The Shield is the best cop show on television and one of the most engrossing and provocative dramas, period. In season three, it has lost none of its brand of in your face brutality and moral ambiguity as it examines the life of street level police investigation. Imagine Training Day and A Simple Plan combined as a television series and you get The Shield.

(2004) Film Review

This page was created on July 2, 2004
This page was last updated on June 5, 2005

About this Series
Spiritual Connections


Cast - in credits order
Michael Chiklis ... Vic Mackey
Catherine Dent ... Danielle Sofer
Walt Goggins ... Shane Vendrell
Michael Jace ... Julien Lowe
Kenneth Johnson ... Curtis 'Lemonhead' Lemansky
Jay Karnes ... Holland 'Dutch' Wagenbach
Benito Martinez ... David Aceveda
CCH Pounder ... Claudette Wyms
David Rees Snell ... Ronnie Gardocki
Other credited cast listed alphabetically
Cathy Cahlin Ryan ... Corrine Mackey
Autumn Chiklis ... Cassidy Mackey
John Diehl ... Ben Gilroy (2002-2003)
Ted Emporellis ... Eddie (2004)
Matt Gerald ... Tommy Hisk (2004)
Lucinda Jenney ... Lanie Kellis (2002)
Nicki Micheaux ... Trish George (2003 - present)
Daniel Pino ... Armadillo Quintero (2002)
Joel Rosenthal ... Matthew Mackey
Brian J. White ... Tavon Garris (2002-)
Patrick Wolff ... Ogo

Kevin Arkadie ... Writer
Kim Clements ... Staff writer
Elizabeth Craft ... Writer (2004-)
Charles H. Eglee ... Writer (2003)
Sarah Fain Writer ... (2004-)
Jim Manos ... Writer

Rohn Schmidt

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The Shield - The Complete First Season
DVD Info

On March 12, 2002, The Shield burst onto the FX network like an incendiary grenade, and basic cable TV would never be the same. Creator Shawn Ryan's uncompromising police drama pushed the limits of basic-cable permissiveness, bridging the relative discretion of NYPD Blue and the HBO liberties of The Wire. Without exception, these 13 episodes justify their hype, focusing on pugnacious detective Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis), whose amoral Strike Team employs dubious tactics in the crime-ridden (and fictional) Farmington district of Los Angeles. Mackey and his maverick partners are at odds with seasoned detectives and beat cops, escalating tensions with precinct Capt. Aceveda (Benito Martinez), a Latino with flexible scruples and a political agenda.

The series invites viewers to form their own judgments regarding Mackey's volatile behavior, which includes killing an undercover cop in the electrifying pilot episode. While each episode stands alone as groundbreaking drama, the arc of the series incorporates Aceveda's campaign to end Mackey's career; the self-loathing of a homosexual rookie (Michael Jace) whose partner (Catherine Dent) is Mackey's occasional mistress; a straight-laced detective (Jay Karnes) yearning for respect; Mackey's compassionate attempt to rehabilitate a crack whore (Jamie Brown, giving the season's finest guest performance); the autism of Mackey's young son and the recklessness of his closest partner (Walton Goggins); and the vigilant stoicism of Det. Wyms (CCH Pounder), who's as sensibly upright as Mackey is corrupted.

Teeming with gang-bangers, perverts, rapists, and killers, The Shield is unabashedly adult; even liberal viewers may flinch at plots involving child pornography and serial murder. Chiklis deservedly won an Emmy for maintaining the series' delicate morality; Mackey's a hero squirming in his own ethical quicksand. This daring edginess makes The Shield unique, and generous DVD supplements explore Ryan's creative impulse. Two featurettes offer behind-the-scenes overviews, while the all-episode commentaries allow extensive insight from every member of the series' principal cast and crew. Audition tapes prove that the cast was primed for ensemble excellence, and deleted scenes further demonstrate the series' challenging ambiguity. The Shield is excellent TV for those who can grasp its complexities; all others beware. --Jeff Shannon

The Shield - The Complete Second Season
DVD Info

Everything good about the first season of The Shield is intensified in the second. For detective Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) and his amoral strike team, these 13 episodes follow "the money train," a stockpile of Armenian mob money ripe for the taking. Mackey's team plots to steal this criminal fortune while under pressure from Capt. Aceveda (Benito Martinez), whose political campaign is threatened by a civilian auditor (Lucinda Jenney) assigned to uncover corruption in "the Barn." The uneasy alliance between Aceveda and Mackey provokes the suspicion of Wyms (CCH Pounder), whose by-the-book vigilance is rewarded while Dutch (Jay Karnes) endures a slump that worsens the Barn's sullied reputation. After being horribly disfigured by Mackey, a vile Mexican druglord (Daniel Pino) plots a territorial coup, prompting the strike team's finest police work while Mackey struggles to save his failing marriage. Post-9/11 tensions erupt when beat cop Danny (Catherine Dent) justifiably shoots an armed Arab civilian, and newlywed Julien (Michael Jace) copes with (literal) gay-bashing following his church-sponsored sexual reorientation.

As always, The Shield supports these plotlines with gritty casework, including a brutal kidnapping, homicide, and gangland warfare. Every episode (shot in grainy 16mm) meets the series' high standard of excellence, but "Greenlit," "Homewrecker" (featuring the death of a recurring character), and "Dominoes Falling" are standouts, while the controversial "Co-Pilot" offers a retrospective look at the Barn's volatile origins. Writing and direction are consistently superb, and Pounder deserves honorable mention among the brilliant cast, striking a stoical balance of world-weary wisdom, procedural diligence, and righteous indignation.

Bonus features comprise a virtual film school for anyone seeking a career in television. While the commentaries explore the nuts and bolts of series development, the "Directors' Roundtable" (with creator Shawn Ryan, Scott Brazil, Peter Horton, and Paris Barclay) is a revealing, frequently hilarious study of the rigors of fast-paced production; "Sound Surgery" presents a track-by-track analysis of sound, music, and dialogue; and "Wrap Day" is a celebratory tribute to the series' hard-working cast and crew. It's all good, and guaranteed to stoke anyone's appetite for Season Three. --Jeff Shannon

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Holds a Bachelor's of Science degree in Biology (with an undeclared major in English) from Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis. He works as an environmental toxicologist by day and is a horror writer by night. Obviously his areas of interests includes religious studies, folklore, and myths. He is a notorious egotist who, in anticipation of a successful writing career, is practicing speaking of himself in the third person. Oh yeah, he's married to the lovely Sally Jo and has two boys: Maurice Gerald Broaddus II (thus, retroactively declaring himself "Maurice the Great") and Malcolm Xavier Broaddus.
Click to enlargeThe Shield is the best cop show on television and one of the most engrossing and provocative dramas, period. In season three, it has lost none of its brand of in your face brutality and moral ambiguity as it examines the life of street level police investigation. Imagine Training Day and A Simple Plan combined as a television series and you get The Shield.

There is a war on the streets with citizens on one side, drug dealers on the other, and the police somewhere in the middle. The things that the police have to see and deal with on a daily basis lead one character to proclaim that “You see something like that, makes you wonder if we all wouldn’t be better off at home reading the Bible.” The moral guidelines that the police draw for themselves get blurred as they are faced with the harsh reality of investigating and fighting street crime. They have to re-calibrate the lines they have drawn for themselves as they face certain intense daily temptations.

Sex: from vulnerable crime victims, confidential informants or other players, or prostitutes.

Money: think of how many millions of dollars pass through the hands of mostly clean cops during the course of their duties. How easy would it be to just skim from the top of it? Just a little. It wouldn’t hurt anyone. And, after all, cops are dreadfully underpaid for what they are asked to do.

Violence: thug life respects only the strong, the necessarily brutal. Violence is the universal language of the criminally minded. Hardened gang members vs. hardened street cops. The temptation to abuse their authority. The rationalization to do bad things to bad people for good reasons.

Click to enlargeWhat price are we willing to pay for safe streets and what does it cost those we ask to deal with society’s garbage? As they deal daily with the worst humanity has to offer, what does it do to their psyches, their consciences, their marriages and families? And let’s not forget their souls, as right and wrong no longer seem so cut and dried, and they become lost in the quagmire of their reality.

This is the world of Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis, yeah, The Commish, except now bald and buff), fiercely charismatic leader of his own private “cult”: the Strike Team task force charged with gang investigation. He earns loyalty through a combination of doling out rewards, his (seeming) to do anything for his men, and for generally being a cop’s cop. Those who cross him face cruel taunting (Dutch), political outmaneuvering (Det. Wyms), or outright death (a fellow detective in the series pilot). It is interesting to note that the word “vic” is also police shorthand for victim. And in a lot of ways, Vic is a victim, of life and his own decisions.

As season 3 begins, they have to deal with the consequences of their simple plan: they have robbed the Armenian mob for millions. They just wanted enough to retire on comfortably. They saw how the bad guys lived, why couldn’t they earn, especially if they only stole from the bad guys? The sum of their antics have caused them to now lay low, to reform after a fashion, but a far cry from seeking redemption. Jealousy and mistrust create fissures in the Strike Team as the plan slowly unravels, straining and testing loyalties even between Vic and Shane, as Shane marries his personal Yoko Ono, dividing his loyalties between Vic and his new bride. Fear and greed drive them as they keep the cash but can’t spend any of it until it’s safe, and as they wait out their enemies: their fellow detectives investigate a string of related murders; the FBI had marked some of the money; and the Armenian mob wants their money back.

Click to enlargeDespite the occasional bombast, this is truly a character-driven show. There is Julian (Michael Jace), a self-loathing black Christian who simply wants to find his place while he struggles with his homosexuality; and Dutch Wagenbach (Jay Karnes), who appears weak, but it’s his streak of Sherlock Holmes (seeing patterns where no one else does), goodness, and honesty that keep him “safe,” though he struggles to figure out the “why” of evil, spending his days staring into the abyss of man’s depravity and not realizing its slow pull on him; Shane Vendrell (Waton Goggins), Vic’s racist right hand man; Captain David Aceveda (Benito Martinez), the politically ambitious boss who decides to clean up his legacy before moving on to the city council; and finally, Claudette Wyms (CCH Pounder), the politically naive, though often smug, moral compass of the station.

But it all comes back to Vic.

He’s desperately trying to keep all his plates spinning, always teetering on the verge of self-destruction. He manages to cover his butt on the job, even while bending rules for his own selfish reasons (trying to not get caught by Aceveda, Wyms, or Dutch). He keeps his eye on the greater good, again while bending rules for his own selfish reasons (protecting his partners, family, and crime victims). We can’t easily paint Vic as a dirty cop, because we see the good of which he’s capable, his tortured conscience as he tries to do what he believes is right. He has become cold and calculating, a slave to his ambition and greed, as he tries to turn the corner to not have to live the way he’s been living. The way he sees it, salvation lies outside of himself with his family (or what’s left of it).

Click to enlargeTerror, cruelty, and savagery are par for course in a fallen world. If the worst of that world is all that you traffic in, it’s easy to see how your moral compass can get broken. In a lot of ways, his struggle is our struggle. The battle of good vs. evil is within one’s soul, where the good is not always so good and the evil often appears good. He is a deeply flawed person trying to do the best he can in a fallen world, hoping that it’s not too late for him. That’s what makes The Shield great viewing.

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