"The good cop and bad cop left for the day… I'm a different kind of cop."
Welcome to the Farmingdale District, home to some of Los Angeles's most dangerous criminal element. Fortunately for the citizens of Farmingdale, crime is down, thanks in part to supercop Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis), his Strike Team, and the newly appointed Chief Aceveda (Benito Martinez). The methods Mackey uses to clean up the streets are called into question, as he is known to associate with drug dealers, and is prone to bouts of police brutality. With dreams of a political career, Aceveda looks to expose police corruption within his precinct, and spends most of his time butting heads with Mackey as a result.
I must admit I was skeptical when I saw the pilot episode of "The Shield" back on March 12, 2002. For months, the FX network had been airing promos hyping it as the show that would change television forever. With hype like that, I fully expected to be let down by "The Shield." Thankfully, FX delivered the goods. "The Shield" resembles a mix between "The Sopranos" and "Law & Order", as half an episode usually focuses on detectives Dutch (Jay Karnes), Claudette (CCH Pounder), and uniformed officers investigating a unique crime, while the other half revolves around Vic Mackey; his work and family life.
Vic Mackey is a very complicated character, much like Tony Soprano. Sometimes you like him, and sometimes you don't. The only catch is that he's supposed to be on the right side of the law, but has a tendency to drift to the other side. Adding to his work responsibilities is his stressed out and unappreciated wife, a daughter that misses her daddy, and his recently diagnosed autistic son. Michael Chiklis gives such a strong performance here as Vic Mackey, that he won the Emmy Award for Best Actor in a Drama for it.
I can say without a doubt that "The Shield" is a very good show, but it's not for everybody. For some people, they'll be hooked instantly. For others, they might be turned off by its content. Despite airing on the FX network, "The Shield" features graphic language, disturbing images, nudity, and loads of violence (if it were a movie, it would most assuredly receive an R rating). It's not for everybody, but I'd be hard pressed not to give it my highest recommendation.
"The Shield: Complete First Season" features 13 episodes, each having a running time of approximately 45 minutes. Below are episode summaries and commentary listings, broken down per disc. Be forewarned, there are some potential spoilers in their descriptions.
Pilot - We are introduced to all the main characters. Chief Aceveda questions Mackey's ethics, while Dutch and Claudette investigate the kidnapping of an 8-year old girl. This episode sets the tone for the entire season, and delivers one of the strongest "holy crap" moments I've seen in recent memory.
Commentary with Executive Producer Shawn Ryan, Co-Executive Producer Scott Brazil, Director Clark Johnson, and Michael Chiklis.
Episode Grade: A
Our Gang - Internal Affairs launches an investigation over the fatal shooting of one Mackey's Strike Team members. Dutch and Claudette investigate the killing of a churro vendor, and Mackey's Strike Team busts up a gang initiation. There are lots of tense scenes here involving Aceveda and Strike Team member Shane.
Commentary with Executive Producer Shawn Ryan, Walton Goggins (Shane), and Benito Martinez.
Episode Grade: B+
The Spread - It's Warrant Day in Farmingdale. Mackey's Strike Steam busts Derek Tripp, an NBA Superstar, and holds him hostage so they can win their bet on tonight's game. Connie, one of Mackey's informants, has been attacked, and Dutch and Claudette investigate leading them to a very unique criminal. Definitely one of the better episodes, mixing both humor and shock value.
Commentary with Executive Producer Shawn Ryan, Writer Glen Mazzara, Director Clark Johnson, and CCH Pounder.
Episode Grade: A
Dawg Days - After a shooting at a club, Mackey attempts to broker peace between two rival rappers, which leads to a threat on Officer Danny's life. Dutch and Claudette investigate the disappearance of a migrant worker. Lots of character development in this episode, and a very good ending.
Commentary with Executive Producer Shawn Ryan, Writer Kevin Arkadie, Catherine Dent (Danny), and Michael Chiklis.
Episode Grade: B
Blowback - Mackey's Strike Team busts a drug deal, confiscates some of them to give to drug dealer Rondell Robinson, only to lose them do to Shane's incompetence. If that wasn't enough, Officer Julien was a witness to it, and now Chief Aceveda has the ammunition he needs to build a case against Mackey. An absolutely fantastic episode, as Shane and Julien are given a chance to shine.
Commentary with Writer Kurt Sutter, Walton Goggins, Kenneth Johnson (Strike Team Member Curtis), and Michael Chiklis.
Episode Grade: A-
Cherrypoppers - The body of an underage hooker is found, leaving the Farmingdale precinct, and most notably Dutch, shaken. Mackey's Strike Team busts an underage prostitution ring in an attempt to find the girl's killer. A good episode that will leave you rattled.
Commentary with Executive Producer Shawn Ryan, Director DJ Caruso, Writer Scott Rosenbaum, and Jay Karnes.
Episode Grade: B+
Pay in Pain - A Latino Gang is gunned down at a shooting range, and the Strike Team is called in to investigate only to find out they're looking for a spree killer taking the law into his own hands. Meanwhile, Aceveda continues to build a case against Mackey, and Dutch and Claudette investigate a psychic who may actually be the real deal. It's a good episode, with a great final scene between Mackey and Julien.
Commentary with Executive Producer Shawn Ryan, Co-Producer Dean White, Director of Photography Rohn Schmidt, and Camera Operator Bill Gierhart.
Episode Grade: B
Cupid & Psycho - The Strike Team is split up and assigned to different partners. Mackey and Claudette investigate a tainted batch of "cupid meth" that has hit the streets, while Dutch and Shane annoy each other while investigating an unsolved case. Tensions between Danny and Julien are high, as she believes he should give Mackey the benefit of the doubt. One of my favorite episodes, as the partner dynamic is changed up, providing some good laughs, and shocking moments.
Commentary with Writer Glen Mazzara, Walton Goggins, Jay Karnes, CCH Pounder, and Michael Chiklis.
Episode Grade: A-
Throwaway - Strike Team member Curtis Lemansky accidentally shoots the wrong person; leaving Mackey to clean up the mess on his day off. Claudette's father pays a visit, leaving her in a riled state after hearing about her daughter's new romance. I really liked this episode, as we get to see another side to Lemansky's character as he falls in love with the sister of the man he shot.
Commentary with Executive Producer Shawn Ryan, Music Director Evyen Klean, Writer Kevin Arkadie, and Kenneth Johnson.
Episode Grade: B+
Dragonchasers - The Strike Team is assigned to bust a strip club prostitution mugging ring, with hilarious results. Dutch proves his prowess by busting a serial killer from a previously unsolved case. Connie asks for Mackey's help in kicking her drug habit, and an HIV-positive transvestite bites Danny. This is quite possibly the strongest episode of the season, with Dutch and Shane stealing the show.
Commentary with Executive Producer Shawn Ryan, Catherine Dent, Writer Scott Rosenbaum, and Michael Jace (Julien).
Episode Grade: A
Carnivores - The Strike Team investigates the attempted murder of Rondell Robinson, initially thought to have been the work of the Nation of Islam. Dutch and Claudette investigate the attack of an old Korean couple, while Chief Aceveda confronts his past indiscretions head on. In my opinion, it's the weakest of Season One's episodes, as it spends more time with subplots than progressing the Mackey's story.
Commentary with Executive Producer Shawn Ryan, Consulting Producer James Manos Jr., Staff Writer Scott Rosenbaum, Executive Story Editor Glan Mazzara, and Staff Writer Kurt Sutter.
Episode Grade: C
Two Days of Blood - Assistant Chief Gilroy asks for Mackey's help in covering up an accidental hit and run, but there's something rotten in Denmark. Added to the fact that Dutch is thoroughly investigating the case, against Mackey's wishes. The Strike Team goes undercover into the seedy world of cockfighting, jokes and all. This is Part 1 of the two-part season finale. At times, it feels as if nothing is really going on, but it's all setting up what goes down in Part 2.
Commentary with Executive Producer Shawn Ryan, Director Guy Ferland, Writer Kurt Sutter, Cathy Cahlin Ryan (Corrine Mackey), and Michael Jace.
Episode Grade: B-
Circles - A rash of bogus 911 calls in the wake of a riot lures police officers into deadly ambushes. Afraid of what Gilroy is capable of doing, Mackey hides his family before he goes after them again. Everything comes to a boil as Mackey and Aceveda form an uneasy partnership to take down Gilroy, and the cop killers. It's a fantastic episode that grabs a hold of you and doesn't let go for 45 minutes.
Commentary with Writer Shawn Ryan, Director Scott Brazil, Benito Martinez, and Michael Chiklis.
Episode Grade: A
"The Shield" is presented in full frame 1.33:1. Capturing the gritty feel of the Farmingdale district of Los Angeles, the picture is intentionally harsh at times. Scenes at night show some graininess, but nowhere as severe as on Fox's Buffy Season 2 DVD set. Outdoor scenes are especially bright, due to the overpowering effects of the Los Angeles sun. The cultural diversity of Farmingdale allows for some particularly vivid and contrasting skin tones, as well as outfits, which are wonderfully captured here. I am very happy with the video quality here, as Fox has done a very impressive job. My beef pertains to the fact that the Deleted Scenes are shown in Widescreen 1.85:1, yet the main feature is full frame. Like many, I would have gladly taken widescreen over full frame (it aired in full frame on FX).
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital Surround 2.0. There are no audio dropouts whatsoever, and character dialogue is crisp and clean. The bass on my speakers were pumping along with the background music, but gunshots felt kind of hollow at times (and trust me, there's plenty of them). The show's soundtrack offers an eclectic mix of rap, instrumentals, latin music, and mainstream like Kid Rock's "Bawitaba." This box set would have really benefited from a DD 5.1 mix, as the show heavily relies on background banter, sudden loud noises, and a terrific soundtrack. Honestly, I don't think you're going to be disappointed with the audio on this set. Also, I absolutely love how the workout the show's terrific theme song gives my speakers.
Every DVD, except for the fourth disc, has the same exact menu. A static screen with no audio allows you to select between four episodes (the fourth disc has the season finale, plus the special features). Each episode has the following options: "Play Episode", "Language Selection" (English or Spanish Subtitles), "Scene Selection", and "Commentary." Everything is laid out neatly, and everything is easily accessible.
"The Shield: Complete First Season" is packed with special features, including: episode Commentaries, Making of "The Shield", "The Shield" FX Featurette, the Pilot Script, Casting Tapes, and Deleted Scenes. Except for the episode commentaries, all the special features are located on Disc 4.
If you're a fan of commentaries, then this box set is right up your alley. As noted in the episode summaries, each episode has its own commentary, 13 in total. With the exception of two episodes, Executive Producer Shawn Ryan leads the discussion with the cast and crew of "The Shield." Shawn has an excellent rapport with his co-workers, and provides some nice insight on the stress involved in filming a pilot, meetings with FX executives, casting, and much more. Michael Chiklis and Walton Goggins are also very fun to listen to, especially Chiklis. You can tell from his enthusiastic nature to discuss his participation on the show that he really loves this role. I figured he would have a big head, especially coming off his win at the Emmys; but Chiklis is very down to earth, and sounds like "one of the guys." There's no possible way to discuss the content of the commentaries without boring you to death, but the overall feeling you get from them is that all the people involved really love their roles on "The Shield." Aside from a few dull moments (mostly from Benito Martinez), these are among the most enjoyable commentaries I've ever heard.
Making of "The Shield" and the FX Featurette are pretty standard fare. They both intertwine scenes from the show and interviews with the cast and crew. Making of "The Shield" is more informative than the FX piece, but if you've already listened to the commentaries, there's really nothing new to learn. It's still a nice thing to have, if nothing more for the strange physical resemblance between Michael Chiklis and creator Shawn Ryan. The FX Featurette is more of an advertisement for the upcoming Season 2 of "The Shield", which coincidentally premieres the day this DVD set streets.
The Pilot Script is just what it sounds like. Using your remote, you can navigate through a static version of the script. As a neat bonus, we are shown brief Casting Tapes of the stars of "The Shield." There's one for each of the stars: Michael Chiklis, Catherine Dent, Walton Goggins, Michael Jace, Kenneth Johnson, Jay Karnes, Benito Martinez, and CCH Pounder. It's fun to see their take on certain lines, as Walton Goggins drops enough "F bombs" to make Quentin Tarintino blush.
There are 17 Deleted Scenes, each with a brief introduction from Executive Producer Shawn Ryan. Shown in widescreen 1.85:1 (?!?), these scenes are pretty good ("Lightbulbs" for example); and really add a certain dimension to the characters. Usually I skip over deleted scenes, as they are prone to make very little sense in the context of the story, but in this case, I think "The Shield" would have benefited from the use of seamless branching to help round out the story. Shawn Ryan gives the excuse of "time purposes" as to why most of the scenes were cut out.
If you couldn't have already guessed by my review, I really do like "The Shield." The storylines are tight, there's rarely ever a dull moment, and it's well acted. Fox did an amazing job with this set. Aside from why they chose a full frame format over widescreen, and the lack of DD 5.1, I would be hard pressed to think of anything else Fox could cram into this package (outtakes?). Fox continues to impress me with their DVD efforts, and "The Shield" could be their best one so far. One thing I feel the need to bring up is the questionable MSRP of $59.98. Fox produced "Buffy" Season One, which also contains 13 episodes, is a more reasonably priced $39.98. On the other hand, "The Sopranos" sets also have the same number of episodes, less features, yet has an incredibly high MRSP of $99.98 each. If price isn't a consideration, or if you're a fan of "The Shield", or even enjoy gritty cop drama, then I must give this set my highest recommendation possible. Otherwise, rent it and give it a shot before you buy.