The Shield – The Complete Fifth Season – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

Created by
Shawn Ryan

Cast:
Michael Chiklis … Detective Vic Mackey
Benito Martinez … Captain David Aceveda
Walton Goggins … Detective Shane Vendrell
Michael Jace … Officer Julien Lowe
Jay Karnes … Detective Holland “Dutch” Wagenbach
Catherine Dent … Officer Danielle “Danny” Sofer
CCH Pounder … Detective Claudette Wyms
Cathy Cahlin Ryan … Corrine Mackey
Kenny Johnson … Detective Curtis “Lemonhead” Lemansky
David Rees Snell … Detective Ronnie Gardocki
David Marciano … Detective Steve Billings
Forest Whitaker … Lt. Jon Kavanaugh


The Show:

It’s not very hard to find a Crime Drama on TV these days. The major networks all seem to have their own Police Procedural Dramas from the 28 different versions of CSI and Law and Order to quirkier fair like Fox’s Bones. On cable, cops and gangsters do battle on several high profile shows such as HBO’s The Wire and The Sopranos, as well as the grittiest show on TV, The Shield. Following the exploits of Los Angeles Detective Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) and his Strike Team of gangbusters, the fifth season of the show is its most powerful and hard-hitting yet.

While the past few seasons have had tremendous guest stars from Glenn Close to Anthony Anderson, season five of this award winning drama had the added boost of getting the services of this year’s winner for the Best Actor Oscar, Forest Whitaker. Whitaker is a complete powerhouse on this show as Lt. Jon Kavanaugh, an Internal Affairs officer trying harder than anyone else has ever done to bring Mackey and his team down. With an ace in the hole in the form of a brick of heroin found in the car of Strike Team member Detective Curtis Lemansky (Kenny Johnson), Kavanaugh is a force to be reckoned with, as he attempts to wreck the lives of all involved.

It’s insane to watch an actor of this caliber on basic cable, as he does work here that is on par with many of Whitaker’s best films. Given minutes of screen time all to himself in several episodes, he delivers exactly the type of performance you would expect from the actor that chilled us to the bone in Last King of Scotland and filled us with excitement in Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai. We can see his fury and determination right under the surface, and when he lets it out we’re still shocked at the skill of his craft and the authority of his screen presence.

What makes this season so different from the others is an uncertainty that Kavanaugh brings with him. In the back of our mind, we’ve always had the confidence that Vic and his men would be able to fight their way through any scrape, but this time we’re not so sure. They’ve never faced a foe so determined to take them down, and they seem to even be losing what support they used to have. As the team tries to keep it together while their world crumbles around them, you can see the seams starting to show and the results end up tragic and truly heartbreaking.

All this is on top of a show that was already well constructed. In addition to the Dirty Harry-style antics of Vic’s troops, the series is a great Police Procedural as well, showcasing the talents of CCH Pounder and Jay Karnes as Detectives Claudette Wyms Holland “Dutch” Wagenbach. The duo brings an interesting mix to the show, chasing down serial killers and other criminals with storylines that go back nearly as many seasons as anything that Mackey does. They’re also a wonderful counterpoint to the world of corruption that swirls around the Strike Team, as Dutch and Claudette are old school detectives, staying clean while they bring down L.A.’s filth.

The show’s creator, Shawn Ryan, has also gone to great lengths to make the show seem as authentic as possible. No subject matter seems off limits, and many are hard to watch from a vigilante targeting closet gays to a woman getting her baby cut out of her stomach. This is a show of consequences, as everything that happens on this series seems to deeply affect its characters, with the wear and tear seeming to be really getting to all of them.

Once again this season, the show is also a treat for action fans as Vic and his team bust as many heads as possible to get the job done on the streets. We’re talking French Connection-level grittiness, as crack houses and Russian gangsters have to deal with the fury of the Strike Team. Heads go violently through windows and bangers are blown away with the visceral impact of any Hollywood film, as this series toes the line of what is acceptable on basic cable.

Thankfully, the actors playing these characters once again bring the goods, as Forest Whitaker’s presence seems to have lifted all around him. Michael Chiklis is stellar once again as the show’s main character, as he brings strength and charisma to a character that could easily be a villain on another show. It always surprises me just how much we care for Vic, in the same way we root for James Gandolfini’s Tony Soprano, as he’s done truly terrible things on this show, but somehow he manages to stay the good guy in our minds. It’s within this world that we’re given on The Shield that Mackey somehow represent the lesser of two evils, a hero that he’s willing to get the job done on the street, while others would be content to simply give L.A.’s problems lip service. He’s a man of action, and just like 24’s Jack Bauer, we know that even if he crosses the line, its all for the greater good.

Walton Goggins also does wonders as Detective Shane Vendrell, the Strike Team member with the most skeletons in his closet. It is Vendrell that seems to have the most to lose if they go down, and his wild card persona on the show is taken to its limits here. Kenny Johnson’s Curtis Lemansky remains the conscience of the Strike Team, with Johnson doing his best work to date on this show and probably the best he may ever do in his career.

The fifth season is a vital one on the show, with the cost of the Strike Team’s lifestyle being heavier than ever. Two episodes shorter than the previous one, the show is able to still pack a wallop that is equal to any it has ever possessed before. While this would definitely not be a good starting place to begin watching The Sheld, this is still the best season it’s ever had.

The Video
The show is shot with a lot of handheld cameras to give it an unpolished feel, but still the print on these discs seems quite good. There’s no degradation and the image is never too soft or dark to the point where you can’t see what’s going on. The Show is presented in Fullscreen with its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1

The Audio
The Audio track is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and sounds terrific. There’s never a problem hearing dialogue, even amongst the many shootouts and other action sequences. There’s a terrific balance here and the sound is never really showy, taking away from your viewing experience.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Documentary, Featurettes, Prequel, Commentaries, and Deleted Scenes, Music Video, Promos.

Audio Commentaries – You get commentaries on 10 of the 11 episodes in this set; many of them group commentaries featuring much of the cast and crew. I love the track on the episode “Rap Payback”, which was the 2nd directorial effort for Michael Chiklis on the show, who talks about how seamless the transition was to directing and mentions how this was the best opportunity he could have had, because the show almost directs itself due to the characters already being so established. Many others join him on the track, including Cathy Cahlin Ryan who has her best performance of the season in that episode as Corrine Mackey, Vic’s ex-wife.

Deleted Scenes – There are a total of 25 Deleted Scenes throughout this four disc set, with each one having optional commentary by Shawn Ryan. Instead of just having them all in one bulk on the Special Features disc, each scene is on the same menu with its corresponding episode. Most are pretty inconsequential, and you can see why they were cut.

Season 6 Prequel – This amounts to about a 15 minute mini-episode that manages to actually be pretty awesome. After the death of a fellow officer, Vic and his team think they have a lead and go to kick some tail. This is also shown in contrast to a moment that happened two years earlier involving an arm wrestling tournament that ended up being one of the Strike Team’s shining moments of brotherhood.

Delivering the Baby: The Making of Episode 511 – Season 5’s finale is a pivotal moment in the show, and one of the most powerful episodes of TV I’ve ever seen. This documentary goes over the making of that episode and how it affected each of the cast members. This is a strikingly entertaining documentary and shows the love and craft that goes into making The Shield what it is. This goes about 90 minutes and is pretty exhaustive in its details.

The Shield Television Academy Panel – This is a question and answer session featuring Shawn Ryan, Michael Chiklis and Forest Whitaker, while they talk about what they wanted from season 5 and how it ended up. This goes around 30 minutes or so.

I.A.D. – This 10 minute Featurette has the show’s technical advisors talking about how important Internal Affairs Divisions are to Police Departments and how difficult the jobs are on the officers that are assigned to them. This is pretty interesting and helps to get inside the head of an I.A.D. Officer.

Fox Movie Channel Presents: Making A Scene – This is apparently part of an episode of a show on the Fox Movie Channel and looks at the final sequence of the season finale. A lot of this was already covered in the Documentary on this disc, but this is a nice condensed version.

Scott Brazil Tribute – This Featurette has the cast and crew talking about the legacy of Producer Scott Brazil, who died recently from Lou Gehrig’s Disease. It’s pretty touching and reinforces the feeling of family on this show.

Music Video

Promos

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for The Shield – The Complete Fifth Season
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE SHOW

9.5
THE VIDEO

8
THE AUDIO

8
THE EXTRAS

8
REPLAY VALUE

9.5
OVERALL
9
(NOT AN AVERAGE)

The Inside Pulse
Not only is this season an awesome experience, but this DVD is pretty packed, especially for a TV series DVD. While most shows are content to just give you the epsiode, this set is packed with features. This is in addition to the amazing fifth season of The Shield which would be worth the same price on DVD by itself.