Monday, July 23, 2007

Catching Up With "The Shield"

Tom R will be recapping & reviewing "The Shield" when it returns for its next season and in preparation for that, has submitted this catch up piece for the show.

[Submitted by: Tom R]

The wheels of justice turn slowly on the FX network, and "The Shield" may be the best example of this.

In 2002, the debut episode ended with rogue cop Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) putting a bullet in the head of fellow detective Terry Crowley (Reed Diamond), who had been placed onto his Strike Force team as part of an investigation. Crowley’s spectre has hung over virtually every episode of the show, as Captains and Internal Affairs officers have tried to get enough evidence to bring down the Strike Force.

The problem, of course, is that Mackey and his team have repeatedly turned out to be a necessary evil. If they generated absolutely no results or arrests, taking them out would be a no-brainer. But there are sectors of the city where their methods and their connections turn out to be the best, if not the only hope.

But to focus only on Mackey’s team is to miss a key element of this show. In my opinion, the character that really makes this show effective is Detective Holland “Dutch” Wagenbach (Jay Karnes). The writing and the acting hit top form when they contrast Mackey’s shoot-first tactics against Wagenbach’s methodical investigations and interrogation strategies. There hasn’t been a TV interrogator with these skills since Andre Braugher ruled the box on Homicide.

Karnes’ performance is something rare for police dramas: He takes the by-the-book cop and makes him a hero, rather than an ineffective loser or an out and out joke. While Mackey is clearly the central character, and we get a visceral thrill of him throwing the rules out the window to get things done, at the end of the day it’s Dutch you want handling your case. And in real life, that’s probably what you’d get.

It would be the easy route to say that Mackey’s tactics are always the right ones and Dutch’s tactics are always wrong. That doesn’t seem to be the route for The Shield or FX to take. Both sides are regularly given their due, with the consequences always hanging over each character’s head.

The FX network runs shorter seasons than the major networks, with each show in its lineups contracted for about 12 episodes each. By and large, most of their shows pack an incredible punch for the shortened seasons.

The Shield airs on Tuesday nights at 10 PM. It’s due to return to the FX lineup in March of 2008, once Damages and Nip/Tuck have completed their seasons. Hopefully nothing along the line of last year’s ill-conceived Dirt will spoil the effectiveness of the network’s lineup.

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