The seven-season Shakespearean tragedy that is Vic Mackey reached a fulfilling conclusion in the finale of “The Shield,” and, wouldn’t you know it, the cop who thought he could outsmart everyone found himself caught in his own deceitful and convoluted web.
(Spoiler alert: Continue reading only after viewing the episode.)
To see Mackey walk down the halls of the office of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement in jacket and tie was akin to a criminal making his final steps toward the electric chair. For a guy who needed to inhale the soot of L.A.’s grimiest streets to survive, being chained to a desk and forced to ask the human resources supervisor for permission to go to lunch could very well be the proverbial fate worse than death.
It’s a sentence that Mackey more than earned, of course, and Michael Chiklis deserves hearty applause for his portrayal of a rogue cop who never understood that two wrongs don’t make a right. He earned an Emmy after his first season, and there was never any let-up of the character’s trademark intensity in subsequent years.
The season-long dance between Mackey and Shane Vendrell came to a sobering close, with Vendrell decided that ending his life, as well as that of his son and wife, was preferable to rotting in jail with the crooks and gangbangers he had put away. Walton Goggins, long underappreciated, deserves kudos recognition that has long eluded him, and it seems a shame that Michelle Hicks, who was mostly underplayed throughout the series, didn’t get to shine until the final few episodes.
Jay Karnes — the Barn’s heart-and-soul detective, Dutch Wagenbach, who couldn’t let go of a murder case eating away at him — and CCH Pounder as Capt. Claudette Wyms were also outstanding.
Exec producer and writer Shawn Ryan gave Mackey a bit of wiggle room before the credits rolled. As he tucked a gun into his pants and charged out of the office, it’s difficult to say what his intentions were. He might’ve been heading back out to the streets in order to try and reconnect with his transplanted witness-protected family (nice cameo by director Clark Johnson showing Corrine Mackey her new digs), or just maybe he was itching to take down another drug-wielding cartel. But at least the screen didn’t abruptly go black.
Beyond that, there’s little that Ryan left unresolved, and while “The Shield” never reached the same creative stratosphere as “The Wire,” its legacy as a genre-buster is well-earned. The gamble of betting on Ryan and Chiklis paid off handsomely for FX, which became a significanthome for original programming following the show’s early strong ratings and Chiklis’ Emmy.
Production design and editing, both of which were key in helping the show retain its realism, were stellar.