Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Shield
Season 7--The Final Act
Episode 5: Game Face

We open as Federal Agent Olivia Murray--now exposed as being in Pezuela's pocket--asks the Strike Team to be a part of a rescue operation. Since the team is still alive, it's clear she hasn't told Pezuela they've been playing both sides, so they have to go along. It seems a Cuban drug lord the feds have been tracking is in Farmington to do a deal (where he'll be arrested), but while in town his daughter Noelle was unexpectedly carjacked and kidnapped. Murray needs Vic to rescue her in time for her father to make the meeting. The catch is that the drug lord has his own thugs looking for her, since he doesn't want anything to do with the authorities. So the Strike team has to find the girl without letting daddy know the cops or FBI are on the case. Of course Vic is skeptical, and Aceveda is worried about that and potential blowback from Robert Martin's murder. Vic leaves wondering if he's being set up by Olivia, or if the case is clean and dry like she says. 

On their way to visit a chop shop known for using stolen cars, Shane tries to convince Vic to turn over the blackmail box to Rezian, who would then deliver it to Pezuela, clearing their debts and ending the Mexican/Armenian war. Vic tells him he needs the box to bring down Pezuela, which Shane scoffs at. After years in Farmington, Shane feels like every time one boss is brought down another one pops up. The system is broken, he says, and they need to take care of themselves alone. Vic disagrees. "Pezuela is a down payment on me being able to live with myself."

When they hit the chop shop, the owner speeds away. A chase ensues, and when the team snares him he admits to running because a team of thugs already killed several of his employees. It seems the Cuban guy isn't against making a few bodies to find Noelle, and is following the same leads as Vic. The owner doesn't know anything, so Vic turns to young carjacker Deena (last seen in season 3) who's plugged in. Vic and Ronnie arrive and are greeted by several shotgun blasts from a terrified Deena. It seems daddy's thugs have been there as well, killing Deena's boyfriend. Vic is running out of options, and the deadline is growing closer.

Back at the barn, Claudette learns that her nemesis, serial killer Kleavon Gardner, is defending himself, and wants to depose her before the trial. She agrees, though Dutch is worried her Lupus medication has her off her game. In the deposition, Kleavon corners Claudette by forcing her to admit she was on heavy medication while investigating him, a reminder of the DA Claudette previously exposed, and how it's now come around to bite her. Facing the possibility of Gardner getting off (as well as embarrassing the department) they reluctantly agree to take the death penalty off the table and give Kleavon life in prison. Claudette realizes she's no longer the firebrand detective she once was, but a figurehead who's becoming more of a distraction than she should (as Aceveda and Billings were before her). She decides to bring on Danny to help, just like Dutch was hoping would happen.

Meanwhile a banger beating victim tells Vic that a gang stole the car and kidnapped Noelle, so Vic gets an idea. Since the strike team is three white dudes and Julien and can't pose as gang members, they arrest the bangers who beat up the girl and get them to pose as robbers (with Julien undercover as one of their members). They break into the jackers' warehouse, and let the kidnapped girl "accidentally" escape--right into the passing car of one Danielle Sofer. The real cops then arrive, and the plan goes off without a hitch. And as far as Vic can tell, Olivia was on the level.

Corrine shows up at the barn to tell Vic that Cassidey has been suspended from school for being at a "Pimps and Hos" party, where drugs were involved. Since pictures were posted on the Internet, Vic finds the kid in one of them, braces him, and learns that the whole party was Cassidey's doing--drugs included. Because he sees how far off the rails his daughter is going, and how his parental responsibilities are being challenged, Vic refuses to sign over his rights to Danny's baby.

Dutch brings in an FBI profiler to take a look at Lloyd Dressler, whom Dutch still suspects is a 16-year old serial killer in training. The profiler interviews him, and agrees that something is off about the kid. Then, in a bold move, Dutch convinces Kleavon Gardner to take a look at the kid's interview tapes. Kleavon tells Dutch he's seen the look on Lloyd's face before. Dutch asks, "Where?" Gardner responds, "In the mirror."

Shane finds Ronnie at the barn and, since Ronnie has Vic's ear where Shane does not, hetries to convince him to get Vic to turn over the blackmail box. Shane admits that he knows Ronnie will never forgive him for killing Lem, but that following Vic will likely lead to prison or worse for all three of them. Ronnie goes to Vic, still untrusting of Shane, but sides with Shane and tries to get Vic to hand over the info. Vic refuses, confessing that Aceveda is now in possession of the intel. Ronnie doesn't seem convinced that it will all work out okey-dokey in traditional Mackey style.

Vic confronts Olivia Murray at the end, telling her he knows about her debt to Pezuela. It turns out she made an investigation--in which her brother would have been fingered--go away. Pezuela found out about it, and now he's squeezing her. Olivia says she just wants to figure out how to get out from under him. Vic smiles, saying he knows just the guy for that kind of job.

Another strong episode, but what stands out most is Vic's admission of knowing what a wrong life he's led, and that he must atone for it by bringing down Pezeula. He sees the Cartel as the biggest threat to Farmington yet, and by taking the leader down he just might save his soul. Ever since Ronnie killed Zadofian, he's teetered on the edge of becoming Vic (who does bad things but has a good heart) or Shane (bad to the core). It can be argued that Ronnie has been the most loyal member of the Strike team (he's the only one who seems to still be losing sleep over Lem's death), but now Ronnie sees Vic as unable to control the maelstrom he's started, and wonders if Vic is putting his job over the safety of the team. It's only a matter of time before Ronnie and Vic have it out. Perhaps violently.

The subplot involving Dutch and Lloyd Dressler is pretty good and fits in with the larger picture, since Dutch sees this as a culmination of everything he's ever done. "Who's the better cop?" he asks Billings. "The one who arrests someone who committed thirty murders, or the one who prevented those murders from ever taking place?" Perhaps the most compelling part is that we get the feeling Lloyd is just like Dutch was when he was that age. It remains to be seen, though, whether Lloyd really is a serial killer or if Dutch is simply looking for more recognition for catching a serial killer (a la season 1). 

I don't love the Claudette/Lupus angle, and haven't ever since it was introduced. It seemed to come out of nowhere and be there mainly to elicit sympathy for Claudette. Her disease will obviously play a big role this season, but to me Claudette's most poignant moment came at the realization that she's become just another bureaucrat. She misses being on the street, misses the challenge, and knows her time at the barn might be coming to an end.

There was certainly an abundance of subplots this episode, maybe too many, to the point that neither Pezuela, Rezian, Tina or Cassidey got any screen time. And Julien hasn't had much to do at all, other than take orders from Vic or interrupt the rest of the team while they're talking about nefarious deeds. I don't care too much about Vic and Danny's fight over the baby, and Corrine's sole job seems now to be to show up and whine about Cassidey. But the Cassidey subplot is really going somewhere, since it strikes at the very heart of who Vic is. No matter what he's done he's always looked out for his family and tried to do the right thing by them. He's been a bad cop,which he is resigned to, but now he's finally realizing that he's been a bad father as well. And whereas Vic is constantly threatened by guns, gangs and violence (not to mention Pimps & Hos), losing his daughter is the most painful of all.



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