This portion of the review assumes that the reader has watched the previous two seasons of the Shield and contains spoilers for those that have not.
There are several detective programs on TV falling into two camps (apart from The Bill which has its own camp: rubbish). Firstly there are the parochial romps in quiet villages or well spoken suburbs, with body counts that an entire Chechen armed mobilisation would be proud of. The other camp is an edgy, 'French Connection' style take on police running the streets, making tough choices for the greater good. While I will never know what real police work is like, to me, the latter camp offers much more dynamism and The Shield is the epitome of its ilk.
The Shield Season 3 follows 'Strike Team', a four man gangland and narcotics bias branch of a broader police institution, led by Det. Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis). In an effort to make ends meat, Strike Team kept for themselves a huge sum of money from an Armenian money train. This issue is carried over from season two and forms the moral backbone of this season. Tension is ratcheted up when the Armenians start killing everyone remotely associated with the sour deal, taking their feet as trophies. Other stories dip into this central plotline, making Vic and his team go on the defensive to keep the fed's from discovering they have the money.
While The Shield mainly focuses on Vic and his team, it is to the shows credit that all the other main characters are equally engaging and equally complex. Without giving anything away, Captain David Aceveda (Benito Martinez) has a particularly tough scene in the episode 'Mum'. The events are played with brutal intensity at first and, in the aftermath, a subtlety that really hits home. In another plot thread, a serial rapist is questioned about his motivations in raping women over sixty five years old. The awkward, mentally slow nature of the actors performance is superbly natural, despite the undeniably tough character content. However, if The Shield is well known for its grim content, then I should also say that there are a few gems of comedy, too. Look out for a bet the Strike Team has with a competitive unit called the Decoy Squad. The first to apprehend a shooter wins, honour intact. The losers have to run naked through the police canteen, surely a piece of comic genius. As to who loses, you'll just have to watch.
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