Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Shield
Season 7--The Final Act
Episode 6: Animal Control

Post-Bouchercon thoughts to follow in the next few days. In the meantime, here's a recap and review of this week's episode of "The Shield." Note: I watched the ep on my computer rather than live--darn presidential debate--and this is essentially a running diary.

--So Aceveda wants to turn in the blackmail box. Figures. He knows the longer he waits, the more suspicious it looks when he finally turns it in. And Vic is torn because if they hand it over early, they lose all leverage with both Rezian and Pezuela. Vic looks more distraught than usual here. If he meant his words from last episode--that he wants to bring down Pezuela to atone for all his wrongdoings--than turning over the box is akin to waving bye-bye to any sort of peace. Vic wants to catch Rios redhanded, and get him to give up Pezuela. Aceveda gives Vic a deadline. Does Vic ever get any open-ended assignments? 

--I was totally expecting someone to jump out and accost Tina, shades of her failing to clear the room for Danny (which still hasn't really been addressed). But finding a naked dude covered in blood? Not a bad silver medal. But man, based on those noises he was making I was expecting another alley pleasure seeker. Nice to be wrong.

--A somber note as Vic and Ronnie meet at Lem's grave. This harkens back to the opening scene of Season Six with Vic, Shane and Ronnie meeting at the grave while Johnny Cash's "I Hung My Head" plays in the background (one of my favorites in the series). This scene gave me chills. It's the first time Vic has shown how he's affected by the weight of Lem's death in a while, and he reminds Ronnie they still have a score to settle for Lem's murder (i.e. Shane). Vic tells Ronnie he has a plan to make all the wrong things right, all within Aceveda's deadline. I'm dumbfounded as to how he's going to manage this, considering he not only has Shane, but the Armenian and Mexican mobs to worry about.

--So Vic presents the "plan" to Shane: they're going to sell the Armenians the blackmail box, end their business with Pezuela and shake down the Armenians for some cash. Shane likee, especially the money part. Of course Ronnie and Vic have ulterior motives which will surely come to light. And suddenly Shane's, "I feel like a huge weight has been..." is interrupted by...TAVON GARRIS. Wow. I'd heard Tavon would be coming back, but man what timing. Last we saw Tavon, he was laid out in a hospital bed after flying through a windshield thanks to Shane and Mara (and an iron to the back of the head). Dude is scarred up, and oddly doesn't mention Shane's assault (if we recall, Vic lied and convinced Tavon he attacked Mara, to save Shane's ass). Tavon and Julien have an awkward moment, as the only two black members of the Strike team. Shane looks about as comfortable as George W. Bush at an economic summit.

--So Tavon, out of the the hospital, is now working Hollywood division. Seems one of Shane's former rape suspects, long thought dead, has resurfaced in Tavon's neck of the woods by reaching out to his young daughter (side note: I always liked Tavon's character. It's good to see him again.)

--Tavon apologizes to Shane? Oh, right, while Tavon was laid up Vic convinced him that he assaulted Mara (to save Shane's ass after Mara nearly decapitated Tavon). For whatever reason this missing rapist is a sore spot for Shane, and he tells Vic he might need to jet from the intel sale. Shane seems upset by Tavon's reappearance, as he seems reminded of just how ugly he is (it was Shane's racism and insecurity that led to Tavon nearly getting killed). Somewhere beneath the rot, Shane does have a heart. Kind of like the grinch.

--So Corrine is on drugs (I officially nominate her and Vic for "Worst Parents of the Millenuem"), Vic tells Pezuela a way to take down the whole Armenian mob, and Shane sets up a trap to catch the rapist, Barba. Shane is acting like a...wait...good cop? His words to the daughter, Camille, "Better you deal with trouble now rather than look over your shoulder the rest of your life," is a perfect summation of the Strike Team.

--Turns out Vic's intel sale is actually a ruse to set up a Mexican/Armenian bloodbath, with Shane caught in the crossfire. And it turns out that one of Robert Martin's assassins is the same guy who assaulted Danny in the storeroom. Claudette goes nuclear on Ronnie when he can't give Vic's whereabouts, since he's out learning that Rios and his Mexican assassins are planning to flee the country after tonight's meeting with the Armenians. Vic tells him, "If you put one of them in the ground, make sure you put them all there." Oh man, this is not going to end well.

--Olivia Murray tells Vic that Rios has been flagged for surveillance, and she wants to turn herself in over a guilty conscience. Vic convinces her to hold off, since if she does he loses Pezuela. Olivia's guilt here is striking in comparison to Vic, considering her sins are relatively minor. Yet Vic, Shane and Ronnie have all committed murder and other atrocities and are still trying to pretend they've got good souls.

--Shane catches Barba, and can't bring himself to talk to Tavon about the night he got hurt. This is one of Shane's best episodes ever, great acting by Walton Goggins, as Shane goes from cocky and brash one moment (dealing with the Armenians) to contrite and remorseful (when Tavon reminds him of who he really is). Like the bloody narcoleptic guy Claudette and Dutch grill, Shane knows what he does is wrong, but somehow cannot stop himself.

--Tavon confesses to Shane that he knows he didn't hit Mara. Shane, genuinely overcome with guilt, offers to transfer from the barn once the intel sale is over, to leave Vic and Ronnie for good. When Corrine shows up at the station pleading with Vic not to take the kids away from her over the drugs, he, like Shane, has a crisis of conscience. Is this what people think of him? And is that who he really is? As he and Ronnie lead Shane to (presumably) his death, Vic decides to call the deal off. Vic: "We still have a choice." Ronnie: "Do you think Shane gave Lem a choice?" Vic: "I'm not Shane." Right there, that's the heart of the show. Great moment.

--Vic tries to get a hold of Shane, who's a sitting duck as he waits at the meeting spot. Vic's desperate attempt to get through to Shane while Ronnie tries to run interference to let him die is pretty chilling. Shane goes to check around the perimeter, and meanwhile two Mexican assassins show up and annihilate the entire Armenian mob as Shane escapes to watch from the shadows.

--Turns out naked alley dude didn't kill anyone, but slits his own throat because Dutch and Claudette make him think he did. Ick. Vic shows up at Corrine's, letting her know the family is safe. Of course he doesn't tell her why ("Hey honey, that Armenian mob boss who wanted to kill you because I stole three million dollars from him? Yeah, he's dead because I orchestrated a hit on him by a Mexican gang whose dirty boss I've been taking money from while providing him with intel. And I decided not to kill my former best friend who blew our other friend up with a grenade. Don't you feel better?")

--Dutch has a breakthrough with Billings, telling him he needs Steve to do what Claudette used to, namely challenge him, make him prove his assumptions. Shane arrives home, and it turns out he stole the hundred g's from the blackmail deal. Not only that, but he knows Vic and Ronnie tried to have him killed. "And the worst part is," Shane says, "they think I'm too stupid to even realize it."

Final thoughts: A tense episode throughout. A little heavy-handed at times with all the talk about living down the past, but the acting and story more than made up for it. This episode was one of Walton Goggins's finest hours, as he breathed a hint of humanity back into Shane. And for all of Vic's bluster about finding and killing Lem's killer, when it came down to it he simply couldn't kill Shane. This shows how Vic has changed over the series, since in the first episode he was able to kill Terry Crowley in cold blood, yet couldn't even allow Shane (who's done far worse things than Terry) to take a bullet from a random Mexican assassin. And now Vic is pinned down, in Shane's sights for setting him up, and Ronnie's for trying to halt Shane's murder. I wasn't sure how things were going to play out at first, but now it seems almost certain that Vic is going to go down, and go down hard.



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