As the most macho - no make that MACHO (is that macho enough?)- show on television is returning for it's final season next week I thought that this would be a good time to take advantage of all the watching those DVD reviews involved and recap the show before it grabs it's viewers by their nether regions and twists until it's all over. If you've not watched the show at all I'd recommend you don't read beyond the link as it's going to be exceedingly spoiler heavy, instead check out my 'Why You Should Watch... The Shield' feature and if you like the sound of the show play catch up by watching the DVDs instead (first season here for £9.99, sorry I don't know enough American stores to be able to suggest a good place to start over the pond). The show is so good that you really don't want to go spoilering events in it before watching.
For those of you who have watched the show up to the end of season six the rest lays beyond the link...
Michael Chiklis as Detective Vic Mackey
Walton Goggins as Detective Shane Vandrell
Kenny Johnson as Detective Curtis "Lemonhead" Lemansky (Seasons 1 to 5)
Benito Martinez as Captain David Aceveda
CCH Pounder as Detective Claudette Wyms
Catherine Dent as Officer Danielle "Danny" Sofer
Jay Karnes as Detective Holland "Dutch" Wagenbach
Michael Jace as Officer Julien Lowe
and David Rees Snell as Detective Ronnie Gardocki
Glenn Close as Captain Monica Rawlings (Season 4)
Forest Whitaker as Lt. John Kavanaugh (Season 5 + 6)
The first season introduced us to the LA district of Farmington, it's police headquarters - nicknamed 'the Barn' and the radical anti-drug squad called 'The Strike Team'. The Strike Team consisted of the team leader Vic Mackey, his number two Shane Vandrell, Curtis "Lemonhead/Lem" Lemansky, Ronnie Gardocki and Terry Crowley (Reed Diamond). In the pilot episode the first important plot point occurs, Terry is covertly investigating into the Strike team for Captain Acevada on accusations of corruption. But at the climax of the episode Terry is shot by Vic (who was tipped off by Assistant Chief Gilroy) with only Shane as witness to the murder.
The remainder of the season deals with the fallout from Terry's death and Aceveda's suspicions. While Detectives 'Dutch' and Wyms track down a serial killer and Officer Sofer is assigned new recruit Julien Lowe to train, training which is complicated by Julien's struggle against latent homosexuality.
The season ends with riots breaking out and Acevada forced to co-operate with Mackey (a theme which reoccurs often in later seasons) both to quell the riots and to deal with Gilroy's attempts to pit them against each other.
The main thrust of Season two deals with the Armenian Money Trail Heist, this is the second of the major events to occur in the show and it plays out over multiple episodes. While the Armenian's appeared in the first season it's the appearance of the shows first kingpin - a sadistic feet loving individual by the name of Armadillo - who positions them into a serious place in the storyline. Armadillo directly attacks the existing drug trade in Farmington which has a knock on effect on the Strike Team, who support certain members of the local drug trade to supplement their income. As they investigate into the Armenians they discover the existence of the money train and the plan begins to fall into place, but it doesn't run entirely smoothly - especially after Vic burn's Armadillo's face and as a consequence get's Ronnie's face burnt in retaliation. After this an additional member is brought into the Strike Team, one Tavon Garris and he remains part of the team until events in the third season hospitalise him (well Shane does)
Eventually Armadillo is caught, but he escapes...
Elsewhere in the Barn Gilroy skips out on bail after illegal estate scamming and is smuggled out to Mexico by Vic, Dutch and Claudette continue to investigate cases and some of them begin to take their toll on Dutch's strength of character, Acevada continues to struggle between proving Mackey's corruption and working with him while Sofer and Lowe continue to patrol the streets and deal with more domestic cases.
The season ends with the heist going off successfully and the Strike Team making it away with a huge amount of cash.
But no-one can expect to steal that amount of cash and not have consequences. In this case the Armenian response is visceral and the body count in Farmington begins to spiral out of control. This is a serious problem for the Strike Team who have decided to play things by the book from now on as they're sat on a massive amount of cash and set for life if they play things right. This is a problem for Tavon who feels that he's not a part of the team and they're excluding him from something. It's a shame because Tavon is ideal 'real' Strike Team material and if he'd joined them earlier the team would have had another co-conspirator to share the burden. Eventually Shane and his shrew of a wife Mara seriously injure Tavon and hospitalise him, ending his role in the series... Actually, that's not the case - I can reveal that Tavon will be returning for the seventh season in some way.
Acevada brings in the Decoy team - another specialist task force - with the intent of replacing or reducing the influence that the Strike Team have and begins to make maneuvers towards a place on the city council. Armadillo realises that the Strike Team will eventually find and kill him, so he surrenders to the police instead, but Vic arranges for a prisoner to get a shiv and Armadillo is killed. Which has a major impact on Sofer's career, because she was the one who searched the prisoner and as such is held responsible.
Wyms and Dutch discover that a D.A. was a heavy drug user; information which makes all of her cases questionable and while Dutch is willing to suppress this Wyms isn't, which puts her in the s**thouse and really compromises her chances of further promotion. But this is typical of Wyms who is one of the straightest characters in the show, she follows the letter of the law and to heck with the consequences.
There is also another event which has major repercussions along the way, during a raid on a drug house Acevada remains behind alone and is attacked by two gangers, Juan and Ricky. Juan forces Acevada to perform oral sex on him at gun point and the pair are set to kill him when the Strike Team arrive and save him. He covers up the facts of the rape immediately.
By the end of the third season poor Lem's nerves have had enough with all the pressure and the final episode ends with him taking the only action he can think of to save his only family (the Strike Team) from both the Armenians and any investigations; he cracks and burns most of the money in a furnace that the Strike Team had used earlier in the season. The rest of the Strike Team fail to stop him in time.
This season brings major changes to the landscape, not does Acevada leave the position of Captain and become a councilman but the Strike Team has disbanded and Vic is left a shadow of his former self in his job. This season introduces Detective Billings (who is an underhanded yes man) and Captain Monica Rawlings (Glen Close) who is determined to turn things around in Farmington. Meanwhile Acevada continues to try and deal with being a rape survivor by taking revenge on the two who were involved (killing Ricky in a shoot out robbery and arranging for Antwon to kill Juan after he's arrested and attempts to blackmail Acevada).
On the street the One-Niners have risen back up to the top of the pile with the help of one Antwon Mitchell. Who has Shane (now in Vice) and his partner 'Army' over a barrel, potentially in the frame for murder as Antwon used their guns to kill a young girl named Angie.
The main important events of this season are based around the reforming of the Strike Team and Lem going the extra mile for Shane but putting himself into a seriously bad situation when doing it. He illegally confiscates a block of heroin while trying to lever information about the location of Angie's body and it's noted and swapped with a fake by an investigating officer sent by Rawlings.
Eventually Antwon is brought down and imprisoned; Shane is in the clear (but Lem has a price to pay for this), Rawling's controversial search and seizure plans end her career, Dutch passes up a chance to become Captain of the Barn out of loyalty to Wyms and things appear to be looking solid for the Strike Team in the future.
After Captain Rawlings retired Billings rose up to fill the Captaincy after Dutch refused to become the 'yes man'. Throughout the season it becomes clear that Billings is not the right man for the job, so eventually Claudette Wyms is given the position she deserves and the Barn gets it's second female Captain.
The major thrust of this season returns to two things; Lem's confiscating of the heroin without handing it into evidence control and Terry Crowley's death. Both of which are being investigated by Internal Affairs Detective John Kavanaugh, who intends to use Lem's charges as leverage to break him and get Mackey over Crowley's death. But Lem is completely loyal to his family and genuinely ignorant of the truth in Crowley's death (as is Ronnie). As the season progresses Kavanaugh grinds into Lem and mounts more and more pressure towards the Strike Team. The season is very much a charting of the fall from grace of Kavanaugh as it is the downfall of Lem. One of the major points in this is Lem actually saves Kavanaugh's life from a stray grenade, showing how good a person Lem actually is - because if Kavanaugh had died the invesigation would have been over. Eventually Kavanaugh realises that Lem would never crack and is somewhat ashamed over his actions, he comes to like and respect Lem.
In the midst of all this Julien becomes the training officer for a pretty young policewoman named Tina Halon - who flirts with Dutch all season and Danny is pregnant but won't reveal who the father is.
The final episode of The Shield is the single most tragic episode in the entire run; at the climax of the episode a harried and stressed out Lem is blindsided by Shane, who kills him with a grenade as he's afraid Lem has turned on the team (something Lem would never do). This holds all kinds of irony, Lem saved Kavanaugh from a similar fate earlier in the season (if Kavanaugh had died Lem would have been in the clear and safe) and also even more tragically Shane has killed Lem because Lem saved Shane's career. If Shane hadn't screwed up so badly in the fourth season Lem would never had moved outside the lines and would still be alive.
Vic's snarled words to Shane and Ronnie set the tone for the next season:
"We're gonna find whoever did this, and we're gonna kill 'em."
Season Six was originally intended to be the second part of season five, but it was broken up and turned into a separate season. It deals mostly with the fallout after Lem's death and charts the final fall of Kavanaugh, who becomes corrupt himself in his rabid pursuit of Mackey. Something that he confesses to Claudette Wyms, who despite her misgivings about Vic remains true to her morals and arrests Kavanaugh for planting fake evidence. Wyms remains the pillar of morality in this show (and is a serious candidate for toppling Mackey in the end)
The rest of the season deals with Vic and Ronnie's tireless pursuit of Lem's killer and Shane's attempts to at first conceal his actions and then later set things up to avoid Vic taking vengeance on him. (I think Shane might do well to watch out for Tavon coming in from the left field as well...) There is a new detective brought in to replace Vic (who's facing retirement still) and Julien is promoted into the Strike Team as well. Billings continues to manipulate things while working with Dutch, twisting the knife into both his now partner Dutch's back and the Barn.
Vic discovers about Acevada's rape and uses it to form an uneasy alliance between the pair, with the intent of allowing Vic to keep his job.
Worst of all, Shane continues to act in a stupid fashion that endangers everyone around him as he gets into bed with the Armenian mob.
That's it, you should be entirely up to speed with everything that matters in The Shield and you should be ready to get going for the final season's gut wrenching fallout...