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Goodbye, The Shield – Get Some Rest, Detective Mackey

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Tony Soprano escaped judgment with a blank screen, and now it’s Vic Mackey’s turn. The Shield's creator, Shawn Ryan, has kept mum on whether or not his devil will get his due, but he has promised (if not on a bible than at least on one of those huge telephone books Vic was constantly pummelling his suspects with) that his ugly baby will not to go out with a David Chase-style subtly artistic borefest. Like the previous seven seasons of The Shield, expect Tuesday’s finale to be as harried and grisly as its theme song’s anguished scream that announced every week that something seriously messed up was again happening in Farmington.

While he may or may not rest in peace after Tuesday’s expected bloodletting, with the end of The Shield’s run, America’s favorite corrupt cop Michael Chiklis’ Vic Mackey will hopefully finally get some sort of rest. “Al Capone with a badge” he may be, but you can’t fault him for his work ethic. The Shield’s pilot episode showed Vic and his down and extremely dirty strike team having a peaceful family barbecue out by the pool. Thirty minutes later he was executing one of his brood and there hasn’t been another moment of peace for the self-appointed benevolent dictator ever since.

Vic Mackey would have been working 60 hours a week had he done his job cleanly, but with all of his corruption, supporting his boatload of autistic and seemingly autistic kids (and that includes the armed buffoons on his strike team) Vic’s job has been a serious 24-7 proposition.

As Richard Nixon found out, it’s the cover-up that keeps you running, and Vic has spent seven seasons dangerously juggling more misdeeds than the world’s most talented chainsaw juggler. Shane needs an alibi, Lem needs to get out of the country, someone has to put feces in Dutch’s drawer, guns have to be planted, evidence needs to be destroyed, fellow cops need to be misled, someone has to be blackmailed, revolving captains have to be diverted from the ugly truth, gangs wars need to be started, and more and more money has to be raised to pay for endless expenses both legal and extralegal – Vic has been seriously busy.

When all of this began, Vic was arguably an effective, much-needed antidote to an urban wasteland under siege, but as time has gone by not even he would argue that he’s been more of a plus than a minus at this point. Face it, what Farmington really needs is a small non-radioactive nuclear bomb to go off so that future generations of settlers can start over.

I’ll leave it to others to argue how realistic Ryan’s urban nightmare was, but there can be no doubt that The Shield has been by far the most thoroughly devastating portrayal of urban blight ever. Forget the profanity and the occasional nudity, The Shield week after week packed more intensely disgusting and gross scenes per minute than perhaps every single police show in the history of television combined. Farmington might as well have been a slaughterhouse for semi-human beings. Hacked off limbs, feet nailed to the floor, live bodies burned beyond repair, anal cavity searches, vaginal cavity searches, beatings, slayings, underage rapes, torture by every means imaginable, corruption everywhere – The Shield has spent seven years making old Holocaust footage look like a Sports Illustrated swimsuit layout.

Here, every conceivable racial profile had at least one gang of thieving, barbaric drug dealers to represent their interests. The show may not have been very life redeeming, but with its cavalcade of African-American, Mexicans, Armenians, Koreans, and Salvadorans, one could at least argue that it provided a grade-A geography and immigration lesson.

While the show has featured big names like Glenn Close and Forest Whitaker, the true stars of The Shield have been its amazingly rotten-to-the-core rogue’s gallery of side players. When The Shield featured a woman as a crack-ravaged prostitute, they didn’t produce Jennifer Aniston stretching her artistic instrument. Either through amazing make-up work or by perhaps just snatching someone off the mean streets, The Shield’s coke whores looked like they had spent decades of method work preparing for their roles. Is there anyone in Farmington not covered in tattoos?

Forget the venomous gang leaders that were constantly inventing new and grotesquely ingenious ways to kill off their competition, this show has provided enough tween-age murdering menaces to make me never want to venture to the West Coast ever again. Hannah Montana this is not!

I’m not sure that Shawn Ryan’s creation can really measure up to more nuanced and better-respected shows like The Wire or The Sopranos, but one thing is absolutely certain. Tony Soprano wouldn’t last a day in Farmington.

Good night, Vic. It’s been both gross and entertaining. So whether it’s death, a jail cell, or running off to Tahiti with a bag of cash and one of those hundreds of prostitutes you’ve tried to save, here’s hoping you finally get some of those well-deserved moments of everyday run-of-the-mill boredom that keep us pansies in the suburbs warm and sane.

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