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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Shield Finale

After seven seasons, The Shield came to an end on FX last night, and the best and worst the show had to offer came shining through. I’m not sure I have ever liked a series finale of a show I truly followed – in fact, this was the only show left that I made a point to watch – and this one didn’t break the mold as much as I’d hope it would.

I was actually excited to watch this series finale. Finally, everything had to come to a head. Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) either got out from under from all of his misdeeds or he would finally be brought down. It’s a testament to the show that there really wasn’t an obvious answer going into the final episode of what would happen to him. The fact that it ended with a debatable answer may be seen as another testament to the show by some. I’m not quite convinced.

The fact that the show is still on my mind the next day, as it often would be when it aired, proves I thought it was damn good. The Shield was the most unique cop show on. Vic, there was never any doubt since the opening episode when he shot and killed another cop, was a criminal with a badge. In fact, he was a scumbag if you really looked at it.

But fans never really did look at that side of him too closely. Early on the precedent was set that he was rotten but at least his actions were intended to bring down some of the worst criminals in East Los Angeles. The guy even had two Autistic children that, in his own way, he was devoted to. (Oddly enough, now that I think about it, this was the only prime-time show on that at least touched on dealing with a disability at all.) In that same first episode, his own bosses watched him beat a suspected child molester in order to get information on a child’s whereabouts – in fact, his chief adversary, David Aceveda (Benito Martinez), pulled him into the case to deal with the guy.

Gradually, Mackey was forced to be more concerned with covering his own tracks than law enforcement. It could be argued, though, that the show – or, maybe, those out to nail Mackey – lost sight of what the Strike Team, which he originally headed, was asked to do. They were policing the gangs of East L.A. by basically getting involved with them on their level. If typical police work had been enough, the Strike Team is never created.

That said, the Strike Team turned a corner once and for all when they ripped off the “Money Train” – a money laundering operation. That set in motion the events that eventually led to the demise of the Strike Team and all of it’s members.

Except Vic Mackey.

Now, it can be argued Mackey was taken down. No doubt series creator Shawn Ryan would say that the final deal Mackey struck to get immunity ended up sticking him behind a desk. That, coupled with his ex-wife taking the kids into witness protection, was supposed to be the worst punishment he could get.

Well . . . eh.

I mean, ok, I get it. He got away but he didn’t. I even got the symbolism or irony of Mackey walking around in a suit with the HR person at his new job. But, c’mon. His big “sentence” is hating his job? Who doesn’t? And, isn’t working for the agency that put your kids in witness protection the best way to find them? Plus, his oldest daughter was at least 15 or 16; she was just a few years from being old enough to find him if she wanted.

I thought that the final bust, which he needed to cement his deal, was going to get screwed up because he would tell his last Strike Team partner, Ronnie (David Rees Snell), that he needed to run. Ronnie was key to the last bust, but didn’t know Vic had confessed to everything as part of his immunity and bagged him in the process. Instead, Vic left him to be the one guy to pay for their crimes.

Vic’s redeeming quality was his loyalty. While there was an element to Vic’s deal protecting his ex-wife (which she didn’t actually need but he didn’t know that), I thought they underplayed that vital quality in the end. I also wanted more shock value, since that was what the show was built on. The murder-suicide of Shane (Walton Goggins), his ex-partner who killed his wife and child and then himself after their attempt to escape the law went, awry was the only stunning moment of the episode. But with him being the guy that killed Lem (Kenny Johnson), the first true crack in the Team’s loyalty to each other, he wasn’t really a guy to root for any way.

So, I guess my biggest criticism is that I wanted more of The Shield, which isn’t much criticism at all. The final episode could have been more satisfying, but the series was as good as it gets.

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