Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Good and The Bad (but mainly The Good) of FX's "The Shield"

My family has become officially addicted to television shows on DVD. No commercials, plenty of special features, and best of all - you don't have to pay to have the special cable channels that all the really special shows play on. In this manner, my family has gorged on numerous seasons of Gilmore Girls, The West Wing, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Angel, Veronica Mars, House, and lately, The Shield.

So compelling, after we watched maybe five of the episodes of season 1, Mum and Dad rushed out to get seasons two and three. Today, we just went and bought #4, because already we've finished up on the last episodes of the third season. Ooh! Suspense! One of the best parts of the series is also one of the best parts of one of my favourite fantasy series, George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire: the grey characters. No one is evil on The Shield, but no one's clean either. So, to make this post interesting, here's a Good/Bad analysis (a la Fametracker.com's "Fame Audit") of the main characters (warning - series spoilers ahead):

Detective Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis)
Who is He? The beloved anti-hero around which the show revolves, Vic Mackey is the leader of Farmington's strike team, a band of cops fond of breaking down doors, shooting suspects, skimming cash and drugs off of significant busts, and conveniently forgetting to follow due process. Vic Mackey is the man who makes it happen - whether he uses his testosterone-drenched charm or the threat of very real violence.
In a Word: Efficient.
The Good: Loves his kids.
The Bad: Doesn't love rats - shoots them. Even if they're cops.
The Good: Loves the ladies, and occasionally his wife.
The Bad: Bald. Short. Mean.
The Good: Pretty much single-handedly keeps the Farmington district's crime rate as low as it is.
The Bad: Despite all this, can't keep a handle on the increasingly incorrigible Shane.

Captain David Aceveda (Benito Martinez)
Who is He? The Latino police captain with little field experience and a strong political agenda. While he contented himself in the first season by throwing barely-contained fits of impotent rage while Vic and buds got away with murder, theft, and brutality, in the following seasons he offers Vic a freer reign in order to clean up the area in time for his upcoming election.
In a Word: Ambitious.
The Good: Shows genuine concern for the crime rates of Farmington...
The Bad:...mainly because it affects him politically. Nearly everything he does is based on how it will affect him politically.
The Good: Didn't kill the guy who mouth-raped him, and got his revenge the legal way.
The Bad: His unlikely alliance with Mackey often forces him onto the wrong end of Claudette Wym's contemptuous stare, and that's never good.
The Good: Will not take shit from politicians who are more concerned with maintaining status quo then with putting big baddies away...
The Bad:...which essentially makes him a big, fat hypocrite when you think about it.

Detective Claudette Wyms (CCH Pounder)
Who is She? A tough-but-fair Detective partnered with Dutch who dedicates her life to getting predators off the streets. While she's tolerant of Vic in the first season, in the following seasons Vic's dealings start interfering with her cases, which puts her at odds with both him and Captain Aceveda.
In a Word: Righteous.
The Good: Where do I start? How 'bout with the stare. You know what I mean.
The Bad: One person's "righteous" is another person's "judgemental".
The Good: No one verbally-bitch-slaps better.
The Bad: Tendency to meddle.
The Good: Damns politics to hell!
The Bad: Damns politics to hell.

Detective Holland "Dutch" Wagenbach (Jay Karnes)
Who is He? Outwardly arrogant, inwardly insecure, generally oblivious, but essentially honest and good-hearted, Dutch's partnership with BAMF Wyms is the one of the only things that keeps him from being the laughingstock of the precinct. The other thing? His insane talent to pull outrageous busts out of his ass.
In a Word: Hapless.
The Good: Awww! Look what he did with the blind kitten!
The Bad: Ewww! Look what he did with the stray cat!
The Good: He took back the planted bra clasp! You're a good man, Charlie Brow- er, I mean, Dutchboy!
The Bad: His dependence on textbook criminal psychology allows him to miss some pretty obvious clues (the one-armed victim was in the trunk, you idiot!)
The Good: His relationship with Wyms and their Good Cop, Idiot-Cop-Who'll-Trick-You-Into-Confessing act is always entertaining.
The Bad: Can't defend himself from Vic Mackey's bullying to save his life.

Detective Shane Vendrell (Walton Goggins)
Who is He? Vic Mackey's best friend and second in command, Shane is both a trusted confidant who has Mackey's back and a hotheaded loose cannon that Mackey has to clean up after. How the two have managed to remain friends is one of the show's many mysteries.
In a Word: Redneck.
The Good: When it comes to Mackey, is loyal to a fault. If Mackey told him to eat shit, he'd ask which fork to use.
The Bad: Shane would do better if Mackey remembered to tell him NOT to pee on suspects and leave his police vehicle filled with stolen cocaine unlocked while he goes for a quickie.
The Good: I challenge you to find another fictional police officer who knows more negative euphemisms for "homosexual" ("bonesmokers??"), but who's still willing to have a polite conversation with a male hustler if the subject is on tricked-out cars.
The Bad: I also challenge you to find a fictional police officer in a show after 1960 who still uses the term "darkie" when insulting a black teammate.
The Good: Devoted to his wife, despite Vic Mackey's badmouthing of her.
The Bad: Devotion would have more merit if his wife was not clearly possessive, controlling, and insane.

Detective Curtis "Lemonhead" Lemansky (Kenneth Johnson)
Who is He? Third in the Strike Team heirarchy, Lemonhead ("Lem" for short) is the one member of the Strike Team who maintains a moral conscience. When the task calls for framing a drug-dealer, ripping off the Armenian Mob, or murdering a Mexican rapist, Lem is usually the only one who thinks to question the rightness of their actions, although he always goes along with the final decision.
In a Word: Clear-eyed.
The Good: Easily one of the best-looking gents on the show.
The Bad: Comes across as kinda dumb.
The Good: Aww! He's sensative! He shows guilt! He shows pain!
The Bad: He also shows his ass on TV...wait, is that supposed to be a bad thing?
The Good: Finally showed some spine against Vic Mackey's manipulations by burning the money-train cash.
The Bad: We could have done without the whole vomiting-blood thing. And where did his Latina former-gangbanger-banger girlfriend go?

Detective Ronnie Gardocki (David Rees Snell)
Who is He? Not sure really - he's the fourth wheel of the Strike Team. Wait, that doesn't work. He's the place-filler, someone to round out the Strike Team to the nice, even number of four without contributing anything like character development or plot to the show. Lack of emotional presence makes him the prime choice for being a victim or a patsy.
In a Word: Unnecessary.
The Good: Um...well, he's certainly not the most offensive Strike Team member (that would be Shane).
The Bad: Covered up his one distinguishing feature (a drug-dealer-inflicted stove burn scar) with an ugly beard.

Officer Danielle "Danny" Sofer (Catherine Dent)
Who is She? As Julian's training officer, she helps to show the rookie cop the ropes at the start, then helps him to manoeuvre through the murky waters of police politics later on. Is also Vic Mackey's occasional mistress.
In a Word: Supportive.
The Good: Has a thing for Wagenbach (thank God SOMEONE does)!
The Bad: Also has a thing (a physical thing) for Vic Mackey. Shame on you! He has a wife! And two autistic kids! And a storage locker full of stolen cash!
The Good: Isn't afraid to put Julian in his place, in the field or out of it, when Julian relies too heavily on the word-for-word interpretations of the rulebook or the Bible.
The Bad: After a few seasons, begins to rely too much on Julian, and her constant attempts to spend more time with him come across as needy and desperate.
The Good: Holds head high, and continues to look Vic Mackey in the eye, even when she receives the short end of the procedural stick thanks to the Strike Team's meddling.
The Bad: It's high time she was taken off cutsey gimmick cases (guy attacks people with bug-spray! Fence steals ugly $10 000 chairs and ends up selling them for $10!) and given some real criminals to put away.

Officer Julien Lowe (Michael Jace)
Who is He? The baby of the show, the rookie cop who's only beginning to learn what being a real police officer is like. He is deeply, deeply religious, but also homosexual, which lends him a great deal of inner conflict that interferes with his police work.
In a Word: Naive.
The Good: Manages to be the most moral character on the show while possessing a wry sense of humour that keeps things interesting.
The Bad: That comment he made to Shane when Shane announced he was going father a child - "I didn't know you were married". C'mon. COME ON. How oblivious you can get?
The Good: Was wise enough to rid himself of his larcenous boyfriend, and refuse any efforts to rekindle the relationship - holding his own against boyfriend's pretty pretty pretty charms.
The Bad: The main reason he was able to shrug off his former lover was because he got shacked up with a wife. Now how long is that going to last?
The Good: Okay, he totally showed up Aceveda when the Captain inadvertantly stole a child's bike. That was awesome.
The Bad: Unstable - when he's not veering into self-hating Christian fundamentalism, he's sliding into a rule-bending habit of violence that Vic Mackey would approve of.

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