Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Shield
Season 7--The Final Act
Episode 13: Family Meeting
Series Finale

"Who you got, Vic?"

--The end of the end begins with Vic being forced to lie to Ronnie's face about the ICE deal. Ronnie is all goofy smiles, as he believes he'll get off the hook with Vic. There is a palpable difference in Vic when he lies to a friend as opposed to someone he doesn't care about, but survival trumps all and he makes Ronnie believe that as soon as Beltran goes down the two of them will have their lives back. They meet Beltran and tell him to meet the black "Board of Directors"--or BBOD--to finalize their drug distribution deal (sadly Dick Parsons is not on this board). Beltran is hesitant, but eventually convinced.

--Cathy Cahlin Ryan has really stepped up her game as Corrine the last few episodes. Now that she knows who Vic is, she's more terrified of him than ever. And when Dutch tells her about Vic's deal, she freaks out. Would this man who's killed and hurt so many hesitate to hurt a woman he maybe never truly loved?

--Shane and Mara finally seem to be realizing that they're not destined to run like wolves. Or something like that. Mara, seeming to realize the end is near, decides that she and Shane should name their unborn daughter before she's taken into foster care and named by strangers. Actually rather sad. So they name her: Frances Abigail Vendrell. Kind of a cute name. Mara is in bad shape, can't even go to the bathroom by herself between the pregnancy, and broken collarbone. Plus Shane seems to be doping the hell out of her. Shane having to wipe Mara sitting on the toilet while Jackson plays in the tub is kind of another road from their fun and games in the squatter's house.

--Claudette tells Olivia that the Feds need to put Corrine and the kids into protective custody. She agrees. And so Vic goes to visit his family, thinking everything is about to go back to normal. He plays with Matt, wishes Cassidey luck in her soccer game, does everything a doting father should. Little does he know this is the very last time he'll ever see them.

--Shane tracks down Billings (probably the easiest cop ever to tail), and tells him to makes Claudette an offer: Shane comes clean on everything and takes the rap for all their new crimes, provided Mara walks. Claudette's disease is getting to her, exacerbated by the stress of everything going on.

--The Lloyd Dressler case takes an unexpected turn, as Lloyd shows up to report his mother missing--while pointing his finger at Dutch as the suspect. I definitely thought Lloyd was going to ambush Dutch, but this is perhaps even smarter since Dutch had something of an improper relationship with Rita and everyone at the barn knows Dutch can get to close to cases. Plus the little smile from Billings when he hears about this is priceless. For a moment, I thought Dutch just might have killed Rita. We know he has that gene in him, and that if he weren't a cop he could very well be Lloyd Dressler.

--Robert Huggins is back! Huggins (Andre 3000 of Outkast), last seen as a crusading comic book store owner ("Just hosin' down the hos!") is running for mayor of Farmington. Great continuance of a great storyline from earlier in the series. Huggins is tired of corruption and sweetheart deals between cops and criminals, and to Aceveda's chagrin Huggins is connecting with real folks far better than he does. Aceveda is the older establishment man with years of experience, Huggins is younger, more charismatic and passionate and gives the people hope. Wow, what are the chances of a political race like that happening? Huggins is arrested for disorderly conduct (though the cops smile as they handcuff him), and when Huggins later asks for the standard police protection given to mayoral candidates, Tina blows him off. Huggins is later shot and killed, and yet another leader in the black community dies before being able to turn things around. Was Aceveda behind it? Wouldn't surprise anyone.

--The meeting between the Mexicans and the blacks couldn't go worse. Beltran is a no-show, and the blacks want to know what happened to their $200,000 (of course the Mexicans only got $100,000 of it since Vic stole the rest to try and pay off Shane). Everything goes to hell and they're about to walk away, so ICE decides to take what they've got and arrest the BBOD and Mexican lieutenants. Vic storms off pissed that Olivia missed out on Beltran just to rid herself of his task. Vic decides he has to take down Beltran anyway, but Olivia wants nothing to do with it. And when Aceveda seems to pass as well, Vic and Ronnie are left all alone to try and take down Beltran. Here's where I definitely thought something was going to go terribly wrong.

--When Shane finds out that Claudette won't give Mara immunity (she freaking killed two people), Shane is left with only one card to throw in: Vic. Shane calls Vic from a pay phone, threatening to tell everything if Vic doesn't aid him. Of course Vic already has his immunity, so Shane has lost all his leverage. Vic lets him know this with glee. What Vic doesn't know, and what Shane is happy to inform him of, is that Vic's own family turned on him. Vic's reaction is devestating, and his only response is to lash out at Shane, who gladly returns fire. "Who you got, Vic?" This is one of Walton Goggins's best moments, as he hangs up the phone, crying, knowing his family is out of options and out of time. Vic goes to Olivia, who confirms that they've taken Corrine and the kids. Vic is destroyed, but has no leverage over Olivia, who despises him. Duh. "I...I never got to say goodbye to my kids," says Vic. Replies Olivia, "You said goodbye to them the moment you shot another cop in the face." For the first time, Vic has no power to change anyone's mind, and his despair is just wrenching. Olivia has no sympathy for him, and he has no leverage over her. For perhaps the first time, Vic Mackey has no options.

--Shane returns home from the store (after given the young clerk a nice tip, a sign that he doesn't think he needs money where he's going), and waves hello to his neighbor. Of course the neighbor, scared witless, calls the cops. Shane calls for a "Family Meeting" as the police surround the Vendrell house, and break down the door. Suddenly a gunshot is heard, and the cops find Shane having put a bullet through his head--and Mara and Jackson laid out on the bed, having been poisoned by Shane. Their bodies posed in beautiful harmony, Mara holding a bouquet of flowers, Jackson a toy truck. Just awful, awful, awful. And Shane's family meeting is a reminder of the Strike Team, four men who once called themselves a family, now all of whom are either dead or broken. In this family, loyalty results in the darkest betrayal of all.

--Vic and Ronnie track down Beltran, and manage to get the drop on them, taking out several soldiers before the cavalry arrives. Beltran is shot in the leg and Vic is forced to use him as a human shield (love the image of Vic using other people to deflect fire aimed at him) before cops swarm the place and arrest all the bad guys. Turns out Olivia and Aceveda were in on it all along, but wanted to be sure Vic and Ronnie got the goods before moving in. So Vic and Ronnie make one of the biggest drug busts in Farmington history, Aceveda gets his great press coverage, and Vic and Ronnie are heroes. For now. Gotta say, I was shocked nobody bit the bullet here. And at this point, I had an idea of how the show would end. Shane is dead, Beltran is in custody, Corrine taken away. Vic's list of enemies--and friends--is shrinking.

--Cute moment when Billings's lawyer hits on Dutch, who's nearly oblivious to it until Danny reminds him. Which of course reminds us of their unresolved kiss at the end of last season, but also shows how much Dutch has grown. Danny: "Looks like someone's been working on their game." Dutch: "Oh yeah, what game?" Danny: "See, that's what I'm talking about." Claudette seems to have broken Lloyd Dressler (though this could have been better explained since he never confesses and they never find his mother), but then lays down the bombshell we all knew was coming. Claudette is dying of Lupus. Dutch is shocked, and they have a wonderfully tender moment as we're reminded that despite all their differences, despite Dutch's issues and Claudette's tunnel vision, that they compliment each other perfectly. They did their best work when partners, and Claudette's eventual death will affect few people more than Dutch.

--And then we reach the climax, as Ronnie and Vic are called to the barn. Vic doesn't know why he's been summoned, but he walks into the police station to a reception chillier than an Eskimo's fridge. Vic, who used to rule this place through sheer force of personality, who was once respected for bringing in some of the best collars the city, is now seen by his colleagues for what he is: a cop-killing, drug-dealing criminal. Ronnie, in tears, informs Vic of the death of the Vendrell family. Vic is taken aback. Not so much for Shane, but for Mara and Jackson. Claudette calls Vic in to speak to him about it, and Vic takes his normal seat on the interrogator side of the table. Wrong side, Claudette informs him. That's her chair. Claudette doesn't ask him any questions, just lays it out. After all his busts, after everything, his legacy boils down to a wife and son killed by Shane who was Vic's surrogate son. Claudette reads Shane's suicide note, then leaves photos of the dead family for Vic to see. Vic comes ever so close to breaking down, but channels his grief into rage and rips the camera from the wall. "Bill me for it," he says. "Fine. First payment is due now." Then it happens. The rest of the barn surrounds Ronnie and arrests him for about 87 different crimes right in front of Vic. Ronnie finally learns that Vic left him in the dust, and Vic can do nothing as his only remaining friend is dragged away in handcuffs. Ronnie's surprised reaction is great, as is Dutch's bewilderment that Ronnie could even ask what the charges were. 

--Vic, knowing he has nothing, left, goes to Olivia to try and trade intel about a Vietnamese drug crew for the whereabouts of his family. Not only will Olivia have none of it, but she informs Vic just what his role will be at ICE. He will not be on the street. He will be in the office. Writing reports. Sitting at a desk. Any violations, he goes to jail for the rest of his life. Oh yeah, and he has to wear a suit.

--Corrine and the kids see their new home, shown to them by a fed agent played by Clark Johnson (Gus from "The Wire" in a nice cameo).

--And so here comes Vic Mackey, seen in a suit for the first time since before taking over the Strike Team. An ICE employee tells him about office hours, makes sure he knows to label his food in the kitchen, tells him how to use the phone. Everything a good employee needs to know. Vic takes a seat at his new desk, and carefully lays out photos of his three children, and one last photo: Vic and Curt Lemansky, in happier days. Chills. Later that night, Vic hears a siren, goes to the window to see a police chase. Now the sheriff, the gunslinger, the rogue, has to watch as his former life passes him by. Vic once wanted to keep the peace, to be the man criminals bowed to. Now he must watch from behind venetian blinds, his tie tightly knotted around his clean white shirt. What Michael Chiklis has accomplished in this episode without words in this scene and his scene with Claudette is simply breathtaking. A mail carrier drops papers in Vic's inbox. Vic's eyes well up and then...the lights go out. Vic snaps out of it. Removes his gun from the lock box and walks away.

The End

I will try to do a greater analysis of the final episode, as well as the whole series once I have a chance to digest everything. Suffice it to say this was a fantastic final episode, and even though it might not have ended the way many thought it would, it ended in a way most true to its central character. Sure Vic could have gone out in a hail of bullets, but that would have been the hero's death, the death deep down Vic might have always wanted. To Vic Mackey, his whole life was his family and reputation, knowing his was the alpha dog of all alpha dogs. His survival instinct kept him alive, but in a prison he'll never be able to escape. And for Victor Samuel Mackey, his final fate is perhaps the only one worse than death. What becomes of Vic? Does he take Shane's way out? Does he look for Corrine? Continue to bust heads on his own time? As series creator Shawn Ryan said in a interview, "I do think the sharks swim forward."

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6 Comments:

Blogger Tommy said...

I missed a few seconds of the episode. What did Shane do, poison Mara and Jackson?

What I found interesting was after she lays out the photos of Shane, Mara and Jackson on the table for Vic to see, Claudette goes into the next room to watch Vic on the monitor. I get the sense that she was trying to see if there was any redeemable quality left in Vic. Would he break down and cry for all of the damage he caused? But when Vic remains stone faced and then gets up and destroys the camera, he forfeits what is left of his humanity in Claudette's eyes, as well as those of us watching. At least that is how I see it.

1:32 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

He poisoned them after realizing he no longer had any leverage over Vic to make a deal.

I see your point, but in a way ripping the camera off the wall was an admission of just how ravaged he was. Vic always tends to channel his grief into rage (attacking Kavanaugh after Lem died, etc...), so when that happened Claudette knew that Vic felt either grief or even culpability over the deaths of Shane and his family. That Vic isn't able to fully express grief or take responsibility does bear the question as to how much humanity he has. He was always a better family man in word than in deed.

5:00 PM  
Blogger Tommy said...

I saw the destruction of the camera as his response to realizing he was being watched. There was no display of contrition or sorrow at all.

9:27 PM  
Blogger Rev-Views said...

Hi Jason, I've been reading your Shield reviews for a while now and enjoyed them. I thought it would be best that I thanked you for them now rather than forget. )

As for Vic's reactions in the cell, if you look at the close ups Vic is almost at the edge of tears. Also he's unable to look at the pictures directly, he rolls his head and "accidentally" looks at them instead. He stares at the Shane pictures with a great deal of "I wish I'd got you you coward." but when he looks at the picture of Mara and Jackson he nearly breaks.

Then he remembers about the camera and the possibility of being watched, so the Vic Mackey we all know switches back on. Any sign of grief or doubt is gone and he responds in exactly the manner we've come to expect. With violence.

He was acting out with anger at being watched and to cover the truth because he'd hate to let Claudette see him weak.

5:40 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

Hey, thanks for reading. One of Vic's traits is to never show weakness, so I agree that when he realized he was being taped about to cry his instinct was to channel it towards rage.

Think about other times this has happened: After Lem's death, he attacked Kavanaugh. After Corrine left him at the end of season 1, he went nuts. After Cervantes died in season 6, he destroyed the hospital room. One of the great dichotomies about Vic's character is that when he's at his most violent, you know he's been personally affected the most (i.e. after Ronnie was burned by Armadillo). Vic can never let anyone see him bleed (after he's shot in season 2, he refuses to show any pain or weakness until he's all alone in that hotel room).

Rather than show grief like a normal person, Vic has to act bulletproof, like nothing gets to him, which is why at the end of the series had the lights not gone out (to snap him out of it), he would have broken down simply because there was nobody there to witness it.

10:35 AM  
Blogger Tommy said...

After Lem's death, he attacked Kavanaugh.

IIRC, Kavanagh kind of goaded Vic in front of everyone at the crime scene, accusing Vic of being the one to kill Mackey, so I can't blame Vic for attacking Kavanagh.

I also noted that when he was setting up the pictures on his desk, the only picture not of a family member is one of Vic with Lem. Since Ronnie now hates Vic for selling him out, and Shane hated Vic too, Lem was the only Strike Team member who was still Vic's friend, at least in spirit.

2:38 PM  

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