Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Shield: No scheisse, Shane

Spoilers for "The Shield" season finale coming up just as soon as I find an attractive but age-appropriate female colleague to mentor...

Sigh... Franka's come and gone and without a single "Scheisse." Last July, I was helping Shawn Ryan procrastinate by seeking advice for my impending baldness (like Vic Mackey, Shawn sports the Mr. Clean look) when talk turned to Franka Potente's upcoming guest stint on the show.

"She's going to say 'scheisse' at some point, right?" I asked Shawn and fellow producer Chick Eglee, noting how wonderfully that particular bit of Germanic profanity has sounded coming out of her mouth in nearly every film role to date. Shawn and Chick looked at each other, smiled and said, "She is now!"

Alas, my contribution to the creative process turned out not to be, and I'm actually okay with it. The character Franka wound up with was far colder and craftier than she's played in the likes of "Run Lola Run" and "The Bourne Identity," and it might have felt dissonant for her to start cussing, just for the sake of an in-joke.

But enough about me (though at some point I'll bore people with stories of my futile quest to have my name put up on the "Homicide" Board, or maybe start regurgiating "I made Turk dance!" stories). How 'bout that finale? Or should we even be calling it a finale? As I mentioned in yesterday's column (scroll down to "Jumping Ahead"), I feel like the season essentially ended with The Confrontation in episode six. The four episodes since have been like a prologue for the final season, with the Shane/Vic drama backburnered in favor of setting up Shane's problems with the Armenians and Vic's plan to keep his job.

One of my fears when I got done watching the first six episodes was that Shawn and company would try to stretch out this storyline into the final season and drain all the tension they had built up since the season premiere. And, to an extent, I feel that's been true. The writers haven't cheated, but the brother against brother dynamic was more riveting when it wasn't being expanded to include the stuff with the Armenians and Cruz.

Now, these last four episodes have been very good, especially the finale, which had Shane going into major damage control mode to stave off Franka's assassination attempts and Vic going off the reservation in a major way to keep his job. (Jumping into the consultant's car as it was pulling away just to beat the guy up? Damn.) They just don't live up to, say, the season premiere, Vic killing Guardo, or The Confrontation.

But let's dwell on what worked in isolation, which most of the episode did. Shane's learned plenty of bad stuff from Vic over the years, but it only seems fair that he's picked up the useful things, too, like Vic's ability to come out on top even in situations where the odds are hopelessly stacked against him. His move with Franka's daddy, for instance, was reminiscent of Vic taking on a roomful of Byz Lats with only a single bullet in his gun. And yet Shane has a natural gift to find himself in a major hole and then keep digging. Bad enough that he got into business with the Armenians at all, worse that he told Franka that Vic and Ronnie robbed the money train, but then to cast his lot with yet another Armenian? Not since Homer Simpson managed to cause a nuclear meltdown in a training simulator that contained no nuclear material have I witnessed such mind-boggling, dangerous stupidity on my television. Shane deserves every bit of misery he has coming to him next season, and I'm struggling to figure out a scenario that doesn't end with him dead, probably sacrificing himself to save Vic and/or Mara and Jackson (a "noble" death that will be too little, too late).

Meanwhile, I'm just picturing the Don LaFontaine-narrated trailer for the final season: "Vic Mackey was a tough cop who didn't like to play by the rules. David Aceveda was a politician willing to do anything to rise in power. In a world where Mexican diplomats get their arms cut off and then drive around with suitcases filled with cash, these two men have no choice but to clean up a very dirty town. Together again for the first -- and the last -- time, they are... THE SHIELD!"

What? Sorry, moving on...

They've played the "reluctant allies" card with Vic and Aceveda a time or twelve already, but it feels appropriate that the two central characters of season one will be working together in the final season. Aceveda's been pushed to the show's margins since he got that City Council seat, and I like the rhythm that Chiklis and Martinez have together, even if I can't for the life of me figure out how Cruz could have gotten hold of the cell phone picture, especially when the original story made a huge point about how the two rapists were too stupid to know how to send the pictures around.

Two parts of the finale that felt like part of season six proper and not teasers for season seven: Hiatt getting bounced as Strike Team leader so he can go star in David Greenwalt's new vampire detective show (that won't be anything like his old vampire detective show), and Dutch's pursuit of Tina. I raised an eyebrow when Tina claimed that Dutch had a shot and should have taken it before Hiatt made his move, but I'm glad the story didn't wind up with the two of them together. He tried the whole mentoring-as-seduction thing with Dani a long time ago (maybe back in season one?), so it felt right that he would return to her when the Tina thing blew up in his face. Some very nice work by Jay Karnes and Catherine Dent in the scene with Miracle Joe's nephew, and especially in the locker room after. These two have consistently gotten raw deals from the other characters on the show; it was nice that they could have this moment together, wherever it winds up leading next year.

So what did everybody else think? Are you with me that the season peaked too soon with Vic and Shane? How do you expect this mess to resolve itself next year? Will Cruz wind up working with the Armenians? Will Dutch tell Dani about his history with kitty cats? Will we ever again hear word one about Julian's personal life and inner struggle? And if the writers decide to bring back Franka, can they please, for the love of all that is good and decent, have her say my favorite foreign curse word?


Anonymous said...

I was a little let down after ep 6 too, but these last couple really pulled me back in. I don't feel like it's a cheat, really, because both guys still have a whole lot of sh*t hanging over them. It can always bubble back to the surface.

Also, minor correction: That wasn't the one-armed man Vic beat the hell out of. It was the "consulant" who took the suitcase full o' cash from the one-armed man.

Anonymous said...

I saw the headline on TV Tattle that it was to be a shocker, and I don't think that it was. It was just a very good, very solid finale.

Anonymous said...

I really hope that's not the last we've seen of Billings..

Anonymous said...

My God, the Mexicans are going to buy up our cities, redistrict themselves into power, and turn everything into a corrupt hellhole! Tom Tancredo was right!

Amen on the general relative letdown of the past few episodes, but only relative to what had gone before; and double amen to the Julian question. And how, I ask you, does Billings not get kicked in the nuts?

The Dutch/Dani bit just proves that everything's relative. In Season One, Dani's the hottest female cop, so she's out of Dutch's league. Now that we're used to Tina, she and Dutch seem like a good match.

Anonymous said...

Compared to past season finales, this was a quiet one but it's setting up for the massive final season so it was expected. Vic looks to have his plate full as (teaming with Acevada) he plans to take on the Mexican mob as well as Shane. What's most interesting is the deal between Shane and the new Armenian Mob Leader. Vic may dig himself into a hole if he ends up "taking care" of Shane once and for all...only to find his own family in danger because of his own actions (if anything happens to Shane before he finishes paying off the debts from the Armenian money train theft).

The Billings Lawsuit has a feeling like Ryan may take an easy road in ending The Barn by having it sued and close down. Hopefully it doesn't come to that simple story.

The sudden exit of Hyatt was surprising to me, his stay on the show (if this is the end) was rather uninspiring to say the least. And did anyone else have a chuckle when Vic called Ronnie the heir to his throne?

Overall a solid finale which opened up a new can of worms for the final season next year. Then I think it's safe to assume everything comes to an end.

Anonymous said...

For a series that has regularly made a point of being messy, last night's episode seemed far too tidy for my tastes. Shane buys some time. Hiatt is dumped. Dutch gets the girl. Vic gets ready to take down a king and save the day.

We ended with questions, but hardly enough to keep me on the edge of my seat waiting for the show's return.

Three months ago I'd never have thought that The Riches was going to upstage The Shield when it came to delivering a fantastic finale... and yet they did (at least for me).

Anonymous said...

"And how, I ask you, does Billings not get kicked in the nuts?"

Because he's Billings. Not even worth the calories burned in the process.

I wasn't let down at all. The best moment was in the hall outside his hearing. "What is he-- Aw yeah, that's Vic Mackey!"

UnwantedTouching said...

Alan, do you have any sense of how CCH Pounder is doing these days? I've been watching her this season and seeing her role diminish almost to that of the stereotypical "disapproving boss."

Shades of James McDaniel as Lt. Fancy, though Pounder's really at least had the chance to show her talent a little bit over several years in The Shield's B-stories, unlike McDaniel.

UnwantedTouching said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alan Sepinwall said...

Also, minor correction: That wasn't the one-armed man Vic beat the hell out of. It was the "consulant" who took the suitcase full o' cash from the one-armed man.

Whoops. Watched the episode last week, so I slipped on that detail. Already corrected.

Chris, I don't know anything about CCH's health, but I was definitely disappointed with how she was used this year. My hope was that putting Claudette in charge of The Barn would put her front and center in Vic's inevitable downfall: the most pure cop on the show going up against the most corrupt. Instead, they quickly established during Kavanaugh's farewell that Claudette had long ago decided Vic wasn't worth the trouble of taking down (especially since he'd be off the force in a few weeks).

I hope she's more central to the final season.

Anonymous said...

I know the show's always been a full throttled cat-and-mouse show, but I still can't express what a letdown this season's been this season in regards to the characters of Shane and Mackie.
What's up, writers?

Mackie would've been bulldogging for Shane the last 30 minutes of the show after he'd confirmed the safety of his wife and daughter, no matter what that meant to his career.

The writers should only be commended for not delaying the inevitable Shane/Mackie confrontation till the season finale as I'd imagined. But all that followed had me screaming at the set as I saw two imposters hitting their spots playing set-up for next year.

Edward Copeland said...

I too wonder why Julian's struggle with his sexuality has vanished completely. It also seemed that after introducing Claudette's lupus storyline they let that drop as well. Still, somehow I still think that Vic's original murder of Reed Diamond has to come back before the show ends.

Anonymous said...

Alan, I think the problem is a little more complicated. Episode by episode the whole season is strong (and outside of the excessive blandness of Hyatt, I can't think of any serious problem with them), now the season doesn't exist as a whole, it's like The Shield doesn't actually had a 6th season, it was just season 5b and season 7a. I suspect this episodes will play very well in any huge marathon people might do after the show ends, but will feel very disappointing to the DVD crowd that is used to see the whole season in less than a week.

What makes the Dutch/Danny scene work is how Dutch actually shows genuine empathy for a case, it has always being a big point about Dutch how as smart and well meaning he might be he utimately doesn't relate to the people around him (outside of Claudette). Even his romantic relationships (or attempts at) always had a to calculated feel to them (Tina might not being telling the truth about he having a shot, but she does have a point: most people would have attempted a move far earlier). In this episode not only he deals surprisingly well with the aftermath of the Tina thing, but he also actual relates and show some genuine empathy toward the people involved in a case. And Danny can actually relates to him in a way she couldn't when he first chased her in the first season.

Julian seems to have pretty much being dropped as a carachter. His promotion to the stryke team had the curious effect of turning him into the new Ronnie (the bland background guy that is there to fill the room

Unknown said...

Did anyone else find Vic's read of the situation in his house + Shane taking the wife and kids. He thinks it's Shane and the Armenian's way of sending a message that they can get to him whenever they want, but there is blood on the damn carpet and its not Corrine's or Cassidy's. Vic's more perceptive and thorough than this, I find it weird that everyone just forgot about the blood trail...

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately FX decides to stretch the finales to 90 minutes by loading up the commercials to a ridiculus degree. We get it, Rescue Me starts next week and FX has the movies. It really makes you appreciate HBO (although I'm sure the Sopranos finale will be lucky to start before 9:10). Still a great episode. Chiklis seemed to morph into the friendly Commish pretending to be the copy machine salesman.

RebeccaH said...

Isn't Franka's character supposed to be Armenian? Why on earth would she say sh** in German then?

Edward Copeland said...

Yeah, it's good that I'm on to FX's tricks by now. At the very least, they should advertise when they are going to go long as they did with last night's finale.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Isn't Franka's character supposed to be Armenian? Why on earth would she say sh** in German then?

There were several exchanges between her and Shane about how she was educated in Germany, which was the writers' rationalization for casting an actress with a German accent. Shane even tells her to go back to school in Germany near the end of the finale.

Anonymous said...

A great finale. I like that they left the Shane /Vic thing open. And as for the other characters, I think it is hard having them all get screen time.