The Shield: Season 3
With an edgy crime drama the third season can be difficult. For two years the series has built up the story lines and character development and the danger is now settling into repeating the same old things. Fortunately, the extremely talented group of people that present the Shield have avoided this completely. The executives over at Fox FX have given a degree of freedom rarely seen on cable short of the premium channels like HBO. I was riveted to the television while watching this season. My cable provided doesn’t carry FX so I have to wait for the DVD screeners to watch and I went from episode to episode anxious to see what is going to happen next.
As season three opens Vic (Michael Chiklis) and the Strike Force is under siege on several fronts. Their robbery of the money train cash transfer of the Armenian mob is in danger of being exposed. Some of the cash was marked by the Federal agencies. Captain Aceveda (Benito Martinez), about to be made city councilman, has brought in a new special unit, the decoy squad and given the supervision of both teams to Claudette (CHH Pounder). She pits the both highly competitive teams against each other while giving the Strike Team one menial task after another. To make matters worse the person lives of the Strike Team are in tumult. Vic and his wife Corrine (Cathy Cahlin Ryan) have settled into a more amiable separation but the pressure of their autistic son is resulting in increasing emotional and financial pressures on Vic. Shane (Walt Goggins) has found love with Mara (Michele Hicks) who rapidly becomes a wedge between him and his team mates. Every time the guys are forced to dip into the money train cash calamity ensues resulting in Lem’s (Kenneth Johnson) belief that the money is somehow cursed. Even the detail oriented master detective Dutch (Jay Karnes) is beset with problems. Not only is partner Claudette’s focus now split between their cases and her ambitions for promotion but he is stumped, unable to apprehend a serial rapist of elderly women. Capping things off is Aceveda is beaten and sexually humiliated by a pair of low lives impacting his usually confident self image. Yes, life is difficult for the folks in the Farmington precinct.
While the series gained a lot of attention for its brutal depiction of rogue cops, each season is built around character development not horrific scenes. Of course Vic’s technique for obtaining information from a suspect would make the guards at Abu Grabe shudder but this is one small aspect of the series. Although Vic and the strike team are looking out for themselves much of the troubles that confront them are due to an underlying need to actually get dangerous people off the streets. One dramatic case in point is their use of part of the money train stash to bring down gun dealers that are placing automatic weapons in the hands of gang members. When a eight year old child is killed Vic sees nothing beyond getting those guns off the streets no matter what danger the use of this money brings to him and his team. Gone are the days when a character is either good or bad, the characters shown here are a normal, albeit somewhat exaggerated mixture of all aspects of the human condition. The violence is counterbalanced by some tender moments such as Vic interacting with his daughter Cassidy (Autumn Chiklis). Here is a man capable of extreme brutality yet he loves his daughter as any father would. Shane as always been the one that acts as a lightening rod for complications but now that he is divided between his best friend Vic and his fiancée Mara we see a different side of this character. Vic and Shane where friends for years, forming the squad together yet Shane has always felt like the little brother, constantly in the shadow of the more powerful Vic. We also see more aspects of Claudette’s character. Although she initial shunned the idea of taking over the command when Aceveda moves on to city council she now is driven to get that promotion. She is torn between these ambitions and her core character trait of being a truly morally directed human being.
The cast and crew of this series is somewhat incestuous. Vic’s daughter is player by Chiklis’ real life daughter, his wife by the real life wife of the series’ creator. All of this adds to the familiarity of the actors and translates to the audience being able to connect to these characters on an almost visceral level. Its difficult to believe that Michael Chiklis came to the attention of the American television public as the kind hearted Commish. He is hard here, capable of doing anything necessary to achieve his goals. As his body’s muscle mass grew so did his acting chops. Chiklis is able to hold the screen lie few actors could. Still, his underlying sense of playful humor is able to come out, a credit to his acting ability as well as the talent of the scriptwriters and directors. Walt Goggins has also grown in this season. While it would have been easy to paint him as a one dimensional red neck this season affords us watching to see a man in growing turmoil. He loves Mara and needs a relationship with a woman but the cost is often too high, putting his already tenuous relationship with Vic in more peril. Cathy Cahlin Ryan may initially been considered for her role by virtue of being married to the boss but she has more than earned her place in this excellent ensemble cast. She gives true depth to her portrayal of Corrine. Here is a woman whose life is at the brink. Two of her children are autistic, her husband has betrayed her and she is forced to go back to work, away from her home. Although her husband has and continues to cheat on her she has to remain somewhat civil to him for the sake of the children. While most cops’ wives are mere background she gives a presentation of a real life woman.
I have to give credit to Fox for doing television series so well. Most episodes are presented with commentary tracks featuring different members of the cast and crew. In one such commentary the participants are the women of the series, giving a unique female perspective of this testosterone drive series. Each episode has the option to select deleted scenes that actually provide greater insight instead to the normal cutting room floor sweepings most deleted scenes present. There is a menu option for each episode that allows you to skip the recap, a nice touch especially if you are watching them back to back. In all this is a worth while series to get. Each viewing will give you more details and continue to hold your attention.