The Shield: Season 6
So many television series follow a strict pattern and formula that when one breaks away from the pack and dares to be different it is usually met with critical acclaim followed swiftly by the network canceling it. The list of brilliant but cancelled series unfortunately grows every season. One show has somehow managed to keep going and will soon be entering an amazing seventh season. This groundbreaking show is ‘The Shield’. It has been the mainstay of Fox’s FX network and helped put that station on many cable boxes in a fashion similar to how ‘The Sopranos’ put HBO on the map. This series has gone against everything that should define a hit series by portraying corrupt police offices as the protagonists of the story. Typically a police crime drama on television has the officers as honest, hardworking men and women out to serve and protect the public. In ‘The Shield’ the offices at the center of the action do work towards putting the bad guys away but they are not above getting a little something extra for their efforts. In the last five seasons they have dealt drugs, made deals with major criminals, stolen from the mob and even murdered one of their own numbers. This is about as far away from thee way the Los Angels police force was portrayed on ‘Dragnet’ as possible. For years I had to hound my cable provider to add FX to their lineup. I was tired of having to wait for the DVD season sets to catch up on one of my favorite series. This was repeated many times over all around the country and the popularity of this show has been increasing season after season. It is now the highest rated series on FX and the seventh and last season is highly anticipated.
While so many TV series have to struggle to remain fresh after a season or two the Shield has only gotten better with each passing year. The quality of the writing is simply incredible. Each week you think that it can’t get any better but then the next episode airs and they manage to pull off something even more exciting. The show is so extremely well crafted that they were able to attract major film stars like Glenn Close and Forest Whitaker as season regulars. The series was created by Shawn Ryan who previously was a writer and producer for the ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ spin off, ‘Angel’. This did give him some experience when it came to going very dark with storylines but little could have prepared him for the intensity he provides with this. Talent runs in his family as his wife, Cathy Cahlin Ryan has a major role as the wife and now their young son Brian has joined the cast. As the major creative influence for the show Ryan had to walk a thin line. FX is not a premium network like HBO or Showtime so they had to reign in some of the more graphic elements that were possible. It also was a night time series on a higher than basic cable tier so they were able to use far stronger language more often than they could have gotten away with on broadcast stations. This does allow him the freedom to go where few other crime series were able to go before.
The main focus of the series is a specialized squad in the Farmington distinct of Los Angles, the Strike Team. They were originally charted as an Anti-Gang task force but have expanded their influence to protecting drug dealers who share their profits with them. The leader of the team is Detective Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) a tough as nails veteran office who often runs his squad with a tough military precision. Lately things have been rough on Vic. In this season the pressure is on to force him into early retirement. This came after numerous attempts to get him on corruptions charges failed. The most recent one, which Lt. Jon Kavanaugh (Forrest Whitaker) from Internal Affairs failed to get the required evidence on Vic and the team. Kavanaugh was so obsessed with convicting them that he lost all perspective and was disgraced when he is caught planting evidence to frame Vic and the team. Things were also growing more tense between Vic and his ex-wife, Connie (Cathy Cahlin Ryan). After being pulled into testify against Vic my Kavanaugh she is now worried if Vic goes to jail how the expensive school for their two autistic children will be paid.
In previous seasons there was one thing you could always count on; the loyalty of the Strike Force. From the first episode of the season this bond has been all but destroyed. In the last episode of season five Vic’s number two, Detective Shane Vendrell (Walton Goggins) murders team member Detective Curtis 'Lemonhead' Lemansky (Kenny Johnson) because it was believed that Lem would turn them all in for robbing a mob money train. Initially Shane has to hide the truth from Vic but is too good an investigator and finds out. The rest of the season is a deadly cat and mouse game as Shane tries to blackmail Vic for his own safety and enough money to retire for good. His life spirals out of control as his marriage begins to crumble. In desperation Shane tries to broker deals with the Armenian mob. Changes abound in Vic’s life. Detective Claudette Wyms (CCH Pounder) is finally promoted to captain and takes command of the Barn, the Farmington squad house. She is determined to clean the house out and that means replacing Vic and the remnants of the Strike team with her own special squad. She is under the gun to improve things in the barn or else the top brass will close it down for good. Things move along in this season at a fevered pace. It starts out with the showdown between Vic and Kavanaugh and just escalates from there. Each episode builds to a climax that will only be resolved in the coming season.
This is some of the best writing, direction and acting either on the small or large screen. It is riveting; never letting you go. You certainly will never get bored watching. In fact, there is a lot to be said about seeing the season with a DVD set where you can watch the episodes back to back in a long weekend marathon. As with the Fox, Sony, who now has the distribution rights this season DVD sets the cast and crew commentaries are the best around. They typically group actors who are enemies on screen together and the audience gets to listen as the joke around about the behind the scenes dirt on the production. This is an incredible series that will be missed when its gone but for know we have six great seasons to watch on DVD.