Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Shield, "Game Face": The river in Egypt

Spoilers for "The Shield" coming up just as soon as I pat my head and rub my tummy at the same time...

"I'm in this so deep, and I don't know how to get myself out." -Olivia
"You're talking to the right guy." -Vic

There's an awful lot of self-deception going on in "Game Face." Vic has always been a master at lying to himself, but his blinders are particularly strong tonight. He claims that nailing Pezuela "is a down-payment on me being able to live with myself," when even Shane (Shane!) can see that it won't change much of anything, and certainly won't bring Terry Crowley back to life. He refuses to even consider the possibility that Cassidy (who's been in trouble all season) might have played an active role in scoring the drugs for the party until he has the truth shoved in his face. And when Olivia confesses her own predicament, he suggests he's the best man to save her, when in fact he should know by now -- as Ronnie tried to explain to him a few episodes back -- that all he ever accomplishes is falling deeper into the quicksand.

Even the other characters are starting to be plagued with Vic's affliction. Danny actually lets herself believe that Vic might sign himself out of their son's life, Claudette refuses to see how her lupus might be an ongoing liability, and Dutch convinces himself he can outsmart Lloyd, when the closest he tends to come to matching wits with a serial killer is when he picks up a stray cat. (Claudette was the one who got Kleavon to confess, after all.)

But getting back to Vic's own little circle of self-deception, what's really stuck out to me in these last two episodes is how effective Julien has been. While the rest of the Strike Team is running around trying to put out Armenian and Mexican-related brushfires, Julien is doing the actual job, and doing it well. (So well, in fact, that in the previous episode the others had to work around his effectiveness to solve one of their extra-curricular problems.) For all that Vic likes to talk and talk about how all the crimes he commits are in some way in service to the people of Farmington, maybe he should take a step back and pay attention to what a cop can get done when he's not constantly trying to escape the latest hangman's noose.

In some ways, Claudette (and, to a lesser extent, Dutch) served that purpose in earlier seasons. Their cases weren't exactly the same type -- where Julien's doing gang intervention with the rest of the Strike Team, Dutch and Claudette had to contend with rapists and serial killers and the like -- but we still got to contrast Claudette's dogged, by-the-books approach with Vic's reckless, extra-legal tactics. Neither approach has really put a dent into Farmington quality of life, but at least Claudette hasn't left so many other problems in her wake.

I had nearly forgotten about Kleavon. Though his story was featured so heavily in season five, it was overshadowed (as most "Shield" b-stories are) by Vic's stuff (in that year, Vic being hounded by Kavanaugh), and then it didn't come up at all during season six. This was a nice reminder of just what an evil creep he was, as well as bringing home how Claudette's pride may be getting in her way here. Yes, we know that in an ideal world she should still be able to do her job without having her faculties questioned, but "The Shield" takes place in a particularly non-ideal corner of an already flawed world, and this could keep coming up. At least she had the presence of mind to accept Dutch's suggestion from last week to make Danny her administrative aide and emotional backstop.

Kleavon's presence, along with the return of Dutch's profiler friend, also helped kick the Lloyd storyline up a notch. While there's still a part of me that wishes Dutch would be going into fresher territory, the subplot felt much stronger this week than it did last time, in part because of the various expert opinions Dutch was getting, in part because Lloyd was allowed to be more overtly monstrous, and Kyle Gallner (as any "Veronica Mars" fans knows) plays that particular color very well.

Some other thoughts on "Game Face":

• Though the show has been on the air for seven seasons, the events of each season tend to run so closely together that, for the characters, only two or three years are supposed to have passed. Ordinarily, that's fine, but there are occasional bumps like Aceveda's political career. From brand-new police captain to city councilman to mayoral candidate in 2.5 years seems a bit much.

• Speaking of weird timelines, Vic must have a really good body shop, given how quickly he got the Charger back after crashing it into the Army Surplus store in the season premiere.

• This is, I think, the fourth episode Michael Chiklis has directed, and it's a mark of how strong the house style Clark Johnson and Scott Brazil established is that you can never tell when an unusual person is behind the camera. (See also the David Mamet and Frank Darabont episodes, which were terrific but still felt wholly "Shield"-like.) Chiklis (and the rest of the production team) did an especially good job on one of the series' rare car chases. I'm generally not a fan of TV show car chases, as there usually isn't the time or money to do anything interesting with one of the most overused cliches in all of filmed entertainment. But this was very effectively-done, with all the POV shots and use of the revving engines on the soundtrack.

• One particularly clumsy bit: Danny expositing to Vic (and us) about the quit claim paperwork. We would have been better off having it explained in the previouslies so we could get right to the meat of that scene.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

I thought Dutch was going to take the young serial killer under his wing and give him a code to follow and only kill bad guys, who he could easily find as a blood spatter expert.

Tucker Stone said...

If Dutch is going to start going down the road of "if one man can save 30 from death," then does that mean he's gonna icepick the kid? Because I'd really rather not see that. It just seems to predictable a turn.

Anonymous said...

I keep feeling that Lloyd is going to take out Dutch as his next kill.

Unknown said...

I'm calling my shot: Vic gets out from under absolutely everything, and then Cassidy kills Vic.

Anonymous said...

"From brand-new police captain to city councilman to mayoral candidate in 2.5 years seems a bit much."

How about from lightly regarded state senator to presidential front runner in four years?

Also, I too worry that Lloyd will get Dutch. He's in "too deep" and his obsession with stopping serial killers will be the end of him, much like Vic's guilt will be the end of him (by not taking Shane's sensible way out).

Great review, Alan, as always.


Anonymous said...

I'm convinced more than ever now that CASSIDY will be the one to bring down Vic. I hope I'm wrong but all signs point to this petulant teenager being the cause of Vic's ultimate demise.

I predict Cassidy will either kill Vic or snitch to someone higher up than Billings and land her old man in jail.

It would be ironic... Vic does everything for his family... but gets stabbed in the back by his own bratty daughter.

Anonymous said...

"How about from lightly regarded state senator to presidential front runner in four years?"


I thought there was something weird about that car chase too. Mainly, that it was one.

I'm still thinking Ronnie is going to be Vic's downfall. If Vic in fact has one.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if this is something the show always did and I didn't notice or if it's a new trend, but there's a lot of exposition in the first 5 - 10 minutes of the episodes this year. The scene with Vic and Ronnie at the gas station was pointless rehashing of things we just saw in the "Previously on..." segment.

Besides, I doubt many people are watching this episode without having seen the ones prior. Cable rerun schedules, online viewing and DVDs have made serial dramas easier to view and exposition scenes like these less important.

Brandon Kosto said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nicole said...

I don't know if I buy that Claudette being legitimately treated for lupus would somehow negate Kreavon's confession. It's not duress and as stated there was other evidence linking him to the murders. If he was seriously up for the death penalty, it would be the DA's office that would make the decision to drop it, and it would not be possible to protect Claudette when explaining why it needed to be dropped. The DA's office would not want a liability on every case Claudette was and would be involved with. That said, her current position shouldn't be as much of a problem because it is more administrative.

I also really hope that it is not Cassidy that takes Vic down. It would be deliciously ironic, but the "actress" isn't up to the task.

Joe said...

From brand-new police captain to city councilman to mayoral candidate in 2.5 years seems a bit much.

I was thinking...From small town mayor to small state governor to VP candidate...

If Dutch is going to start going down the road of "if one man can save 30 from death," then does that mean he's gonna icepick the kid? Because I'd really rather not see that. It just seems to predictable a turn.

I'm still waiting for the "Dutch that killed the cat" to come into play.

Anonymous said...

It occurred to me tonight that Lloyd's mom (Frances Fisher) was the one who killed the boy.

Just sayin'.

pmaha said...

I have to mention Walter Goggins saying "black mailbox" instead of "blackmail box".

Anonymous said...

I agree with brian. Cassidy is either going to blow the whistle or cap Vic.

Oh, and Claudette is going to kill Kleavon's girlfirend or have her break up with him.

She'll pull a card out of the Vic Mackey playbook!

About time Claudette!