For many shows, how they end can be just as important as how they were able to get off the ground in first place. Time after time, a TV series will catch the eye of the viewing public, only to let us down a few seasons in with either bad writing or tired concepts, later to be cancelled under the weight of their own mediocrity. Even when shows are able to stay artistically relevant, such as The Sopranos or Deadwood, its too often that their finales end with controversy as to whether or not your last moments with these characters were even on the level of being satisfactory. This is what seems to make the last season of The Shield, and especially its series finale, some kind of miracle.
For all this shows faults, this series about dirty cops let loose on the streets of L.A. and how their actions affected those around them, has never wavered from pilot to finale in its tones or themes. Few shows have even attempted to try and keep such a straight-lined narrative from beginning to end the way this one does; the series’ closing seconds a reflection of events that happened years before in The Shields very first episode. Destroying our expectations and challenging our conceptions of who these characters even are at their core, The Shield ends on a final episode pondering the notions of evil, duty, selfishness, and sacrifice, with performances that defy convention all way until the final credits roll.
Theres a direct legacy from the cop movies of the 1970s that have now become pop culture cannon, from The French Connection to Serpico, all the way to creator Shawn Ryans portrayal of the gritty back alleys of the City of Angels where Detective Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) and his strike team do their dealings and make their deals with the underworld. While Mackey and his men crossed lines in their seven seasons on the air that may have made them the targets of men like Harry Callahan, “Popeye” Doyle, and Frank Serpico, its hard to deny the lineage from these classic “cops on the edge” to Chiklis bulldog with a badge. Its a testament to the mans performance that he stays likable, even as hes breaking laws, all the way up to the point where the show decides maybe you shouldnt root for him after all.
Id be lying though, if I told you that Chiklis performance was the only noteworthy one in this final season. As strong a lead as his Vic Mackey is, he gets greatly overshadowed, just as he was in season six, by Walton Goggins Detective Shane Vendrell. Those that havent seen the show since its first few seasons may not even recognize Shane, as the foulmouthed sidekick to Mackey transformed in the series final two seasons into a family man full of desperation, doing all he can to save his loved ones, especially from his former best friend. This is a shattering performance by Goggins, who gives all he has to this character, defying us to try and really root against him as he pours all his love and energy into the relationship with his family, even if he has to break the law and try to murder acquaintances to do it.
These final episodes of FXs tightly woven cop drama are like a noose around the necks of our main characters, the authorities tightening their grip around Mackey and others while our antihero tries everything he can to save himself. This cat and mouse between those trying to take down Vic and Shane literally almost goes until the final frames of the last episode, and the results are breathtaking and heart-wrenching throughout. The less you know about plot specifics, the better, but I will say that as each character goes through their own personal hell, The Shield pulls absolutely no punches, and while not all characters end up in the morgue or in jail, no one ends up completely unscathed by the time the whole thing ends.
Taking its place amongst the great dramatic series of the last decade, along with The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood and a very small group of others, The Shield is a show that has never flinched in its portrayal of just how dirty “Dirty” cops can be. Daring you to root for its characters no matter how often they crossed the line, this last season challenges you once again, to readjust your perspective about the whole series and reaffirm your belief as to just how good this series really is. Again, rarely is a final episode, or a final season for that matter, as satisfying as the one Shawn Ryan and others cooked up for this last go round with Mackey and his “Strike Team”. As hard-hitting a series as Ive ever seen, The Shield manages dramatic feats rarely seen on modern television and manages to keep shocking you with where it manages to go, pushing past all kinds of boundaries, beating them down during questioning, and then never looking back again.
It really would have been nice to have a high def release of this final out there, especially considering that the print on this particular DVD is kind of bad. While the show has always had a grainy look, this one looks particularly awful for some reason, even becoming pixilated at times. As someone thats owned every season of this show so far, its disappointing to see that this last season isnt given the same treatment as the rest of the sets, especially considering this may be the finest of all of their seasons.
The Audio is much better, with a nice mix throughout that sounds better than the original TV broadcasts.
Commentaries – You get tracks on all 13 episodes of this season, with some terrific insight throughout.
Last Call: The Final Episode – An awesome, half-hour look at the filming of the final episode of the show, giving us several tear-filled testimonials from cast and crew on the final moments of this show. This is pretty wonderful for fans of the show, as you get some really heartfelt moments that seem to show what a family that this group has become.
Nobody Expects to Lose, Nobody Expected to Die: The Shields Final Season – Another half-hour Featurette goes into the trials and tribulations of the final season, with the Writers Strike looming, and Michael Chiklis having to take more responsibility with the production of the series, as Shawn Ryan wasnt even able to take part in the finale because of the strike. This is pretty fascinating stuff, and serves as another terrific goodbye for the series.
Aside from the disappointing print, this last chapter of The Shields story is a master-class in tension-filled storytelling. Amazing stuff from beginning to end, this season is a testament to just how wonderful this show has always been and will hopefully be looked upon in years to come as just how to end a great series. The extras here are nice as well; making this is a pretty decent package and a must-have for fans of this show.
Sony/20th Century Fox presents The Shield: Season Seven – The Final Act . Created by: Shawn Ryan. Starring: Michael Chiklis, Catherine Dent, CCH Pounder, Benito Martinez, Walton Goggins. Written by: Shawn Ryan, Etc. Running time: 619 minutes. Released on DVD: June 9, 2009. Available at Amazon.com
Tags: The Shield, Walton Goggins