The Shield - Finale - Family Meeting

"Remember, the Team comes First" - Vic

Back in May I sat down and thrashed out my personal Top 50 Shows, now looking back on the list I know it's something I'm going to have to revisit in a year or two as there has been some newer shows (at least new to me) that have stepped up and become favourites. At the time I'd recently finished watching The Wire's final season and I was completely blown away by the show, so I had an agonizing decision between my top two slots, The Wire and The Shield were both competing in my head for the number one place and it was almost impossible to decide between them, I already knew how The Wire went out, but The Shield and I have had a long standing relationship since around the time just after the first season aired and I couldn't decide which.

Eventually, after thinking long and hard about the two shows and talking to one friend I realised that The Shield had the number one slot all along and I was just trying to, well, fit in with many other lists by putting The Wire up there. Now don't get me wrong, The Wire is amazing, but my heart belongs to Vic Mackey, Dutch, Billings and Co. So I placed The Shield in the number one slot without seeing how it would play out.

This final season has justified that faith and the final episode was everything I hoped for and more.

Read all about it beyond the link...

Seven seasons, eighty eight episodes of a show that just brings the noise and pumps the action, but it all ends with two of the most powerful silences the show has ever aired.

I'm still at something of a loss when it comes to putting words down about this, the show has literally closed a chapter of my life that was opened when I first wandered into HMV and saw the Michael Chiklis staring at me from the first season box. I was compelled to purchase the show. It was the best impulse buy I've ever made and there are a lot of people (and I do now mean a LOT) who would never have seen this show if I hadn't handed over that now worn and battered DVD set and let them watch the first season for themselves. It's been like a virus that's infected most of my life for the past five or so years and I'm not sure what will step up to fill that hole.

The final episode follows a lot of logical moments that have been set up for quite a while, it also delivers several expected moments in very unusual manners. That final Vic and Shane confrontation does arrive and it does result in one of them dying. But it's over the phone and Vic doesn't actually kill Shane himself, instead he convinces Shane that it would be best to kill himself and his entire family with his taunting.

Vic and Ronnie get their final moment, Vic gets his final triumph over Claudette just as she shows him exactly how much it cost. The interview scene between the pair of them was staggering, an almost biblical meeting between the two paragons of Law and Corruption that ends with Vic's mask slipping for a moment until he realises that the camera has shown his moment of weakness. Michael's stone cold silence throughout Shane's final words (delivered, by proxy from Claudette) and his inability to look directly at the photographs of Shane's family meeting/murder/suicide were so powerful. But even more powerful was the moment where he just slams the shutters back down and becomes Vic again.

Speaking of which, Shane's decision was well choreographed but also heavily signalled throughout the convenience store scene. It was clear from his conversation with the checkout girl that he was trying to impart some last fatherly advice, perhaps she provided a proxy for his own unborn daughter. And once he left the remaining money for her I knew his fate was sealed. Still it didn't make it any easier to watch the scene as Claudette and everyone busts down his door, hears the gunshot, finds Shane's body and then discovers the 'shrine' of Mara and Jackson laid out on the bed. After just over two seasons of clamouring for Shane's blood over his murder of Lem I'm almost angry that the show has managed to turn me around on Shane and Mara. I wanted to feel vindicated that Shane took his own life but instead I just felt sad that he passed.

There's one other member of the strike team to talk about and that's David Rees Snell as Ronnie. Last week's episode sealed the moment for him, we knew there was no out for Ronnie, a man who has grown so much over the show and almost managed to escape from Vic's shadow, a man who is arguably the most innocent member of the original strike team (after Lem), he's the one who takes the brunt of Vic's crimes. The department has been seeking their corrupt cop for a long time now and they've finally got someone to make an example of, he won't be getting out of prison for a long, long time at best. It's a crying shame.

Dutch gets his closure and we're shown a glimpse of Dutch's future. It was good that Lloyd returned for one final swipe at Dutch, but Lloyd's obvious inexperience combined in contrast with Dutch's wealth of detective experience meant that I was confident it would go down the right way in the end. Nice touch having Jay's real life wife play Billing's 'bitch dyke' lawyer and have her express an interest in Dutch. Even nicer touch having Danny comment on it afterwards.

Last of all, the big man. The ending. Vic Mackey. The Alpha Dog.

What's to say, it's as fantastic an ending as I could have asked for. I know many people have been braying for Vic's blood and demanding that he either die or become imprisoned for his crimes. Especially the shooting of Terry Crowely. But I for one always hoped that Vic would come out of this alive.

Which he did, but the cost he's paid is astronomical. He's lost his friends, his family, his old job, his presence on the streets, he's left stuck at a desk for three years with a boss who's looking to take out her revenge on him for putting the biggest one over her possible. He's lost his protege Shane to suicide, his close friend Lem to Shane, his third friend Ronnie to his own actions and his Wife and kids to his own reputation for a fearsome level of self preservation.

He's literally been put into his own personal hell with this new job, he's divorced entirely from his old life and everything that made him who he was. But in those closing moments, as he looks at the pictures of his kids and the cropped picture of himself and Lem (Ronnie and Shane were also in that picture, they've been cut out) he looks close to cracking. Then the lights go out, he picks up his gun and as he puts on his suit - a suit that makes him look so small and even highlights a bit of a belly - as he stands up and the reality sets back in you see the familiar set of his face return and realise that ultimately Vic stands just fine alone, he's lost nothing. He's still who he is and he'll push through these three years of penance and come out the other side smelling sweeter than ever. Because that's who Vic is.

I chose to use the quote from the very first episode at the top of this review because it highlights something very core about the show. Vic talked the talk about the team coming first, but at the end of it he always knew it would be every man for himself. When it comes down to it Vic is a survivor, he will keep on moving and charming people until he dies.

You know that right now Vic is paying for what he's done and he's still alive to suffer for it. But also you know that he'll get past this and end up doing well for himself. Because that's what Vic does, he's a survivor, a shark, a true apex predator, and in the end he'll always be able to compartmentalise any of his losses and shut down what ever emotions he needs to.

Because Vic is a survivor and that's what he does best.

Thoughts in brief:
I can't thank Shawn and Co enough for two things, first of all bringing back Clark Johnson for the final directing job AND giving him a cameo as 'Handsome Marshall' right at the end of the show. I honestly can't get enough of Clark and I really dig both his on screen talent and directing style.

The second thing I'd like to thank them for is the closing montage and the picture of Vic and Lem together on Vic's new desk. Lem remains my favourite character even after his demise (I have a long history of favourite characters in shows dying - Six Feet Under, Dexter, Millennium, 24, The Wire - twice -, The Dead Zone etc...) and I'd been hoping all season that there would be a glimpse of Kenny Johnson in a closing montage. I was rewarded with not one, but two of them, one of which was the final shot of the show (Shane and Lem in the closing episode of season 5 with Lem figuring large in it). Those made me happier than anything else that happened.

I did enjoy the way the episode hinted at future events without actually closing everything; Dutch got his man and has a sniff of his woman, Julien's homosexuality was acknowledged and Acevada's campaign - while looking like a lock - wasn't resolved.

Nice to see Andre 3000 back in a great cameo/returning role.

Great fake out over the Presidential motorcade, all that talk and it didn't even feature in the end.

We finally get a time frame for the show, three years. I'm not surprised, I knew it was something around that from various other snippets about the place. But I did love Dutch's delivery to Ronnie.

To close I'd like to direct your attention to Alan Sepinwall's interview with the series creator Shawn Ryan, there are insights a-plenty for the curious. It's a good chance to try and extend your love affair with the show a few precious moments more and speculate about a 'The Shield' reprisal/movie down the line.

How did you find it?



7 comments so far.

  1. Aaron 28 November 2008 at 00:55

    What an episode, what a show.

    Thanks so much for lending me season one all that time ago.

    I loved the parallel of Dutch & Claudette and Vic & Ronnie. Dutch was accused of a terrible crime but because he had stayed on the straight and narrow and had the support of his friend along with an impeccable reputation, he came through it without a scratch. Vic and Ronnie fell apart because they had no integrity to fall back on and every member of the strike team ended up dead (either physically, emotionally, or career wise) despite Vic's claims that the team always came first.

    As much as enjoyed The Wire and loved it's surprisingly upbeat ending, The Shield finale will stay with me forever.

    Phew, I'm quite emotional now.
  2. Paulo 28 November 2008 at 07:26
    hey why didnt you put that '70s show on your top 50?
  3. Rev-Views 28 November 2008 at 09:58
    No worries mate, more than happy to share the wealth. I'd recommend you take a look at Mad Men next, I think that's.

    There's also another parallel between Dutch and Vic, it's with Dutch & Steve. Steve was in a bind over his ill advised lawsuit, but Dutch actually took a chance and helped him out. On the other hand Vic didn't help Ronnie out and sold him down the river. I think it's in part why there's so much focus on Steve's story at the end.

    Not that I minded, I've come to love Billings as this season progressed.

    Very good question, I mostly forgot about the show while writing the top 50, but also my main memories of the show were not that positive because the last season didn't really compare to earlier ones and that was freshest in my mind at the time.

    If I was to redo the list it might make it into the 40s, but it was a show that really should have ended a season earlier and that hurts it. Big props to them for bringing back Eric and Kelso in the final episode to wrap things up in a satisfying manner mind you.
  4. Aaron 28 November 2008 at 11:18
    I was hoping that Billings would come through and save Dutch actually, but yes you are spot on with that parallel.
    Charlie Brooker recommended Mad Men on Screenwipe this week too. I'll probably check it out after Xmas when I manage to clear my DVD viewing down.
  5. Rev-Views 28 November 2008 at 11:19
    <3 Charlie Brooker and his Screenwipe.
  6. Aaron 28 November 2008 at 12:21
    I don't understand your crazy internet language. Are you saying balls to Charlie Brooker?
  7. Aaron 28 November 2008 at 12:23
    I know it's a heart, but I've always thought it looks like balls. I'm sorry, I have a problem.

    Hey, at least I'm padding out your comments.

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