The Shield Season 7

The Shield Season 7
After seven seasons, cable network TV shows are either venerated arguably above their accomplishments (The Sopranos) or are limping to a conclusion mandated by popularity, apathy or both. But as Shawn Ryan's unflinching L.A. cop drama The Shield reaches its final, brutal chapters, it remains an underdog, underseen by tastemakers empowered to declare it amongst TV's greatest accomplishments. Which it certainly is. It's pointless to try and bring newbies into the fold of The Shield — even in the context of heavily serialized television that has dominated the last decade, this final season reaches back to the consequences of Vic Mackey's actions from the very first episode of the show. Mackey, as embodied by Michael Chiklis, has been the rotted heart and soul of The Shield, a corrupt by-any-means-necessary cop who started by blurring the lines for lawful ends, and ends embroiled in an ever-expanding web of lies that threaten to engulf him at every turn. But the heart and soul of this final season belongs to Mackey's partner in crime Shane (MVP Walton Goggins), who's never been as smart or as lucky as Mackey. As the criminal gangs he's toyed with and the feds he's outsmarted begin to converge on Mackey, Shane's less bulletproof defences crumble first and he spends much of the series' final hours on the run, finally alienated from Mackey and desperately trying to pull off the one final scam that seems to be Mackey's exclusive purview. As the series moves towards its final moments — and Mackey seems to be running out of every one of his favours — The Shield (as it has for several seasons now) moves to what must be an inevitable conclusion: Mackey either dead or in jail (or some combination). In fact, so inevitable does this outcome seem that it's hard to imagine another. But creator/show runner Shawn Ryan made his name on putting new twists on this most familiar seeming premise. The series' final hour cannot be praised enough: the chorus of critics who unanimously declared it TV's greatest conclusion got it exactly right; Ryan fulfils every sense of inevitability the series has ever had, and does so in entirely surprising ways. The Shield on DVD has always gone for depth over breadth, preferring to examine one episode or issue in some detail instead of a scattershot look at the whole; this time, the final goodbyes are tainted somewhat by the fact that the writers strike prevented Ryan and his accomplished writing team from being present during the show's final moments. Seeing Chiklis take on the role of mentor, leader and father figure in his stead speaks volumes about his contributions to this series overall. Ryan enthusiastically and professionally corrals a number of contributors to the informative commentary tracks, which are well worth poring over. It's an exhausting ride, but by finishing it so satisfyingly, one is still tempted to go back and start the whole series over again, if only to marvel at how well constructed it's been from the very beginning. Plus: deleted scenes, more. (FX/Fox)