Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Shield, "Genocide": Answer me my wishes three

Spoilers for "The Shield" season seven, episode four, coming up just as soon as I draw a few self-portraits...

"How is that our problem?" -Shane

Michael Chiklis has been given lots of wonderful, profoundly crude dialogue throughout his run on "The Shield." And yet most of the scenes I'm going to remember involve Vic reacting silently to what's going on around him -- those brief, deliberately rare moments when Vic is forced to drop his own self-delusions and recognize the monster that he is, and the even worse monster he created in Shane. The look on Chiklis' face after Shane said he didn't care about Pezuela buying up all of Farmington for the Byz Lats was a beauty. Almost as good was his response to Cassidy's accusations about all the crimes we know he's committed. The closer we get to the finish line, the harder it's become for Vic to keep living this lie that he's just made a few bad choices for the greater good, and Chiklis is doing some brilliant freaking work showing the crumbling of the good cop mask.

With "Genocide," we're still knee-deep in Vic and Shane's attempt to puppeteer the Armenians and Mexicans into killing each other off, but this was one of the stronger episodes of the storyline for a few reasons. First, Rezian and Cruz finally got in a room together (Correction: A reader who actually watched the episode tonight, as opposed to a few weeks ago for me, reminded me that Pezuela was not, in fact, in the room, but sent Rios as his surrogate. We regret the error, but the rest of the point of this paragraph stands.), and while I'm still not fond of either actor, the parley scene meant less exposition and more action. In a similar vein, the assassination of controller Martin and the revelation that Olivia from ICE is in the blackmail box made the box seem less an abstract plot device and more of a tangible problem for Vic and Aceveda and the people around them. "The Shield" runs into trouble when the characters are spending almost as much time talking about the plot as they are experiencing it, and "Genocide" featured a much better ratio.

On the down side, when I was towards the end of watching this episode for the first time, I jotted down a note about how I'm getting tired of Dutch seeing serial killers everywhere he turns. It's in some ways as fundamental a part of the character as Claudette's pragmatism or Shane's short-sightedness, but there's a part of me that had hoped he had outgrown this particular fetish by now. Once it became clear that The Stray Cat Incident was a one-time thing and not the beginning of Dutch's own criminal career, I wanted to see the Dutch-man go in a new direction. They've done quite a bit of that lately, with his partnership with Billings and, recently, his attempt to look after both Claudette and Danny, and having him chase after one more budding serial feels less a bit of full-circle storytelling than taking a step back.

I don't want to say too much else about "Genocide," because we're getting deep into the period where my knowledge of what's coming up could too easily color anything else I write. But good stuff is coming -- or bad stuff, depending on your loyalties to various characters.

What did everybody else think?


Matthew Stollak said...

Are you sure Rezian and Cruz Penzuela were in the same room? I though Amando Rios was Penzeula's representative at the meet.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Sonuva... this is what I get from watching all the episodes in a chunk, even while taking detailed notes. You are correct, sir, yes. Gonna go append a correction now.

I swear, I had a brain once. And a memory.

Brandon Kosto said...

Or maybe Pezuela has your name in the box and you're just stone walling us Alan.

R.A. Porter said...

I wasn't displeased with Dutch's mission to take out a serial killer, probably because I was just pleased to see Kyle Gallner in a good role. After the massive drop-off from Beaver to Kid Flash (or is Bart still Impulse on Smallville?) I was worried his career might turn to crap before it had a chance.

I'd be happy to see him and Frances Fisher show up a few more times this season and play out an arc with Dutch. Maybe the fall of Dutchboy.

As for the rest, I'm shocked by how weak Rezian has been getting each week. He's acting less like a scary mobster and more like a scared shopkeeper.

Anonymous said...

Damn, but that Autumn Chiklis makes me forget all about Sofia Coppola in Godfather III.

Anonymous said...

Whatever happens, I'm betting Ronnie sets it off. The guy is not happy.

The first few episodes, I was overwhelmed by the plot. This is the first one this year with that old "Let's see how Mackey gets outta this one" feel. Keeping track of the layers of deception is part of the fun. Does this guy ever have a conversation where anybody else in the room knows everything he does?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I have to second on Cathy Cahlin Ryan and her shrill acting.

Of course, she's Helen Mirren compared with Autumn Chiklis, but again, I think nepotism is probably this show's one form of kryptonite.

The non relative actors? Chiklis, Goggins, Karnes, Pounder, Kenny Johnson and the single seasons of people like Forest Whitaker and Glenn Close? All have been top notch.

R.A. Porter said...

@kensington brings up a good point, but let me elaborate on it. I think people are forgetting that after the autism diagnoses, there was some concern that Cassidy might also be on the spectrum.

That "dead-eyed thing" and flat affect fit perfectly for someone with a mild diagnosis of autism or Asperger's.

Anonymous said...

If watching the unaired episodes prohibits you from offering commentary you otherwise would be able to offer, why watch them? Just curious.

R.A. Porter said...

@anon, are you saying if you had the next four episodes of The Shield on hand you could actually *not* watch them? You're a better person than I if so, that's for sure.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Anonymous, what R.A. Porter said. :)

The longer version: To save myself time, I'm just going to copy and paste the response I gave to a similar request back in the season premiere post:

SM, people have made that request in the past, specific to those later Wire seasons, and it's simply not realistic. First, you try having 8-12 episodes of one of your favorite series in hand and try to parcel them out a week at a time (or however long it takes to get each review done in between, and for shows like these, it ain't quick). I just don't have that kind of impulse control.

More importantly, my primary job is still to write the column review at the beginning of the season, and the more episodes I've seen, the better informed that review's going to be. And if I need to watch all the episodes before the season begins, there's simply no way I would have time, even with more self-control, to pause in between to write the blog reviews.

Anonymous said...

Point taken on the timing of the writing of the reviews. I guess that as April is the busy season for accountants the fall is the busy season for television critics. Of course, if someone wants to pay me to watch and review The Shield, I'll watch it at whatever pace is directed. ;)

Anonymous said...

Riveting episode......Vic & the boys are just getting sucked further & further in. Funny how Julian is supposedly on the strike team, but totally out of the loop, making him research Rios.
Aceveda is great at portraying someone totally torn, "what have I gotten myself into" with Vic. He so did not want to go along putting the screws to controller Martin and now feels so guilty....I think he will crack soon.
Don't think we have seen the end of this high school killer and his mom..........maybe some sort of romance for Dutch?

Anonymous said...

Did Vic never read the contents of the infamous blackmail box? How could he miss the fact that Olivia's name was mentioned in it? So basically it's only Aceveda who has actually read the files.

Vic is an idiot for not taking the time to read everything. What's the point of having a blackmail box if you never read what's inside? Geez.

I have a feeling Cassidy will be the source of Vic's demise. It almost feels like the spirit of Kavanaugh has been reincarnated in Cassidy. When she confronted Danni about Terry's murder... that was a classic Kavanaugh move. Cassidy hates her father and everything he stands for. She will stop at nothing to bring him down.

Oh, and what happened to Danni and Julian's relationship? They used to be so close. Their friendship was one of my favorite aspects of this show. Why did Danni and Julian stop talking to each other?