Tuesday, April 03, 2007

T.V. on TV: The Shield

(David would normally cover this show -- and will begin doing so in two weeks' time -- but I'll try and do a write-up on it next week. In the meantime, my larger review of season six's first half will have to suffice for tonight. -- TV)

The first six episodes of The Shield’s sixth season build to a scene that we’ve seen coming from the very beginning. It’s well photographed (the cameras capture the inimitable late-night glow of L.A.), beautifully and subtly written, and the actors underplay it nicely. Thanks to the gradual accretion of time, the scene plays out with the sort of intensity you can only find in the best serialized television. But it takes a lot of heavy-lifting to get there. When The Shield is firing on all cylinders, it’s like nothing else in television, the cop show reimagined as a violent testosterone opera. Yet it's never quite as good as it could be; it often lacks subtlety, and it’s a little too impressed with its sense of daring.

The Shield has been telling the story of Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) and his strike team. In the pilot episode, Mackey’s murder of a new strike team member (Reed Diamond) set most of the series' events in motion; the question of whether the crime would ever be discovered has hung over the series ever since. In many ways, Mackey is worse than even Tony Soprano. While Tony has been indirectly responsible for the deaths of innocents, the murders he handles directly are those of people who all have blood on their hands. Mackey has killed (and will, so it is implied, kill again) just to better his own station in life, and that gives the show’s attitudes towards him a problematic strain.
There's more where that came from.

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