Thursday, 11 February 2010

The Shield : Season 1

It must be tough living in the shadow of a beast. You could be The Thing for instance, but you're not Hulk, which is quite apt for Fantastic Four star Michael Chiklis who played the former (see what I did there?). He also plays The Shield's main tough guy, Vic Mackey, but has to live with the fact that he will never be McNulty, or in fact never be able to touch the golden heights The Wire has received.
I should say first and foremost, I've been a fan of The Wire for a while. I was the annoying guy at work telling everyone about it who no-one listened to, and then once they read that it was good in a paper, or by Charlie Brooker, they decided to come back to me telling me how great it was. "Umm... I was talking to you about it last year?" But enough I told you so's because this is about the first series of The Shield.
Now, the thing is, people find it hard to get into The Wire because of the language, the slow-burn and the strange non-intrusive camera-work - which is really also it's main appeal. But I'm just going to put this out there - The Wire is really good, but it isn't the BEST series EVER on TV. I mean, come on, really? All in all, I'd say Soprano's wins that award for me right now. My mate Si argues that Sopranos wasn't consistent enough, and he's correct, but the highs of Sopranos, for me, outdo the highs The Wire gave me. I also don't like it when I'm enjoying my ride in a car and everyone piles in - also known as 'jumping on the bandwagon'. Because that's exactly what Joe Public are doing. Overall, I loved The Wire - it was a great series, very complex, thorough and a great work of character study. It was what people say, a novel on TV.
But can't I just read a novel for that? (Homicide?)
And this is where The Shield comes in. It's PURE television. From the first scene you know what you're getting, you're excited about what's happening and the characters are bloody great. Okay, they don't have the near-Shakespearean depths of The Wire, but you know what? Sometimes I don't want that ("Why am I always drunk?" "I have so much paperwork to do instead of doing some good ol' fashioned po-lice work!" "Ain't politics a bitch!" "Sheeeeet") I want to see some fucking crooked cop, beat up the bad guy, steal his money, then hand him over to a rival gang. Fuck yeah! The Shield gives this-a-plenty, but it's more than that. Much more ...
The Shield, like Sopranos, doesn't hold back. Kiddy porn, serial murders, race wars and more all crop up in the first series and the whole police squad is trying to keep it together even when by the end, the actual police station is getting shot up!
In the middle of all this is Vic, a strong tough family man, who is a crooked cop that makes the rules work his way. He might have a clear moral code in who deserves what, but what becomes apparent throughout the series, especially at the end, is that he'll do anything to survive and puts more than his life on the line. Following him is his team, who will clearly do anything for him, and rightly so - Vic will have their backs no matter what. They are a tight brotherhood and no matter what they might do wrong, Vic will look after them in an almost paternal way. Bless his heart.
They even have a political 'clever' story as the new Captain tries to make steps towards being a mayor and realises the path is just as crooked as Vic, and the two of them might clash sometimes, but you know they're both fighting the good fight - and that's what it's about. Vic might be a despicable, undisciplined maniac, but that's what we love him for. You don't fuck with him. Ever. You also know he's always thinking and the tangled webs he weaves are like watching a work of art. How will he worm his way out of this one? I can't wait to find out!
Other side characters like Dutch, Danny etc. also give the series it's staying power. You like these guys, you want to know what happens next, you feel for them. They might do some things wrong but hey, they're human. Each episode might work as a stand-alone story, but the overall arc is great and it really picks up the pace at the end.
But critics are right, it's not The Wire, but I'd say it's as good as The Wire but in a completely different way. It's NOT a poor man's version. It's just different. And thank fuck for that because I don't want to see another Wire, that would just be bloody lame.
If you hear people saying they'd rather watch another cop show, let them and keep schtum. Otherwise, The Shield might turn into the BEST TV programme EVER and it'll be ruined for everyone. Do yourself a favour and get ready for some bad cop trying to clean up the streets - HIS way - BOO YEAH!

Rating: 8/10

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