If you haven’t watched the show already, there’s a whole world to catch up on; however, in the world of FX programming, one can start at any new season without much backstory and be fully captured into an entire universe.
For example, season three ended with the Strike Team in Farmington imploding after a giant pile of craziness following the illegal bust of the Armenian “money train”; Vic Mackey, Shane Vendrell, Lem (Curtis Lemansky), and Ronnie Gardocki fell apart in the grandest of fashions, with only an undercover sting on a car shop remaining. Captain David Aceveda was elected to city council, attempting to destroy any and all in his wake who crossed him. Detectives Claudette Wyms and Holland “Dutch” Wagenbach found themselves on the DA’s shitlist (hey, their swearing, not mine). Julien was trying to make a baby while in denial that he’s gay, Danny got her job back, and the list goes on and on.
With the arrival of the fourth season, Aceveda is on his way out to take his city council position; replacing him is Monica Rawling (Glenn Close), a street cop who worked her way up through the ranks to the captain’s position. The Strike Team is definitely no more, as Lem quit the force altogether and Shane transferred to vice; Vic and Ronnie are left as partners, while Tavon Garris — the final member of the Strike Team who was hospitalized last season after a fight with Shane and subsequent car wreck — is only a distant memory, for now.
Opening episode one is an entertaining bust by Mackey where a rookie gets attacked by a small dog, which he shoots to get it off of his leg. Apparently, the new assistant chief has an attachment to animals and is on his way to the scene to investigate. This is where we first meet future Captain Rawling, as she is greatly amused by Mackey’s grandoise speech about how the rookie got out of this terrible dog attack, and lends her own sense of humor to boot.
Rawling heads to the barn to meet her future co-workers and decides to ride with Mackey for the day. After some minor chit-chat, a call comes in that four bodies were found at Pablo Royale; upon arrival, it’s found that four members of a latino family were drowned one by one in a bathtub. With a bit of searching, the detectives on the scene (including Wyms and Wagenbach) find that there is another child yet missing.
Mackey’s first instincts are to check his connections with the 19ers, one of many gangs he’s encountered during his years on the Strike Team, as he was investigating them and their run of the hotel prior to the madness of the Armenians last season. Rawling rides along and does her own intimidation, and their only lead is to check out one by the name of Antoine Mitchell.
On the ride to check up on this lead, Vic speaks briefly on the phone to his soon-to-be-ex-wife Corrine, and yes, all of their kids are doing just stellar. Rawling discusses Mackey’s application to leave the barn and join a newly formed street team in another district, letting him know he was stepped over for the position.
Antoine Mitchell is found at a rally of sorts, crying for the empowerment of his fellow black men and for gaining respect in their community. It’s revealed that Mitchell was an OG, a huge player in drugs and gang violence; he claims he’s served his time and is only out to help his community. With Mitchell’s connection to the 19ers, Mackey asks him to come down to the barn for a bit of a discussion. He complies… if he’s allowed his own people as escorts.
Meanwhile, investigating on their own are Wyms and Wagenbach, who have hunted down the trail of the father in the drowning case and are checking a key found to a locker in a local gym. After we get to see a middle aged man’s ass, Dutch opens the locker to find a pile of cashola in a bag.
BACK TO BARN DRAMA, Mackey and Rawlings bring in Mitchell. Mackey made a phone call to learn that Aceveda himself had sent a four page letter decrying Mackey’s usefulness and pleading that he not be allowed the position leading the street team for which he had applied. Aceveda freaks out (“you are a joke”) and Mackey starts throwing fists.
Welcome back to The Shield, folks.
In between shots of Mackey talking to Antoine about his connections, possible continuing activities, et cetera, Rawlings grills Aceveda about why he never got rid of Mackey while they watch the interrogation on closed-circuit. “Too effective?” she asks.
Showing up in the middle of nowhere is Lem, who is now working with the youth authority after quitting the force, looking to assist where possible in the drowning case. He attempts to visit Vic but finds Rawlings instead, who asks him a few questions about Mackey which he deflects and only holds the man in highest regard.
Wyms and Wagenbach are continuing on their leads, after learning of a possible connection to the Coronados. They speak to the mother of a possible suspect who won’t be winning any parent of the year awards anytime soon.
Meanwhile, Vic is summoned by Antoine as he has magically found a witness among his cronies to give a hand in the drowning case; in walks a hotel employee with a partial license plate. Mitchell claims she would only talk to the cops after HE granted her protection. As such, Mitchell reminds Mackey that this was a favor, and Vic is on his way to track down the address of the plate.
Upon arrival at the residence, the missing boy is found.
With a warrant in tow, a cell phone number, and whatever else it takes, Mackey and his pals hunt down the Coronados on foot, tackling ’em and bringing ’em in.
Julien and Danny are on the scene of a drive-by shooting.
Rawlings and Wagenbach discuss Wyms’ behavior (from last season) where she began pursuing the case of a drug-abusing assistant district attorney and had been working to get her old cases retried, effectively being blackballed by the DA’s office as a whole. Dutch, as much as he seems to feel begrudged about the situation, sticks up for Claudette.
In interrogation, the two Coronados are each in different rooms; after some playing against each other, it’s discovered that one had no idea that there was still one child left alive. The second suspect breaks down; apparently, the father was set up by his son to believe that he would be running heroin. The plan was to rob him, but clearly, the other gang member had a more grandoise plan in tow.
Back out on the street, Vic works with one of his criminal informants to set up Antoine.
And back to Julien and Danny, no backup detectives arrive and some kids on bicycles give Julien shit (“Yeah, we saw the shooter… a white guy in a limo”).
Unrelated yet not, Ronnie is reviewing tapes from the car sting and comes across a Mike Winston. Is he dealing drugs in his car? Is he setting up a hit? No. He’s out and about with his kid. The kid was playing in the front seat as the dad ran out somewhere for a moment, and Winston returned to beat the living hell out of him.
Can’t bust him for it without sabotaging the undercover case… Mackey makes a plan. Arriving at a tavern, Vic takes Winston’s seat, then provokes him into throwing a punch and subsequently beating the shit out of him in return.
Vic heads to Mission Cross to have the side of his head checked out and discusses selling the house with Corrine. Things seem to be a lot less strained between them after last season, what with Mackey gettin’ it on with a good half dozen chicks and getting busted for it more than once.
Danny and Julien are still waiting for detectives… calling in, they find out they were wanted back at the station because another pair needs the car. “If a drive by occurs and no detectives arrive, did it really happen?”
Rawling and Mackey converse once more. This time, the topic is that of Mackey’s notorious glossing over (and blatant lying about) the truth. Vic comes clean about what happened the night before with Michael Winston and gives her the lowdown on why he was so quick to jump on the 19ers after the hotel murders were found (being that the Strike Team was focusing on Pablo Royale at one point before the Armenian thing got so messy). The letter by Aceveda was mentioned, and Monica made it clear that no other department would touch him after that. Instead, she dropped mention of a new gang unit she intends to start, one which is partially funded by forfeiture and anything else which can be sold back after seizure. Vic, of course, pounces on this like a pit bull on a pomeranian, but Rawling warns: “I need to trust you. Right now, I don’t.” She gives him one week to get his shit together.
Meanwhile, all is glorious as the DA is around to congratulate those involved with helping to solve the drowning murders. She, of course, completely takes a dump on Wyms and Wagenbach, and the cycle continues.
Nicely unrelated to all of this is a scene between David Aceveda and his wife, Aurora; last season, Aceveda was forced to “orally pleasure” a latino criminal at gunpoint, and he is still clearly dealing with rape issues. They’re in therapy, things are strained, blah blah blah.
Checking back on his CI sting, Vic and Ronnie find a body. Inside, they find… Shane, investigating on his own without backup, hasn’t yet quite managed to call in the shooting, and conveniently lifting the perp’s Blackberry. Shane asks about Vic’s kids; Vic asks about Shane and Mara’s baby boy, Jackson. (“After MICHAEL?” quips Vic; “No, after Stonewall,” ends Shane.) The jabs quickly turn ugly and mud is slung from events of last season, and hints are dropped that Shane might be some sort of cohort of Mitchell’s…
It’s not just cops, you know. It’s super DRAMA!
And we’re left with nothing more than a “this season on The Shield” montage. Guns! Backstabbing! Chaos! Why WOULDN’T you watch?