The following is a review for The Shield (2002-2008).
The Shield tells the story of an inner city Los Angeles police precinct where some of the cops aren't afraid to bend the rules for professional and personal gain. While their questionable tactics bring results, not everyone is pleased with how they operate.
The Strike Team, an anti-gang unit, is headed by corrupt officer Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis). Mackey is the ultimate tough guy and one of the most interesting anti-heroes of all time. He'll stop at nothing to get his way, trampling anyone in his path, including other cops.
Vic and his men have been guilty kidnapping, torture, drug dealing and robbery. So to call Vic a deeply flawed character is an almost laughable understatement. Right away, we see just how far Mackey is willing to go to protect himself in an brutal act that really sets the tone for rest of the show.
At the same time, he's still a family man and extremely loyal to his team and he's one of the best cops on the force, always getting the job done. Realizing their actions may go too far, Captain Aceveda, among others, focus on bringing Vic and The Strike Team down. It creates an interesting cat and mouse game between these cops, who are supposed to be working together. At the same time, the rest of the force is working on catching bigger criminals in a city full of murderers, rapists, and drug dealers.
This show has created a ton of fascinating characters including Shane Vendrell, Vic's partner, played brilliantly by Walton Goggins. We also have Dutch Wagenbach (Jay Karnes) and Claudette Wyms (CCH Pounder) as homicide detectives.
What makes The Shield so interesting is its unique take on the police drama. In most shows, you know what you're going to get, it's the good cops vs. the bad criminals. With The Shield, it's not nearly that simple because some of these cops are the criminals. It does a great job at exploring the human condition, like friendship, loyalty, and the thin line between right and wrong.
The shows visual style also serve the story. Shot on 16mm film, it even looks grainy, reflecting it's gritty content. With the exclusive use of steadcam work, the cameras are free to move anywhere they please. Most of the time, they zoom in your face, just like the action. It almost feels like a documentary.
The Shield is one of the grittiest police dramas of all time. It's always edgy, and intense. While this may get a lot of comparisons to another great police drama, The Wire, they are completely different shows. For me, The Shield is much more accessible and much more entertaining. With one of the greatest series finales of all-time, you'll be feeling the impact of the show for a long time.
The Shield is one definitely one of the most under appreciated shows of the last decade. While shows like Mad Men, The Wire, and The Sopranos have garnered endless amounts of attention, The Shield is seemingly overlooked. Regardless, The Shield is still a television masterpiece and deserves to be grouped with the other greats.
*Standout seasons include Season 5, Season 7, and Season 4*