One of TV greatest shows ended last night, and I’m not talking about season 7 of Dancing with the Stars. The Shield, FX’s breakout drama series about a dirty cop, came to an end last night in an explosive and shocking finale that provided closure without tying everything up with a bow.
The Shield series finale delivered everything fans could’ve hoped for. It didn’t end with a sudden, unsatisfying blackout like The Sopranos, but it also didn’t finish everyone’s story like Six Feet Under. Instead, the series that catapulted FX to the major leagues of cable networks when Michael Chiklis won an Emmy for Lead Actor in the show’s first season found just the right note to close on.
Leading up to the finale, Vic Mackey, one of TV’s most fascinating anti-heroes, cut a deal with the government for full immunity on all his past misdeeds. What they didn’t know when he signed the deal was that Mackey was involved in some truly awful activities, from murdering a fellow detective to robbing the Armenian money train.
The brilliance of the series finale was that Mackey’s freedom turned into his punishment. His wife and kids went into witness protection, never even giving Vic the chance to say goodbye. His friend and partner Ronnie was arrested as a result of Vic’s confession. And in the series finale’s most shocking and disturbing revelation, Shane Vendrell, Vic’s former friend and current enemy, killed his young son and pregnant wife before shooting himself.
In other words, everyone Vic had ever loved or cared about was either dead, gone, or in jail. And as part of his deal, Vic was required to work in an office at a desk for three years wearing a suit and tie. That might not seem like punishment, but for a cop whose life has been working the streets, a desk job is possibly worse than anything anyone else could’ve done to him.
I had no idea what I wanted to happen in The Shield series finale when I sat down to watch it. No matter what I thought should happen, I had faith in creator Shawn Ryan’s ability to provide the ending the audience and the characters deserved. Vic Mackey isn’t behind bars and he isn’t dead, but the finale frequently focused in with extreme close-ups on his eyes, and Chiklis has able to convey Mackey’s horror at himself now that his actions are finally catching up with him and hurting the people he loves.
The Shield never found the same level of pop culture fanfare as a show like The Sopranos, which is the true crime because in nearly every way imaginable, The Shield was better. Each season added new levels and dimensions, and after the finale, a vignette of scenes from the seven seasons reminded us why The Shield was so great. We saw Claudette and Dutch working a case together. Lem and the rest of the Strike Team working together. And we saw such brilliant additions to the cast as Anthony Anderson, Alex O’Loughlin, Glenn Close and Forest Whitaker.
The Shield was one of the finest TV shows of the past decade and it went out better than ever. In the first episode, a suspect acts Vic Mackey if he’s the good cop or the bad cop, and his response is, “I’m a different kind of cop.” The Shield was a different kind of show, and TV is worse off now that it’s gone.
-John Kubicek, BuddyTV Senior Writer
(Image courtesy of FX)