The Shield - Season 7
Starring: Michael Chiklis, CCH Pounder, Benito Martinez, Jay Karnes, Walton Goggins, David Rees Snell, Michael Jace, Catherine Dent, Cathy Cahlin Ryan, David Marciano, Paula Garces, Autumn Chiklis, Laurie Holden, Frances Fisher
Created By: Shawn Ryan

Premieres: Tuesday, September 2, 2008 at 10:00 PM ET on FX

I remember way back when FX’s The Shield began and how it was the glory time for premium cable channel HBO. You had The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Sex and the City running to keep you entertained. These were hard hitting shows that came close to saving television for the jaded viewer. Then along comes The Shield, a dirty little show that proved cable subscribers also had an alternative to the bubble gum schlock pushed down our throats by the major networks.

Now with the seventh, and final, season of The Shield looming large over our heads I find myself looking at the current TV landscape and admiring what the cable networks have been doing. They’ve raised the bar and pushed our weekly TV viewing habits to the edge. In my mind The Shield is the show that broke through, allowing programs like Rescue Me and Damages to come along and revolutionize our late night watching schedule.

It’s strange that I’ve never gotten into Vic Mackey’s sordid story line. The premise of the show is right up my alley, and here I am having only watched a handful of episodes from previous seasons. That’s a little bit of a warning, as there might just be spoilers in the review you’re reading. I don’t necessarily know that a little tidbit of info is a huge reveal to long time fans. But I’ve watched enough television to pick up on what I think could very well be spoiler territory. With that in mind, I’ve tried to keep myself from ruining the final season of The Shield for you. The reason is simple, having seen where the story is going for the final act you just want to watch it all unfold and unravel around Mackey as it happens week to week. Trust me; you don’t want to be spoiled.

Created by Shawn Ryan, The Shield has always been known for shocking scenes of graphic violence and just plain “Holy Shit!” moments. Tuesday’s premiere keeps that train rolling with a gruesome little hatchet job by Shane (Walton Goggins). Yes, Ryan is not changing up the formula to get the show wrapped up. What has happened in the past is coming back to haunt the team, and if you ever thought Mackey could forgive and forget about Lem you were mistaken. In fact, some of the best moments of season seven occur during quiet moments between Shane and Vic. There’s an insane edge to their banter that will often leave you chilled.

Fans will be happy to know that the train robbery plotline that has been weaving throughout the past few seasons is going into conclusion mode this season. I checked out some fan sites and commentary to see if I could sort through the who’s and what’s of this plotline, and I’m happy to report that most of the fans are just as confused as me. Unless they have a plotted out map of what happened on their wall there’s little chance that any of it makes sense. That’s not quite fair, because it’s clear that the writers have a clear directive on where this is going. Not to mention that it provides the backbone to the final season.

Season seven of The Shield is hard to watch. Mackey is barely hanging on by a thread as he tries to maneuver people into a place that he wants. His attitude of using a righteous hand on the streets is still intact, and it became quite clear that this is a man who enjoys dishing out pain to people. He may be a cop, but he’s far more of a jerk than you’d expect from your classic antihero. And that’s what has people wondering about his end. Whether he’s killed or run out of town you can’t help but feel that the hero of the show deserves whatever punishment he gets. In one of the earlier episodes of the final season there’s a moment where Mackey turns his rage on his daughter. Watching the scene is disturbing because you know that he’s right to be angry, she did let her autistic brother wander around on the streets alone.

As fantastic as Michael Chiklis is in the role of Vic Mackey, it’s the supporting players who make the show so damn good. David Marciano’s weasely Detective Steve Billings begrudgingly goes back to the force after his lame lawsuit fails. Benito Martinez as Councilman David Aceveda provides a direct foil for Mackey’s corrupt behavior. Except that Aceveda isn’t the clean cut guy he may want to be, forming an alliance with Vic to bring down a land developer. And Shane Vendrell spends his time trying to prove himself to Vic. Protecting Mackey and his family as much as possible in an attempt to get away from California with his life intact.

If you haven’t been watching The Shield it’s time to start. This is one of the best shows you can get without paying premium prices. Besides, HBO has been in a horrible rut lately with lame duck shows. Showtime is providing some of the best programming you can buy with that extra cash each month. But it’s Shawn Ryan’s The Shield that helped give an edge to basic cable programming. There’s a reason this show has lasted its full run. The Shield is as bad ass and engrossing as it was back in 2002. That’s quite impressive when you consider that the main character has taken to using his police shield literally, proclaiming that as long as he has it he’ll continue to use it. The fun is in seeing how far he’s willing to go, and what the breaking point will be. Seven seasons in and the show is nowhere near ready to fizzle out. The Shield is leaving on its own terms, which just happens to be bloody and violent.

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