Uneasy alliances have always been at the heart of “The Shield,” and season seven begins with a slew of promises and deals ready to be broken. As usual, rogue cop Det. Vic Mackey is up to his bald head trying to escape simultaneous jams, while unintentionally starting others. With the show off the air for 15 months, it’s a challenge to remember where the storyline left off, but as the episode unravels, it’s a jog of the memory, and in typical “Shield” fashion, a bullet to the head, that gets this FX gem’s guns blazing once again.
Exec producer Shawn Ryan and other network officials aren’t expecting many, if any, new viewers to come aboard for this last season, and this opener won’t alter that theory. For the uninitiated, the show’s dense plotline has become a head-scratching web of scorned relationships between Armenians, Mexicans, corrupt politicians, dirty cops, police commissioners and Mackey, of course, in the center of it all, doing whatever it takes to hang on to his badge.
For the longtime fan, however, the story is complex yet riveting, making complete sense, especially after witnessing Mackey’s hellacious journey to get here.
Last we left Mackey, played with effective viciousness and guile by Emmy winner Michael Chiklis, he was about to kill his Strike Team partner Det. Shane Vendrell (the underrated Walton Goggins), believing Vendrell had tried to whack his family. The two were close until Mackey found out Vendrell blew up Strike Team compadre Lem, thinking Lem was about to rat them all out.
While Mackey and Det. Ronnie Gardocki (David Rees Snell) are trying to determine whether Vendrell can be trusted, Farmington precinct Capt. Claudette Wyms (CCH Pounder) is dealing with murder victims being dragged around the streets — body parts strewn down one block and up another — and needs an answer as to who’s making such a public bloody showing. Laurie Holden shows up as an investigator from the office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement trying to help solve the gruesome crime. She doesn’t add much to the proceedings, but she’ll play a major role as the season develops.
With Mackey and his crew’s testosterone levels always in overdrive, Jay Karnes, as thinking man’s Det. Dutch Wagenbach, has been the model of thorough police work — something the precinct could use more of. Using sly interviewing skills, Wagenbach cons fellow Det. Steve Billings (David Marciano), a weasel trying to sue the city for a phony head injury.
The cerebral Wagenbach has always been a ying to Mackey’s yang, and while the two go about business via very different paths, it’s apparent they both know what it takes to close cases — though in Wagenbach’s situation, he’s never needed gunshots and clenched fists to do the job.
Mackey’s destructive path will end when the show wraps Nov. 25. Ryan will let viewers determine whether Mackey has earned his fate, but admire him or not, there’s something that’s not up for debate: Thanks in part to “The Shield,” the LAPD of Joe Friday and “Dragnet” is but a distant memory.