Pop Culture Gadabout
Sunday, November 30, 2008
      ( 11/30/2008 03:56:00 PM ) Bill S.  

"YOU'VE GOT TO GET THESE DISASTER FANTASIES OUT OF YOUR HEAD!" Soon as I heard the music playing in the opener to the series finale of The Shield, I knew that creator Shawn Ryan was gonna strike all the right moves. With its nattering refrain to "get out" of its title city, X's "Los Angeles" was a strongly apt soundtrack choice: both a reminder of what a shock to the system this series has been and an evocation of the urban decay that's long been one of the show's big subjects. What followed this opening remained wholly satisfying throughout – as we got to finally watch the series' anti-hero Vic Mackey get revealed to everybody for who he really is.

For all its talk about "good cop/bad cop/different kind of cop," at heart The Shield was primarily about the ways self-deception can lead men and women into the worst possible acts. The Shield of the title was as much the elaborate system of lies and rationalizations Mackey and his men held onto to push them deeper into the murk as it was a police badge – and as the final season approached its end, each of the surviving Strike Force's self-deceptions grew harder and harder for them to maintain.

Watching this process occur brought out some exemplary performances: especially from lead Michael Chiklis and Walton Goggins as doomed team betrayer Shane Vendrell. If anything, Goggins edged out Chiklis when it came to fearless acting this season. When, in the final episode, Shane futilely tries to convince his pregnant wife Mara that everything will somehow turn out all right, we know at this point that even he doesn't swallow the lie. Even Mara's young son knows something's "wrong."

In their belief that their essential rightness justifies any act, no matter how appalling (remember the face on the stove?), Mackey and the rest of his crew were definitely creatures of their time. And as satisfying as it's been to watch them fall, I'm gonna miss 'em . . .


# |

Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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