Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Shield: It hits the fan

Spoilers for "The Shield" coming right up...

Man, of all the weeks to be away from home with minimal writing time. I feel like I want to write an opera about all the brilliance contained in this here episode (the last of the ones I've already seen, so you and I are now on the same playing field, knowledge-wise), but I don't have nearly enough time to do it justice. So I'll just focus on The Confrontation and then move on to ye olde bullet-point list of all the other goodness (plus the one obvious bit of badness).

How amazing were Chiklis and Goggins in that final scene? Shane has been a liability to Vic for a long time, but because we know more than Vic does and because we're not blinded by personal feelings the way he is, this is the first time he's really, 100% recognized what a monster he created. And yet Shane is absolutely correct: Vic has no right to claim the moral high ground after what he did to Terry. Vic can go on and on all he wants about how Terry was "a traitor" -- which is, in a way, the writers justifying that act in light of everything that's happened since as much as it is Vic trying to defend the worst sin of his miserable life -- but the two of them are equally damned.

Actors (the good ones, anyway) like to say that they never play villains, that when they play people who do bad things, they have to find a way to rationalize why their character might have done them. Both actors delivered textbook examples of that here. Vic is horrified by what Shane has done (Chiklis has rarely been as scary as when Vic told Shane, "YOU MADE THAT DECISION ON YOUR OWN!") and doesn't want to admit his own role in this, while Shane has had weeks to convince himself that he did the only thing he could to save Vic, Ronnie and his own family. A great duel by our resident Emmy winner and our resident Oscar winner.

That said, I hope it's a bit more clear why I was so concerned about the series' endgame by the time I got through this episode. There are only four more episodes in this season, and Vic and Shane have now gone past the point of no return. One or both has to wind up dead or in jail, and if that doesn't happen within this season's final four episodes, then all the tension the writers have been creating over the last six weeks will be wasted. My fear: either they wrap up this storyline over the next four and then risk the entire final season being an anti-climax, or they try to stretch it out and make a great thing less great. As I said at the start of the season, I hope and even expect to be proven wrong, but I can't wrap my head around how they're going to do it.

Anyway, on to the bullet points:
  • Bad news first: Chiklis' daughter is still a weak link in the way that, say, Cathy Ryan isn't. I never want to see Cassidy again, much less in the middle of an otherwise tense episode like this one.
  • The one plus of the Cassidy story was that it gave Vic yet another problem to deal with, all of it coming to a head in that great sequence where Vic is freaked out about Cassidy, Hiatt wants him to follow a lead in their case, Dutch tries to lure him into the trap with Guardo's girlfriend and Ronnie gives him the head shake on the grenade count. Lots going on for this man, and Vic pushed to the limit is a more interesting character.
  • Anthony Anderson! Always good to have Mr. Mitchell back to mess with Vic.
  • A very special guest of a different sort: Frank Darabont behind the camera for this episode, making this two straight nights of "Shawshank Redemption"-related TV. He obviously contributed in no small part to the awesomeness that was the climax of this episode.
  • Billings and Dutch are really turning out to be an interesting team, aren't they?
I'm too jet-lagged to keep going. What did everybody else think?


SJ said...

When you said "Oscar winner" I thought you were confusing Goggins with Whitaker (who recently won an Oscar). But after browsing imdb I found out that yes, Goggins did win an Oscar but as a producer (for the short film The Accountant in 2001).

I think it's time he got at least an Emmy nod. He has been stunning this whole season.

But wow...that was some scene at the end...I can't remember the last time I was so tense watching a TV show...oh right, it was the time Lem got killed.

I don't like the whole Tina storyline though...her character was always annoying, seemed to be ok for a while and now she's annoying again. And Dutch's fascination with her is creepy. Love Billings though.

Somehow, the next 3 episodes have been leaked on the internet...I think the show is airing somewhere else before it airs here.

james said...

Yes, they are showing it in France at the moment.
They have been showing 2 episodes a week and will air the finale this Thursday.
Can't wait!

Anonymous said...

This is going to be the biggest battle of the monsters since Godzilla met King Kong.

Re: Chiklis' daughter. Has anybody told her she's playing the one Mackey kid who ISN'T autistic?

Unlike 24 rehashing the same crap over and over, somehow they manage to put Mackey in familiar situations (suspected of murder, confronting Shane in an abandoned lot, etc.) without making it feel like a rehash. Damn, this show is good.

dark tyler said...

Damn, it's hard for me to comment on the episode, while having seen all but the season finale. (Thank you, France!)

But that was an incredible scene. And I loved that it took place where last season's final act took place. Just... wow. Fantastic episode, best of the season.

Anonymous said...

Ah, that explains why the credits were in French. Seemed odd to me it would air in a Francophone country before airing here.

Anonymous said...

One of the things that I love about this show is that the charactes are still referencing and suffering the consequences of actions taken in the very first episode however many years ago that was. I think they can make the last season work, particularly if they TRULY take some risks and bring Mackie down. Shane is either going to be dead, in custody, or spilling the beans (much like Chris Moltisante, I guess). If Shane tells what he knows, Vic goes down, and there would be some real consequences to what happened. I think that would be fascinating to see, and Chiklis could really do some great stuff if Vic were in jail or on the run.

Anonymous said...

There's a belief that a pereson tends to see in others the worst things about himself. So if you're a thief, you tend to think everyone is out to steal your stuff, etc. etc.

I find it interesting that Shane, more than anyone else, immediately jumped to the conclulsion that Lem was a snitch and killed him for it. When Vic made that comment about hoping Shane gets caught, Shane's first reaction was to threaten to snitch.

It all leads me to wonder what Shane is punishing himself over. Is it just the guilt of killing his friend? Or is it also the guilt of knowing that if he were in Lem's shoes, he would have caved the moment the cuffs hit his wrists?

Unknown said...

Cassidy is horrrrrible, yes, but also the source of my all-time favorite "Shield" moment. In the pilot, Vic is grilling a child molester, and gets offended that the guy doesn't want to molest Cassidy. "What's wrong with my little Cassidy?..." Priceless.
Which leads me once again to my disappointment in this show. That character from the pilot was pure relentless id, limited only by his own self interest and his family's. It was awesome to behold. That character would have never tried to justify himself to Shane last night, and that character woud never have been on a team with a guy who would burn up the money train cash. That guy knew he was a shitheel, but he didn't care. At the time, killing Terry was not presented as a monumental, earth-shattering deed, but simply as the cost of doing business.
I understand to a point why they backed away from that. It would have been difficult for that character not to flame out.
Another question: What ever happened to the camera photo of Acevedo being mouth-raped? Is it wandering the Pine Barrens with the Russian from The Sopranos? Is Chuck Cunningham there?
P.S.. 2nd fave Shield moment: "...not even on CINqo de MAY-oo!" and calling him "AssInvader".

Cree said...

Wallwriting perfectly summed up the monster that is Shane! Last night was amazing, but I hope that the emotional pay-off in this episode isn't the last one we'll get for the entire series. Both of these men have to go down for their choices.

Anonymous said...

Funny how many of us have watched the French version online. The words "Cree par Shawn Ryan" now get me ridiculously excited.

I won't get into any spoilers here, but in response to Alan's fear about the next season being anti-climatic, I was feeling exactly the same way until they introduced Franka Potente. Anyone else feel the same way?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Okay, I'm gonna nip this in the bud right now. No discussion of the French episodes here, not even in vague terms like above.

Anonymous said...

Everything was Shane and Vic and the Ghost of Lem was great, even if the final "showdown" went down along familiar lines: "I learned it by watching you, Vic. I learned it by watching you!" Shane is right to throw Terry's murder in Vic's face, of course, but as you have noted Alan, Terry's murder has made less and less sense as we've learned more about Vic. Vic is certainly willing to kill -- I think Shane's accusation that he was just saving Vic from having to kill Lem was on point -- but usually only as a last resort. This is partially because Vic does try to operate under some (deeply compromised) moral code and also partially because killing people creates a lot of hassle. More cynically one could say Vic's really just concerned about the cost of business, but it makes him feel good to cloak those concerns in moral language. Either way, Vic's murder of Terry was atypical, and I don't feel like it's ever been properly explained.

After all, if Vic hadn't killed Terry in the premiere, could Shane really have made the argument about Vic eventually "coming to understand"? Is there any other murder Vic's committed that was so gratuitously unjustifiable?

That said, I can't wait until Vic tells Ronnie about Terry, and I want to see what Shane does with the Armenians next week. And yes, I want to know if Hyatt's stilted delivery in the scene with Dutch means he's still a Fed and maybe after Mackey.

And damn, Anthony Anderson was good. That little taste of Antwon Mitchell was riveting, especially the ease with which he read Mackey. Someone should have mentioned him in your Running Scared thread.

But the rest of the episode...Eh.

If you're Claudette, and you're trying to get rid of Mackey, WHY would you give him access to the city comptroller via a politically and personally sensitive case involving the comptroller's daughter? WHY? Claudette isn't stupid. There was no reason for the strike team to be on this -- Mackey's a great strategic thinker with lots of street knowledge, but it's not like he's a great detective. And this case didn't even need a great detective: There were bloody shoeprints at the scene, a shady character everyone in the building pointed to, and an address book lying open on a living room table. I think Billings could have solved this case. It seemed like the whole thing was set up so Vic could get some juice with the comptroller.

And while Vic was solving an easy case, Dutch had to moon at Tina. (And an aside: If Tina is only around to make sure that Danny, who got her stripes at the beginning of the season, ends up losing them at the end of the season, it'll be one of the lamest things the show has done.) Doesn't Dutch deserve a better storyline than this? Not just Jay Karnes, the actor, but Dutch the character -- I thought he had grown up enough (particularly through his relationship with Corinne) not to putter around, staring jealousy at a pretty girl through an office window. Since Dutch and Billings seem to be the only detectives in the Barn, I was hoping they'd be allowed to solve more than one case this season.

...And that leads to Mackey not retiring. It's clear he can't, so the question is how to keep him on the force. There's only two ways I see: either he solves a big case and garners a lot of personal publicity, or he gets dirt on someone high up. The only big case this season are the San Marcos murders, and the only politicians we've met are Aceveda and the comptroller. If I had to guess, I'd say Vic will end up playing some crucial role in solving the crime, and maybe that and his juice with the comptroller will tie Claudette and Aceveda's hands. Or maybe Vic will catch Aceveda in an affair or something. Worst case scenario: Vic solves the San Marcos case and catches Aceveda having an affair, all while Dutch and Billings go get coffee and Tina is promoted to head of the Barn.


Anonymous said...

I meant "Everything with," not "Everything was".


Anonymous said...


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Anonymous said...

Whoa. Vic confronts Shane last night, and tonight, he is in the American Idol audience?

Anonymous said...

The series is really building in intensity this season, something it's never lacked. But I for one will be sorely disappointed if Vic does eventually get a standard TV comeuppance (death, imprisonment, loss of family, etc.). Other satisfying resolutions are possible.

On another topic, The Black Donnellys continues to grow satisfyingly in intensity as well. True, it can only be viewed at anymore, but it's well worth doing. Should never have been cancelled for the stupid Wedding Crashers.

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

How many times do I have to say this? NO FUTURE SPOILERS, no matter how much space you put in.

Edward Copeland said...

I have to think the comptroller thing was specifically set up to give Mackey an out on his forced retirement. I wonder what the time frame for the remaining episodes will be. Will each cover a single day? That could compress time without dragging things out, though it seems obvious that something has to happen to Shane that doesn't give him the chance to spill the beans. My memory is fuzzy: Whatever happened to the tape of Aceveda's forced oral rape? Did Mackey know about that? I vaguely remember a scene where he returned that tape to him. Could he have kept a copy?

Anonymous said...

Being very very very vague here, but Alan can delete it if he wants:

The finale takes places in the day of Vic's hearing. I'm curious to see the reaction, it's great but it's more a huge set-up for the final season (which I'm now convinced will take place in less than two weeks) than the climax The Shield finales usually have (the one big arc of the season that does get genuine closure is Dutch's, actually everything that happens to him in the finale is so satisfying as a payoff that I suspect it plays pretty much like they had planned when it was still the final season).

Anonymous said...

Ed, Aceveda's rape will be adressed in the final four (as will a subplot everyone thought the show was done with years ago).

Anonymous said...

This is NOT a spoiler.

For anyone who's seen the French episodes, I'm curious to see if the upcoming episode uses "nubian" or "black". It's at the 13:30 mark of the episode.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

"How many times do I have to say this?"

Even more, apparently.