Friday, November 07, 2008

The Shield
Season 7--The Final Act
Episode 10: Party Line

Vic and Ronnie are getting desperate in their efforts to track down Shane. They know it's only a matter of time before he and Mara are caught, and when that happens Shane will spill his guts to make a deal (remember when Vic threatened to "scorch the earth" with what he knew about Aceveda). It's scary that Vic seems completely prepared to kill Mara. Ronnie is tired, desperate, and on top of that he's getting scared. Vic seems to be deluding himself into thinking everything will work out, but Ronnie is more realistic. After he and Vic get nowhere with one of Mara's relatives, Ronnie mentions he's thinking about the big R: Running. Vic talks him down, not for Ronnie's sake but because if Ronnie runs even more suspicion will be on Vic. Vic admits he's considered running in the past, but isn't willing to give up his family. Sadly, they've already given up on him and he just doesn't know it. Vic asks Ronnie for a little time to find Shane, and if they can't track him down, he says they'll both run.

So what is Vic's brilliant idea for finding Shane? Putting a $10,000 bounty out on him with numerous gangs, the caveat being that they must deliver him alive. This is very un-Vic to put so much stake in his enemies, but shows just how much of a bind he's in. This is a similar tactic to Shane hiring Two-Man; sloppy and impetuous. The Torucos are hardly trustworthy, but since Vic's out of a job and Ronnie is chained to a desk, the gangs have far more reach than they do and Vic is running out of options.

Shane comes home(?) to their squat to find Mara swimming naked. He joins her (Walton Goggins tushee sighting--aagghhh!!!), and they have some kissy kissy time. I officially have the maturity of a toddler. They have a tender moment in the pool, and later we see Shane playing piano--neither we nor Mara knew he had this talent--while Mara dances and plays hide-and-seek with their son Jackson. These intimate family scenes are actually rather touching, as we see the kind of life that Shane and Mara wish they led and misguidedly still think they can. As Mara says later, the last few days made her forget everything that's going on around them, and she was, for once, truly happy. Needless to say this happiness doesn't last as a broker arrives to show the house they're squatting in and Shane is forced to pull a gun on her. I thought for a moment he might kill her, but the Vendrells simply flee to live another day. Again we're reminded that Shane is not the brightest tool in the shed. Did he really think they could live in that house and barbecue and nobody would ever notice? Yet for all the wrongs Shane has committed, like Vic there is a part of Shane that is a dedicated family man, perhaps to an even greater degree. There has been more passion in his relationship with Mara than Vic has had with anyone, save perhaps Danny, but even that was fleeting.

Corrine summons Dutch and Claudette to the hospital, and after being granted immunity tells them about Shane and Mara contacting her, and how she thinks Vic tried to kill them. After Two-Man fingering Shane, this is probably the most important development yet as far as the cops learning the truth about Vic. For years they've always known Mackey was dirty, but they never knew just how much so. And when Corrine mentions "something to do with the Armenians," Dutch's eyes go wide since he long suspected the Strike Team for ripping off the money train. They plan to tap Corrine's phone to try and catch Vic talking to Shane, as well as getting a lead on Shane's whereabouts.

Vic, finding that his shot to land with ICE is going down the drain, realizes that as long as Aceveda is their go-to guy he'll be out of a job. Vic confronts Aceveda, telling him to back off the case so that Vic can be the primary. Vic then goes to Pezuela and Beltran, trying to convince them to give him more duties (so he can get cozier with ICE). Suddenly Aceveda shows up and gives Pezuela a verbal dressing-down, leading to a fight which Aceveda (shockingly) wins. He has correctly assumed that Beltran is in town because the Cartel isn't happy with Pezuela's public crimes (the Cartel knows there's more money in drugs than in real estate), and by belittling Pezuela in front of his boss Aceveda knows he will be elevated in the eyes of Beltran. This was perhaps the ballsiest stunt Aceveda has ever pulled (except for the, you know what in season 3), to the point where even Vic is stunned.

Vic tracks down Beltran, desiring to replace Pezuela in the Cartel and refusing to submit his position to Aceveda. Turns out they're correct about Beltran's fondness (or lack thereof) for Pezuela, and Beltran tells Vic that if he kills Pezuela, he's in. Vic confronts Pezuela, but instead of killing him tells him that he's a marked man. Vic then brings Pezuela in to ICE, and Olivia offers to protect him if he turns on the Cartel. Pezuela holds out, figuring he's a dead man either way, to Vic's delight, because it gives him more time to get closer to Beltran.

Meanwhile, Vic's bounty pays off as two gang members recognize Shane and pull guns on him and Mara (and Jackson). They're ready to bring him in to Vic, until Shane offers them $20,000, doubling Vic's offer. They accept the double bribe, but then see the rest of the $100,000 Shane stole from the Armenians and take it all. Shane convinces them to finally leave with the money, which they do, but now Shane and Mara are hunted and broke and even more desperate.

Thanks to Billings having a man crush on Ronnie, Ronnie learns that Dutch and Claudette know more than they're letting on. Man, David Marciano's Billings is just perfectly played. Dutch and Claudette listen in on that evening's phone call from Mara (after narrowly missing Vic finding out earlier. Mara is in near panic when she calls, and Claudette can sense it. Meanwhile Shane calls Vic, telling him that as payback for the bounty he's sending a letter to Claudette confessing to one of the Strike Team's many nefarious deeds. He correctly assumes that Vic will have to leave Shane alone while he tries to intercept the letter, and by the time he does Shane will have a chance to flee the state. Shane also tells Vic that he needs to bring them $100,000 (to replace the money the gang took) by tomorrow afternoon, and that Corrine must bring it. The penalty if he does not? Shane tells Claudette the truth about Terry Crowley. 

Then Claudette takes a chance, and picks up the phone to talk to Mara. She offers Mara and Shane the chance to make a deal if they turn on Vic. She presses all the right buttons, telling Mara to think about her children. Mara sounds like she's about to agree, but when she hangs up, she immediately tells Shane that Corrine is working with the cops. Shane deflates, as he knows tomorrow is his last chance.

The last few shows have been more about setting the stage for the end than really progressing the plot, as we get little moments like Shane and Mara playing family that are slow yet poignant. Corrine looks like she's finally turned on Vic for the last time (we'll see how long that lasts), though as Claudette observes, "Who knows how deep Mackey has his claws in her?" It's very interesting to see just how much Shane and Mara love each other, and it's safe to say that even though they're both pretty rotten, they have a bond that Vic and Corrine never did. Vic will claim to his dying breath that everything he did he did for his family, but he has barely any family left. Corrine is about to turn Vic in, while we have no doubt that Mara would take a bullet for Shane.

I also got to thinking about the parallels between Vic and Shane and another crime drama pair: Tony Soprano and Christopher Moltisanti. Like Tony, Vic was always the mentor, the father to Shane's Christopher. One of my favorite scenes is from season 2 when Vic is shot and Shane comes to visit him in the hospital. Vic, lying there drugged up after surgery, tells Shane he wants to play golf with him. Shane breaks down in tears, says that's all he ever really wanted. That scene was perhaps the closest he and Shane have ever been, Vic was always the more cautious, the more thoughtful one, whereas Shane is more impetuous, more emotional. If Vic saw ten steps ahead, Shane saw one. There are also similarities between Mara and Adrianna. Both women simply dream of a happy, normal life with their men, whom they know are dirty but love anyway (Mara is more complicit than Adrianna, but they have both pulled the wool over their own eyes). From the beginning, there was no sexual chemistry whatsoever between Vic and Corrine (though I did wonder how much of this might have been the awkwardness of Shawn Ryan not wanting his wife to do anything risque). They were husband and wife in word, but not in deed, whereas Shane and Mara are very much in love in every way. It's impossible to picture Vic playing piano while Corrine plays with Cassidey. While Vic considers himself a family man, he has really never been there for his children, except to make money or in cases where their lives have been threatened.

I'm really annoyed that they still haven't mentioned Danny's departure, and at this point Julien is basically window dressing. The cartel subplot gets more convoluted by the week, but the drama between Vic and Shane (and now Corrine, Mara, Dutch and Claudette) is simply fantastic. We're still not quite sure just what the Cartel's plans are exactly, but I imagine that will be revealed soon enough. And it's only a matter of time before Dutch and Claudette learn the full, nasty truth about the Strike Team, about Lem, and about Terry Crowley.

I do wonder how it will all end, and what the most satisfying and appropriate conclusion might be. There's certainly a chance Vic will die, but there would almost be more poetic justice in his being incarcerated, or even becoming another Joe Clark, losing everything and everyone and being forced to live a life totally alone. Death and jail just feel too simple for Vic. Shane, on the other hand, seems to be running on borrowed time. But what happens to Jackson, Mara and her unborn child remains to be seen.

Still, this season has been unbearably good, each episode tense and fulfilling. There are few wasted moments, and nobody knows how things will end. Only three episodes to go...



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