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The Shield is an Americanmarker television drama series which aired on FX Networks in the United States and other networks internationally. Known for its controversial portrayal of corrupt police officers, it was originally advertised as "Rampart" in reference to the true life Rampart Division police scandal, which the show's Strike Team was loosely based upon. The first season gained the most Emmy nominations for a basic cable drama. The series was created by Shawn Ryan and The Barn Productions for Fox Television Studios and Sony Pictures Television.

Notable film actors who took extended roles on the show included Glenn Close in the fourth season, Anthony Anderson in Season 4, 5 and 6 and Forest Whitaker in seasons 5 and 6. The Shield began airing its seventh and final season on September 2, 2008, and concluded on November 25, 2008.

The final season won a 2008 AFI Award for best television series.

About the series

The Shield is about an experimental division of the Los Angeles Police Department set up in the fictional Farmington district ("the Farm") of Los Angelesmarker, using a converted church ("the Barn") as their police station, and featuring a group of detectives called the Strike Team who will stop at nothing to bring their version of justice to the streets. Michael Chiklis portrays the show's main character, Strike Team leader Vic Mackey. However, the show has an ensemble cast, and as a result, usually runs a number of separate story lines through each episode.

Detective Vic Mackey is the leader of the Strike Team, a four-man anti-gang unit based on the Los Angeles Police Department's real-life Rampart Division CRASH unit. (Rampart was seriously considered as the series name and was even used in some early promotional ads for the series.) The Strike Team uses a variety of illegal and unethical methods to maintain peace on the streets, while making a profit through illegal drug protection schemes and robbery. The Strike Team isn't above planting drugs on and coercing confessions out of gang members or framing them. Attempts to give the team a fifth member have frequently led to near-catastrophe for the group.

The Shield has a variety of subplots, notably David Aceveda's political aspirations and suffering a sexual assault; Vic Mackey's struggle to cope with a failing marriage; Shane Vendrell's rocky, new marriage; and Julien Lowe's internal conflicts between his belief in the teachings of the Bible and his homosexuality.

Common themes are the citizens' distrust of police, the social impact of drugs and gang warfare, and the conflict between ethics and political expediency. Most characters are portrayed as having both vice and virtue. For example, Vic's loving relationship with his children contrasts with his thuggish approach to police work, although his brutality is generally directed at those who seem well-deserving of such treatment. For example, in Season 2, the Strike Team prepares to rob the "Armenian Money Train," a money laundering operation of the Armenian Mafia. Another episode had Mackey cornering a serial rapist, then letting him be mauled by a police dog before calling the dog off.

Season overviews

Season 1

Season 1 premiered March 12, 2002. It gives an introduction to The Strike Team and the other characters of the Barn. Important plotlines are the aftermath of Vic's murder of Terry Crowley and Captain Aceveda's scheming to bring Vic and the Strike Team down; Dutch and Claudette's attempts at tracking down a serial killer; Julien's training under Danny and his struggle with his homosexuality; Vic's use of Rondell Robinson to control the local drug trade and the fallout; as well as the corrupt actions of Ben Gilroy.

Season 2

Season 2 premiered January 7, 2003. The season mostly revolves around a brutal new drug lord, Armadillo—a sadistic child rapist, who likes to set his rivals on fire using a tire necklace and gasoline—who begins to take over the drug trade in Farmington. Meanwhile, Officer Sofer is involved in a shooting of a Muslim man and has to deal with the fallout. This season is also heavily concerned with the Strike Team's plan to rip off the money train of the Armenian Mob (Mackey: "They didn't earn it, I don't mind taking it"), which ends up going down in the season finale.

Season 3

Season 3 premiered March 9, 2004. The season mainly revolves around the aftermath of the Money Train Heist and its effects on the Strike Team, as the Armenian mob and also David Aceveda begins to suspect the Strike Team. In order to save the team, Lem (Curtis "Lemonhead" Lemansky) burns a majority of the money, ultimately leading to a confrontation which causes the Strike Team to split up in the season finale. The Armenian mob sends Margos Dezerian to wipe out the Strike Team. Dezerian leaves a trail of murders, resulting in his own execution at the hands of Mackey. Claudette had been promised a promotion to captain and throughout the season was in a supervising role, while Aceveda prepared to move onto city council. Near the end of the season a public defender was shot, and Wyms and Dutch discovered she had been a heavy drug user for the past 3 years. Wyms explored further and became very unpopular with the D.A. and around the Barn because she was (against orders) reopening the defender's lost cases. This resulted in her being denied her promotion to captain of the Farmington District.

Season 4

Season 4 premiered March 15, 2005, with the addition of Glenn Close taking over the role as Farmington's new captain, Monica Rawling. The season dealt with the fallout from the Strike Team disbandment. Shane Vendrell, with new partner Armando "Army" Renta, enters into a dangerous situation with major drug lord Antwon Mitchell (Anthony Anderson), and seemingly accepts an order to kill Vic Mackey. The police were outraged after two officers were kidnapped and subsequently found murdered. In the end, the Strike Team is re-formed and manages to successfully put Antwon in prison. The season also deals with the controversial asset-forfeiture policies of the new captain; Julien's opposition to these policies; and David Aceveda (now a City Councilman) dealing with the psychological aftermath of his sexual assault incident from the previous season. The season concludes with Capt. Rawling losing her job over a dispute with the DEA. This plot twist reflected a real-life need for Close to return to New York.

One of the season's secondary plots involves Claudette's and Dutch's marginalization as detectives because of Claudette's refusal to apologize to the DA for reopening the cases of a public defender who was discovered to be a functioning drug addict. Claudette's moral stand resulted in many of the prosecutor's cases being overturned. This cost Claudette her shot at becoming Farmington Captain. Dutch eventually resolved the situation by making a back-room deal with the DA to "keep Claudette in line" and do favors for the office in return for breaking back into action.

Season 5

Season 5 premiered January 10, 2006. The season revolved around Internal Affairs Department Lt. Jon Kavanaugh's (played by Forest Whitaker) investigation into the Strike Team, representing one of the greatest threats the team has ever faced. As a result of Kavanaugh turning one of Vic's informants, IAD became aware of Lem stealing heroin which he never turned in. Having found the heroin, IAD is capable of arresting Lem, but Kavanaugh wants him to incriminate the whole team and has him wear a wire, which he warns the team of and they use it to embarrass IAD. Kavanaugh applying pressure to the team in any way he can, finds out about Mackey's share of the Money Train money, and ultimately arrests Lem having made a deal with Antwon Mitchell, a gang leader the team had put in prison. to put Lem in prison with him if convicted. Mackey supports Lem and gets bail, while Shane is worried he will give evidence against the team. Claudette finally gets her opportunity for promotion as the captain of the Barn, which she reluctantly accepts. The season concluded with Shane Vendrell, fooled by Aceveda that Lem was going to turn on the Strike Team, murdering his friend and fellow team member Lem with a hand grenade.

"Wins and Losses"

The producers of The Shield produced a 15-minute "promosode", which premiered on Google on February 15, 2007, to bridge the gap between Seasons 5 and 6. The episode focuses on the aftermath of Lem's death, including his funeral and flashbacks as co-workers reflect upon Det. Lemansky's life. The episode was said to have cost between $500,000 and $1 million to produce and was on Bud.TV for a 4 week period and later released to AOL and other media outlets. The "promosode" is also one of the special features included on the Season 5 DVD set.

Season 6

Season 6 premiered on FX on April 3, 2007. Continuing directly after season 5, Vic and the Strike Team are distraught over Lem's death. Shane has been overcome by guilt and becomes reckless and suicidal. Kavanaugh refuses to let the case die and resorts to planting evidence and coercing witnesses to lie about the Strike Team and specifically, Vic. Dutch and Claudette begin to suspect his integrity and Kavanaugh finally confesses to his actions and finds himself under arrest. Vic learns from Claudette that the Chief plans to force him into early retirement — and vows to wreak bloody vengeance on Lem's killer before losing his badge. Claudette learns that the Barn could be shut down if no improvements are made by the time quarterly crime statistics are released. The season concludes with the breakdown of Vic and Shane's friendship and Shane getting in over his head with the Armenians.

Season 6 was originally intended to be aired as the second half of Season 5 (in the same way that HBO split up the last season of The Sopranos); FX decided to refer to these ten episodes as "Season 6" instead.

Season 7

Season 7 premiered September 2, 2008, consisted of 13 episodes (12 one-hour shows and a ninety-minute finale). Vic's ex-wife Corinne has learned of his many crimes and agrees to work with Dutch and Claudette to try to send him to prison. Ronnie is also implicated in the process. Shane, Mara, and Jackson go on the run, and Dutch has problems of his own while dealing with a teenage serial killer. As part of an immunity deal with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Vic admits to every crime the Strike Team has committed and implicates Shane and Ronnie in enough to send them to jail for life. After learning that there is no way to escape prison, Shane poisons his pregnant wife and five-year old son and then commits suicide just as the police arrive. Claudette reveals the terminal status of her illness to Dutch, who promises to stand by her as a friend. Ronnie is arrested in front of Vic at the barn. Desperate to escape Vic, Corinne and the children disappear into the witness protection program. Aceveda stands on the verge of being elected mayor. Meanwhile, Vic is reassigned to a desk job at ICE, presumably loathed by his co-workers, including Agent Olivia Murray, and ostracized by his fellow cops, who want nothing to do with him now that his many crimes have been exposed. The show's final moment depicts Vic picking up his gun and leaving the ICE building, following police sirens in the distance.

Characters

Strike Team

  • Detective Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) is a corrupt police officer and former leader of the Strike Team; he steals from drug dealers, beats and tortures suspects, and has committed murder more than once, including a fellow police officer. A quintessential Machiavellian, Mackey sees his tactics as a means to an end. Vic perceives himself as a loyal father and partner, and does, indeed, seem to intend to fulfill those roles, but his pathological desire to control everyone and everything around him results in hurting those closest to him, primarily his ex-wife and daughter, but also Lemansky. Mackey's family life is followed throughout the series. His marriage to his wife, a nurse, failed after numerous instances of infidelity on Mackey's part (including with Officer Sofer, which resulted in a child). Mackey and his wife have three children, two with autism. The special education needs of Mackey's children are one of many sources of stress (monetary and emotional) for Mackey. After Corrine leaves him, he is granted immunity by ICE and then confesses to the Crowley murder along with every other crime he had committed over his years as a police officer. He finishes the series working behind a desk. He appears in all seasons of The Shield.


  • Detective Shane Vendrell (Walton Goggins) was Vic Mackey's best friend and partner before the Strike Team was formed. He has a reckless streak, and his attempts to emulate Vic's dealings have quite often taken a bad turn. During the course of the series, he meets and marries Mara, who later bears him a son, Jackson. When it appears that Lem has turned on the Strike Team, Shane kills him by dropping a grenade into his car. The grief forced him to become reckless and suicidal, and when Vic uncovers the truth, their friendship ends. Shane grows to regret his actions as part of the Strike Team and expresses great remorse for what he has become. When it is revealed that he paid someone to kill Ronnie Gardocki in retaliation for Vic and Ronnie's attempt to kill Shane, he goes on the run with his wife and son. On learning that Vic has been granted immunity by his new employer, ICE, Shane poisons his wife and son, and then shoots himself in a bid to remain a family, his mind impaired by drugs and guilt. He appears in all seasons of The Shield.


  • Detective Curtis "Lem" Lemansky (Kenny Johnson) (Seasons 1-5) was a cop with a conscience and an original member of the Strike Team. He had a history of working with kids and maintained a soft-spot for them. His loyalty to Vic and the Strike Team led him to go along with most of their illegal schemes, although he didn't know about all of them-such as the murder of Terry Crowley. Often impulsive, he burned most of the money from the Armenian Money Train robbery in order to keep the team from getting caught. Burning the money caused a temporarily split within the team, although they later got back together. Shane Vendrell killed Lemansky in the finale of the fifth season because Shane was under the mistaken impression that Lemansky was going to rat on the rest of the team. Lem was unmarried and had no children.


  • Detective Ronnie Gardocki (David Rees Snell) is the Strike Team's surveillance and electronics expert. Though little is known about Ronnie, he has proven more and more in recent times to be the most solid, emotionally stable member of the Strike Team and has remained loyal to Vic out of enlightened self-interest, knowing that divisions between them would only lead to bad ends for both. The scars on his face, given to him by Armadillo in Season 2, are proof of his loyalty to the team. In the final season, he becomes the official leader of the Strike Team before Captain Claudette Wyms shuts it down. During season 7, we see his intense anger over his and Mackey's inability to gain revenge on Shane for Lem's murder. He and Vic concoct a plan to have Shane killed by the Armenian gang that knew about the Money Train robbery. Shane survives, however, and retaliates. Ronnie is targeted by a drug dealer hired by Shane to kill him. After the drug dealer confesses and Shane flees, Claudette disbands the Strike Team, forcing Ronnie to become a "suit and tie" detective while trying to help Vic and stay out of prison. In the final episode, Ronnie is arrested after Vic implicates him in his immunity confessions. He appears in seasons 5-7 as a regular character, and seasons 1-4 in a recurring role.


Other Strike Team members

Administration and police

  • Councilman David Aceveda (Benito Martinez) is a politically ambitious man who was the captain of the Barn. He was later elected to the Los Angeles City Council. He is one of Vic Mackey's main rivals, although often they have forged uneasy alliances for various reasons. He was orally raped at gunpoint, which eventually drove him to arrange a deal with drug lord Antwon Mitchell to kill his rapist in prison. During the final season, Aceveda is faced with the growing influence of a Cruz Pezuela who offers to seemingly help David get elected as the next Mayor. Although receptive to his help at first, Aceveda realizes that Pezuela is dirty and attempts to distance himself only to find the Pezuela has photographs of the sexual assault. The last season deals with him and Vic cooperating one last time as they attempt to take Pezuela and possibly the Mexican cartel down. He appears in all seasons of The Shield.


  • Captain Claudette Wyms (CCH Pounder) is a veteran detective. Claudette, along with her partner Dutch, can be viewed as the voice of morality at the Barn; as a result, she is often at odds with Vic over his tactics. Later in the series, Claudette revealed to Dutch that she has had lupus for fifteen years. In Season 5, she is appointed Captain after several attempts in previous years. After finally being promoted to captain, Claudette proves to be at least as capable as her predecessors. However, during the final season, her lupus returns and begins to interfere with her ability to do her job. In the final episode, she admits to Dutch that she is in the terminal stage of her illness. She appears in all seasons of The Shield.


  • Detective Holland "Dutch" Wagenbach (Jay Karnes) is characterized by many as a socially inept nerd even though he is a successful police detective. Assigned to the Farmington District of Los Angeles, he is often the first called to investigate violent crimes because of his specialization in criminal profiling and serial killers. Along with his partner, Detective Claudette Wyms, Dutch is widely considered to be the moral center of the show owing to his willingness to do the right thing in spite of the temptation to engage in illegal police activities. A scene in one episode showed him strangling a live cat after questioning an actual serial killer about what he sees in his victim's eyes. The series never follows-up on that ominous scene, but neither does Dutch ever perform a similar act of cruelty. Vic, via flashback, is influenced in his decision to pick on Dutch by a fellow detective at the Barn who Dutch admires, and Dutch's clearly vengeful relationship with Vic's ex-wife did not help, but after Dutch actually challenges Vic to a fight in Season 4, Vic ends the bullying, even inviting Dutch and Claudette out to a bar with them, which every officer, minus Captain Rawlings, attends. He appears in all seasons of The Shield.


  • Sergeant Danielle "Danny" Sofer (Catherine Dent) is a patrol officer who aspires to become a detective. She has an on-again-off-again sexual relationship with Vic and a complicated history with Dutch. She is assigned desk duty as a result of her pregnancy and takes maternity leave after the birth of her son, Lee. The identity of the father was initially unknown; later, in the sixth season episode "Chasing Ghosts," it was heavily implied that it was Vic. Shortly afterwards, Danny returned from maternity leave early so that she could take the position of Sergeant at the Barn. In Season Seven Vic threatens to force Danny to take a paternity test. She appears in all seasons of The Shield.


  • Officer Julien Lowe (Michael Jace) is a uniformed officer who is partnered with Sofer for the majority of the series. During the formation of a new Strike Team, Claudette offered Julien to Kevin Hiatt as a possible addition to the team. Claudette made the offer to Julien, who was hesitant, mainly because of the thought of being partnered with Vic on a daily basis. After being assured that Mackey was going to be moved out of the team, Julien accepted the promotion. Despite his desire to become a fully functioning member of the Strike Team, Julien knew that he was on the outside of the clique. When the Strike Team is dissolved for the final time, he becomes a uniformed officer again. He is asked to choose which side he will be on when Claudette finally has a case to go after Mackey and Vendrell. A recurring plotline for Lowe is the conflict between his Christian beliefs and his homosexual desires, to the point where he goes to a sexual reorientation program and marries a woman having chosen God and community. He appears in all seasons of The Shield.


  • Captain Monica Rawling (Glenn Close) (Season 4) was the appointed Captain at the Barn who took over from Acevada, after Claudette was rejected. She implemented a lot of changes, such as fixing the Barn's male toilets and, more importantly, creating seizure policies which proved to be somewhat controversial. She had a longstanding hatred with gang leader Antwon Mitchell and was suspicious of Vic Mackey, even having him and his team investigated. She finds out that Shane was solicited by Mitchell to kill Vic. She is fired after she embarrasses the DEA by voiding the immunity deal they granted Mitchell (by getting the Strike Team to catch a Salvadoran cartel leader before Mitchell's information could), and the feds threaten to cut off all federal highway funding to L.A. if Rawlings stayed.


  • Corrine Mackey (Cathy Cahlin Ryan) (Seasons 4-7, recurring seasons 1-3) was once married to Vic Mackey and had three children with him, two of which have autism. She works as a nurse and once had a brief courtship with Dutch. Despite needing Vic in her life, she eventually turns on him and helps Dutch and Claudette build a case to send Vic behind bars. She is moved to witness protection by ICE in order to keep her and her children away from Vic, through a fear she has that he may try to harm her after he finds out what she has been doing.


  • Detective Steve Billings (David Marciano) (Season 7, recurring seasons 4-6) is a slack, somewhat cowardly detective who was made acting Captain after the departure of Rawlings and later replaced by Claudette. He is known for his schemes, such as suing the department and bringing his own vending machines into the barn. He usually brings Dutch in on his plots and the two have come to blows on at least one occasion. Billings and Dutch were partnered together after Claudette got promoted to Captain which prompted Dutch to request a transfer which Claudette denies. He is injured during a brawl between Kanaghah and Vic and plans to sue the department for two million dollars, although he settles for two days pay from the time he missed.


  • Probationary Officer Tina Hanlon (Paula Garcés) (Season 7, recurring 5-6) is a new recruit at the barn, who is trained by Julien. She is very attractive and well aware of her sexuality, which often earns her the ire of Danny Sofer. Tina's constant mistakes would have seen her out of the force, had it not been for a bungle in which Billings, while trying to see who was stealing from his vending machines, obtained photos of her changing. He involved Dutch and, in order to protect her old partner, Claudette allowed Tina to remain on the force under Dutch's supervision. She left the Barn after being made a spokesperson for the police force, but opted to transfer back. She had a sexual tryst with Kevin Hiatt, which was organized by Billings, although she later expressed regret and said that Dutch always had a chance with her, only he never took it. The day on which Shane Vendrell killed himself was her one-year anniversary as an officer, and although he was harsh on her at times, Julien celebrated by buying her a cake and throwing her a little party.


Reception

The Shield has won critical praise for its realism, particularly in its portrayal of gang violence in Los Angeles. Although names of actual gangs are not used, the portrayals are based on real gangs. Latino gangs with names such as "Los Magnificos" (or "Los Mags"), the Byzantine Latinos (or "Byz-Lats") and the "Toros" are a constant thorn in the Strike Team's side in the early seasons of the show, while black gangs become more prominent in later episodes. In particular, a gang calling itself the "One-Niners" is central to the plot of Season 4. Like the notorious real-life Blood and Crip gangs, the One-Niners identify themselves strongly with one color (in this case purple), wearing it on various items of clothing. To enhance its realism, the show makes very little use of background music until the end of each episode.

Time magazine's James Poniewozik named it one of the Top 10 Returning Series of 2007, ranking it at #8.

Other media

Soundtrack

On September 5, 2005, The Shield: Music from the Streets was released by Lakeshore Entertainment. The soundtrack features 19 tracks, including two versions of the theme song and tracks ranging from artists such as Black Label Society to Kelis.

Video games

After a rocky development cycle, The Shield, the video game, was released for the PlayStation 2 on January 9, 2007, and for the PC on January 22, 2007. It is a third person shooter that bridges the gap between the third and fourth seasons by exploring the gang war between the Byz-Lats and the One-Niners. It received generally negative reviews, receiving a 3.9 out of 10 from GameSpot.com.

Spotlight

In 2004, IDW Publishing released a five-issue comic book limited series written by Jeff Mariotte and illustrated by Jean Diaz titled The Shield: Spotlight. A controversial journalist is murdered and the barn is under intense media scrutiny. Vic and the Strike Team find the murderer but uncover a bigger conspiracy which has Dutch enthralled. All the while, Shane is trying to keep his face out of the media when he accidentally sets up a chance to make the team a whole lot of money recovering stolen art and Julien and Danny struggle to realize when is the right time to go 'by the book' and when isn't. When uniformed officers spot the Strike Team with the stolen art, they have no choice but to do things the right way. Acevada is warned to drop the journalists investigation or risk losing political backing. He drops the case which leaves Dutch feeling disheartened.

DVD

In Region 1, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment released The Shield on DVD for seasons 1 - 5. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment releases it elsewhere, and holds the rights for all Region 1 season sets of The Shield as of 2008, including seasons 6 and 7. Region 1 sets (released by 20th Century Fox) are displayed in 4:3 (fullscreen), while international releases (distributed by Sony Pictures) display 16:9 (widescreen). Sony Pictures re-released seasons 1-5 on March 25, 2008, all seasons in region 1 are now displayed in 16:9 widescreen, as they are in international releases. There are several differences between the R1 & R2 boxsets, with slightly fewer extras on the R2 boxsets and with episode 5:11 drastically shortened.While the release date for Season 5, Region 4 was November 26, 2008, that was only at JB Hi-Fi stores across Australia. The release date across all stores is March 11, 2009. Season 6, Region 4 was also released exclusively to JB Hi-Fi, with the general release date being August 19, 2009.

DVD title Date released
Region 1 (Fox) Region 1 (Sony Pictures) Region 2 Region 4
The Complete First Season January 7, 2003 March 25, 2008 July 21, 2003 2003
The Complete Second Season January 6, 2004 March 25, 2008 August 9, 2004 April 5, 2005
The Complete Third Season February 22, 2005 March 25, 2008 May 28, 2007 May 11, 2007
The Complete Fourth Season December 26, 2005 March 25, 2008 July 2, 2007 November 15, 2007
The Complete Fifth Season March 27, 2007 March 25, 2008 January 28, 2008 November 26, 2008*
The Complete Sixth Season N/A August 26, 2008 March 24, 2008 August 19, 2009
The Complete Seventh Season N/A June 9, 2009 June 8, 2009 TBA
The Shield: Complete Series N/A November 3, 2009 June 8, 2009 TBA


References

  1. IMDB Trivia
  2. The Shield show page
  3. Poniewozik, James; Top 10 New TV Series; time.com
  4. The Shield for PS2 - The Shield Playstation 2 - The Shield PS2 Game
  5. To Protect and to Serve: Jeff Mariotte on 'The Shield', Comic Book Resources, August 22, 2003
  6. The Shield DVD news: Season 6 moves from Fox to Sony | TVShowsOnDVD.com


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