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Case Number 08280

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The Shield: Season 4

Fox // 2005 // 623 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // January 9th, 2006

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All Rise...

Judge David Johnson says Glenn Close can be his captain any time she wants

Editor's Note

Our reviews of The Shield: The Complete First Season (published February 10th, 2003), The Shield: Season 3 (published March 9th, 2005), The Shield: Season 5 (published March 27th, 2007), The Shield: Season 6 (published August 26th, 2008), The Shield: Season 7 (published July 6th, 2009), and The Shield: The Complete Series (published November 3rd, 2009) are also available.

The Charge

"I don't step back. I step up."

Opening Statement

The best cop show on the airwaves returns to the DVD market with its fourth gritty season. Emmy-winner Michael Chiklis is back as shady cop Vic Mackey, a hard-boiled street warrior who gets things done…but at what price? Season Four brings with it two additional actors: Anthony Anderson as ganglord Antwon Mitchell and Glenn Close as Monica Rawling, the captain of "The Barn," and Vic's new boss.

Facts of the Case

Season Three ended with the splintering of the Strike Team, the anti-crime unit headed by Mackey that delivered solid results in cleaning up the Farmington district, but was crippled under its own corruption. Following the team's dissolution, Mackey is relegated to irrelevance in The Barn, hanging out with Ronnie "Someone's Dad" Gardocki (David Reese Snell), thanks to a political screw job from former captain-turned-city councilor David Aceveda (Benito Martinez).

But now a new captain has entered the building (after Detective Claudette Wyms (CCH Pounder) took herself out of the running for making a stir about procedural snafus): Monica Rawling, the tough, agenda-driven woman bringing with her a new approach to purging crime from the streets of Farmington.

Mackey has to play nice with the new captain if he's ever to start making an impact again. Rawling's ballsy approach to fighting crime, though, intrigues Mackey, and he soon finds himself a more-than-willing accomplice in the new law on the streets, which includes a controversial assets seizure program.

Despite the community's mixed reactions to this intrusive, but effective, initiative, the biggest challenge for Mackey and Rawling lies with the powerful drug kingpin, Antwon Mitchell (Anderson), a gangster so powerful he has his thumb on one of Vic's old Strike Team members—and personal friend—Shane Vendrell (Walton Goggins).

Vic must navigate the dangerous waters of protecting, and perhaps thwarting, his friend, while keeping clean under the heavy scrutiny that the seizure program will bring, and, just maybe, reunite the Strike Team to take down their most dangerous foe yet.

The 13 episodes are spread over four discs. They are:

Disc One
• The Cure
• Grave
• Bang
• Doghouse

Disc Two
• Tar Baby
• Insurgents
• Hurt
• Cut Throat

Disc Three
• String Theory
• Back in the Hole
• A Thousand Deaths
• Judas Priest

Disc Four
• Ain't that a Shame

The Evidence

So here's my Shield spiritual journey: since the show's inception I've watched it regularly. However, I was never really super into it like I have been with other shows (Lost, 24, Arrested Development). It was very well-done, unique, and one of the most daring and engaging hour-longs on the television. Objectively, I recognized all of that, but was never overly compelled. Season Three was very good, however, and the way the writers put Vic and his Strike Team one step ahead of the $%&#, while they protected their illicitly gained mob fortune and eventually detonated from within, was a marvel of story-planning and technical execution. I liked it a lot.

Then Season Four started, and I was immediately hooked. I couldn't tear my eyes away, and found myself anticipating Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. each week. Unfortunately, we decided to—gasp!—trim our cable bill, and, as a result, six episodes in, I was without The Shield. That one hurt. So after some failed attempts to get friends to tape the show, I succumbed to the realization I would just have to wait for the DVD set.

Well it's here and it was worth the wait.

This season of The Shield is a triumph, a series of shows rocketing forward with the momentum of a Glock bullet, and is littered with great characters, great performances, and a great writing. It is crude, boundary-pushing (perhaps a bit too boundary-pushing), and wholly bad-ass. This is a cop show that would make other cop shows on network television pee themselves.

Season Four works for a number of reasons. The first is Glenn Close. She was an inspired choice for the role of Rawling, a refreshing change to the slippery political machinations of Aceveda. She's also more than a match for Vic's strong-armed tactics. Chiklis and Close are fantastic together, and this pairing adds yet another level of class and intensity to the show.

Second is Anthony Anderson, an actor who makes his bucks appearing as hugely annoying comic relief in DMX movies. Prior to his run on The Shield, I had him only pegged as a Grade-A buffoon, relentlessly milking his goofy shtick, and placing him firmly in the realm of Martin Lawrence and Rob Schneider. But on this show, the guy does a complete turnaround, jettisoning his comedic inclinations and leaping with both feet into a wholly sinister persona. Antwon Mitchell is easily the best villain the Strike Team has ever faced, as cunning as Vic and twice as ruthless. And that one scene—if you've seen this season you know what I'm talking about—when he does that thing to that girl…yikes. Overall, dude is electrifying.

But that's the new stuff. When you add it to the already kickin' grist that is business-as-usual for The Shield (e.g., taut plotting, raw writing, a lightning pace, and storylines that you won't see anywhere else), then you're cooking with gas. Though the deft weaving of plot from Season Three still wows me with its foresight and complexity, Season Four's twisting and turning is just as remarkable. The writers continually throw curveballs, and after the credits roll on the final episode, you'll likely look back at all 13 and be impressed; these hombres put together an awesome story.

Everyone involved is given new and interesting stuff to do, save for CCH Pounder, unfortunately, who, besides some introductory tangling with the DA over politics, is left with the least interesting narrative arc. But it's gold for the rest of the cops: Vic forced to play good cop while reassembling the Strike Team, Dutch (my favorite character) dating Vic's ex (!) and finally earning some respect in the Barn, Shane desperately trying to back out of an impossible situation with Antwon, Lem (my second favorite character) whooping ass, and even Ronnie making himself useful! But the award for most envelope-pushing story thread is Aceveda's attempts to cope with the rape from last season (Dave shudders), by shacking up with a prostitute and reenacting rapes of his own. Yeah, that would be another "yikes."

If you haven't caught on yet, I really, really liked this season of The Shield. In my opinion it's the best, and for a groundbreaking, big-ass entertaining show like this, that's no small flattery.

Fox put together another solid set for the season. Yes, the shows are still presented in full screen (save for "Back in the Hole," a near 90-minute extended episode presented in widescreen), but they look great. The stereo mix is also effective.

While not pregnant with extras, the bonus materials are all quality. Selected episode commentaries featuring the cast and crew are often quite entertaining, and reflect an obvious respect for the show. The one hour documentary "Under the Skin" is fantastic, chronicling 10 different elements that went into this season's production. Extensive interviews with the cast, directors, creators, and writers accompany. The whole "transcendent view" of acting, with near-metaphysical bloviating about finding one's motivation and developing the character grew irritating, but that's what you get when you stick a camera into a bunch of actors' faces. Finally, you get a whopping 42 deleted scenes (some with optional commentary from creator Shawn Ryan).

The Rebuttal Witnesses

While this set can surely be enjoyed independent of the prior seasons, it would certainly help to have seen Season Three for some important reference plot points.

Closing Statement

I loved this season, and eagerly consumed the episodes. The story arcs are compelling and the character work is fascinating. Some elements, like Aceveda's self-imposed whore therapy, strike me as a bit overblown, but what do I know—I've never been raped by a Peurto Rican gang member. If you're on the fence about The Shield, trust me, and grab this set up. I'd be surprised if it didn't kick your butt.

The Verdict

Not guilty, Dutch-boy!

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Scales of Justice

Video: 85
Audio: 85
Extras: 90
Acting: 95
Story: 95
Judgment: 93

Perp Profile

Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 623 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Crime
• Drama
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Selected episode commentary by the cast and crew
• "Under the Skin" documentary
• 42 deleted scenes with commentary

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