in photographs, he'll never hear any of their voices ever again.

I call that a vibrant and striking answer to a great show.

Anonymous said...

WOW What a terrific article followed by so many thoughtful comments!

I agree with a previous poster that Shane's suicide was on the wall as soon as Mara asked him totake her home last week. Jackson and Mara were more surprising but I had a dunny feeling that could happen as I watched and heard the "at least we'll be together" portion of Shane's exchange with Vic.

Amazing show. Very well done. I have to admit, they did it right. But no matter, I am so sad it's over. I guess I will start at the beginning with S1 again...

Mike Wilkerson said...

Ditto on restarting the series. I just started in on the beginning of "The Money Train" inside of season 2 and it's as fresh as the first time I saw it.

Another great nod to all of the things that eventually pay off in later episodes. It's great to revisit it and listen to the commentary tracks that are available.

scottatl said...

Alan, I hope you are still reading these posts.

I met Walton Goggins at a bar this summer in Atlanta and he told me this season would blow my mind. He was right.

This series had a beginning as good as NYPD Blue and an ending as good as Sopranos. That in itself is amazing.

A couple of thoughts on the finale:

Scenes to remember:

The last phone conversation between Shane and Vic was hard to hear and very powerful. It was clear after that, Shane had made the decision to end his and his family’s lives.

The scene that you knew was going to come: Ronnie's realization that he did not have immunity and had been sold out by Vic. You had to feel bad for Ronnie at that moment.

The final scene - so many emotions - I caught myself watching the clock saying 'Is this it?'. You think Vic is about to crack and for a fleeting moment; will he meet the same fate as Shane? But in the end, the real Vic Mackey emerges and nothing will break him. It made me happy to see him grab his gun, get that look in his eye, and heads out into things that we can only imagine.

Great Show that will be missed.

stlefst said...

And in the end...his only true lasting (last) friend...is Vic's gun...

Anonymous said...

This was fantastic and needs no follow up series,movie or anything else,except some emmys.

Remember, Vic is no longer a cop and he's made a lot of enemies that would love to smoke him. Cops don't look well on cop killers and may even seek revenge.They may conveniently allow him to die in an altercation rather than come to his aid.
Or, he violates his immunity deal,and it probably isn't too hard to do-just having that gun on ICE premises may be enough to do it- so that he intentionally ends up in prison and tries to be the respected big guy there.

Anonymous said...

HE WAS ALLOWED TO KEEP HIS GUN IN A FUCKING LOCK BOX. THATS WHERE IT WAS. IN A LOCK BOX. STFU UP ABOUT YOUR DUMBASS IDEAS ABOUT HOW HAVING THE GUN VIOLATES HIS DEAL AND PAY FUCKING ATTENTION

R.A. Porter said...

@anon, this lockbox...is it the one where we keep Social Security?

jim treacher said...

Somebody's grouchy!

Stuart said...

Maybe Claudette really did crack serial-killer-kid Lloyd?

It seemed to me that at the beginning of the interrogation, Claudette told the kid that his mother's clothes were found in Dutch's trash can, but NOT that they were burnt. Then later the kid slipped up and said, "He burned my mother's clothes!" revealing a fact he wouldn't know unless he were indeed the killer.

Is it possible that the series slipped in this "smoking gun" and let the viewers figure it out for ourselves? This isn't mentioned much in the online forums, though I did see one other person who agrees.

Stuart
http://stuart-randomthoughts.blogspot.com/
http://home.comcast.net/~sresnick2/booboo.htm

E.P. King said...

this is a fantastic review. thanks. I was thinking the same thing, comparing it and contrasting it with the Sopranos finale. I must say, I much preferred the Shield finale. Mostly because it encapsulated what made the series so compelling: you glad Vic was finally culpable for all his actions, and he lost what mattered most to him, yet at the same time you felt sorry for him, and felt guilty for almost liking him.

Tony Soprano is the same way, and I always thought that series would end up similar. I liked the Sopranos finale even though there was much less payoff. The Sopranos finale was much more metaphorical. I always approached it as a commentary on American family's disfunction. I thought the end was cleverly upbeat. In the vein of, yeah, we're f'd up, but it's not all bad. There are still redeeming moments.

There was a glimpse of that in Vic's exit though. If you pay attention closely to Vic's fate as the lights go dim, when he straps on his gun on the way out, I took it to mean: there he goes again, playing fast and loose with the rules, ultimately even that hellish desk job won't keep him constrained and by the book. One could also approach this as a sociopathic delusion, much like Tony Soprano.

Anonymous said...

Watched the finale again last night and a few people here are exactly right - Shane and Mara decided together to end theirs and Jackson's lives. Sure, it was Shane's idea (he bought the pens, flowers and police car, and gave away all that cash to register girl beforehand), but why else call for the family meeting if not to discuss it with his wife? "Family Meeting" was the title of the episode - maybe a clue there? This one is pretty obvious. I'm surprised at how many people seem to think it went down exactly like Shane said in his note.

HenryPorter said...

I've been reading this website for a few days, on and off - and my one comment is that it is apparent from the number of length of the posts that this series had many, many devoted viewers and that the writing, acting and directing was supremely done. Excellent art exemplifies real life, and this series portrayed real life with its emotional trauma, pains, agonies, passions, and sadness.

Anonymous said...

I had never seen this show until a little over 3 weeks ago, but always meant to get around to it. So, I have jsut finished watching every ep this evening.

Reading these comments, I'm struck that it appears that no one else thought that Dutch might've killed the kid's mom? I was thinking that all the signs, how Dutch is smarter than everyone, THAT CAT!!!, his hang up about serial killers, all of it was going to show him as the serial killer he secretly was. Probably would've been cheesy to do, but the thought crossed my mind.

I've seen some comparisons to THE WIRE on these SHIELD posts. All I can say is that after watching at least 4 eps (usually a lot more) every day, I personally found THE SHIELD to be pretty claustrophobic, to the point that I was getting headaches watching the last season and pushed through the last 5 eps today just to get through it. Personally, it just doesn't have the repeat factor that THE WIRE has. Not that that lessens it, cause this is one of the best ever made, surely. I just don't think it will be anytime soon, if ever, that i will watch the whole series again. That being said, I've watched THE WIRE completely three times a counting and plan to do so at least once a year, if not more. It just never gets any better than that show.

erin said...

This will sound odd, but the first thing that came to my head was the series finale of Alias (spoiler alert...years later!) All Arvin Sloane wanted was immortality...and then he gets it...and he's buried under a pile of rubble. Forever. All Vic wants is to be free of the mess of his own making, which means he sells out Ronnie (but not his family...interesting) and gives up all the horrible stuff he's done for this holy mecca of an ICE job...and he's trapped. Paperwork?? Computers?? I don't think I've ever seen Vic Mackey even touch a computer! The reason Mackey keeps moving (as did the show) all the time, like a shark, is because he can't think too deeply about what he's done. Does he have a conscience? I think he used to, he's just subverted it so deeply he has no idea which way is up. I don't think he can be compared to Lloyd. But is he any less dangerous? Of course not.

I kept thinking when he was putting up pictures of his kids, that even as shitty of a father as he was, they were the only thing that kept him grounded. The only thing that defined him, in his eyes, as a good person, with worth. And now...what does he have? Nothing.

Damn Walt Goggins and Michele Hicks--they actually made me CRY during the baby naming and during the scene in the bathroom. How is that possible? They're disgusting, and yet I felt such empathy for them. That's amazing writing and acting. I still didn't understand why they couldn't have tried to sneak out of town before the presidential motorcade...would it have been a surefire thing they would've been caught taking Mara to the hospital? Still...unbelieveable storyline from them.

As for Vic vs. Marlo--even if their fates were similar, the Wire was not built around Marlo and I didn't have any emotional attachment to Marlo or what he did as I did with Vic and the Strike Team, so I didn't think about their similarities.

But yes, I agree--one of the most satisfying conclusions of a TV show that need to tie up all the loose ends to still give you closure. Whew.

erin said...

And I don't agree that Vic Mackey has no conscience. I think what makes him such a fascinating character (as opposed to someone like Marlo) is that he HAS one, and just keeps forcing it down whenever it's rude enough to appear. I think that's why those two wordless scenes between him and Claudette and the ending are so forceful. You can see him thinking about it and getting emotional...and then he just steps over that unfortunate pile of emotional crap and moves on the next thing. If he was just cold-blooded, he'd be one-note.

Anonymous said...

So I'm a little late commenting, but I just saw the episode. In a word..brilliant. I really only have one small gripe. The final song during the credits didn't really complement the finality of it all. I think "Overcome" by Live, which was the end of season 2 would have been the best choice. They may not have wanted to redo that moment, but I think the emotion in the that song matched not only that of Vic, but of all the viewers.

Confused Sardar said...

Well, I am even late in commenting. I started watching Shield about 6 months ago. Watched the first 3 seasons over 6 months, and then the last 4 seasons over the past 10 days. Whoa!

Lots of interesting analysis. I think everything has been discussed threadbare and I do not need to repeat it all, just a couple of comments below.

On the question of whether Vic got what he deserved? Would life-term or a death sentence be better? I think they are all different shades of punishment, and your preference is as good as someone else's, because our preferences are as much colored by the story as by what we value/see in our own lives. And irrespective of what punishment we feel is just, I do not think he walked away scot-free.

However, I do have a quibble with the Ronnie's deal. Yes, I understand it was meant to provide more suffering to Vic. However, lot of this was out of character for both Vic and Ronnie. I think the writers made a few changes in 7th season because of the necessity of closing the series. I also read many comments about Snell's acting abilities, and the comments about Lem going away giving Ronnie time to show his acting chops as well as his dark side. But ... that's not how he was shown for 6 seasons. This seemed to be change only to close the series. Ronnie killed for the first time in 7th season. Also, the effort Vic put up in finding Lem's killer showed he cared about the team as much as his family. How many times he put work over family, and I do not think there was a dénouement which made him realize family was as important as his team. Yes, in the end he was forced to take a call, it could have gone either way, and people can justify or read it a hundred ways, but to me it seemed like a writer's shortcoming in how to handle the series endgame than what was consistent with Vic and Ronnie's character.

They could have equally well shown Vic putting Ronnie over his family, his family getting killed by Shane, and Vic being in a miserable state at the end of the series. I am sure with a week's writing the writers could have made a lot more alternate endings which were true to the spirit of the series and equally painful to Vic (assuming that's what they wanted to do).

Anyway, good series ... good analysis.