Sony // 2008 // 618 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // July 6th, 2009
The final act.
One of the greatest cop shows ever devised comes to its end, and few series have had such pressure on them to deliver a finale. It should come as no surprise that The Shield logs in with one of television's all-time best endings, and a gripping final season preceding it.
At the end of Season 6, corrupt Alpha male supercop Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis, Fantastic Four) is clinging to his career, forming a tenuous alliance with long-time nemesis David Aceveda (Benito Martinez) to fight a druglord wielding enormous political influence and looking to eat up whole sections of Los Angeles. As the investigation moves forward, Vic sniffs out a massive drug-running operation and with it an opportunity to forever free himself from the sins of his past. One wrinkle: Shane Vendrell (Walton Goggins) has gone off the reservation, threatening to burn Vic and Ronnie (David Rees Snell) with the secrets he knows. Meanwhile, Dutch (Jay Karnes) is chasing a teenaged serial killer, and Claudette (CCH Pounder) struggles to maintain order in the precinct.
That's all you're going to get out of me synopsis-wise. Season 7 is such a masterfully plotted culmination to a masterfully plotted series, it would be criminal to let the details slip.
Here's the straight dope: I just finished watching HBO's The Wire and if it were not for the glory of that show, The Shield would earn my vote as the greatest hour-long dramatic series I've ever seen. Still, there's not a lot of daylight between the two shows, both intricately plotted, perfectly-acted, gritty looks at law enforcement. Both series also share director Clark Johnson. I don't want to turn this into a review for The Wire, but it's a testament to the quality of The Shield to be mentioned in the same breath.
I've been following Shawn Ryan and Michael Chiklis's urban crime epic since the beginning. As it marched forward through seven seasons, the quality rose, evolving from a unique, quasi-documentary cop show with a memorable bad-ass antihero, to a startlingly complex piece of storytelling, populated by some of the best characters ever inserted into a TV drama (Anthony Anderson's Antoine Mitchell, Glenn Close's Monica Rawling, Forest Whitaker's Jon Kavanaugh), staged with the ferocity of a Dodge Charger driving through a meth lab.
What's particularly impressive about the final season is how clean and organic the multitude of plot threads and character arcs come to a close. Granted, there are some ambiguous ends, but those are done on purpose and they works. The big stuff? The drugs, Shane's predicament, Ronnie's cost of running with the Strike Team, and the ultimate fate of Vic Mackey, are sewn up nice, and in devastating fashion. There were so many ways for the Strike Team's story to wrap I can honestly say Shawn Ryan's final choice is perfect. I wouldn't change anything, especially Vic's destiny, which is brilliant and poetic.
Look, if I keep going, this review is going to simply devolve into unintelligible series of drooling, fawning, fanboy love. Taken as an entire body of work, The Shield is the finest TV has to offer -- just make sure you start with Season 1 and move forward, as the moments that close the pilot episode directly affect the series finale.
These DVD sets are always well-done, and the last installment (presuming Sony doesn't put out a special edition complete series that comes in a plastic recreation of Michael Chiklis' skull) continues the tradition of excellence. Episodes are given attractive 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfers, though the grit, grain, and color saturation are stylistic choices. and the Dolby surround audio is suitably active, especially when the show's volatile action scenes kick in.
Extras: Commentary on each episode featuring a mixture of cast and crew (Michael Chiklis says the word "literally" almost every other word), deleted scenes, and a pair of documentaries which are long, candid, and interesting, though irritatingly scored.
A sterling season of television and a flawless completion of an epic cop tale unlike anything you've ever seen. This set and the series are must-owns.
Not Guilty. Immunity granted.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (CC)
Running Time: 618 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes