26 November 2008

The Shield: Family Meeting

Michael Chiklis, Walton Goggins, CCH Pounder, Jay Karnes
Shawn Ryan
Clark Johnson

**** (out of ****)

Spoilers of The Shield's series finale, "Family Meeting," is included in this review. Read with caution.

(S07E13) Since the first episode transmitted in March 2002, I have been a loyal Shield fan, and last night - November 25, 2008 - marked the conclusion of the series with its 88th episode, "Family Meeting." There was no black screen fade out a la The Sopranos (a creative decision which I do find interesting, but hell - I would be one pissed off fan of I had that type of treatment), nor were there plotlines left that didn't have a sense of closure. Creator and episode writer Shawn Ryan (who also worked on my favorite series of all time, The WB's Angel) delivered a series finale that was stunning, at times numbing, overly brilliant, and all-around satisfying.

I had a bit of a late start watching this season of The Shield, with a bunch of schoolwork piling up, and other programs also grabbing for my attention. Within a day, I was able to catch up from episodes 1-9, and skipped to 13 because I was so damn impatient to watch the series finale. I watched the confession sequence from episode 12, "Possible Kill Screen", and that was riveting. Michael Chiklis' performance in that episode alone as he finally relinquishes the burdens he's been holding for three years: the death of Terry Crowly, the Armenian money train hit, Margos - all of it - was chilling. And to see Laurie Holden's Olivia flabbergasted at the monster she was manipulated into granting full immunity to - another fine example how the actors on Shield excel most with facial expressions.

Going into the series finale, I honestly didn't know what to expect. I refused to look up reviews online (due to a lack of cable, the internet had to be my source) or check out Aint-It-Cool-News, because I didn't want any of the finale spoiled. Thank God I didn't.

Nothing could have prepared me for what I watched. In retrospect, everything that happened in these 75 minutes makes absolute, logical sense. I'm satisfied with the fate of all our characters, even the supporting cast. There is a sense of closure, even though a great many things still remain unsolved. Personification of a perfect, brilliant series finale. Forgive me if I begin repeating myself, I just finished the episode a little under a hour ago, and I'm still in awe over everything I just witnessed.

Indeed, I was interested in Vic's fate, but the storyline I was most invested in was Shane's. By this episode, Shane has nothing but Mara and Jackson, and he is literally on the brink; there's no way to save Mara after a incident in the previous episode left a man dead. To get away from it all, Shane sniffs up some drugs, enters a conveinence store and picks up a few items for Jackson and a set of flowers for Mara. To the cashiere, Shane hands her most of the money in his wallet - a damn fair amount - and leaves. Upon arrival at home, a jogger spots Shane and calls the authorities. Inside, Shane calls for a family meeting. Claudette, Danny, Dutch and the team arrive at Shane's house. As they enter, Shane shoots himself in the head in the bathroom, leaving behind a unfinished suicide note. Mara and Jackson are laid on the bed - we find out later that they were poisoned - in a peaceful manner.

Holy crap, that is insane! I read that plenty of people anticipated Shane committing suicide, but not I. Me, I was holding out for a Vic vs. Shane confrontation of the ages, but I can deal with this conclusion. As I said, it was tragiclly satisfactory. It does suck that Mara and Jackson perished as well, but I wager they don't have much of a storyline after Shane's departure. I wish I had the ability to say something really philosophically profound right now concerning the character of Shane Vendrell, but all I'm thinking is, "Holy friggin' crap! Shane committed suicide!"

Ronnie's fate was inevitable, and the thing I loved most about the sequence when he was being arrested was Claudette having Vic there witnessing everything. Vic cries out for Ronnie as Dutch enters the Strike Team's lair; and when he gets downstairs and looks Ronnie in the eye as Ronnie in utter anguish and hatred lashes out at Vic as Dutch tells him about Vic's complete immunity and his lack of. Vic repeatedly apologizes, and Ronnie yells in response, "You're goddamned sorry??!?!" Out of all the scenes in the episode, this is the sequence I've re-watched the most. It's heartbreaking and bloody brilliant. Poor Ronnie. Bastard Vic.

So, concerning Vic - he now has nothing. The impetus for Vic doing the immunity deal was for Corinne to get clean (not knowing she was in kahoots with the police until this episode). Now she's under witness protection - in fear of what Vic would do when he finds out; everyone at the Barn knows what Vic has done and all hate him; Ronnie is incarcerated; Shane is dead; Danny will have nothing to do with him; and the final nail in the coffin - Vic isn't going to be working street at I.C.E. Instead, he's going to be dressed in a business suit everyday for three years, stuck in a cubicle compiling analytical reports and placing them on desks. Vic is left with nothing. But as the final four minutes show - as Vic takes out his gun and exits - he might not stay quiet. Perhaps a little Batman/vigiliante justice, every once and a while? The beautifulest part of the final sequence is when Vic watches as two cop cars zoom past below, and he's stuck in his little cubicle area for only three years. His own little prison. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

Wonderfully written, wonderfully directed. Obviously, in a different state of mind this re-cap/review would be much more professional and make much more coherent sense, but I'm so damn giddy and so damn sad that The Shield is over - on one hand, Shawn Ryan has delivered us one of the best television programs that ever existed, and the other hand is that it sucks it's over. At the very least, I can say the show concluded on a high note. With only 11 episodes, season five (guest starring Forest Whitaker, in a role that is perhaps one of the best performances I've ever witnessed in my existence) is still the strongest and awesomest, in my opinion.

Season seven is sort of complicated, with the Strike Team trying to cover their respective asses, starting a gang war, 'pretending' to be corrupt cops to get close to some Big Time Baddies for their own personel gain (most of the time). For those who have yet to watch The Shield, I highly recommend you pick up the first five seasons on DVD. If you must, skip the third and fourth season, but the first two and season five are vital to this season.

Hell, I think the one aspect that makes this finale so brilliant is that the entire reason it exists is because of the pilot episode's finale. That single event has reverberated through all seven seasons (most prominently in the last three). That is bloody fantastic, in my opinion. Everything that has transpired is a result of that shooting.

Alright, I'm losing my sense of sanity. Point is: The Shield concluded in utter brilliance, and it's a show that didn't reach as many audience members as it should have. If you've heard of the utter awesomeness of HBO's The Wire, then there is no reason why you won't fall in love with Vic Mackey and the Strike Team. Adios, I say, to a brilliant, brilliant show.


thebonebreaker said...

Great write-up Andrew!
[almost makes me wish that I had kept up with the show] :-)


kaline68 said...

I am also left with a sadness that this brilliant show is kaput, it will go down as the finest TV show i have ever seen in my 46 years on this planet, the sheer realism of the crime ridden streets of L.A. and the outstanding acting of everyone involved in this masterpiece drama will likely never know it's equal.

willson said...

thanks for sharing this interesting post here although its not about to download the shield episodes but its cool.