Last spring, a new television series came out of nowhere, violently catching the attention of critics and audiences alike with its shocking in-your-face style. After an extremely successful first-season run, averaging 3.2 million viewers a week, “The Shield” further stunned the public and the industry, winning star Michael Chiklis an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series.
Now, the FX cop drama is back Tuesdays at 10 p.m., and coinciding with the new season, FOX has released “The Shield: The Complete First Season” on DVD and video. Nothing short of a masterwork, the series centers on a division of the Los Angeles Police Department and the morally ambiguous world of police officers. At the center of that world is Detective Vic Mackey and his Strike Team, an elite crime-fighting unit who keep the peace while swimming neck-deep in illegal activity along the way. Leveraging smaller criminals for the bigger ones, taking payments from drug dealers and even murdering those that stand in the way are all tactics acceptable enough to achieve the greater good.
Former “Commish” star Chiklis gives a career-redefining performance as the corrupt Mackey, buffing-up his appearance as well as his attitude to play the conflicted cop. Brutal, edgy and fearless, Mackey is careful enough not to get caught, but not enough to avoid arousing suspicion. He butts heads with his captain, who knows he’s “Al Capone with a badge” but can’t prove it, and has the support of the system because he gets the job done.
While the first half of last season’s 13 episodes are mostly stand-alone storylines interspersed with minute character developments that later culminate, including the astonishing pilot, the second-half finds Mackey embroiled in a police scandal that threatens to expose him.
By exploring the everyday tensions between right and wrong, and the lines that are crossed to balance those forces, “The Shield” pumps new life into the tired cop genre, reviving the provocative storytelling and gritty performances reminiscent of the old days of “NYPD Blue.”
But for all its shock tactics, the most impressive part of the show is the performances, which are thoroughly detailed in the DVD extras. The entire cast’s original casting tapes are included, as is insightful commentary of each episode by the actors and series creator Shawn Ryan. The extraordinary supporting players include familiar face CCH Pounder (“ER”) as stridently candid Detective Claudette Wyms, Benito Martinez as the politically ambitious precinct Captain David Aceveda and Walton Goggins, playing Mackey prot