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Monday, January 16, 2006

From My Tivo: The Shield

Season 5 of The Shield finally began last week and I just watched it on my TiVo. With the storylines that this first episode set up, it’s clear that the addition of Internal Affairs Division Detective Jon Kavanaugh (Forest Whitaker) is going bring hard times to Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) and his band of rogue cops.

I love The Shield. Thanks to NetFlix, I’ve seen every episode, plus many of the deleted scenes. Of course, my enjoyment of this show isn’t suprising: I also enjoyed NYPD Blue, Rescue Me, and Homicide. There’s something about the connection between the gritiness of (fictionalized) police work and the comforting structure of the police procedural that appeals to me. These shows are seldom about mystery, it’s very rarely that we don’t know who the criminal is, and more about the suspense of the chase. The Detectives in these shows are not necessarily all that smart. Their virtue is perseverance, they bull their way through the process of determining causality. There are no flights of fancy, no brilliant examples of deduction over a cup of tea with a pipe at the ready. These men are the bureaucrats of death, putting together a great jig-saw puzzle with dogged determination, hoping that their job does not take too much of their soul.

And that’s what makes The Shield interesting. Vic Mackey and his crew are men who have already given the Devil a lease on their souls, they have been seduced by the easy path. Like a true Film Noir, this easy path to riches has started the clock that ticks down the moments until they can no longer keep the whole structure of lies together. Noir is tragedy. Vic Mackey could have been a great detective, he could have done good things and never started down the wrong path. There are many instances througout the show where we see that he is still very capable of doing the right thing. However, if The Shield is to remain true to itself, then it has to end like all good Noir ends, with recompense.

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