The Shield: Season 5

The Shield: Season 5
In the early days of this series, the Los Angeles police strike team led by Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) ruled the Barn, the police headquarters where they freely took bribes from dealers, applied the law (or not) at will and scoffed at those who might challenge them, be they police captain, politician or thug. But here in season five, long after the cop killing they covered up in the series’ very first episode, the chickens are coming home to roost on the strike team. Large, drawling, fabulously compelling chickens in the form of Internal Affairs investigator John Kavanaugh (Forest Whitaker). Whitaker steps into the guest starring hero spot vacated after a searing run in season four by Glenn Close and Anthony Anderson (who returns in a prison-related subplot here). And as Close put her own stamp on the show and the precinct, Whitaker too plays this game his own way, and practically steals the show doing it. As Vic Mackey ¾ the seemingly unrepentant and viciously corrupt meanie ¾ somehow garners enough audience sympathy to be considered at least an anti-hero, Whitaker accomplishes the opposite: despite good intentions and the law on his side, he’s the villain (an anti-villain if you will) in this strange morality play. While The Shield has always focused more on cop drama than community politics, this season is more insular than ever; while an HBO show like The Wire showcases greater community issues with a novelistic grace, The Shield hones in on the oozing sores of corruption with blunt force. That’s not to say it lacks subtlety; its goals and its approach are simply different, more tough love than quiet contemplation. Given that much of the season’s drama harkens back to the aforementioned series-opening cop killing ¾ a pall that has hung over Mackey the entire time ¾ this could be the least accessible season for new viewers yet. But for long-time followers of the strike team, who’ve foreseen its downfall as an inevitable comeuppance, watching Mackey spar with the equally powerful Kavanaugh makes season five one of the show’s most delicious yet. That’s not to downplay the consistently excellent work turned in by the supporting cast; Whitaker simply looms over the whole season, waiting it out until someone cracks under the pressure. The DVD package remains consistently strong: a nearly 90-minute look at this season’s controversial final episode (I’m not even going to go there), plus extensive deleted scenes and episode commentaries all make The Shield a tense but wholly immersive experience. This is a landmark of television for those who like more than just a dash of grit. Plus: season six preview, panel discussion, more. (Fox)