Sunday, 25 April 2010

The Shield: The Final Act

The last season of The Shield was never going to be a big happy affair, but never has the rise and fall of a character been so shocking.

Vic Mackey's struggle to keep everything together is coming loose, and fast. With the Armenians still on their case and the Mexicans stirring things up in Farmington, it's less about the Strike Team surviving and more about just surviving at all.

It's clear that even though Vic looks and acts like a thug, his scheming and planning is the sort that Caesar might be jealous of. His manipulation of others and complete control of every situation makes you root for him as you always have done, almost completely taking belief of the idea that sometimes the end justifies the means. But throughout this series, the real Vic Mackey is slowly unravelled to reveal a horrible monster, that all his camaraderie, all his 'rightful' arrests and all the positive things he's done are actually just lies and deceit, that in the end he is purely out for himself. It's a horrible portrait of an anti-hero turning completely into an enemy.

The whole season is also based on Shane Vs. Vic as they try to outsmart each other every step of the way, Shane even admits that though they are both as bad apart, together they are sheer evil and never has this been more clear as here. They stoop to all kinds of lows in order to keep their heads above the water and end up in some dire situations.

What also makes this series great is that it's not too distracted with other parallel storylines. There's Dutch's obsession with the psyche of a serial killer, Claudette's physical breakdown while she tries to maintain her integrity and the dirty laundry of politics on show, but it all comes together in one final blow. Vic is even losing his family, the one thing he puts above everything else and his sudden wish to take care of his illegitimate child is some kind of redemption in how he has failed them, that in some way his desperation to keep his family was not for love, but to cling onto some kind of good in himself that is slipping away. His wish to take down a drug cartel and his new job to him seems like some kind of spiritual cleansing, at one point he even admits this on the phone and this brutal honesty is a shocking sign that things really are breaking down for him to be so revealing, it's practically a cry for help. But once he sits down to confess all, once you the viewer who are already more than aware of what he has done for the past 7 years come face to face with the harsh reality of Vic's actions, it's almost staring at yourself and reflecting on the fact that you actually rooted for this guy; that in some way, you're partly to blame. I doubt whether this was the writer's motive, but nonetheless it was how I personally felt. That what had seemed like a bit of fun makes you realise it was a guilty pleasure that you enjoyed as much as he did.

Also in some strange way, as Vic is almost at the end of his downward spiral, you start rooting for Shane, the true hero of The Shield. You feel sorry for him that he just didn't seem to have the brains to figure out how deep he was getting himself into and in the end, all he wanted was to be with his family. But the real tragedy is Ronnie - loyal til the end, never once tripping up and yet got tangled up with the wrong crowd.

The main reason why I think this is my favourite series is not only because of the great acting and directing (by Clark Johnson who you've probably seen in The Wire anyway), but because it shows that The Shield was truly a great piece of fiction and never failed to get it's hands dirty. The end is dark, sinister and depressing - what you want from a good series, and they don't hold back either. The final silent scene allows the audience to join Vic in thinking back on everything that's happened and how, in the end, it meant nothing. Everything, in a word, got completely fucked. He realises that he has screwed over pretty much everybody and is now left completely alone. It could have been done a million different ways, but I feel this was the most appropriate and well deserved.

The problem is, it will never get the status of The Wire or other top TV shows for the simple fact that it looks, and feels, almost farcical. But if you're willing to invest time, I would seriously suggest putting any pre-judgements aside and revelling in what has to be one of the best cop dramas I've seen on TV. I enjoyed The Wire's last season, but I'm sorry to say that, for me, it doesn't compare to this.

I fucking loved every second of it and sad to see it end.

Rating: 10/10

1 comment:

  1. Glad to see you liked it. The Shield had it's ups and downs, however there couldn't have been a better ending for the show. I think you really put some thought into your review. I couldn't agree with your statements more.

    The only thing I would disagree with is Shane. I never quite started rooting for Shane. He just always seemed like too much of a screw up for so long, I couldn't start rooting for him. Ronnie on the other hand really got screwed over. That was probably the saddest part of the whole show for me.

    Keep up the great work!