Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Shield
Season 7: The Final Act
Episode 1: Coefficient of Drag

The episode begins as Shane Vendrell walks up the stairs to his apartment (has anything good ever happened to Shane when he's about to enter an apartment?), only to find his pregnant wife, Mara, tied up on the couch. Considering what a whiny wet blanket she's been over the years (not to mention her forgiving Shane after he confessed to killing Lem), this might be a good thing. Vic and Ronnie appear from the shadows and beat the holy hell out of Shane, confronting him about kidnapping Corrinne and the kids and grilling him about the pool of blood in Vic's home. Seriously, between this and the beating he took last season, Shane should just wear riot gear 24/7. 

Shane admits that Diro Kezakian found out about the Strike Team's heist of the money train, but in typical weaselly Shane style he tells Vic that she simply "found out." Vic is quick to point out that only four people knew about the heist. Three of them are in the room, and Shane killed the fourth. Shane tells Vic that once he learned Vic's family had been greenlit, Shane kidnapped them for their own safety. Says Vic later on, "his heart was in the right place, but his head as usual was a few steps behind." 

See Shane, realizing Diro Kazakian will stop at nothing to get payback in blood for the money train, has teamed with Diro's competitor, Rezian, to consolidate the Armenian mob which would end the hit on Vic's family. Rezian has forced Shane into indentured servitude to pay off his portion of the money train. This is the second time Shane has ended up in the pocket of a crime boss against his will (Antwan Mitchell). If I were a mob boss, I would move to Farmington and just wait for Shane to knock on my door.

Vic, realizing he needs Shane alive to keep his family safe, lets him live. But Vic wants payback for the attack on his family, and when Shane tells him that the Armenian hit man, Zadofian, is still at large, Vic and Ronnie set out to find the hit man with vengeance in mind. Sometimes I feel like Vic could use a quiet night at home with a cup of Earl Grey and a Nicholas Sparks novel.

We then see Vic talking to an ex-cop who he's hired to protect his family. Between Joe Clark, the P.I. from season 2, and this guy, Vic sure gets a lot of help from shady ex-cops. Right after calming Corrine down by telling her the cop is nothing to worry about (ha!), Vic finds the guy struggling with the limo driver from whom Vic stole that trunkload of files in the finale of season 6. Of course Cassidey happens to walk by, and Vic shoves the driver to the ground so she won't see. (side note: Corrine Mackey has officially been nominated for "Worst Mother in the World" for staying within 1,000 miles of Vic. I mean, they've been harassed by Gilroy and Kavanaugh and just discovered a massive pool of blood in their hallway. Seriously, get the hell away from this man)

Vic takes the limo driver to a shack and chains him to the ceiling, eerily reminiscent of Vic's brutal murder of Guardo. Nice touch. The driver confesses that Pezuela doesn't know the files have been stolen yet, giving Vic an idea. He leaves the driver chained to the ceiling, the gears definitely spinning. Driver: "You're just going to leave me here?" Vic: "Trust me. I could do worse." Dang.

While tracking down the hit man, Zadofian, Ronnie learns that the Armenian mob uses a veterinarian to patch up wounded gang members. Vic and Ronnie brace the doggie doc, (I definitely thought they were going to do something horrible to that dog, phew) and learn that the wounded man is recuperating at a hotel. Shane meanwhile visits Rezian, who tells Shane to find Zadofian and interrogate him on Diro's whereabouts. Shane finds Zadofian's location through a hooker, but arrives at the hotel to find Vic and Ronnie's car already there. Vic braces Zadofian, literally sticking a gun almost right through him (squirm alert), but leaves before losing his cool. After all, if Zadofian is killed while Vic is out of contact with Claudette, people will peg Vic as the culprit (since the dude's blood was found in Vic's home, after all). So when Vic arrives back at the barn, Ronnie gets Diro's cell phone number (to trace her location) and then shockingly puts two bullets in Zadofian, the first time Ronnie has ever killed anyone. Seriously, this made my jaw drop. After six years of milquetoastness, Ronnie shows a totally different side and suddenly becomes a wild card. And I'm riveted.

Shane waits until Ronnie leaves, and naturally freaks out when he finds Zadofian dead since Rezian will realize he's tipped off Vic. Shane cuts off Zadofian's feet to make his murder look like retribution from Diro. (I thought severed feet was a Margos thing, but I guess all Armenian gangsters like to do it)

Back at the barn, the department is being gutted to pay for the settlement for Billings's "injury." Danny ignores Dutch's attempt to talk about their awkward smooch and directs him to a man who claims to have killed his wife. But because the guy was already tried and acquitted he cannot be tried again. Dutch realizes that the man is trying to place blame on a hit man--who now runs a Vinyl siding company (ha!) and is dating a woman the widower wants. It turns out that Billings was the detective on the case, and his shoddy police work led to the acquittal. I know, Billings and shoddy detective work? Shocking! Dutch and Claudette bring Billings back to the barn under the pretense of paperwork (love the granny glasses on Billings), but in reality to get to the bottom of the case. After Claudette and Dutch insult and belittle Billings, the detective snaps back to normal and gets a confession from the hit man's fiancee. Between his injuries being proven false and the illegal use of the Quik Mealer, Claudette is able to dismiss Billings's lawsuit and force him to rejoin the department. 

On a side note--HURRAY FOR THE QUIK MEALER!!! That hunk of junk was the longest running gag on the show, and it's complete poetic justice that it finally bites Billings in the ass. They should totally make the Quik Mealer the newest member of the Strike Team.

Corrine, realizing something ain't right, takes the kids and goes to Shane's home to find out the truth. Just like Corrine to try to get answers from the same guy who kidnapped her 24 hours ago. Shane isn't home but Mara is, and we have a wet blanket-off as both women agree that their men (Vic and Shane) are up to no good. They form an alliance to find out the truth. (About damn time. These two were pretty much the only characters on the show who haven't formed some sort of alliance yet) It turns out Cassidey heard the whole thing, and it reinforces her growing suspicion that her dear old dad is actually a piece of sh%t.

Vic and Aceveda take the stolen files and lock them away, then try to figure out how best to use them. Vic naturally wants to use them to keep his job, while Aceveda wants to bury them to keep the peace and help him politically. Vic astutely points out that Aceveda was happy to use them to bury the truth about his rape, but won't actually use them for good.

Meanwhile, Vic comes up with a plan. Duh. With little recourse to bring down Pezeula legally, and without the firepower to deal with the Armenian threat and the usual gang violence, Vic decides to play both sides against each other. He convinces Pezuela that the limo driver stole the priceless files and sold them to Rezian, who will use them to prevent Pezuela from taking over. Shane then visits Rezian in prison and convinces him that the Mexicans (i.e. Pezuela, the El Salvadorans, etc...) are a massive threat. So basically Vic and Shane have pitted the two most dangerous gangs in the state against each other, setting the stage for a massive bloodbath that they hope will wipe out both gangs in the process. Man, this city is gonna burn...

A terrific first episode from top to bottom. Since it starts right after the final episode of season 6, we don't miss a moment. The violence has been ratcheted up to the point where we know things are going to get pretty bad, and between Rezian and Pezuela we have two bad ass mob bosses who aren't afraid to shed a lot of blood to get what they want. I do hope more time is given to the supporting characters--Danny, Dutch--who didn't have much to do this episode. I'm guessing Tina was the one who forgot to clear the room, which led to Danny's attack, and those natural enemies (Tina, effortlessly beautiful but a terrible cop, is the polar opposite of Danny who has worked her ass off only to see Tina become the 'face' of the department) will come to a head. The best moment in the episode was when Claudette talks to Vic about his appeals board being pushed back, telling him he doesn't have a whole lot of friends left. Vic gives his ususal charming smile, but when Claudette leaves his face says everything. In the past six years, Vic has lost every one of his friends, his family, and his reputation. He is a broken man who just doesn't know it yet. But I'm most intrigued by the developments with Ronnie. For a long time it seemed Ronnie was almost too bland, like they were waiting for the right time to pull the trigger (literally) with him. Ronnie killing the unarmed, wounded Zadofian was one of the series' most shocking moments, and Ronnie's behavior afterwards shows it definitely affected him. But whether he is overcome with guilt (like Lem would be) or develops a taste for mayhem (like Shane) has yet to be seen.

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