|The Shield: Season Four (2005)
Starring: Michael Chiklis, Glenn Close, Catherine Dent, Walton Goggins, Michael Jace, Kenneth Johnson, Jay Karnes, Benito Martinez, CCH Pounder
Despite a less-than-stellar third season that had fans of the series dreading the slow demise of their favorite crime drama, season four of “The Shield” picked up the pieces and recaptured all that was unique and captivating about its debut year. The addition of a five-time Oscar-nominated actress like Glenn Close always helps to win the ratings war, but without such a strong core cast to back her up, she would have been nothing more than a flashy name on top of a billboard. Instead, try directing your applause towards series regulars Walton Goggins and CCH Pounder, whose performances this season easily hurdle that of the veteran actress, or more so, funny man Anthony Anderson, whose not-so-funny dramatic turn as a Farmington crime lord managed to surprise everyone and their mothers by the final episode of the year. Was he really crying? Bravo.
Season four picks up only a few months after the “big fight” between the Strike Team, with Vic (Michael Chiklis) and Ronnie (David Rees Snell) confined to the Barn cataloging hours of video tape for a garage sting, Lem (Kenneth Johnson) moving on to work with troubled teens, and Shane (Goggins) transferring to the Vice unit with new partner Army (Michael Pena). When a new female captain, Monica Rawlings (Close), starts her tenure in Farmington with the implementation of a new Street Gang crime unit, Vic receives a clean slate and the chance to play it straight for a change. His new position takes a turn for the worst, however, when ex-gang leader Antwone Mitchell (Anderson) threatens to return to the streets with the help of an inside man.
Meanwhile, Claudette and Dutch (Pounder and Jay Karnes, respectively) have been blacklisted by the D.A.’s office for their attempts to challenge the justice system, while Julian and Danni are relegated to the same, tired street work that continues to curb their characters from being somewhat interesting. The biggest change in the narrative is the introduction of former Farmington captain David Aceveda (Benito Martinez) as the city’s new councilman, though his troubles in dealing with the oral rape from last season are hardly over, and as his marriage falters, he beings to engage in rape fantasies of his own with a willing escort/prostitute (Abby Brammell).
And just as the third season was about breaking down relationships, the fourth is all about rebuilding them. The eventual reunion of the Strike Team takes up a lot of time towards the end of the season, with relationships between Vic, Shane and Lem all ending on a happy note of closure, but the struggles between Dutch and Claudette are the most fascinating to watch. New bonds also appear throughout the season, including a new addition (?) to the Strike Team in Army, and on-again-off-again intimacy between Dutch and Vic’s ex-wife, Corrine (Cathy Cahlin Ryan). There aren’t as many stand-out episodes worth mentioning this time around, mostly because the season succeeds much better as a single narrative, but the writing on the final third of the season is clearly a step up from the rest.
The DVD release of the fourth season is presented in a four-disc box set and features all thirteen episodes in their original 1.33:1 video format, with the exception of episode ten (the extended episode), which is presented in a 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio. Taking a page from my review of season three, Fox has delivered in the audio department with a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track and the series sounds better than ever. Everything else on the DVDs have been kept pretty much the same as the last few releases, with a nice selection of special features that should keep fans busy until the premiere of the new season including eight audio commentary tracks with various cast and crew on the following episodes: “The Cure,” “Grave” and “Bang” (disc one), “Tar Baby” and “Cut Throat” (disc two), “Back in the Hole” and “A Thousand Deaths” (disc three), and the season finale, “Ain’t That a Shame” (disc four).
The rest of the bonus material includes 42 deleted scenes with optional commentary and the making-of documentary “Under the Skin.” Everyone loves a good collection of deleted scenes, but this time, they hardly seem necessary. They are also divided up by episode and can only be accessed via each specific episode menu screen, which means if you want to watch all 42 cuts back-to-back, you’ll have to play Juggle the DVD. The hour-plus, eleven-part documentary, however, is definitely worth the attention. Taking an inside look at the ins and outs of making the series, the documentary offers great behind-the-scenes information and confirms our suspicions that Glenn Close got whatever she wanted on set, including script rewrites and character revisions.
The fourth season of “The Shield” pulls the audience back into the gritty underground of the L.A. crime scene with the same grab bag of hopeless characters, sharp writing, and intense drama. Glenn Close has done an overall knockout job in her role as the determined, but forgiving police captain, but I won’t pretend to be sad to see her go. The Barn is back to normal - which means it’s prepared for a new round of internal destruction to begin – and fans of the series will be ecstatic with this news. In fact, if season four was a return to the debut year, then season five should shape up to be a lot like the second season of the show. This is a good thing.