I need to say that again. Ouch.
I loved the first couple of series of the Shield. It was tough, hard, morally ambiguous in a way I hadn’t really seen in cop shows before. Had a killer twist in the very first episode. And featured a superb, eye-poppingly angry and dangerous central performance from Michael Chiklis as Vic Mackie. “Are you the good cop or the bad cop?” a suspect asks him. “I’m a different kind of cop,” he replies, before beating a confession out of him with a telephone directory. This was my kind of show.
It’s a bit of a shame in a way that it was rather eclipsed for me thereafter by the coming of The Wire, which was not only the best cop show I’d ever seen, but probably the best tv I’ve ever seen period. It also felt as if the Shield dropped off slightly in quality in its middle couple of series, though it was still capable of some great moments. But boy did they build back up to a hell of a finale with this final season, which has to be one of the toughest, most uncompromising and courageous endings to a tv series of which I’m aware.
After watching Vic and his crooked pals on the Strike Team beat, blackmail, lie and murder their way out of about six impossible situations in previous seasons, there’s a horrible sense of inevitability about the final reckoning as the walls close in and they begin to turn on each other. Watching Vic and his one-time compadres squirming increasingly desperately for some way out as the wheels come off the wagon is almost unwatchably tense, and the tension builds, and builds, and builds to a series of gobsmacking moments in the final few episodes.
It’s worth watching all seven series for one scene alone, in which Vic finally confesses to his butcher’s bill of crimes. As he’s trying to decide whether to do it they hold an ultra-tight close-up on his face for what feels like about 30 silent seconds, and all the anger, and bitterness, and swagger, and self-disgust that sums up the character is communicated without a word said. It’s a brilliant piece of acting, but Chiklis is ably supported by some great work all round. It doesn’t end quite the way you might have expected. But it’s a perfect ending nonetheless, and one that leaves you feeling raw for days afterwards. Ouch.
15 comments so far
I thought that the Shield got better and better with each passing season. However, the reason why this is my favorite series is because of the ending.
I've watched a lot of great shows that suffered from a weak ending and it just ruins the entire series for me. (The Sopranos is an example)If asked, I tell people the Shield is the best show beginning to end. Never watched the Wire, I'll have to give that one a try. Hard to believe that it's better than the Shield, though.
I liked the Sopranos ending, I though it was fitting. Not in this class, though.
No doubt, you should try the Wire. Everyone should. Whether you'll prefer it to the Shield depends on what you like. It doesn't necessarily have the edge of the seat intensity of the Shield, nor the action, nor the towering central performance. But it has a huge ensemble of great performances with great dialogue full of wit, what feels like a much more realistic take on police work, and provides a much bigger sense of how crime, the police, politics and economics all interact. It takes a while to get into, you may feel a bit baffled after a few episodes, but stick with it and the payoff of each season is fantastic.
Sold! I need something to watch while I wait for the release of new seasons of the Tudors, and Lost.
The problem I had with the ending to the Sopranos is that it was so anti-climatic. The ending fit, but there was so much hype built up (In the US anyways) about this ending that it left me in disbelief when the credits rolled. I couldn't believe that was the ending.
Leading up to that episode the hype was all: Will Tony live! Will Tony die!….No, he's going to have a burger, fries, and a Coke roll credits… The hype killed the ending for me, but it did fit.
On a side note, one of my co-workers turned out to be an avid reader like myself, so I lent him my copy of The Blade Itself. He loved it, and was as giddy as hell when I loaned him Before They Are Hanged yesterday.
Never got into The Shield but I did go for The Wire in a big way based on your recommendation. I would recommend it to everyone, it's that good; you really won't regret it.
I tried the Wire (and I'll try it again…), I liked its darkness but I never got to feel much towards the main character (sorry I'm not sure how to say that in English). The Shield has Michael Chiklis however and he is just amazing. You are torn because one side of you says you should not like him, but another side of you – stronger – cannot help loving him. The story, the action, the performance of all the cast just blew me away. From the start you knew there would not be a happy ending, but still you were afraid of how bad it would end… And when it was over… I just sat there staring at the screen, saying "no, no, no…". And I was both sad and happy it was over… Even now, I think I miss this show (but I sleep better)…
I agree with you about the Wire being stronger overall – over the whole 7 series vs the Wire's 5 series, there was more in the Wire.
However, the 7th series of the Shield was truly amazing. The last scene where we see the fate of Chiklis, desk-bound, and then see him take a gun from his drawer and leave, is simply amazing. You really wonder what he's going to do – kill someone, kill himself, kill his wife – who knows.
Truly great TV. It's a shame that nothing produced in the UK comes close.
Whenever I try to compare the two I simply think The Wire? Better characters. The Shield? Better story. The story for the last season of The Wire just didn't grip me. But it had me watching to the end just because you want to see what happens to the characters, the montage ending a little cliche but whatever. The Shield had great characters too, but the storyline, and the awful mostly self imposed end of things for the Strike Team, had some better closure IMHO.
The Wire and The Shield are my two favourite cop series. Vic's confession in the last season of The Shield is the shiznit.
I have nothing to say about the show, I just wanted to tell you that I loved your writing. I found you on the interwebs one day, thought you were a funny, cool kind of a bloke, was at the bookstore the next day, lo and behold! Your first book! Finished your first book while sitting at the library out of the rain, and lo and behold! Your second book! Alas, can't find the last one yet.
I loved it, I'm a Fan of your writing style.
But just so you know, if Logen or Glokta dies (and I say this because your work reminds me somewhat of David Gemmell, who tends to kill of his main characters), I will cry. Lots.
Jezal is expendable. I have only a little emotional investment in him.
Not to drag all the shield love off-topic (Because it's a show that deserves the attention), but if you enjoyed that show you might want to check out Sons of Anarchy.
It's written and produced by Kurt Sutter, one of the Shields writers, and is hands down some one of the best shows out right now.
I know FX shows it in the states, but I don't know about across the pond. It's well worth finding it though – it's a solid drama / action combo that drags me away from pretty much any activity to watch it.
I think Sons of Anarchy was shown on Bravo over here.
I hate to say it, but I tend to judge a book by it's cover. I saw the original parchment cover for The Blade Itself and it drew me in, I read the summary and reviews and was sold. Each book has been better than the last.I have to say you are absolutely my favorite author, fantasy or otherwise. Everyone seems to be drawn to pretty characters and happy endings.(you have to be realistic about these things) What a joy it was to read you books! I have to ask, is there any particular reason you haven't read any Harry Potter books?
Anyway,I can't wait for your next book.
Don't stop writing till the stick you in the mud!
I thought the end of the show was brilliant and one of the most complete series I've ever seen. The interview scene was intense, and I thought the line Vic says as he's leaving the room is perfect. The one running joke me and my friends had though was every single episode recap had the replaying of a certain "explosive" scene from season 5 and it was just kind of tragically funny how you saw it every week.
Mark Lord said in his comment that "It's a shame that nothing produced in the UK comes close." For that I would like to say one word: Cracker. The most psychologically haunting crime investigation series ever with the most cold-blooded and twisted criminals and a brilliant Robbie Coltrane. No US show has gotten that deep into the darkness of the human mind.
I loved The Shield. Maybe I wanted the leading character to have a bit more layers and colours (like similar controversial characters Tony Soprano in The Sopranos, Al Swearengen in Deadwood or Jimmy McNulty in The Wire), Vic Mackey was brilliantly played by Michael Chiklis but as a character never evolved to that second dimension. No one is aggressive, high-wired and bloodlusty bulldog 24/7.
The character I liked most was Ronnie. Incredibly well written and played low-key character, who was very hard to figure out, even in the end. Was he a good man, victim of the circumstances? Or actually the most cold-blooded and remorseless of the Strike Team?