Yesterday I finished watching Season 7 of The Shield. I watched the show from the beginning, back when I was in Australia and watched it online as the seasons progressed. But yesterday I finished watching the final season on DVD for the first time, to really mixed emotions.
For those unfamiliar with the show, it tells the story of Vic Mackey and his strike team, a bunch of corrupt cops in the fictional Farmington district of Los Angeles. Mackey was a thug and a murderer, but also a highly intelligent and charismatic operator who closed cases that others could not.
While the show was always dark, in the last few seasons, especially the final one, it was almost entirely bleak. The frenetic action never really slowed down, but it was clear that in many ways there was no point. Mackey and his guys had lost their souls long ago. Without ruining anything for those of you who may watch it some day, they all reap what they have sown.
The show had a lot to say, but it usually didn’t come right out and say it. It usually followed the maxim of “show, don’t tell”, to demonstrate what policework can do to people, the way people can give in to temptation – or not, the futility of the war on drugs. And it showed a little something about the human condition. For the first four seasons we could cheer on the cops, both good and bad, as they tried to close cases by whatever means they could.
But it wasn’t until the fifth season, when an Internal Affairs investigation started, that those methods were used on the characters we had come to know and care for over the previous years. The pressure, lies, threats, and intimidation were now used on the characters we knew and cared about, not on a random suspect-of-the-week. And they looked a lot less clever and a lot more brutal now that we knew those who were being subjected to them.
The writers behind the show did an amazing job of making us care, and they just got better as the years went on. The show became less enjoyable, but not less compelling. The acting was often top-notch as well, and some of Michael Chiklis’ most impressive moments as Vic Mackey were in the last season. Many of them were completely silent, as he was forced to confront what he was, what he had done.
This is the second time I’ve watched the series, and I don’t think I will watch it again for many years. But I’m glad I spent the time I did with Vic, Shane, Lem, Ronnie, Danny, Julian, Dutch, Claudette, Tina, Steve, David, and the countless other characters that made the world of Farmington a very real one.