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The conscience gets it wrong

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[Morethings index for The Shield] Season 2, Episode 8 “Scar Tissue”
Air date: 2-25-03

Detective Claudette Wyms most generally acts as the conscience of the show. Young Julien tries to do right, but he’s young and hasn’t faced a lot of the real tests. Aceveda mostly tries to color within the lines, but he’s compromised by his political ambitions. Then of course there is Vic Mackey, who has been known to kill a snitch, much less beat a suspect. This character Claudette, then, was designed to be the fulcrum on the scales of justice.

Indeed, the principle conflict within the station in the second season has come to be NOT the original setup of Mackey versus Aceveda, but Mackey versus Wyms. She knows about everything except his original sin from the “Pilot” episode. Even not knowing that, the conscience has become increasingly skeptical of Vic. He seems to have reached the limits of her ability to abide by the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy she articulated in the first show. Fair enough.

However, she has arguably gone well over the line in this case. She’s seriously getting up into Vic’s life when she went to work on the estranged wife. “Is that what he told you?” She was purposely and consciously driving a wedge between husband and wife. It’s none of your business between him and the wife. Her claim to be interested simply in their safety doesn’t ring very true. She has to know that Vic is seeing to his own family’s security. She’s looking for goods on Vic. Let’s be honest with ourselves first, and then also with others.

Specifically, I object to her summary scene with Vic. Understanding fully the true basic actual facts of the Armadillo case, and Ronnie getting burned, she renders the judgment of the court of her own conscience by telling Vic “It’s all on you.”

So Vic is officially the goat here? How figure? The “bad thing” that Vic really did in this whole story was offering protection and taking payoffs from Tio, Armadillo’s late business rival. However bad that was or wasn’t, it had nothing to do with Ronnie’s torture session.

No, basically Vic was after Armadillo because the guy was an evil sociopath, responsible for numerous particular gruesome necklacing deaths and some nice kiddie rape for good measure.

As a representative in Vic’s defense in this instance, Vic’s burning of Armadillo was fairly brutal and certainly way over the line legally. Still, take into account the proportionality of Armadillo’s offenses. What Vic did to him was not the tenth part of what he was regularly visiting on other people. Armadillo perfectly well knew this, and indeed turns out to have purposely courted some kind of brutality from Vic, thinking he was purchasing some kind of get-out-of-jail card.

Armadillo burned Ronnie as a message to Vic. Therefore, Armadillo is the bad guy, not Vic. Armadillo declared war on cops who were trying to stop him from killing and raping. He lost.

Claudette Wyms, the voice of conscience, simply made a bad call in declaring Vic Mackey to be responsible for the recent unpleasantness. What was Vic really supposed to do when a truly wicked person like Armadillo comes along? He should have regarded himself as lucky, and as having been treated leniently in that Vic didn’t just goddam kill him instead of merely burning him. Vic does his share of bad things, but not everything is his fault.

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