SHIELD, THE (TV SERIES): THE COMPLETE SERIES COLLECTION - DVD review

...one of the most consistently engrossing dramas to hit television in decades.

William D. Lee's picture
William
Lee

"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. The gritty subject matter made "The Shield" 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.

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. The main thorn in Mackey's side at the time was then-precinct Captain David Aceveda (Benito Martinez), a character loosely based on Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Aceveda is a politician through and through, always looking for a way to further his career whether by taking down Mackey or working side by side with him.

While Aceveda was against Mackey, 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 in its seventh and final season.

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.

All seven seasons of "The Shield" are included in this new complete series collection. This 29-disc DVD set comes in a handsome package which resembles a hardbound coffee table book with a plastic slipcase cover. The cover of the collection features Vic Mackey's visage staring intently at you with an embossed police badge on off to the right. Flipping through the book, you'll find a short letter from Shawn Ryan, photos, and an episode list with summaries. The discs are held in the folds on top of the pages. While the package looks great, this is a bit annoying when it comes to getting the discs out. You have to be pretty careful so as not to damage the package or scratch the discs.

VIDEO:
The video is presented in anamorphic widescreen with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. Seasons one through five were originally released in fullscreen (to maintain the documentary feel) while widescreen versions were released in international markets. Last year, Fox re-released the first five seasons in widescreen. The transfers are basically the same so there's no huge leap in picture quality though you are getting more information on screen now.

AUDIO:
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The sound isn't as robust as you might get with slicker material because of the realistic nature of the show. However, it's still crisp and clear.

EXTRAS:
Disc four of Season 1 contains Making of "The Shield" (21:24) and "The Shield" FX Featurette (2:27) which are both EPK-style behind-the-scenes looks at the show. Season 1 Epilogue is a quick half minute clip with Michael Chiklis and Shawn Ryan. Rounding out the disc are casting tapes with the main actors and previews for other Fox releases.

Disc four of Season 2 contains The Editing Room and Sound Surgery which are quick looks at technical aspects involved in the shooting of the series. Wrap Day (26:59) is an extended video diary taking us behind the scenes. Directors' Roundtable (48:18) is a group discussion with Shawn Ryan and episode directors Scott Brazil, Peter Horton, and Paris Barclay. Raising the Barn (9:15) is a look at how the set for the Farmington precinct house was created.

Disc four of Season 3 holds Breaking Episode 315 (1:19:20), an extensive look at how they put together the season finale. Not just the filming, but how they broke the story down in the writers' room.

On Season 4's fourth disc, you'll find Under the Skin: Documentary, a detailed overview of the entire season that's broken into 11 chapters.

Disc four of Season 5 contains Delivering the Baby: The Making of Episode 511 (1:28:33), another extensive behind-the-scenes documentary; The Shield Panel (29:52), a Q&A held at the Television Academy with Shawn Ryan, Michael Chiklis & Forest Whitaker; I.A.D. (10:36), a discussion with the show's advisors about the real-life Internal Affairs Department; Fox Movie Channel Presents: Making a Scene (10:33), a EPK-style look at the death of Lem; Tribute to Scott Brazil (25:44) is a look back at one of the show's producers who passed away. Finally, there's the Season 6 Prequel (14:51), a preview for the next season.

Season 6's Disc Four contains Two Directors (29:24), a look at how directors Frank Darabont and Paris Barclay work on the set, and Full Circle: Franka Potente (14:14), a look at how the "Run Lola Run" actress joined the cast.

Disc four of Season 7 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.

Spread throughout the collection are audio commentaries with the cast and crew along with numerous deleted scenes.

Exclusive to this set is a bonus disc containing two brand-new featurettes. Rampart (29:53) is an examination of the real-life LAPD scandal and the gangs of Los Angeles that inspired the series. It's named A Place We Called Home on the package, but listed on the DVD menu as The Barn (7:35) is a look at what's become of the famous Barn set now that the show has ended.

FILM VALUE:
I don't think the bonus disc is worth double dipping though some might prefer the widescreen versions of the first five seasons. If you don't already own any of the previous "Shield" season sets, then this complete collection is definitely the way to go.

Ratings

Video
7
Audio
7
Extras
7
Film Value
9