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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Shield - The Complete Fifth Season
The Shield - The Complete Fifth Season
Fox // Unrated // March 27, 2007
List Price: $59.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by David Walker | posted March 26, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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The Show:
WARNING!!! SPOILER ALERT!!! If you have not seen The Sheild: Season 5 yet, you may not want to read all of this review. Don't worry, I'll let you know before I ruin everything by telling you about the big surprise (which, unless you live under a rock, you should already know about).

In all my years of watching television, there has never been a show that I have simultaneously loved and hated as much as The Shield. I love the show because it is one of the best written, acted, and directed shows in the history of the medium. I hate the show because a season is never more than a dozen or so episodes long, and you have to wait over a year in between each season. It is almost more than one can bear. But then I always return to the fact that this is one of the best shows of all time.

Those of you that have not watched The Shield need to know that this is not the place to start. Unlike a vast majority of shows on television this show utilizes story arcs that run the entire season, and often incorporates events that took place in earlier seasons. In the case of Season 5, everything goes back to the first episode of the show. From the opening scene, it was clear that The Shield was unlike any other cop show, and by finale of the pilot episode, when the series' hero, Detective Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis), kills another cop in cold blood, it is clear this show is in league by itself. As the first season unfolded, we got to know Mackey and the rest of the Strike Team, and elite group of tough cops that play hard and fast with the rules. The truth is that Mackey and his men are very corrupt, and that the new member of their team, Terry Crowley, is actually an undercover agent working for the Justice Department. Which is why Mackey kills Terry, and covers it up with the help of his partner, Shane (Walton Goggins).

Fast forward through four complete seasons: Vic and the rest of the Strike Team have been through a lot, much of it incredibly corrupt and duplicitous. Toward the end of the fourth season, Lem (Kenneth Johnson), the only member of the Strke Team with a real conscious, makes the mistake of place a brick of heroin in his car, which is brought to the attention of the Internal Affairs Department. As the fifth season kicks off, I.A.D. detective Jon Kavanaugh (Forest Whitaker) pinches Lem for the heroin, but his real target is Vic. Kavanaugh believes that Vic is somehow responsible for the death of Crawley (which we know took place in Season 1), and he is convinced that Lem is the weak link in the armor of the Strike Team.

Kavanaugh's investigation of Vic and the Strike Team is the dominate story arc that runs through Season 5, but as with all seasons, there are other stories. Dutch (Jay Karnes) and Claudette (CCH Pounder) get a second chance at a man they suspect to be a serial killer (see Season 4), but their partnership is threatened by a health crisis faced by Claudette. Dani (Catherine Dent), one of the few female officers working out of the Farmington precinct, is pregnant, leading to great speculation over who the father is. With Dani unable to go on patrol, her former partner Julien is paired up with Tina (Paula Garces), and attractive rookie who keeps getting into trouble. And of course, former captain David Aceveda (Benito Martinez) continues his political maneuverings, while trying to cover his ass as it relates to Kavanaugh's investigation. But despite all that is going on, and the individual cases that flesh out the individual episodes, the story that drives all eleven episodes of Season 5 is the game of cat and mouse played by Mackey and Kavanaugh.

The Shield has always been a show that you need to watch every season in its entirety to really get the most out of it. This is especially true of Season 5. It is clear that the series as a whole has actually been building to something, and that each season is an act within a much larger story. During several of the audio commentaries and in some of the bonus features the word "Shakespearean" comes up, with the series being compared to a five-act play. At one point series creator Shawn Ryan actually says that the fifth season is either the end of the fourth act, or beginning of the fifth act, and after watching the show in its entirety, that makes sense. This truly is an epic tale, which has reached a critical juncture with the arrival of Kavanaugh and the arrest of Lem.

What is interesting about this season is that Kavanaugh is a hero in a show largely populated by villains. Although Mackey is often referred to as an anti-hero, here is a guy who murders another cop, in cold blood, in the first episode. In every episode that has followed, while Mackey has done some good things, the show has been built around the fact that he is a bad person. And for some reason, it is almost impossible to not route for him as Kavanaugh stalks him. It is a testimony to the way the show is written that a character as morally corrupt as Mackey can be the hero, while the man trying to bring him to justice is the villain. But that is the magic of The Shield and Mackey, who is such a powerful force that he begins to corrupt Kavanaugh.

WARNING: HERE COMES THE SPOILER. For the past four seasons, The Shield has managed to create scenarios that have left the Strike Team vulnerable to death. But somehow, Mackey and his men have gone largely unscathed. This makes the bitter irony of Lem being busted for heroin all the more ironic, as it is so innocuous by comparison to everything else that has transpired. But the dogged pursuit by Kavanaugh, and the fact that Mackey has had such blatant disregard for honesty finally brings things to a head. With Lem caught in the squeeze, it seems that something must give. And while the show's creative team probably could have found a way out of this situation like those of past episodes, they instead decide to take things in a new direction. Fearing that Lem is about to turn the rest of Strike Team over to I.A.D., Shane decides to take matters into his own hands. In what is one of the most disturbing and brutal scenes you can imagine, Shane murders one of his best friends, bringing to a conclusion Season 5.

The Shield: Season 5 is presented full frame.

The Shield: Season 5 is presented in Dolby Surround.

Honestly, The Shield does not need any bonus material to make it worth watching repeatedly. That said, I wasn't that interested in what this four-disc set had to offer, until I jumped into it all head-first. All eleven episodes feature an audio commentary track with multiple cast and crew members. These tracks range from interesting to slightly yawn-inducing depending on who is participating. When it's the actors playing the Strike Team, it is almost like a party, with everyone fighting to get a word in edgewise. Meanwhile, other commentaries are bit more quiet and staid. But after a while, listening to all the commentaries begins to give tremendous insight as to how the show is put together. There are various deleted scenes, with optional audio commentary. A fourth disc of nothing but supplementary material is where the real treats can be found. First there is a Season 6 Prequel, which I had originally assumed was nothing more than the first 15 minutes of Season 6. What I thought was nothing more than a tease for hardcore fans who just wanted the new season to get under way, is actually a bridge between Season 5 and 6. On their own, these 15 minutes will mean nothing to anyone who has never watched the show, but for fans it provides insight into the characters we've come to know so well. SPOILER ALERT!!! The nearly 90-minute documentary Delivering the Baby goes pretty in-depth into the finale of Season 5. Things get a bit emotional as the doc goes into great detail about Shane's murder of Lem. But that's not all the documentary is about, as it offers a great look at the creative process that drives the show. Fans of The Shield won't be disappointed by this doc. There are several other notable bonuses, including a tribute to producer/director Scott Brazil, and a panel discussion with Chiklis, Whitaker and Ryan.

Final Thoughts:
After five consistent seasons, The Shield it has proven to better entertainment than most films, and has yet to disappoint. Even without the bonus material, which ranges from "just okay" to "really great," this is a great collection. Fans of the show will need this for their collection. So to them I say, "Buy it.". Newcomers will want to watch earlier seasons if they haven't done so already, and buying five seasons can get expensive, so you may just want to start out renting.

David Walker is the creator of BadAzz MoFo, a nationally published film critic, and the Writer/Director of Black Santa's Revenge with Ken Foree now on DVD [Buy it now]
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