Fundamental weakness of "The Shield" (Spoilers)

I enjoy “The Shield.” I enjoy its intensity, its exploration of the gray areas of morality, its sick humor and its hot women. But I contend the show was crippled by its pilot episode and still suffers from the decisions made back then.

Vic Mackey’s murder of a fellow cop in the pilot crossed a line that robbed future episodes of tension. The viewer couldn’t sit on the edge of the seat wondering “Will he or won’t he?” when we already know he had killed a cop.

Will he set the Mexican drug lord on fire? Ho hum – of course, he would. He already killed a cop. Will he torture this guy or plant that evidence or steal this money? Who cares? We already know how far he’ll go.

His decision also clashes with some later examples of his conscience bothering him. I seem to recall he set up some crook to take the blame for the money train robbery, and then was upset when that crook was murdered. It’s hard to take any of that seriously when we know he, personally, is a cold-blooded murderer.

Perhaps it does add some drama to the Shane-Lem situation, however. Can Mackey judge Shane’s actions considering what he’s done himself?

By the way, the inspiration for this post was my recent re-watching of the pilot and “Co-Pilot,” along with the announcement of a seventh season.

Anyone agree? Disagree?

I agree. I think if the Shawn Ryan had to do it over again I think he’d have Vic just set up the other cops (Terry?) death instead of being the actual trigger man. I found this season interesting (I only was able to watch half of it before my free cable ran out) because I think this was the first season to mention it at all (well, as more than just a passing reference) since the first season.

I think the first season would have been more interesting if the murder came at the end of the season, or perhaps halfway through.

I think Ryan had to sell the pilot, so he was looking for most attention-grabbing, stunning ending he could come up with. It worked in the short run but weakened the show in the long run.

It really will be interesting this coming season if Mackey is forced to think about his actions in comparison to Shane’s.

Good call Clark K. Mackey’s fluctuating sense of morality is my one knock on an otherwise superb show.

I mean, hell, in the first episode of the show Mackey kills a fellow cop who has only just started investigating the Strike Team. He doesn’t even have anything on them yet. It isn’t like he just witnessed something and he’s heading straight over to IAD. That’s fine if that is how you want to set up the character, but it doesn’t jive with how Mackey is portrayed.

I disagree. I think it’s incredibly compelling to start at the bottom with what is likely the worst thing he’s ever going to do, and then watch him struggle along in the middle as he tries to come back from an act he can *never * come back from. Also, I think Vic’s ethical quandaries and decisions are informed by his experience with killing Crowley. He’s not immune to feeling guilty for or questioning other actions. The worst things he does are always an attempt to protect himself or someone he cares about, and more often than not he screws up royally.

It’s like watching a classical tragedy: these people are fucked from the get-go, but it takes awhile for them to finally get what they have coming to them and the interest comes from watching them try to squirm out of it.

Mr. Del and I were just re-watching the first season, so this seems very timely. I agree that starting off with Vic killing the cop weakened the show in the long run, but at the same time, it’s impressive how good it is even given that fact.

Watching the early episodes again, it’s even more striking (heh) how much Vic Mackey gets away with. We’ve started calling the show “What Will Vic Mackey Get Away With Next?” and gosh darnit, I like it that way – which is odd for me, I’m very law-abiding and I usually don’t care for dirty cop storylines.

The better way to have handled Terry’s death is to keep the audience in the dark as to whether Vic or the drug dealer killed him.

Hrmmm… first off, I really don’t watch much TV, and just discovered this show on Spike. I freakin’ love it, although I’m sure there are some continuity issues as I pretty much came in in the middle. But, from my point of view, already knowing that Vic shot the cop, the series is still (IMO) the best drama on TV until Battlestar comes back in october.

Personally I don’t really care allll that much about the moral dimensions. It’s like modern film noir, and I love every minute of it.

On a tangent, does anybody know what season they’re on when it’s shown on Spike?

I think that’s probably it. While it may cause some loss of tension down the road - particularly in subsequent seasons - it was what sold that pilot as really dangerously different fom the glut of cop shows on TV.

However, I don’t think it was any kind of narrative mistake. Vic’s guilt over Terry’s death is the one thing that has hung over him from the start. His excesses in catching bad guys, his downward spiral of destructive beaviour, his Tony Soprano-like mood swings all stem from trying to justify his behaviour to himself. I believe his guilt over killing a cop is the main reason he’s so fiercly protective of the guys on his team.

And don’t think it’s not going to be an issue between him and Shane when things get going again.

The appeal of this show is that a lot of people sympathize with dirty cops as long as the dirty cops also get the bad guys. Vic Mackey symbolizes the antidote to the bureaucracy and inefficiency that many people associate with the law - he doesn’t play by the rules, but he is still the hero. Mackey is Charles Bronson in Death Wish if he were a cop. What the writers of the show did by having Mackey kill Terry Crowley in the very first episode is establish exactly how vicious he could be, so that viewers would be promised the kind of action that they want. The Sopranos did the same thing by having Tony strangulate Fred Peters in one of the first episodes - Chase was explicitly warned NOT to do this by the higher-ups, because they feared that audiences would be turned off by such a vicious man. Chase knew better, though, and left it in, thereby establishing Tony as someone who is completely capable of killing in a violent and brutal way - and viewers loved it.

…I think the Sopranos incident and this are so completely different as to be unrelatable.

This was pretty well into the first season, epi. 5. (almsot halfway through the season). By this time we’ve come to accept the position that Tony is a mobster and accept his actions atleast for the hour we are watching the show… Tony kills a snitch. A guy who hurt Tony’s family (his OTHER family). At this point we see it as just retribution within the frame work of the mafia.

In the Shield pilot, Vic Mackey isn’t the focus. We don’t see the events through his eyes. We see them through Terry’s (the most brillant aspect of the pilot is that the show’s lead is killed at the end).

At this point we know little about the strike team and Mackey, just that they are crooked cops. Vic has a pool for chrissakes and is clearly living higher than a cop and nurse should be. A LOT of the series has been backpedaling from what was established in the pilot. The show’s writers even admit that Chiklis’ performance has influenced the series more than anything. People responded better to Vic for the reasons you listed (breaks through bureaucracy, etc. etc) but the writers realized as the focus narrowed more on Vic that having a show about a bad guy wouldn’t be enough, so they started to make it “Bad guys who think they are good guys”. There’s little of that in the pilot if any at all.