The Shield Review
This review assumes that the reader has seen seasons one through to three of The Shield and will contain spoilers for those that have not
Season three of The Shield was one of the best pieces of TV that I saw last year. Series three ended with a fantastically tense scene, with all the members of the Strike team seemingly split apart with irreconcilable differences. How was season 4, traditionally a season where most shows wane under overused templates from the past or ill advised new directions, hold up?
That's a difficult question. Season four is a slow burner with all main cast members (except Ronnie who never seems to get much to do, for some reason) fragmented to different departments. For the most part of at least four episodes, none of the inter relationship tension is evident. Instead the series concentrates more on Shane and how he inveigles his way into the trust of a “one niner” gang boss. Any loss in strike team comraderie is made up for by Shane digging his own grave without him realising it.
The Shield has always been a layered series with intertwining stories and season four is certainly no exception. If Shane's story takes the lead, at least for the first half, of the season, then the simmering psychological trauma of Councillor (Captain in season three) David Aceveda is a very close second. You may remember in season three he was forced at gunpoint into oral sex with another man - a scene with the “uncomfortable” setting at number eleven. Season four explored the aftershock of the incident and how Aceveda comes to terms with it. His cure is as coarse as the crime was repugnant; an ultimately self destructive path, Aceveda is seen to dig his own grave right along side Shane.
Of course, biggest surprise is the introduction of Glenn Close as the new hardy captain of Farmington station, replacing Aceveda. When I heard that she was coming on board for the fourth season, I was not impressed. Possibly because I had just seen 101 Dalmations, mind, but still I thought that she was a bad choice. How wrong I was. Her performance holds the entire season up, especially in the kinetically charged final episodes where everything seems to be going wrong. Close has huge on screen presence, even eclipsing that of star and producer Michael Chiklis - a huge feat considering there has been three whole seasons to build his character and Close has had just a few hours!
No review of this series can be complete without mentioning Anthony Anderson who plays the one niner crime boss Antwon Mitchell. Apparently this guy is a comedian in another life, but must have gone through some hypnosis for this role. Anderson never appears funny and has a miasma of deadly cunning about him as he executes his plans, if you'll excuse the pun? Not giving anything away, but there is a scene towards the end of the series where he displays an astonishing degree of emotion in the face of blistering adversity. Unmissable.
There is one problem with season four, however. In season three, there was a definite “big” story that was the driving fore of the series. Certainly, the way it was introduced was crude, but the implementation was superb. Season four doesn't have this big story in place and so there is a meandering quality to the first few episodes. It is only after episode four or five that a pattern emerges from the various plot threads. On retrospect, this is a very natural way of doing things and gives the viewer a much greater payoff come the end of the series. That is if that viewer has the patience to sit there and believe that something is going to rise from the ashes of the old strike team. Thing is, not only is the storyline inscrutable, but the old captain left, strike team disbanded, Claudette and Dutch's partnership split and Vic and Ronnie are stuck in a room solving a case that we have no framework around. The whole station is falling apart from what we expect and it is difficult to readjust your thinking to suit.
Personally, now that I have seen the whole series, I like the slow pace for what it is. Season four is a thirteen episode long introduction to season five (you'll have to watch to see why I say this). Going off this season, I can't wait!