When did it become mainstream to root for the bad guys? Certainly our pop culture has been propagated with colorful villains since Shakespeare, goons we love to hate or even just love. Still, the rule always seemed to be that the white hats always win and the black hats get what’s coming. Maybe it all took hold with The Sopranos. We all became enamored by this lovable teddy bear of a guy in Tony. We don’t have to spoil it by pointing out he’s a killer, adulterer, and all-star criminal sociopath. The Shield places us …quarely in that same situation. Vic Mackey has a lot in common with Tony Soprano. He’s guilty of the entire litany just made. Even worse, Vic carries a badge. So why do we love him so much?
The answer most certainly lies in the compelling writing both of these shows share. Perhaps we’re not so much in love with Tony or Vic, but the stories that are told around them. It just might be that superior drama rivets us to our sets. We root for the bad guy because, to be frank, when they go down the ride’s over. As with The Sopranos, we don’t want our moments with The Shield to end. Therefore Vic simply has to stay just one step ahead of his just desserts.
For those who do not know the story: Vic Mackey (Chiklis) leads a rough and tumble Strike Team on L.A.’s meanest streets. The team doesn’t bother with the law book while they hand down their own form of justice. The team operates out of an old church building known as The Barn. This year the new captain is played by Glenn Close. Too many episodes in the beginning of the season deal with getting the team back together.
I found season four to be a little more tame than the previous three. Vic’s relationship with the new captain doesn’t seem to be filled with the same dynamic tension he had with Aceveda. They almost get along too well. When there is tension, you’ll find it comes across more forced. I just don’t feel it. Now Aceveda seems more intent on Rawlings failing than bringing down Vic.
The Shield is still presented in a grit asteriated full frame format. I have to say the video has long been the weak link of the series on television or DVD. I’ve heard Ryan justify the 16mm look, but I just don’t buy it. If you ever needed more proof, take a look at the episode “Back in the Hole”. It’s presented in widescreen and in a longer, more satisfying cut. While the nasty grain and dark filters are still there, we see that this show can be more than it is in its video presentation. I’m sorry, but the style doesn’t add realism, it just hurts my eyes. Darks are so filled with grain that you can forget any highly defined detail. The transfer does justice to what is intended, but I want a cleaner picture.
Loud! That’s still the best way to describe the Dolby Digital Surround mix offered on The Shield. The music often dominates the audio presentation. The music cues are blaring, particularly the vocal music that has become the show’s trademark opening. Even with these high volume assaults, there’s no discernable distortion. The subs often drive fairly hard. Dialogue is usually fine with an occasional sound effect covering a line here and there.
Eight of the episodes contain incredibly dynamic audio commentaries. The cast and crew often share a lot of mutual respect and admiration. The fact is, the only downside is the love fest the commentaries often become. You’ll be privy to tons of behind the scenes anecdotes. You’ll learn many quirks the actors display off camera. It’s obvious these guys have tons of fun. Shawn Ryan seems to pop up on most of them.
How about 42 deleted scenes? Wow! The scenes cover every episode. Most are not produced fully but are worth watching. Quite a few fill out the stories nicely. It might have been nice to see them integrated back into their episodes. One example of this is the extended (and widescreen) presentation of “Back in the Hole”.
“Under The Skin” is a great hour-long feature that breaks down this season of The Shield. Everyone participates from the cast to directors and Shawn Ryan himself. I like the input from the writers here.
The discs come in my preferred format of slim cases in a box. Menus are just like the previous seasons.
To be honest, this was the weakest season of The Shield to date. It seems from what I’m hearing the upcoming fifth season will be much longer, but also the last. It’s not that the show’s running out of quality writing and acting. The idea might finally be running out of steam. How long can Vic and the boys keep from getting caught or killed? Vic didn’t really have much confrontation from within. With all of that said, this is still a worthwhile DVD set to own. Even at its weakest, The Shield rises above safer traditional police dramas. Ryan says the end is coming. “Don’t believe everything you hear.”
Special Features List
- Audio commentary on selected episodes
- 42 deleted scenes
- “Under the Skin” documentary