The Shield: Season Two

Confession time. Until viewing Fox's latest four-disc set, this writer's exposure to The Shield was limited to a few disjointed viewings of Season One on F/X. As anyone who's seen the show will tell you, this is certainly no way to watch it. Like other recent pop-culture television hits of note, The Shield carries with it several season-long plot arcs, and with the exception of a 30-second "Last time on The Shield" intro, there is no coddling for the uninitiated. However, viewing Season Two in its entirety, with no background, reveals an amazing piece of work — with no prior relationship with the characters, the show is no less gripping (so much so that this reviewer has since seen the complete Season One as well). The opening scene of the first episode ("The Quick Fix") is a violent slice of tension, gratuitous sex, and swearing — upholding the show's risk-taking reputation, but also leaving an impression that the producers know they have to provide quality drama and storytelling in order to become more than a clever bit of shock TV. Lead writer/executive producer Shawn Ryan ushers The Shield into its second season with plotlines that take the characters through deeper arcs, stellar guest performances for each episode's subplots, and a tightening of the verité style that made the first season so engrossing. As Vic Mackey, Michael Chicklis incorporates the experiences of the first season into the essence of the dirty cop with a conscience. The result is a violent man, tempted now by thoughts of straightening up his act, but always on the verge of breaking. The slow simmering stare, the quick wit, and the bouts with humanity make Mackey a bad guy to root for.

*          *          *

The show picks up a month after the Season One finale. Mackey is looking for his wife, who had disappeared with their children. A private investigator is on her trail, which leads to Colorado, and then Phoenix, and then back to L.A. Vic's partner Shane Vendrell (Walton Goggins) has a lot of work to do to remain in Vic's confidence. Capt. David Aceveda seems willing to do anything to get elected to the City Council. Standing in his way is a city auditor, who has been tasked with documenting every cop's move in the Farmington District. What that means, of course, is that Mackey and his Strike Team are a problem — any trouble they cause will affect Aceveda's chances. To complicate issues further, Mackey's drug business is being threatened by some new imports from Mexico City, and the more evidence that turns up in drug cases, the more the signs point to Mackey and his team. Armadillo Quintero, along with his brother in Tijuana, has been poisoning Vic's cocaine, and the Strike Team has to stop him before Detective Claudette Wyms (CCH Pounder) can get enough evidence to go after Mackey. While trying to keep their noses clean to appease Aceveda, the Strike Team discovers a large Armenian money-ring and soon consider retiring off it's potential earnings. Among the subplots, Officer Julien Lowe (Michael Jace) has decided to join a sort of "Homosexuals Anonymous" religious group, treating his sexual orientation as a disease. It's an interesting twist, with his friends almost encouraging him to be more gay. Officer Danny Sofer (Catherine Dent) suffers a season-long string of bad luck, which may have something to do with Mackey, whom she meets in bed from time to time. Rarely does a television show provide as much action and suspense as a good theatrical film, but The Shield continues to deliver. The ability to not only remain consistent to the original vision while raising the stakes on the characters, bodes well for fans of this absurdly addictive cop drama.

*          *          *

Fox's The Shield: The Complete Second Season offers commentary on four episodes — they are informative, but it's not as comprehensive as the full 13 commentaries that accompany the Season One set. Disc four includes some worthwhile supplements: The "Director's Roundtable" features Ryan, Scott Brazil, Peter Horton, and Paris Barclay discussing the joys and struggles of making each episode. "Sound Surgery" gives a nice breakdown of the sound composition of a scene, in which each track (sound effects, ADR, original dialogue, and soundtrack) is available as well as a composite. "Wrap Day" provides a take on the last day of shooting, with folks who we're used to seeing cracking skulls engaging in some goofy camaraderie. "Raising the Barn" documents the design and construction of the Farmington police bureau. Thirty-seven deleted scenes round out the features, some of which are introduced by Ryan, who explains why they didn't make the cut. Four-DVD digipak with paperboard sleeve.
—Scott Anderson

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