Plot: The Farmington district within Los Angeles is one of the most dangerous, crime plagued areas in the nation, but the police presence in the locale has increased of late, complete with a new headquarters. The police have set up shop in an old church, known as The Barn and in addition to the usual officers and detectives, the station houses a new, experimental division. The Strike Force is a small, elite squad of detectives who operate almost outside the normal department’s existence, hitting high profile crimes and the kind of cases even hardened officers might hesitate to tackle. The group is headed up by Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis), a no nonsense, smash mouth style detective who has earned fierce loyalty from his fellow Strike Team members. While Mackey gets results, his methods are often questioned and Captain David Aceveda (Benito Martinez) would like to him held responsible, great turnover rates or not. As these two head toward what seems like an inevitable showdown, can Mackey and his men stay one step ahead of Aceveda’s investigation?
Entertainment Value: A landmark series that introduced to one of television’s most interesting characters, The Shield was a smash success and even years after it ended, holds up as a brutal, raw take on the cop show formula. The show is masterful in terms of character development and narrative flow, with episodic threads, seasonal arcs, and recurring elements that run the entire series, so every episode yields a piece to a puzzle of some kind. Mackey is the central presence and he is given ample story threads of all kinds, but he is not the lone focus, as all of Farmington’s denizens find themselves in the spotlight from time to time. And little is wasted, as even minor arcs tend to reveal depth about the characters or embroil them more deeply in another storyline, so even with a brisk pace and a multitude of narratives in motion, The Shield keeps things on track and never lets the quality dip much. The result is an addictive, hard to put down kind of show that makes it difficult to not watch just one more episode, then one more, until you realize entire seasons have passed. The show has a lot of style as well, with aggressive, gritty visuals that bolster the atmosphere of Farmington, with a kind of almost found footage feel at some times. The show is always intense, always pushing forward, and never fails to entertain. A lot of shows have been touted as landmark television, but The Shield is the genuine article.
I still think Vic Mackey is one of television’s all time great characters, a complex, dark, and always riveting persona to watch. He is unquestionably a corrupt presence in the district, but he has a human side and his motivations sometimes make sense, if his actions cause bad things to happen. To call him polarizing would be an understatement, but he remains interesting throughout the series, thanks in large part to a strong, charismatic effort from Michael Chiklis. To adjust to Chiklis as the brutal powerhouse Mackey after his work on The Commish took a bit, but he is a natural as Vic and to me, this is his finest performance. He brings high level intensity and really conveys the drive and ambition Vic possesses, but keeps him grounded for the most part and even vulnerable in some ways, which is crucial. I also love his confrontations and banter with those he is at odds with, as well as his ability to quickly transition and align with a former rival when the situation dictates. The cast regulars are terrific across the board, with Benito Martinez, Walton Goggins, CCH Pounder, Catherine Dent, Michael Jace, and Jay Karnes on deck, while some of the notable guest stars include Forrest Whitaker, Michael Pena, and Glenn Close.
The Disc: Mill Creek has pulled out all the stops on this box set of The Shield, including new 4k remasters of the episodes that involve extensive work to pull the best possible visuals out of the show. The end result is beyond impressive, as the show looks so much clearer and more detailed, but the grain remains intact, this is some remarkable work, to say the least. This is not only the best The Shield has ever looked, it is light years better than I ever thought it could look. A truckload of extras have been ported over from the DVD season sets, with select episode audio commentaries, hours upon hours of behind the scenes featurettes, cast & crew discussions, audition tapes, and more, just a ton of stuff to browse through. There is also a new retrospective piece on the series and a new cast & crew reunion, which brings back most of the prominent players to talk about the show in 2018. I loved seeing the reunion and it was a great capper for revisiting The Shield. This is simply put Mill Creek’s best release to date and fans of the show should be beyond thrilled.