The Shield has been one of the most consistently engrossing dramas to hit television in decades.

William D. Lee's picture

"The Shield" has been one of the most consistently engrossing dramas to hit television in decades. As cop shows go, "The Shield" (along with "The Wire") completely blows away the numerous "CSI" and "Law & Order" spin-offs and imitators that clutter the airwaves. With its documentary-like shooting style, the series dropped its audience right into the morally gray world of lead character Vic Mackey, played to perfection by Michael Chiklis. The "Shield" star earned both an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his performance and deservedly so. Series creator Shawn Ryan and his writing staff built to an explosive conclusion in the show's seventh and final season. Unlike many other series finales, the final episode is anything but disappointing.

WARNING: Some spoilers ahead. I'm about to recap some of the events of the past six seasons, so if you haven't been following the show, skip ahead. I will try not to reveal too much of season 7.

"Good cop, bad cop left for the day. I'm a different kind of cop."

Those words were uttered by Chiklis in a memorable ad promoting the upcoming debut of "The Shield" on FX. The description, ‘different kind of cop,' was an understatement. Detective Vic Mackey walked a thin line between good and evil, doing things we've seen countless times before on other shows and movies. Assigned to the fictional L.A. district of Farmington, Mackey was head of a special Strike Team tasked with the growing narcotics industry and gang violence. He wasn't above beating a confession out of a suspect or planting evidence. He stole drugs from evidence and made arrangements with drug dealers for a slice of the profits. Yet, he was a devoted family man with a wife and three kids, two of whom were autistic. He believed through and through in justice and protecting the innocent. Surely, there were plenty of viewers who sympathized or even glorified him for his behavior. However, Mackey crossed the line at the end of the show's pilot when he murdered fellow officer, Terry Crowley (Reed Diamond), who had been undercover gathering incriminating evidence against Mackey and his Strike Team.

In the second season, the show hit a bit of a sophomore slump as the Strike Team plotted to rob the Armenian mob of millions of dollars in cold, hard cash. The third season dealt with the fallout of the Team's successful heist as Vic and his cohorts desperately try to evade the grasp of a ruthless hitman played by series writer Kurt Sutter. Season four introduced Glenn Close as Farmington's new precinct captain Monica Rawlins. Capt. Rawlins introduced several controversial policies in an effort to arrest a new crime lord named Antwon Mitchell (Anthony Anderson). "The Shield" kicked it into a whole other gear in season five with the addition of Forest Whitaker to the cast. Whitaker played Lt. Jon Kavanaugh, an Internal Affairs officer intent on bringing Mackey to justice for the murder of Crowley. Their dangerous game of cat and mouse turned intensely personal leading to the murder of Strike Team member Curtis Lemansky (Kenneth Johnson) by Mackey's partner and best friend, Shane Vendrell (Walt Goggins). A wedge is forever driven between them which forms the backbone of the show's conclusion.

The first few episodes deal with Mackey and Aceveda once again forming a tenuous alliance against a corrupt businessman secretly working with the Mexican drug cartels to blackmail powerful government officials. However, the real interest lies in the continuing deterioration of Vendrell who takes his pregnant wife and son on the run after failing to kill Mackey. Meanwhile, Vic not only has to find Shane, but find some way to escape prison time as the litany of crimes he has committed begin coming to light. Many fans have speculated that Vic Mackey would be fitted for an orange jumpsuit or even killed. His eventual fate doesn't follow conventional paths. Instead, it is a surprising and ironic end.

Oh, there are other characters as well. Claudette Wyms (CCH Pounder) continues to hide her growing illness while doing everything she can as precinct captain to clean house. Her partner Det. Dutch Wagenbach (Jay Karnes) investigates a teenager he suspects of being a serial killer. The final member of the Strike Team, Ronnie Gardocki (David Rees Snell) works with Vic to find Shane and cut a deal with the feds for immunity. Aceveda continues his rise to power in political circles while Vic's ex-wife, Corrine (Cathy Cahlin Ryan), turns against her former husband. The supporting cast has always been a strengthening thread to the tapestry of "The Shield," but it really is the Vic and Shane show this time around. Chiklis may have received the lion's share of attention during the show's run, but Walt Goggins truly stepped his game up bringing heart wrenching closure to the character of Shane Vendrell.

Season 7 is spread over four discs housed inside two slim cases. The episodes included are as follows:

-Disc 1-
"Coefficient of Drag"
"Money Shot"

-Disc 2-
"Game Face"
"Animal Control"
"Bitches Brew"

-Disc 3-
"Moving Day"
"Party Line"
"Petty Cash"

-Disc 4-
"Possible Kill Screen"
"Family Meeting"

The video is presented in anamorphic widescreen with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The transfer is solid and clean. However, there are many grainy scenes due to the gritty filming style the series employed.

The audio is presented in Dolby Digital Surround. Dialogue comes in clear while the soundtrack and effects are booming, but not overwhelming.

Disc four contains two featurettes. Last Call: The Final Episode runs nearly half an hour and features interviews with the cast and crew as they reminisce about the filming of the series finale. There's also a lot of footage of everyone saying their goodbyes on set. One of the more interesting items touched upon was the fact that Shawn Ryan wasn't there for the production due to the writers' strike. Nobody Expects to Lose, Nobody Expects to Die: The Shield's Final Season is more of the standard making-of piece that runs 25 minutes. It's an overview

Audio commentary tracks are provided for every episode with each track featuring various line-ups of the cast and crew. I haven't had the chance to listen to all the commentaries, but the few I've listened to are very informative and not the usual glad handing or dead silence.

There are also deleted scenes with optional commentary, again for each episode.

I can't recommend this final season enough. Vic Mackey goes out with a whimper and not a bang as many expected, but it works beyond belief. "The Shield" does not disappoint on its last run. If you already own the other sets then this is a no-brainer. If you haven't seen the show before then start from the beginning and work your way towards this fantastic conclusion.


Film Value