Monday, August 4, 2008

The Shield: Season Five

The fifth season of The Shield starts off with the reconstituted Strike Team dealing with increased violence between the black and Latino gangs and the beginning of the Internal Affairs probe that was set up beautifully with the last scene of season four. Internal Affairs Detective Jon Kavanaugh (Forest Whitaker) starts off casting a wide net over all of the Strike Team’s deeds, but finds a strong case while looking into the murder of Detective Terry Crowley (in the series’ first episode). As the season progresses, Vic also faces early retirement forced on him by the top brass.

David Aceveda, still a city councilman, starts the season helping Kavanaugh out with his investigation. The animosity between Aceveda and Vic is still thick and Aceveda tries to do everything he can to get Vic out of The Barn and even out of uniform. He points Kavanaugh to Curtis Lemansky as the “conscience” of the Strike Team. He believes that if Kavanaugh can turn Lemanskey against Vic and the others, they can take the whole crew down.

Detectives Dutch Wagenbach and Claudette Wyms relationship becomes frayed this season. Wyms re-opens one of Dutch’s old cases and starts to become evasive when Dutch asks questions about her health. After finally getting a reappearing serial killer to confess to his crimes, Wyms collapses and falls down the stairs. After missing an episode or two, she comes back and confides in Dutch that she’s been suffering from Lupus for a number of years. The season ends with Dutch putting in for a transfer and Claudette being promoted to Captain of The Barn.

Kenneth Johnson’s Lemansky gets a chance to shine this season. He’s given more to do than in past seasons and he makes the most of the opportunity. Season five is all about Mackey vs. Kavanaugh, but it wouldn’t be as hard hitting without Lemansky in the middle. Even after learning Vic killed Terry Crowley (previously only Shane knew), Lemansky stayed loyal to his fellow Strike Team members. It caused him great emotional (and physical) pain, but he took the brunt of the hit and made sure nobody else would go down for their crimes.

While Vic and Ronnie believed Lemansky was loyal, the deep-seated resentment between Shane and him brought about another shocking moment in Shield history. Shane believed Lemansky flipped on his friends and took it upon himself to make sure they wouldn’t get caught. He makes Lemansky follow him alone to an underpass where he tries to figure out if they can still trust him or not. Unconvinced, Shane drops a grenade in Lemansky’s truck and walks away.

I can’t say enough about Forest Whitaker’s performance as Jon Kavanaugh. I’ve mentioned before that I had trouble with the big-name casting in season four, but Whitaker works. The character is fully fleshed out and there’s a definite arc to his story. At the beginning, Kavanaugh is a bit creepy and understated. His soft-spokenness and non-threatening mannerisms seem to be part of his game to get people to trust him. After being outmaneuvered several times by Vic, he starts to become unhinged. The descent from an upright IAD officer to someone who would consider planting evidence on a guilty suspect is truly a marvel to behold.

On a side note: while refreshing my memory on the previous seasons of The Shield, I found some pretty cool articles on popmatters.com This essay, in particular, I found really helpful.

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