Only two episodes into its sophomore year and the FX Channel’s “The Shield” is once again going out of its way to redefine the way series TV is made. The cop drama picks up a few weeks after the tumultuous events of Season 1, which saw the arrest of Vic Mackey’s long-time ally in the police bureaucracy, Gilroy (John Diehl); Vic’s wife Corrine (Cathy Ryan) disappearing with the kids; and a tortured Vic on his knees in his now-empty house.
Episode one of Season 2 recommences with “Quick Fix”, which re-introduces us to the chaotic and out-of-control world of Vic Mackey and his Strike Team. With Vic desperately in search of Corrine’s whereabouts and with little time for anything else, the Strike Team has fallen into the careless hands of Shane (Walt Goggins). But when Shane decides its time to climb up the drug dealing business and uses the team’s “private cash stash” to fund it, a money-taxed Vic flies off the handle and declares that he can no longer trust his own team. Also, a new villain by the name of Armadillo, a drug dealer with high ambitions and the sadistic streak to make it come true, enters the scene. Armadillo is introduced to us as he is setting two of his rivals on fire. How’s that for an introduction!
“Dead Soldiers” continues Armadillo’s rise as Season 2’s new chief villain. Having raped a little girl at the end of “Quick Fix” in order to keep her from testifying against him (and then tattooing her face as a reminder), Armadillo now comes under Vic’s radar when he torches a building used by Vic’s head drug dealer. Worst, the torching has brought veteran homicide cop Claudette (CCH Pounder) into the mix. The rest of the episode deals with Vic racing against time to stop Claudette from uncovering his ties to the drug dealer, while at the same time trying to keep Armadillo from doing further damage. The end of the episode brings back Corrine, who is starting an investigation into Vic’s affairs in an attempt to dig up dirt on him and take legal custody of the kids. An enraged Vic takes his anger out on Armadillo, beating the sinister drug dealer to within an inch of his life.
If “Quick Fix” and “Dead Soldiers” proves anything, it’s that the producers, led by series creator Shawn Ryan, is taking the series up another notch. After a critically and commercially successful Season 1, Season 2 is shaping up to be even better. The intensity level has risen tremendously, and the writers have no plans to take it easy. The series’ 13-episode season schedule, I believe, is the reason why shows like “The Shield” and “The Sopranos” are so good episode after episode. Without the necessity of filling out a 22-episode season, the show’s creators can put their energy and good ideas into a tight, tense, and powerful 13 episodes. There is no longer a need for filler episodes that goes nowhere.
Coming off a professionally satisfying 2002, series lead Michael Chiklis seems to be telling everyone who voted for him at last year’s Emmy Awards that he’s making another run for the statuette. (Chiklis won for Best Actor in a Dramatic Series at the 2002 Emmys, in case you didn’t know.) Chiklis is tougher and even more of a loose cannon, if that’s possible. Vic Mackey’s violent trip down south to Mexico in “Quick Fix” and his near-death beating of Armadillo in “Dead Soldiers” have already surpassed nearly all of the violence he inflicted in Season 1. With the inevitable divorce and custody battle with Corrine in the horizon, I’ll be stun if Vic Mackey is still able to function as a normal human being by the end of the season!
With the first two episodes focusing so much on Vic’s tortured personal and professional world, the series has less time to follow the other characters. With Walt Goggins’ Shane already in Vic’s doghouse, it’s anybody’s guess how long he’ll last. Gay patrolman Julien (Michael Jace) is still trying to convince himself that he’s not gay, while his partner Danielle (Catherine Dent) has re-entered into an affair with Vic. Although Vic and Danielle’s affairs never completely stopped in Season 1, the absence of Corrine seems to have driven the two closer, even if they both say aloud that there is nothing beyond the sexual.
For ambitious precinct Captain David Aceveda (Benito Martinez), things are looking up and down at the same time. While the arrest of Gilroy at the end of Season 1 has boosted Aceveda’s burgeoning political career, he’s also attracted the attention of political rivals. Using the riots from Season 1 as an excuse, Aceveda’s enemies have sent a civilian auditor, a woman, to investigate the precinct. Or, to be more precise, to find dirt in order to bring Aceveda down. The auditor makes no bones about why she’s there, and the stage is set for a struggle between the two powerful personalities. With powerful enemies after him and a bloodhound at his doorsteps, Aceveda has struck a deal with Vic Mackey. This seems to be a smart move on Aceveda’s part, since the auditor is giving signs that she plans on using Vic against Aceveda…
Already at the top of its form, I will be pleasantly surprise if “The Shield” manages to keep this level of intensity and quality through out Season 2. The series has already surpassed every show on TV at the moment, even FOX’s exciting “24”. Even that series’ innovative “series in a day” premise pales in comparison to the sheer balls and guts of “The Shield.” If this show enters Season 3 with Vic Mackey still alive, it’ll be a miracle.
CAST: Michael Chiklis …. Vic Mackey
CCH Pounder …. Claudette Wyms
Catherine Dent …. Danielle Sofer
Walt Goggins …. Shane Vendrell
Michael Jace …. Julien Lowe
Kenny Johnson …. Curtis Lemansky
Jay Karnes …. Holland Wagenbach
Benito Martinez …. David Aceveda
Cathy Cahlin Ryan …. Corrine Mackey
John Diehl …. Ben Gilroy