So here we are; at the beginning of the end with the first episode in The Shield: The Final Act and the long wait is finally over. The Co-Efficient of Drag brings us right back to the action the day after season six's finale and gets on with the meat of the show immediately.
More after the link...
Unlike my Burn Notice reviews which are part recap/part review I'm just going to be reviewing my thoughts on each Shield episode right after watching it. This is in part to keep the amount of writing down in size and in part because I don't like pausing The Shield to make notes.
The Shield hasn't ever had a single bad episode ever, in fact even average episodes for this show are well above the standard of the rest. But often the season openers are a little weaker than the main thrust of the season. (When I say weaker I mean weaker in comparison to standard set by the Shield, they're still amazing). And The Co-Efficient of Drag has a similar feel to it, the viewer is left trying to recall all the events of the previous season (even I struggled and I watched Season 6 last week) and the "Previously on The Shield" segment doesn't cover everything.
So here's the short version: Shane is in bed with the Armenians, Vic is facing retirement and has formed an alliance with Acevada against a property tycoon (who's name evades me right now - but I'm sure I'll get to know it as the season progresses) while also siding with the tycoon in an attempt to use the man's pull to keep his badge. Billings has set up a law suit against the department, Claudette has to improve the stats for the department or it'll get closed, Julien is a part of the strike team and Hiatt has been fired.
So the action takes place the day after the end of the sixth season and it opens with a pretty hard hitting scene that was leaked/released onto the Internet a while back. Vic and Ronnie hit Shane's home in retaliation for his kidnapping of Vic's family. Shane barely manages to explain his situation and he sets events in motion for the episode, it becomes a race between Vic plus Ronnie and Shane to find the hit man Shane shot in the previous season. Whoever makes it there first will
In counterpoint to this intense storyline we have two others, bodies are being dragged along streets to mark out territory (this links to the property tycoon) and a female federal agent joins the Barn as part of the investigation. Anyone want to make a bet how long it is before she ends up sleeping with Vic? And the other storyline provides lighter relief as it involves Dutch investigating one of Billings's old cases and brings him back into the show.
I'm very pleased to see Billings back as he's just fantastic in this show. David Marciano is a great actor and he really sells Billings as a believable human being. It would be too easy for someone to ham it up with a big selection of salad sauce when they're given such an obvious clown role, but David doesn't. He manages to give him a human quality while also not distracting us from the facts that Billings is a cowardly weasel of a man who can occasionally show signs of being a brilliant cop. Also pairing Billings with Dutch on screen is always great.
The main event in this episode, and the one that provides the punch; is Ronnie's actions. This episode marks the moment where Ronnie steps over the line and kills in cold blood. Something Vic did with Terry and Shane did with Lem. We always knew that Ronnie was going to get more screen time once Lem was out of the picture and this episode shows not only will we have a larger role for Ronnie, but it also shows that David Rees Snell can act. It's good to see Ronnie becoming his own man.
Speaking of acting, it's also clear that Walton Goggins (Shane Vandrell) has upped his game; he's gained some composure and a lot of presence; the scenes where he's talking in prison are great and he's now able to hold his own in a scene against Michael Chiklis. While ultimately Shane cannot be forgiven for killing Lem ("Lem was family" - Vic) at least it doesn't appear that he's going to be spending the season whining and screwing up all the time (maybe just some of it.)
Julien, Danny and Tina get minor roles in this episode. Julien in particular feels sidelined at the moment; but it's tough for his character because he's been placed into a team that's lost members, has a close knit core group and is currently divided against itself. Danny on the other hand has a bit of a shock moment where she's attacked by a hiding criminal after the room was supposed to be cleared - needless to say she wants the job of the officer responsible and I suspect that Tina is the guilty party here, she's a complete screw up.
There are also a lot of call backs already:
Aramboles was left chained up in the room where Vic killed Guardo last season
Claudette's illness is still an issue
Danny and Dutch's kiss was wrapped up very quickly thanks to Dutch's usual lack of social abilities. Hee!
The new agent came from the same department as Haitt
The DA who appears also featured in Season 4
There is a call back to a scene from the second season where the head of the battered woman shelter (who Vic was dating) shoved an abusive husband over the railing
So as beginnings go it was a pretty good one for The Shield. The episode was one of the strongest initial season episodes and holds up alongside Season 4 or 5 - both of which had additional punch thanks to Glen Close and Forest Whitaker. So it's a great start and having Ronnie finally step over the same line as Vic and Shane gave it additional meaning which I didn't expect to see so soon in the season.
For another review of this episode I'd recommend reading Alan Sepinwall's blog post located here. (I will be reading it right after clicking "Publish Post" as I prefer to write my own review before reading ones belonging to others.)