Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Shield, "Party Line": Getaway day

Spoilers for "The Shield" season seven, episode 10 coming up just as soon as I ask Walton Goggins for his workout regimen...

"There was a minute today, when you were playing the piano and Jackson was dancing, I actually forgot about everything that was going on. And I was just -- I was just happy." -Mara

I talked briefly in last week's review about the sharp contrast between the Vendrell marriage and Vic and Corrine's relationship. I want to expand on that here, because "Party Line," above all else, is about what starkly different relationships Shane and Vic have with the women they chose to marry.

Though Shane has turned his wife and child into fugitives, has slept with hookers and been beaten up by pimps, has murdered and stole and broken the majority of the 10 Commandments, Mara stands by her man, because he has never lied to her about who he truly is. Even though her freedom and physical safety are at stake, she won't even consider Shane's request for her to turn herself in. She's standing by her man, staying in this family, and oddly seems more in love with Shane than ever during this ordeal. As we see them making out in the pool, or Shane noodling on the piano while Mara and Jackson dance, it's almost like watching them on some wonderful romantic getaway -- until, like Mara, we remember just what dire straits they're really in. Walton Goggins has really thrown himself into Shane's mania; it's hard to look at his smile in several scenes and not be disarmed by this homicidal, racist, fugitive idiot.

Meanwhile, Vic has lied to Corrine through every step of their relationship (both pre- and post-divorce). So all these revelations about what Vic's been up to all these years falls on Corrine like a ton of bricks, and she finally, finally, finally realizes the only hope for her family's safety and prosperity is to get this man out of their lives by any means necessary. Mara won't turn herself in to the cops; Corrine is now cooperating with the cops.

All these changes in allegiance led to one of the tensest scenes of the entire series, as Dutch orders a panicked Corrine to leave the phone line open so he can record her conversation with Vic, even as Corrine, Dutch and we in the audience are painfully aware that they're tying up the line for Mara's call. Superb work from Cathy Cahlin Ryan in that scene, working off of Angela Russo and John Hlavin's script and directed by Gwyneth Horder-Payton.

While Vic has no idea yet that his ex-wife has turned against him in a way it won't be easy to fix, he can see how badly things are falling apart. Olivia and ICE are still shining him on, he and Aceveda keep trying to elbow each other out of the way of the cartel case, and the attempt to put a bounty on Shane backfires horribly when Shane gets jacked for the 100 grand and demands that Vic repay it, tomorrow. Yet his ego (or just his stubbornness) remains so great that when Ronnie quite sensibly suggests it's time to pull a Gilroy and head south of the border, Mexico way, Vic talks him out of it, somehow still confident that they can find a way out of this quagmire.

And, in a way, I can't blame him. Though I've complained in the past about how many Houdini acts Vic has pulled over the years, the cumulative effect of them is that they've given Vic a justifiable sense of invulnerability. We may be able to see just how much worse this situation is than Antwon, or the Armenians, or Kavanaugh, but to Vic, one death trap's the same as any other, right?

One of my favorite moments of the episode is the way that one of Vic and Aceveda's arguments takes place outside of David's campaign headquarters as a neighbor hoses garbage off the sidewalk. Is the garbage Vic's problems, soon to be washed away by his latest scheme, or is it Vic himself?

Some other thoughts on "Party Line":

• On the one hand, it does seem like Beltran the cartel enforcer is just as gullible as the Armenians in his willingness to trust whatever Vic says. On the other, he is operating in a foreign city (and country), trying to clean up an operation that Pezuela was obviously bungling, and I can understand his willingness to listen to this ex-cop who seems so obviously plugged in.

• Is this episode the first time since season two's "Co-Pilot" (the flashback to the early days of The Barn and the strike team) that we've seen a member of the strike team in a suit? It's just bizarre to see Ronnie dressed like any other detective, and amusing to watch Billings try to curry favor with him.

• DeLane Matthews, who appeared in a couple of season three episodes as Mara's crazy mom (maybe the only character hated by the fanbase even more than Mara herself?), becomes the latest old face to make a curtain call in this final season. This one makes a fair amount of plot logic: wouldn't Mara's family be one of the places where Vic and Ronnie looked for her?

• Each episode seems like a chance for Michael Chiklis and CCH Pounder to see who can look more fatigued than the other. Two great Claudette-is-so-damn-tired moments here: when deputy chief Phillips admits that he overlooked a lot of Vic's nonsense in the past "for the greater good," and especially after she gets off the phone with Mara.

• Shane telling Mara the story about how he learned to play the piano reminded me of how little we know about these characters' lives from before the series began. It's like Vic and the strike team sprang into existence only moments before Vic put a bullet in Terry Crowley's brain. When I mentioned this to Shawn Ryan a few weeks ago, he quoted a bit of advice he got from David Mamet: "Backstory is bulls--t."

Once again, let me remind you that from here until the end of the series (three episodes to go), no talking about anything you see in the previews, or anything you read in interviews, or on spoiler sites, or whatever.

What did everybody else think?

36 comments:

Bix said...

Best episode in the history of the series. I'm not sure what to say otherwise, but wow.

dronkmunk said...

All of the characters from past episodes sort of serve as a reminder of how small Vic's world really is, and it is a world that he is being squeezed out of. He has built a network around himself of people he can no longer trust, and no longer intimidate. We saw shades of this in the previous episode when we saw how far he can get with people now that he no longer has his badge, which is to say, not far.

Someone like Vic could never survive in any other environment though, and would never want to. This is his game.

domino87 said...

So much happened in this episode, I have to watch it again before I can really comment on it.

Just wanted to say that Vic's: "Shane doesn't get to win!" instantly reminded me of McNulty's: "Marlo doesn't get to win, WE get to win!"

Both said by each show's main character in their final seasons.

Anonymous said...

So erie watching Shane & family have their domestic bliss for a few hours. Just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Poor Corrine, this can't end well for her. Will we see Antwon Mitchell this final season? Who will be the one to take Vic down? What happens to Ronnie? Will Julian FINALLY come out? How loyal will Mara be to Shane? Why no mention at the "barn" of the absent police woman (with Vic's son)? Will the blonde Fed turn on Vic? Sooo many questions....WAY TOO MANY COMMERCIALS!

Anonymous said...

Alan, we saw Vic, Ronnie & Lem in suits at the corrupt captain's funeral.

Anonymous said...

We saw Shane in a suit at Terry's funeral, as was Vic, Lem, & Ronnie.

Kensington said...

Surprised that there's so little commentary so far, but I guess most people are still caught up in the election aftermath. I almost forgot about the show myself.

I'm starting to have a guess about where this is going, and it's uggggg-lee.

I think there's a clue in the last episode when Ronnie told Claudette that Vic didn't want to kill Shane because death would be too good for him.

I'm betting that Vic is not going to die. I'm betting that he's going to end up in prison with a life sentence, and we're going to get a glimpse of how bad that's going to be for him.

*shudder*

Mind you, I know nothing. I'm not even watching the previews at this point. It's just a guess, and it gives me the heebie-jeebies.

Alan, if you'd rather not have this kind of speculation, I'll understand if you think this should be deleted.

Kensington said...

One more thing, has there ever been another series that has so often managed to be both exhilarating and yet ultimately so very, very ugly?

I loved the Sopranos, but it wasn't exactly heart-pounding the way the Shield has been, you know?

Kensington said...

And yet even one more thing. I think we're probably just going to have to accept that, like the Russian in the Pine Barrens, Julian's sexuality is just going to be one of those things that never gets addressed again. I don't mind, either. It was an interesting storyline, but I think leaving it so unresolved as to be unaddressed is kind of interesting, too.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Surprised that there's so little commentary so far, but I guess most people are still caught up in the election aftermath.

I think that's exactly it. To be honest, if I hadn't seen it in advance, I doubt I would have watched it live on a night like last night.

Tucker Stone said...

Thanks for acknowledging Walt's abs. My wife and I were both struck dumb by that. Jesus.

I wonder if it's a reference to the pilot? That's one of my favorite throwaway moments of the show--that couple of seconds were Shane was working out and started flexing his ass in the mirror. Look at how strong daddy is now!

Anonymous said...

Ironic the lack of comments from last night. And the thought that people were wrapped up in the election. I actually watched the show to get away from it. I guess that is what happens when one views all politicians like Aceveda no matter the letter behind their name. Frankly, I think it's one of the better and more salient statements by The Shield, if it is indeed one.

Anonymous said...

Now on to some thoughts about the episode. I posted last week, that Claudette and Dutch are the moral center of the show. And I have thought for years, that Claudette is the one that has to bring Vic down, because she is truly *good police*, unlike the ambitious Aceveda, and the bizarre Kavanaugh. Rawling may have been well intentioned, but didn't see Mackey for the soiciopath that he is.

Without Vic in The Barn, I'm not sure how much Danny adds to the story. Her purpose was served in parental rights storyline. It was the beginning of the total withdrawl from people in Vics life. Corrine, Ice etc. I can't imagine Ronnie lasting much longer.

Why would Julian bother to come out? Everyone knows he's gay, and discretion seems to be something he's values, and actually one of his better qualities, given that almost everyone trusts him. And by the way, a cop shop ain't exactly the place to come out.

Strange that the guys always send bad guys who hold no more value to Mexico. Hmmm. Moreover, intersting that they are getting mixed up in the cartel. Although that guy is playing Vic as well.

I don't remember Mara's mom being hot.

The Shane story arch has gone from sad to pathetic. On the run with a woman and a child? Will that end as depressing or brutal? Dropping a grenade in Lem's lap was rough, but, this could get cruel.

Vlad said...

Regarding suits, we also saw at least Vic, Shane, and Ronnie in suits during Lem's funeral in the little ten-minute episode that takes place between S5 and S6 (it's on the last disc of the S5 DVDs).

Vic and Shane were also in suits in Co-Pilot (the flashback episode), when they were working Vice.

Kensington said...

One more prediction: by the end of episode 13, it will be clear that David Acevedo will never be Mayor. In fact, I think there's a good chance his political career will be in shambles, and that will be the price he pays.

I don't think it's merely a coincidence tha we seeing such scumbaggery from so many of the characters this season. I think it's there to lay the foundation for some pretty massive comeuppances. I think that's why Ronnie committed murder in the season premiere.

Anonymous said...

Vic's narcissism and antisocial personality always gets the best of him and the others around him. In the past he always had "the plan" that would save the strike team, make them money etc. Now the plan is so delusional, so filled with his own ego, that it can't work. But he still can pursuade Ronnie that it will work--that he and Ronnie will work for the feds?!!! Really?!!!

In addition the whole Shane, Mara and Jackson scenes reminded me of the horror movie setup--the beautiful family having fun until....

Oh and the only place that Shane could his family food was in East LA? It speaks volumes about Shane's sense of ignoring any danger and doing all of the crazy and dangerous things he's done in the past.

Great episode!!

Anonymous said...

Nice to see Corrine finally grow a spine and stand up for herself and her children! Instead of being a puppet for the despicable trifeca - Vic, Shane and Mara - she took matters into her own hands and sought out Claudette and Dutch. Unlike the pathetic Mara, who is willing to sacrifice her own children's lives for the sake of a toxic dangerous man. Poor Jackson and that unborn baby!

For the first time ever, I respect Corrine. I believe Claudette and Dutch are going to bring down Vic and Shane. They are the moral center of the show, and it is fitting that this "good police" triumph over the cop-killers in the end.

Anonymous said...
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jim treacher said...

The scene where the shadowy criminal made sure the politician knew his place, that rang a bell, but I can't quite place it...

Loved Dutch and Claudette doing an end-run around Billings.

Bryan Murray said...

These last few episodes have been really, really good and this season has something great that last season lacked. Giving Billings and Ronnie more to do have been a big part of that, I think. Last season struggled a little without Lem--a little too much Vic and Shane barking at each other. But now that the last few years of depravity are affecting everyone, this show is extremely great again.

Anonymous said...

For some reason, there was a moment during the fight scene where I got the feeling that Aceveda just might force Cruz to...well, you know...and have Vic take a picture with his phone.

Anonymous said...

LOL, I had the same thought. I half-expected Aceveda to demand a blow job from Cruz and order a mortified Vic to take pictures. From the look on Cruz's face, I think he was worried too.

Mike said...

Quite a career arc: From Dave Barry's wife to Shane Vendrell's mother-in-law.

And is anyone ever going to notice that Danny's gone?

Kensington said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Alan Sepinwall said...

Honest to God, why would you post this? Don't you think this is a pretty significant spoiler? I do.

It really isn't. I'm not even sure it's correct. But, just to be safe, I've deleted it.

BWR said...

This season has returned the show to the level where I need hours (or whiskey) to even think about sleeping after a new episode. When the Shield is at it's best -- now -- it is in a different league as Sopranos or Wire. And the way the show has been able to close seasons in the past, I have no reason to expect anything less to close the book for good. Put your helmet on. One dies, the other to jail.

Keevo said...

hey Alan, I was just wondering... is "The Unit" as compelling and tightly plotted as "The Shield"? I am just wondering because both have Shawn Ryan's creative input.

Gordon Harries said...

To be honest, I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop with this series.

Ronnie mentioned that he was going to transfer to SIS within five minutes of the season premiere and it hasn’t been mentioned since. He’s either been working with/for them for six months or that’s his way out of this mess.

Evie Garland said...

What's so amazing about how they're doing this is that I have NO IDEA what is going to happen to all the characters. I have no doubt some will die by the end of the season, but I don't know which ones....All I know is that Mackey is slipping and this is not going to turn out well for him

And kudos to Walton Goggin's hot bod and David Rees Snell looking fine in a suit!!

Kathie said...

How awesome was the fight scene between Acevada & Pazuella!! Didn't think Acevada had it in him. Someone mentioned he was going to force Pazuella to...Vic taking a picture, that could have been added to the blackmail box. Was hoping for more brutal vengance on Pazuella, but getting bloodied & humiliated in front of Vic & the cartel guy was great to watch.
.....Did Shane & Mara really think they could just reach into a big bag 'o' money and give the gang members a couple of stacks of bills without them grabbing the entire bag!! Now they are totally desperate-no money, no place to go, police are closing in....
.....Nice to see Ronnie in a suit
.....Funny to see Billings trying to be Ronnie's new BFF
.....How disgusting was the guy with Mara's mom? Her mom looked like she had been attractive, now very hard & worn......shows Mara had a rough childhood

cgeye said...

When will FX show a marathon of this season? I need to catch up.

Anonymous said...

.....Did Shane & Mara really think they could just reach into a big bag 'o' money and give the gang members a couple of stacks of bills without them grabbing the entire bag!!>>

So I wasn't the only one who thought that was contrived.

When you write a very complicated show for seven years, I suppose you miss a few.

My other one I don't get- was Vic dumb enough to think Shane didn't make a copy of all the dirt he did.

Usually I would think next week would be some wild goose chase if the last several episosed weren't so rough. Then again, after reading Alan's post a few weeks back, I can't wait to get to the last two shows. I almost want to skip the second to last, and do both of them together.

Course I could miss something big in that one and hear about it during the week.

Alan Sepinwall said...

When will FX show a marathon of this season? I need to catch up.

FX can't/won't show marathons of The Shield, because they refuse to air it before 10 p.m. due to the content.

Do you have a cable system with On Demand? You might be able to catch up that way.

brandon b said...

im predicting that somehow shanes family gets whacked and he goes to jail. claudette's lupus catches up to her in last episode after she gets shane causing her death. dutch becomes captain(weird and funny). i think vic will make it to mexico or get immunity and join ice after bringing down the cartel. not sure about ronnie. hopefully aceveda goes down(pun intended). anyways, this is the best show ever and i cant wait to get the box set and watch it from start to finish someday.

Petal said...

I loved Beltran's line to Aceveda: "I don't like to micromanage." It just cracked me up.

Anonymous said...

Quite certain that Julian's sexuality was put to bed long ago. He denied his sexuality, got married and seems to be enjoying the new lifestyle he chose, even if it's not true to the lusts of his flesh.

It seems weird to see a conservative-ish story-line like that, but it was an interesting one and there are people out there that claim to have success with such a strange and interesting choice.