Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Shield: Family Meeting

While other shows would’ve gone for a slam-bang ending, Shawn Ryan and The Shield’s writers went in the opposite direction. We got a subdued ending, but one that was satisfying and was consistent with all the seasons that had gone before.
Shane, Mara, and Jackson have returned home. Shane says it’s only temporary, but Mara (still whining from her dislocated shoulder) says she can’t handle life on the run. Shane approaches Billings and says he’ll turn himself in to Claudette if they guarantee no jail time for Mara.

Lloyd Dressler comes to The Barn to report his mother is missing. He’s planned his story and planted evidence implicating Dutch in the disappearance and possible murder of his mother. Nobody’s buying it, so Dutch, Billings, and Claudette each have a crack at breaking Lloyd. Lloyd played it like Kleavon (as I figured), but Dutch and crew were too smart to fall for it.

Vic and Ronnie arrive at the meeting between The Cartel and the black gangs. Beltran doesn’t show, but ICE swoops in and arrests the men they have. Vic is pissed, but is ordered to go home and come back tomorrow at 9am. Of course, Vic goes rogue and cashes in every favor he has left to take down Beltran tonight.
Shane calls up his lawyer, but says Claudette isn’t going for the deal. Since Vic has total immunity, Shane has nothing that she wants. Shane doesn’t know this, so he calls up Vic and threatens to spill the whole thing unless he helps Shane get out of town. Vic tells him about the immunity deal and Shane loses it. Shane tells Vic his family has been working with the cops and that he’ll never see him again. After the initial shock/rage, Vic says at least he’s not going to jail. He then says while Shane and Mara are rotting away in prison, he’ll visit their kids every year on their birthdays and tell them all the rotten things their parents did.

At this point, Shane loses it. He gets high on cocaine (again) and returns home. A neighbor sees him and dials 911. Claudette, Dutch, Julian, Danni, and the rest of the Barn are greeted by a gunshot as they storm Shane’s house. They discover Mara and Jackson dead in the bedroom (killed by Shane) and Shane in the bathroom; dead from a single gunshot wound to the head.

Ronnie and Vic storm Beltran’s HQ in true cowboy style, but are backed up just in the nick of time by ICE. Aceveda, tipped off by Vic, shows up with TV cameras to take credit for the bust and solidify his pending win in the mayor’s race. Ronnie and Vic are informed by a uni that Claudette wants to see him at The Barn. Ronnie gets there first, and when Vic shows up he sees Ronnie crying in the clubhouse. He tells Vic that Shane is dead, and they’re now free. They don’t have to worry about going to jail or even plan their escape any more.

Since she’s not able to take Vic down, Claudette plans to make life as painful as she can for him. She shows him crime scene photos from Shane’s house and reads him Shane’s suicide note. The note lays the blame on both of them. Vic made Shane more evil, but Shane made Vic more evil too. Claudette leaves him alone in the interrogation room, where Vic starts smashing things into pieces. As he gets ready to leave, Claudette sends Dutch into the clubhouse to arrest Ronnie while a horrified Vic looks on. They tell Ronnie that Vic told ICE everything in return for full immunity for himself, but not for Ronnie. As he’s dragged away, Ronnie curses Vic out saying that they could’ve run together.

Vic shows up at ICE the next day, where Olivia tells him he’ll be an analyst riding a desk for the next three years. Vic says that’s not what he signed up for, but Olivia tells him to check the immunity agreement he signed. He’s no longer allowed to carry a firearm and has to wear a suit every day. We next see Vic being shown around a drab office wearing an ill-fitting suit. In a final sequence with no dialogue or sound track (save the buzz of fluorescent lights), Vic starts to decorate his desk. He gently places pictures of people he’ll never see again next to his computer. His three kids. His wife. His departed friend Lem. The lights and air turn off, leaving Vic alone in the dark on the verge of tears.

To wrap up:

Aceveda – next mayor of Los Angeles

Dutch – finally stops a serial killer before he starts

Claudette – couldn’t put away Vic, but takes away everything he held dear. Slowly dying of Lupus.

Ronnie – in prison for the rest of his natural life.

Shane – committed suicide. After the phone call to Vic, I had a feeling he’d eat his gun and take his family with him.

Vic – free from prosecution from all his misdeeds, but utterly defeated. His family in witness protection, never to be seen again. Two of his Strike Team comrades dead; the third in prison. Off the streets and behind a desk.

Julian, Danni, Tina, and the rest of crew – continuing to protect and serve.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

End of The Shield

Tonight brings the last episode of The Shield. I've read a couple good interviews with creator Shawn Ryan that I thought I'd share. Sepinwall on TV.
Onion A.V. Club: Shawn Ryan.

I'll update with more if I find any other good ones.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Bond Through the Ages

I stumbled across an interesting post over at Sunset Gun about Bond Through the Ages. Kim Morgan notes that while Bond is indeed timeless, the movies are also very much a product of their specific eras. She provides a very convincing argument that every Bond fan should check out.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Shield: Possible Kill Screen

We are truly witnessing the end of an era. Next week brings the final chapter of Shawn Ryan's epic The Shield. This week's episode sets up what should be a hell of a finale.

Not getting the cash from Corinne last week, Shane and Mara plan to rob patrons of an illegal gambling operation. Unfortunately, their marks recognize Shane as a cop and have a plan of their own. After forcing Shane to do two lines of coke (cut with speed), they confront Shane. Mara, waiting in the car, sees signs of a struggle and rushes in with Shane’s gun. She kills an unarmed woman and shoots one of Shane’s attackers in the chest. The other attacker goes after Mara and falls on top of her, breaking her collarbone. The rest of the episode, she’s screaming in pain.
Claudette and Dutch go out to investigate the homicide and quickly discover that Shane and Mara are the perpetrators. The druggies provide a description of the car and Claudette puts out an APB.

To help his wife get through it (so they can escape during tomorrow’s presidential motorcade), Shane robs a drug dealer. Another classic one liner (“Looks like Walmart does have the best prices”) follows. Shane also goes to get food, but Julian and Tina spot Shane’s car. Julian enters the front of the store, so Shane runs out the back – right into Tina. Strung out on coke, desperate, and tired, we get a real sense that Shane might pull the trigger on Tina. Tina tries to convince Shane to turn himself in, but he simply runs back home to his ailing wife. Mara wants nothing more than to “go home”. It appears she convinces Shane to turn himself in.

Dutch becomes worried after receiving several calls (and hang-ups) from Rita. He goes to her house, but she won’t let him in. I have a feeling this story will explode next week. Are Rita and Lloyd a mother/son duo like some people are guessing? Or is it a Kleavon/sister angle where Lloyd now knows his mother suspects and her life is in danger?

Saving the best for last: Vic. It’s his show and it’s his week. He finds out about Shane and Mara’s little scheme earlier this episode and sees that Shane isn’t going to keep it together long enough for ICE to make a deal. He also helps Corinne get a car for Shane in case the ICE deal falls through. He convinces Beltran to move up the shipment date and ICE to expedite his deal. ICE says they can’t move much faster, but Vic goes to Aceveda and pushes his buttons. Pressure from their two guys inside force ICE into a corner.

Vic gets a call that his deal is ready, so he and Ronnie head to ICE – planning to leave Shane out in the wind. With full immunity, it doesn’t matter what Shane reveals. Only Vic’s deal is ready, so he balks at signing it and walks away.
Vic arrives at the park to give Corinne the car, but he spots cops. He warns Corinne that she’s being watched, so Claudette is forced to arrest her for appearances sake. His family threatened, Vic returns to ICE. Saying he’ll sign the deal if they can get his wife released. As part of his deal, Vic is forced to confess all his misdeeds.

In one of the most gripping scenes I’ve ever seen on television, Vic actually does. Olivia starts the digital recorder and Vic pauses. You can see the wheels turning inside his head. Is he really ready to admit to someone (or even himself) that he’s done a boatload of bad stuff? Where does he start? Does he really spill everything or just a few little things? After he takes a deep breath he says, “During a bust of a drug dealer named Two Time, I shot and killed Detective Terry Crowley.”
Olivia can’t believe he just confessed to killing a cop, and makes him confirm the statement. Vic then launches into everything we’ve watched unfold over the last 6+ seasons. The look on the faces of Olivia and her boss is not one of shock, but one of revulsion. They can hardly believe what kind of monster they just granted immunity to.

If there’s one thing about Vic Mackey, it’s that he’s loyal to his family: both biological and Strike Team. His confession obviously shows biological trumps Strike. To save himself and Corinne, he fully implicates Ronnie in countless crimes. There’s no way Ronnie will get any kind of deal now. So both the feds and LAPD have enough to put Ronnie away.

During his confession, Dutch and Claudette arrive. Claudette can’t believe that “the bastard” is getting full immunity and storms out. Dutch tries to be the voice of reason, but Claudette fires him on the spot.

At the beginning, Vic had a hard time telling anyone of his misdeeds. But as the confession goes on, Vic starts to become more and more sure of himself. The powerful scene ends with Vic leaving the room so he and Ronnie can take down Beltran and The Cartel.

Olivia says, "You're a sick, twisted man. Do you know what you've done to me?"

"Trust me," Vic says with a smile. "I've done worse.”

Fade Out.

See ya next week!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Quantum of Solace

I go a chance to see the new Bond movie over the weekend. I liked it, but not as much as Casino Royale. I felt CR was a giant leap forward for Bond, but QoS is a slight step backward. My big problem with the recent Bond movies is that Bond is a spy....not an action hero. Casino Royale seemed to go back to basics a bit, but Quantum started to return to action-hero land. That's not to say it' isn't an improvement over the Dalton/Brosnan era Bonds.

I'll try to keep away from spoilers, but if you want to go into the movie fresh stop reading now.

What I Liked:
  • Still has the gritty, unpredictable style of Casino Royale. He takes a beating and comes out ahead, but his victory is never assured.
  • The opera scene.
  • The last scene with Mathis.
  • The relationship with him and M. Their dynamic is completely different from every other Bond/M relationship, but it works on so many levels.
  • The references to previous Bond movies (Goldfinger, The Spy Who Loved Me, etc).
  • The final scene.
What I didn't like:
  • The phrenetic direction of the first two action sequences. Did the editors drink too much Red Bull? Or did they just stay up too late watching the Bourne series?
  • Less character development. Bond and the girl (I can't even remember her name) were pretty well fleshed out. Other than that....not so much. I love Jeffery Wright as Felix, but he wasn't given much to do. And who can tell me anything about the villain other than his name?
As I mentioned before, I don't like the new theme song. However, it works when you see it with the title sequence. I guess it's all about context.

Definitely worth another viewing.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

MST3K: Best Lines

One of my favorite TV shows of all time. Here's a bunch of classic riffs.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Shield: Petty Cash

Only two episodes left. It’s hard to believe the whole thing will be over. The writers are still ratcheting up the tension week by week.

This week, it’s all about Vic handing off the $100,000 that Shane asked for last week. To get the money, Vic arranges a meet between the gang bangers and Beltran’s Cartel. Acting as the go-between, Vic ends up getting $200,000 from them: 100 for him and 100 for The Cartel. Vic is busy weaseling his way in with Beltran and ICE, so he has Ronnie deliver the cash to Corinne. Unfortunately for Ronnie, Claudette, Dutch, and Julian were watching the handoff. They now have Ronnie on tape aiding a fugitive. Claudette really wants Vic, so she tells her crew to maintain cover and let Ronnie walk.

Since Claudette tipped her hand last week, Mara and Shane know the meet was going to be watched. Shane doesn’t show. Instead, he and Mara first try to knock over a stash house (right after a police raid) then they rob Mara’s real estate office – in front of the cleaning crew. After getting only 50 cents on the dollar for the stolen checks, Shane and Mara realize that they have no friends left in the world besides each other. For at least the third episode in a row, the credits roll after seeing the two of them together.

Julian gets some work of his own this week. He and Ronnie are assigned to look into the shooting of a promising football player. Julian shows some good detective instincts in working the angles and sniffing out the real reason for the player’s death. Claudette also enlists him to help in her Vic Mackey sting.

Ronnie continues to be the voice of reason. After hearing Vic’s crazy plan to get cash for Shane, he tries to talk him out of it. He sees the scheme has more of a chance to go sideways than to actually work out. Ronnie’s still one of the few characters who can see the whole picture. Vic is scrambling without his badge and can’t see some obvious setups coming his way. Claudette caught a whiff of Vic and now has blinders on to anything else. Too bad for Ronnie that he’s the only former Strike Team member that is on tape doing something illegal.

The writers are paying clever homage to some of the early stories (Cletus Van Damme and Van Bro) and their inspiration (Rampart Division) while keeping focused on the endgame. As much as I don’t want the show to end, I can’t wait to see how everything plays out.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

RIP: Michael Crichton

Michael Crichton, one of my favorite authors, has died at age 66. I discovered him shortly before the Jurassic Park movie came out. Wanting to read the book before the movie, I picked up a copy in early June and tore through it in three days. For a number of years after that, I followed the same ritual. Starting the first Wednesday in June, I opened the book and always finished in on Friday. After JP, I read almost all of his other works and still have copies of The Lost World and Sphere on my shelf.

One of the great things about Crichton is how he can be appreciated on many levels. There's the popcorn level of people being chased by dinosaurs and the deeper level of the message Crichton conveys. Early in his career the message was more subtle, but it became bolder in his later work.

I have the urge to open up one of his books right now.


The Shield: Party Line

Last night's episode was full of twists and turns that send us hurtling toward the finale. Shane and Mara are comfortably hiding out in a vacant house. Vic and Ronnie are searching for leads. Early on in the episode, Ronnie confesses to Vic that he's worried about Shane getting captured by another cop. All he has to do is open his mouth and Vic and Ronnie will be sent to prison for life. He suggests they run, but Vic convinces him to wait a couple more days while he tries to make a deal with ICE.

We also see Claudette and Aceveda reverting to form tonight. After a call from Corinne, Claudette and Dutch go to the hospital where Corinne tells them about the threats from Shane and Mara. Claudette seizes on this as a way to finally nab Vic and bring in Shane as a bonus. Vic and Aceveda have a confrontation about who is more valuable to ICE. Aceveda, in an effort to advance his career, berates Pezula in front of Beltran, the Mexican Cartel handler. Aceveda now thinks he's top dog and got one over on Vic as a bonus, but Vic has a different idea. After Pezula was emasculated in front of Beltran, Vic starts to position himself as Pezula's replacement. His first assignment is to whack Pezula.

Another one of Vic’s angles to get rid of Shane backfires and Shane once again threatens Vic and his family. They set up a meet for the next episode, but Claudette and Dutch are listening in to the conversation.

I don’t think it was just me, but the scenes Shane and Mara’s happy little life in the vacant house made my stomach turn – and it wasn’t just because we saw Shane’s bare bottom. Shane is such a slimy and despicable character that we are repulsed by the thought of him having a happy ending. True, Vic is no angel, but most fans are on his side. I have some ideas percolating as to why we root for Vic and not Shane, but that’s for another day.

Three episodes left.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Uncommon Knowledge

I came across the Uncommon Knowledge series from the Hoover Institution a while back and enjoyed Peter Robinson's interview with Christopher Buckley. This week's installments are with Dr. Thomas Sowell talking about the two different underlying visions that shape all Western political thought: the constrained vision and the unconstrained vision.

Check out part 1 where Dr. Sowell gives his definition of both visions:

The first half of part 5 is another good discussion of the visions in practice and the second half is Sowell's critique of Barack Obama.

If you're interested, check out the other parts at the links below:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5