Normally i’m not a too big fan of police themed shows. Over the past years i heard a lot from ‘The Shield’ and gave it a try a few weeks ago. After season one the first thing that came to mind was that it reminded me of ‘The Sopranos’. There you have this anti-hero again. Someone who’s trying to bring his career and family into a managable status. Where it all was a mafia thing in The Sopranos, we now have to deal with a cop. The problems he’s facing are very similar to the problems our main character in The Sopranos has to face. But in ‘The Shield’ you don’t necessarily have one main guy. It’s series of people we’re following thoughout the seasons and episodes. The importance of the characters is shifting from time to time.
Like in so many other TV productions nowadays the series is packed with some very good actors. Everyone suits its role perfectly from beginning to end. The Shield was one of the first TV productions (along with The Sopranos) that really presented some really epic writing and a great concept of how to stitch all the little goings ons in the series together. The downside is that, if you miss a few episodes, you might be a little lost.
Storywise it’s about ‘The Strike Team’. A special police unit working on street level gang related things in Los Angeles. Often they are forced to use not so legal measures to get things done. The team also often enough cuts some deals with the gangs themselfes to earn some extra cash. Early on they’re struggling to keep it all covered and find out that they’ve been infiltrated. That results in the shooting of one of their team members in season 1. That event follows them throughout all 7 seasons. Of course there are more things happening later that will eventually catch up on them. And you really want to know how it all turns out for the characters.
Beside the questionable operations of the Strike Team we also get to see the private life of our 4 guys. We soon know that every character truly is a character. Not just a copy. Some of them develop a little later than others but still maintain importance to the whole story. Soon enough all the happenings start to split the group and it’s fascinating to see how they try to get over the differences. A lot of scenes where you can litterally see in their faces the battles our characters have to fight for certain decisions. That involves some good writing and even better acting.
While the Strike Team is the main focus of the series, we also have some other very important and interesting characters to follow. These characters get more spotlight the farther the series comes along. The series tries to show the day in day out work that cops nowadays have to face. The Strike Team storyline surely is a lot of imagination and action orientated. The other cops in the series surely show a more realistic aspect of police work nowadays in the united states. That maintains a nice balance and makes the whole thing much more believable.
The amazing writing makes it possible to really come to a showdown 7th season where it all comes together. The performances from all the actors and the development of their characters really impressed me. While watching i never had the feeling that i did not care about how it all continues. I always wanted to know how it goes on and will end. Speaking about ‘end’. The ending episode of season 7 was so intense that more than one time i thought ‘holy crap… didn’t see that coming!’. Never was there a decision in the writing i disagreed with. They ended the series in the most perfect way possible i guess.
Now to everything there are a few thumbs downs. What drove me a little crazy at times was the shaky cam. I know what they try to do there and most of the time it works. It really gives a ‘you are right there’ feeling. But sometimes it’s a little too much. I think it was season 2 where i really often catched a boom mike on the edge of the screen. There are some scenes where i even catched complete camera setups. But that’s all i have to complain here.
Ultimately i don’t think it’s the most realistic cop series out there. But hey… it’s supposed to be entertainment and no documentation. Right? So that’s not a downer. The plot keeps you busy, always wondering how the characters are going to react to the happenings. The design and grittiness worked a lot for me. The cast does an amazing job. Michael Chiklis, Walton Goggins, Kenneth Johnson, Jay Karnes, CCH Pounder… and all the others. They all nailed their characters very well. Special guests like Glenn Close and Forest Whitaker made it even more amazing. Especially these two added a lot of depth and credibility. Forest Whitaker is one of the best anyway.
So if you have the chance to see it… try it! My recommendation.