|The Shield: Season Five (2006)
Starring: Michael Chiklis, Forest Whitaker, Catherine Dent, Walton Goggins, Michael Jace, Kenneth Johnson, Jay Karnes, Benito Martinez, CCH Pounder
The fifth season of “The Shield” isn’t like past years of the gritty crime drama. Sure, it’s got the same hard-nosed writing and rock-solid cast that fans of the show are accustomed to. But unlike previous seasons, a second viewing is more than necessary in order to properly appreciate the brilliant (albeit heartbreaking) events that transcend the usual controversy surrounding the series. Thanks in part to an Emmy Award-worthy performance by season guest star Forest Whitaker, not to mention the death of a fan favorite, the fifth season of “The Shield” is one of the best yet.
After successfully reuniting at the end of season four, the Strike Team plays it safe (and perhaps more importantly, legal) by focusing on cleaning up the streets. It’s only fitting, then, that they’re just beginning to be punished for their sins when an ambitious IAD officer, Jon Kavanaugh (Whitaker), arrives on the scene determined to bring down Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) and the rest of his Strike Team for the murder of Terry Crowley, and all their back alley dealings of the past four years. Kavanaugh isn’t stupid, either. Along with forming a relationship with former-captain-turned-councilman David Aceveda (Benito Martinez), Kavanaugh goes after the one man he knows he can turn: Lem (Kenneth Johnson).
Meanwhile, the future of Dutch (Jay Karnes) and Claudette’s (CCH Pounder) partnership is threatened when the latter conceals a serious medical problem, a pregnant Danny (Catherine Dent) is given a desk job while the rest of the Barn lay wagers on the identity of the father, Julien (Michael Jace) is partnered with a rookie cop (Paula Garces) who’s more concerned with looking good than learning, and bumbling detective Steve Billings (David Marciano) is promoted to Captain. And that’s just the beginning. Vic hires legal counsel when he realizes that Kavanaugh may be a bigger threat than originally thought, especially after he makes a deal with Antwone Mitchell (Anthony Anderson) that could serve as the final nail in the Strike Team’s coffin.
As has become practice with “The Shield” DVDs, the fifth season of the critically acclaimed series will arrive in stores just in time for the premiere of the new season. Presented in a four-disc box set featuring all 11 episodes, the DVD release also offers another wonderful collection of special features including in-depth production featurettes, cast/crew interviews and commentary tracks on every episode. The real highlight of the set, though, is an 88-minute documentary on the making of the season finale (“Delivering the Baby”) that covers everything from the initial reaction of Lem’s death to the actual filming of the episode. Also included are 25 deleted scenes (with optional commentary), a panel discussion with Chiklis, Whitaker and creator Shawn Ryan at the Museum of Television and Radio, a “Fox Movie Channel: Making a Scene” featurette, the Season 6 prequel previously viewable on Budweiser’s website, and a tribute to director Scott Brazil, who died earlier in the year.
Plain and simple, while the fifth season of “The Shield” isn’t exactly the best in the show’s history (that honor is still reserved for season two, if you ask me), it’s certainly the best DVD release of the bunch. The inclusion of the 11 audio commentary tracks (which may just be some of the most entertaining commentaries in all of television) was a good start. But the hours of behind-the-scenes material dedicated specifically to the death of Kenneth Johnson’s beloved character further proves the importance of that particular story arc to the entire cast and crew. Let’s just hope that the writers keep their eyes on the prize and milk their risky season-ending decision for all that it’s worth, because if they don’t, then it all would have been for nothing.