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The Shield 7.13 - Family Meeting - Series Finale

Another one of television’s great dramas has come to a close, and if I were to rank the series finale compared to some of the other big ones from the past year or so, it would probably fall somewhere between the disappointing conclusion to “The Sopranos” and the pitch-perfect ending to “The Wire.” It wasn’t great, but it was certainly satisfying, and it wrapped up just about every loose end other than Aceveda’s bid for mayor. Fans of the series have been following these characters for seven years now, and instead of just running through the episode as usual, I’ve decided to take this opportunity to discuss the fates of each character one at a time.

For as much bad shit that happened throughout the episode, this was probably one of the more shocking of the bunch. A lot of people didn’t think it was possible for Vic to get his comeuppance without death or incarceration, but when you consider the kind of person that he really is, it made sense. Vic only needs a few things in life – family, friends, and a badge – and the fact that he no longer has any of them is kind of like sentencing him to his own personal hell. Olivia said it best after Vic begged her to tell him where his children were: “You said goodbye to them the minute you shot another cop in the face.”

All of Vic’s friends are gone, Corrine has put his kids into witness protection, and his new gig at ICE is a boring desk job typing up weekly analysis reports on gang activity in the city. Some might say he’s got it good compared to what could have happened (after all, he’s only obligated to work at ICE for three years and he’s a free man), but the look on his face when he was being shepherded through the mandatory tour of the facilities said enough. That last moment when he grabs his gun and walks out of the office seemed to indicate that he might actually be okay with the cards he’s been dealt, but if that’s the case, then it doesn’t seem like he’s really paid for his crimes at all.

I’d like to say that I didn’t see Shane’s suicide coming, but it’s been building to this for the past few weeks. In fact, Shane has been in a downward spiral longer than it may seem, and this isn’t the first time he’s contemplated killing himself either. It’s been so upsetting to see him become this way over the last few seasons (as he was one of my favorite characters when the show debuted), and it’s even more upsetting that the writers decided he was such a selfish person that he would kill Mara, Jackson and his unborn baby girl as well. Shooting yourself is one thing, and you could even make an argument as to why he killed Mara as well (though that’d be a hard argument to make considering she was pregnant), but what about poor Jackson? Shane certainly deserved to die, but not on his own terms, and most certainly not after he’s just murdered his own family. With that said, Walton Goggins has never deserved an Emmy nomination more. His performance throughout this season has been nothing short of spectacular, but the scene with him talking on the phone with Vic was some of his best work yet.

Poor, poor Ronnie. He might not have been as innocent as Lem, but he also wasn’t as bad as Vic or Shane either. The chances of him escaping arrest, however, were pretty slim after Vic hung him out to dry last week. There was always the chance that Vic had a backup plan to help Ronnie escape, and I even thought at one point that he might make a deal with Claudette to renege on his deal with the feds in exchange of letting Ronnie go free, but that became less and less likely as the episode went on. And when Claudette ordered Ronnie back to the Barn after he helped Vic take down Beltran, you just knew it was only a matter of time before he’d be arrested. It’s too bad it had to come to this, as I’ve really grown to appreciate Ronnie over the course of the series, but what I don’t understand is how it’s even possible? Can they really take Vic’s confession and use it to prosecute Ronnie, because if so, that sucks.

Not everyone had an unhappy ending, and if there’s one person that deserved it the most, it's Dutch. Sure, he wasn’t able to put Lloyd away himself (which was kind of bittersweet not only because that was Dutch’s main storyline for the season, but also because we never actually got to see Lloyd confess to murdering his own mother), but at least he managed to score a date with Billings’ lawyer. Plus, after Claudette eventually does retire (which will probably happen sooner rather than later), he’s probably the top candidate to take over as captain. It’s just too bad it didn’t happen in tonight’s episode, because it would have been the perfect topper to one of the best TV characters of the last decade.

After taking all of the credit from the Beltran bust, Aceveda appears to be a shoo-in for mayor. But is that really the end of his story? I was left wondering whether or not Aceveda had any involvement in the death of Andre Benjamin's character. It seemed too much like coincidence that he'd be shot the same day that he challenged Aceveda at a community meeting (and was doing a darn good job of winning supporters), but at the same time, there wasn't any real evidence that supported that theory. You'd think Ryan would have at least hinted at it if was true, and I don't recall Aceveda acting suspicious in his final scene with Claudette. Then again, I wouldn't put it past Aceveda to take such precautions, and it's just one of the many questions left unanswered after tonight's finale.

Now, I know that I said I was going to discuss each character one at a time, but the truth of the matter is, it's getting late and there isn’t a whole lot to say about the rest of the cast. Claudette has finally cleansed the Barn of all things Vic Mackey, and that seems good enough for her, especially now that she’s accepted the fact that she’s dying; Billings won his case against the city and was rewarded with a whopping two days of pay; Julien, Danny and Tina seem poised for promising careers within the department; and Corrine finally got free of Vic's control.

All in all, not too shabby for a series finale. From the looks of the comments pouring in on last week’s blog post, however, not too many fans are as content with it as I am. Still, even though it wasn’t perfect, Shawn Ryan deserves credit for being able to wrap up as the series as well as he did. It’s always difficult to say goodbye to the shows you love – especially ones as good as this – and though you could debate for hours on how the show should have ended, at least we got a real ending and not some freaking black screen of death.

The Shield 7.12 - Possible Kill Screen

The Shield 7.11 - Petty Cash

Does Vic Mackey ever read the newspaper? Because if he did, maybe he would know that there are a lot easier ways to find a job than getting in bed with the Mexican drug cartel. Vic’s been really pushing his luck this season, but none of that compares to his latest plan, which involves convincing Beltran to do business with the blacks (who control 40% of the drug trade in Farmington) and then skimming cash from their first deal. Forget for a moment that Vic has severely pissed off his black associates by essentially forcing them into business with the Mexicans, because once Beltran finds out about Vic stealing money from him, all bets are off.

Vic is hoping that the feds will be able to nail Beltran before it ever comes to that, and for the time being, his plan seems to be working. Not only has he gained trust with Beltran (claiming that he’s his own personal action hero), but he also has the cash needed to pay back Shane. Of course, he’s so busy running around town like a chicken with its head cut off that he gets Ronnie to deliver the package to Corrine. What he doesn’t realize, however, is that by doing so, he’s also escaped certain arrest at the hands of Claudette, who’s idly waiting by with Dutch to pounce on him when he arrives. That’s the good news. The bad news is that now Claudette has even more to pin on poor Ronnie when it’s time for his comeuppance.

Vic hopes that he’ll be able to change both his and Ronnie’s futures by securing jobs with ICE and thereby earning immunity from their less righteous pasts, but while helping bring down Beltran should make Olivia’s boss at least consider that option, he knows that it’s going to take a little more than that. This explains why he’s returned Olivia’s blackmail file to her with no strings attached. Of course, though he isn’t holding the file as leverage against her like Aceveda, giving it back to her and then demanding a big favor is pretty much the same thing. It seems to have worked, however, and Vic and Ronnie are one step closer to being clear of this giant shit storm. They’ve even intercepted the letter that Shane sent to Claudette, but when Ronnie opened it, all he found was a note addressed to him teasing how he was Vic’s little bitch.

No matter what happens in the end, one thing is for sure: Shane is a lot smarter than everyone thought. By sending that bogus letter and setting up the meet that he had no intentions of going to, Shane bought himself a lot of time – time that he needed to put together some extra cash before him and Mara leave town. Though his first plan to rob a stash house doesn’t go quite as planned, Mara suggests they break into the safe at her real estate company. Though they got much less for the cashier’s checks than they were expecting, it should be more than enough to get them where they need to go. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going to matter in the long run, because unless Vic gets off scot-free, there’s no reason Shane should either. Then again, Vic seems to have won over the approval of Corrine yet again with his handling of Cassidy in his final scene, and though it may not seem like she has any more worth to Claudette and Dutch, she might just end up being the wild card when all is said and done.

The Shield 7.10 - Party Line

The Shield 7.9 - Moving Day

To call this week’s episode of “The Shield” a disappointment would be to admit that the cast/crew did something wrong, and, well, that’s just not the case. Nevertheless, I found it to be less eventful than most shows, and that probably has something to do with the fact that with four episodes to go, Shawn Ryan and Co. seem to be holding off on playing their final hand. This is something that I warned against a few weeks back, and though it isn’t so bad that it feels like the characters are just standing around waiting for the end to come, this week’s episode felt like it was stretching out the story a little more than usual.

The spotlight was shifted to Shane this week now that he’s on the run from the cops, and though his initial check-in with Corrine doesn’t go as planned (he knows Vic is there coaching her the minute she asks too much), Shane really seems to have a handle on how to properly evade capture. For starters, he’s not planning on leaving LA anytime soon, since he knows the entire police department is out searching for him, and he’s quick to trade in his flashy Lexus for another car with clean papers. The wrench in his plans, however, is that Mara forgot to bring Jackson’s medicine with her before leaving, and the kid’s whooping cough could escalate into pneumonia at any minute. This forces to Shane to head to a nearby pharmacy to pick up new medicine, and when that causes some bad reaction, Mara begs him to take Jackson to the hospital. It’s there that Vic finally catches up with him, but when he pulls out his gun to take Shane down, a squad car pulls up and the cops arrest Vic instead.

Now, I find it hard to believe that every cop within the city limits wasn’t shown a picture of Shane before heading out on patrol, but even if they didn’t recognize him in the dark, don’t you think one of the officers would have at least pulled Shane and Mara aside to take down a statement? It seems like a pretty sorry excuse for Shane to get away, especially considering the circumstances. Still, he’s free for the time being, and though he suggests that Mara go turn herself in so that she may properly take care of Jackson, she refuses, claiming that family sticks together. And for all the trouble that Mara has caused over the last few years, you’ve got to respect that she’s still standing by Shane’s side.

The only really interesting Strike Team-related event of the night is when Claudette, officially tired of all of Ronnie’s lying, gave him an ultimatum: either tell her the truth about why Shane was gunning for him or risk losing his job. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ronnie tells her just enough (including Shane’s murder of Lem) without incriminating him or Vic. I’m not exactly sure Claudette actually buys into or not, but at least Ronnie has bought himself a little more time at the Barn. Unfortunately, he no longer has a Strike Team to run now that Claudette has disbanded the team, leaving him chained to a desk until Shane is captures, and Julian forced to head back to the street with Tina.

The rest of the episode was made up of little mini-subplots that weren’t especially productive, but they still proved to be more interesting than the main story. Dutch still believes he can prevent Lloyd from turning to the Dark Side; Billings taps into his inner Vic Mackey in order to get a registered sex offender thrown back in jail; and Aceveda wrestles with Pezuela over his increasing control of his campaign. Pezuela is starting to get really cocky now that his boss is in town (“The dick is up your ass, and I am the one who decides if and when it comes out.”), and it’s only a matter of time before DEA takes him down. Or is it? They’ve already screwed it up once before, so what’s to say they won’t do it again? And where in the world is Danni? She was clearly planning on skipping town at the end of last week’s episode, but has anyone actually realized that she’s gone?

The Shield 7.8 - Parricide

The Shield 7.7 - Bitches Brew

It might sound silly to admit, but the only thing currently working against “The Shield” is that it’s almost too proficient at progressing the main story. We’re only at the halfway point and it feels like we should be gearing up for the season finale instead. This isn’t the first time this has happened, either (one could even say that the whole season has been nothing but build up to the top secret finale), but it doesn’t make me any less worried that things are going to slow down in the coming weeks.

With Vic’s chance to arrest Pezeula squandered, Aceveda decides it’s time to turn in the blackmail box to the feds. They’re not happy about the way Vic and Aceveda handled the situation, and they make sure to let them know how bad they screwed up. Olivia is just worried that her boss will discover that there’s a file on her in the box, but Aceveda has made sure that won’t happen. No, he didn’t give Olivia the file, but he did remove it from the box for his own safe keeping. Which begs to ask the question: is Aceveda really any better than Pezuela if he’s willing to resort to the same tactics? He’s been playing both sides ever since he left the Barn to become councilman, and one could even argue that it began much earlier than that.

The blowback from the blackmail box probably hits Vic the hardest, however, as someone within the department uses it as a means of bumping up his appeals hearing. Not only is his termination effective in 10 days, but he also loses his entire pension. Claudette offers him a piece of his retirement money if he’ll leave right away, but Vic kindly declines, stating that he still has a few loose ends to tie up. One of those loose ends is Pezuela, and when he warns him about an impending federal raid on his warehouse, Vic is hoping that he’ll be rewarded with a promotion. Instead, Pezuela gives him a severance bonus and shows him the door, claiming that Vic is no longer any help if he’s not a cop.

Vic isn’t down and out just yet, though. After the feds botch up their takedown of Pezuela, Olivia’s boss brings in Vic for help with the investigation. Obviously, Vic wants to exact a little revenge on Pezuela for screwing him over, but he’s probably more interested in exploiting the opportunity as a way of saving his badge. Of course, that’s not going to matter one bit if Shane succeeds in killing him first. Apparently, I was wrong in my original assessment that he might be the bigger man. Shane’s got a contract out on (presumably) both Ronnie and Vic’s heads, and he doesn’t even know all the details. It’s like Lem all over again, only things are going to end much worse than they did the last time around.

Meanwhile, the whole subplot involving Claudette’s illness is back this week as Dutch discovers that she’s having more trouble than she’s letting on. When a breaking-and-entering in Claudette’s neighborhood prompts Dutch to stop by her house to check in on her, he finds the inside a total mess. We’re not talking about a little clutter either, but mounds of garbage piled in the kitchen. She’s also not driving to work any more and it’s got Dutch worried. So, in an attempt to lend a helping hand, he hires a cleaning lady to help out. I’d like to say that’s all we’ll ever hear from this subject again, but the chance of that happening is slim. The writers are clearly struggling to write good material for Dutch and Claudette, and with the end of the series coming so soon, they’ve put all their marbles in this subplot – one that will no doubt see the firing/death of Claudette as captain and perhaps even Dutch stepping up to take her place. It wouldn’t be the worst possible ending, but that doesn’t change the fact that I still miss the days when they just solved cool crimes together.

The Shield 7.6 - Animal Control

The Shield 7.5 - Game Face

It doesn’t happen very often, but tonight’s episode was a complete bore. The whole subplot involving Claudette’s run-in with Kleevon Gardner didn’t accomplish a single thing, other than to reemphasize the fact that her duties as captain are being affected by her systemic lupus. It was a clever twist to have Kleevon not only act as his own lawyer, but to be smart enough to secure an empty pill bottle from Claudette’s trash for evidence, but when all was said and done (including a plea bargain that wiped the proposed death penalty off the table for Kleevon’s impending trial), it seemed like an utter waste of time. Sure, Claudette’s bosses now know about her illness, but with Danny double-checking everything she does anyway, I can’t imagine it being a problem further down the road.

As for the Strike Team, they’re part in the Mexican/Armenian gang war took a back seat this week as they helped Agent Murray sort out a federal matter involving a dirty businessman whose case could be blown if they don’t recover his recently kidnapped daughter. It all happened as part of a routine carjacking by a group of Caribbean thugs, and after making the rounds (including getting into a car chase with a suped-up ricer that they never would have caught in real life), the Strike Team tracks down the warehouse where they're hiding out with the stolen car and girl.

Because it would alert the businessman to his investigation if a bunch of cops just raided the place, Vic comes up with an ingenious plan that, while Claudette approves, she doesn’t particularly like. It involves recruiting a couple of gang members to go in with Julian and pretend like they’re robbing the place – only to let the kidnapped girl escape amidst all the chaos – and it goes off without a hitch. Unfortunately, the whole takedown was about one-fifth as exciting as last week’s preview made it out to be. In fact, the only thing really worth mentioning about the whole encounter is when one of the gang members asked Vic if they could be deputized beforehand. Vic tells them to raise their right hand, and when the thugs all do so in excitement, he has them pat their head and rub their stomach at the same time.

They didn’t seem to think it was very humorous, but I thought it was the funniest thing I’ve seen Vic do in a long time – especially when he’s had to deal with his idiotic daughter for the last few weeks. This time, he discovers that she not only took part in a Pimps and Hos party that included drug use and the girls only wearing lingerie, but that she was the one who planned it. Hopefully, this gives Vic enough reason to punish her properly, because the last time he tried to scold her about her idiotic ways, she made it look like he was attacking her. Vic should just send her to Africa so we never have to see her again. Maybe then she’ll learn some freaking manners.

Of course, the big revelation of the night was that Agent Murray is, in fact, in Pezuela’s pocket, but I can’t imagine she won’t accept Vic’s help to get out. As it happens, the reason she became indebted to him in the first place was as a result of “losing” some documents in a racketeering case that her brother happened to be tied up in. Now, she’s looking for help, and she knows Vic is the only man that can give it to her. Unfortunately, he’s still not in possession of the blackmail box, and until that happens, everyone involved (Vic, Murray, Aceveda, Shane and Ronnie) will be sleeping with one eye open. It's only a matter of time before the backstabbing begins, and I bet it happens sooner than we expect.

The Shield 7.4 - Genocide

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