Plot: What’s it about?
I can still remember the TV ads for The Shield back in 2002, which premiered on the FX network. I hadn’t seen anything quite like it on TV, and it focused on many scenes, but the one that stood out most was of the bald and tough Strike Team Captain, Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis). He just has that presence that stays with you. The scene was an exchange between Vic and Police Captain David Aceveda (Benito Martinez). I’ll get more into it in a bit, but in a show filled with colorful and well written characters, Aceveda is the one true character who will really go head to head with Mackey. The tension between these two is compelling enough and they’re on the same team. The show ran for 7 seasons and ended its run in 2008. It’s held up remarkably well and many of the themes, such as racial tension and police corruption are as relevant today as they were back then. In fact, I’d say even more so today. FX had a number of good shows, including Rescue Me and Nip/Tuck, but this remains my favorite. It was known for pushing the envelope and is a game changer because of it. There’s so much the show has to offer that my review can only touch on so much of that. It truly needs to be scene, and whether you’re revisiting it or watching for the first time, this set is a must-own. The pilot episode remains as gripping now as when it first aired. I followed the first 3 seasons when they first aired, but somewhere around season 4 I had drifted away. This wasn’t for one particular reason or another, but I seem to recall just getting swamped for work and life in general. I made a point to play catch up with some of the later seasons, especially the final one to see where things would end. Nevertheless, it’s been great revisiting the entire series and to see how things unfold. The cast is superb and the story-lines gripping. Most who know me will know that I tend to gravitate more towards film than TV, but this is one on my small list of shows that I wholeheartedly recommend to just about anyone. It’s right up there with The Sopranos for me.
The first season contains 13 episodes that quickly bring us into this world. We have Vic Mackey (Chiklis) who is in charge of the strike team, along with Shane Vendrell (Walton Goggins), Lem Lemansky (Kenny Johnson) and Ronnie Gardocki (David Rees Snell). We see early on that Vic and his team do it their way and aren’t afraid to bend the law if it’s for the greater good. This causes lots of problems Captain Aceveda (Benito Martinez) as he realizes that he can’t control Vic. There’s a pivotal moment where Vic kills a new member, Terry that Aceveda put on the strike team to spy on Vic and his crew. This plot element will stay relevant for many seasons to come, and the consequences of Vic’s actions have consequences for all involved. The first season has many scenes between Vic and Aceveda that are full of tension as we’re unsure how they’ll play out. Aceveda still doesn’t hesitate to ask Vic for help when he can’t get a suspect to talk. Clearly Vic does things his own way. Shifting gears, we find Danny Sofer (Catherin Dent) and her trainee, Julien Lowe (Michael Jace) who has a lot to learn about how the police force works. Julien is a bit too by the books, and clearly has the rookie mentality. We then find Claudette Wyms (CCH Pounder) and her partnership with Dutch Wagenbach (Jay Karnes), a good detective to be sure, but something of a joke to many of his colleagues. We all have our favorite characters, but they’re all interesting and fully developed to where we don’t feel betrayed when the show follows their respective stories across each episode. Much time is devoted to Vic and his home life, including the revelation that his son has autism. The second season pushes the envelope further, maybe too far for some as it can rely on shock value sometimes. A scene where Vic burns a man’s face on a stove is still shocking all these years later. In reality, had the show not pushed things, it would’ve lost that edge that it had that in many ways put it ahead of its time. You really can’t censor tone, and it’s great that the show was able to get away with what it did get away with. Many of the exchanges between characters throughout the show are close-ups that really put us right in the middle of the tension. It grips you and doesn’t let go.
There’s a lot that happens in The Shield, too much in fact to talk about here and even some I don’t want to spoil. The basics are the strike team eventually learn of a money train that they intend to rob. This has serious repercussions that’ll lead into later seasons. Creator Shawn Ryan and the writers do a remarkable job of juggling multiple story arcs without the show ever getting too bogged down or complicated. I enjoy that there are both moments that simply show these characters and a day in their life, to heavier plot elements that progress the show further. We become invested in all of them early on that it’s hard to resist the show and its ways. Season 4 introduces us to characters played by Glenn Close and Anthony Anderson. Then season 5 Forest Whitaker shows up and the stakes are even higher. Looking back, if there’s a weak link, it’s season 4, but it’s still solid. It just isn’t as compelling as previous seasons or the ones that would follow. Season 5 rebounds rather quickly and hits the ground running. There’s a sense of impending doom that’s carried out across this season as the pressure on the strike team is closing in. From the first episode to the shocking finale, this season is a true gem. It made (at the time it aired) the anticipation for season 6 all the more painful to see where things would go from there. One thing that’s clear is that the show isn’t afraid to take risks. Predictability isn’t something you’ll accuse the show of being. Each episode begins with a nice, short recap of what’s happened in previous episodes, getting us up to speed.
Seasons 1, 2, 4 and 7 contain 13 episodes with season 3 being the longest with 15. Season 6 is the shortest with 10 episodes and season 5 contains 11. The episodes are all labeled with a brief description on the main menu of each disc and on the inner sleeve. It might be best to not read too much to avoid possible spoilers if you haven’t seen the show yet.
Video: How’s it look?
The episodes are presented in 1.85:1 widescreen and have been remastered in 4K. To put simply: the show looks amazing in HD. If there was any concern about the show’s rather gritty look, those can be put to rest as that has been maintained. Much care has clearly been given here. There’s a crispness to the episodes, but also some traces of grain, which was left in intentionally from what I can gather. I appreciated this as it maintained the look the show was going for, but also being appropriate for these modern times. The details are evident in nearly every episode. I can’t say enough, but I was not only pleased by the results here, but also impressed by just how good they look.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Also strong is the DTS HD track that we’re given to the episodes here. Vocals and dialogue exchanges are clear and audible, but the action sequences come through very nicely. I was very involved and it brings us right in the middle of the action. Bullets flying, street banter, noise within the police station, it’s all here and it’s all presented very nicely. Like the transfers, these tracks accompany the episodes in a positive manner.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Mill Creek has done a wonderful job with the packaging here. There’s an outer case which has the inner case holding the discs. This set includes 18 discs, with the last 2 devoted to special features. There are other features included on the previous discs, such as deleted scenes and audio commentaries, which will all be detailed below. The outer case folds out and has a cover that has an invisible magnet to keep it securely closed. The discs are safely slipped into respective sleeves with each flap detailing the episodes found on that particular disc. There’s also a paper intro from series creator Shawn Ryan as you open the discs. It’s attached to the main case which houses the discs. Also rather clever is the face of the case which houses this discs has a badge on the front.
- Audio Commentary – There are various cast and crew commentary on several of the episodes.
- Deleted Scenes – Most of the episodes contain brief deleted scenes. None are crucial in the grand scheme of things, but their inclusion is most welcome.
- Season 1 Epilogue – Pretty brief and straightforward.
- Wrap Day – We’re treated to a look at the last episode of season 2.
- Season 3 Teaser
- Breaking Episode #315 Making-of Documentary – A pretty lengthy look at the final episode of season 3.
- Under the Skin – An hour long behind the scenes look at the series and where it was at the time. It’s mildly interesting, but not the best feature on this set.
- Delivering the Baby – This is best viewed if you’ve seen all of season 5’s episodes as it contains spoilers for the season finale.
- Wins and Losses – Season 6 Prequel
- Saturn’s Son – A half hour look at the season 6 conclusion.
- Two Directors – Another half hour feature discussing choosing directors and how they often like to have directors come back. It also looks at how each director brings their unique voice to the show.
- Full Circle: Franka Potente – This takes a look at an actress cast in season 6. The actress is said to have been a huge fan of the show and her agents fought for her to get the role.
- Nobody Expects to Lose, Nobody Expects to Die: The Shield’s Final Season – We’re treated to some behind the scenes tidbits on concluding the series and the intentions behind it. This feature is well worth checking out and rather bittersweet as well.
- Last Call: The Final Episode – This feature offers a look at the final episode of the series. It’s a great feature and nice sendoff to the series.
- Crossing the Line – There are four subsections here: Behind the Shield, The Shield FX, Rampart and I.A.D.
- Framing Farmington – We’re treated to 5 more subsections. These include: Raising the Barn, Making A Scene, The Editing Room, Sound Surgery and A Place We Called Home.
- Strike Team Only – Included are: Cast Auditions, Director’s Roundtable and Panel Discussion with Michael Chiklis, Forest Whitaker and Shawn Ryan.
- Scott Brazil Tribute – A nice tribute to one of the first producers of the show who died in 2006.
- 2018 Cast Reunion with Shawn Ryan – A great behind the scenes 10 years after the series ended. We hear from several of the main cast members, including Michael Chiklis, Walton Goggins, Catherine Dent, CCH Pounder and many more. There’s even mention of Michael Jace, who’s currently in prison for the murder of his wife. I was wondering before I watched this if that would be brought up and surprised it was.
- ATX Television Festival: The Shield Writers Room Panel – An hour long feature with several of the writers from the show, moderated by Lynette Rice. Fans won’t want to miss this one as it’s filled with some fascinating tidbits and should answer most, if not all questions one might have about the show and what goes into writing the episodes.
- Beyond the Badge Retrospective – A solid behind the scenes look from the show’s first season to its last and how critics responded to the series from beginning to end. This is a very good feature that I wish was a little longer.
The Bottom Line
The Shield is as great a show today as it was when it ended ten years ago. The cast is top notch, stories compelling and consistently entertaining. My review (or any really) can hardly touch on just everything the show has to offer. It’s an often complex and heavy show, but one of the best out there. Not only does it hold up well, but many of the themes are relevant today. This Blu-Ray set is excellent in every way. We’re given quality A/V and more than 10 hours’ worth of extras that give us great insight into the show. Whether you’re revisiting it or checking it out for the first time, it comes highly recommended. This is coming from someone who doesn’t typically watch TV. From the gripping first season to the last, it’ll have you hooked. Seeing the journey that it takes us on, all with characters we’ve grown to care about is well worth it. Highly recommended.