The first episode tells you just about everything you need to know about the show. It drops you right in the middle and expects you to catch up, keep up and hardly gives you the time to evaluate your feelings at any point. The world of the shield is all about conflicts and shades of grey, between good cops through bad cops, good criminals through to real evil criminals – and also how a person’s label can change by the hour. I found myself desperately trying to like characters that I knew had done unforgivable things, the contrast of watching Mackey with his family after seeing what he does ‘at work’ is breath taking. So many of the characters are hanging to their jobs/sanity by their fingertips it makes almost every scene potentially life changing.
The first season has some elements of arc, mostly watching the back and forth between Captain Acceveda and Vic Mackey and over the thirteen episodes the balance is well maintained with neither side ever coming across as victorious or incompetent. Other characters also have their own developments, Dutch’s eventual acceptance is a particularly welcome moment that seems so well earned and genuine. The stories have an interesting range covering regular cases as well as the strike team cases which seemed likely to be the focus. The complex politics of the gang/drug cases the strike team manipulate are contrasted with regular detective cases with Claudette and Dutch and even the beat officer scenes with Danny and Julian. There really aren’t any stand-out episodes, the short season of 13 episodes is intense and continuous almost all the way through, I’m not sure a longer season would have managed this intensity and realism.
DVD Special Features
This is quite probably the best dvd of a season I have ever seen. Every episode has a commentary and there’s a couple of documentaries as well. The pride and joy the cast and crew have in their show is outstanding and the number of people involved in the dvd shows this. The commentaries are ‘overseen’ by creator/writer/director Shawn Ryan who compares them, meaning that they don’t descend into self congratulations or deathly silence. All the series regulars are involved in the commentaries as well as crew from writers, directors to the music director and all thirteen are fascinating. There’s a whole bunch of deleted scenes which mostly fall into the category of ‘cut for time’ rather than ‘crap and not important’. The making of feature is interesting although mostly is covered in the commentaries. My one criticism would be that a play all button would improve flow of episodes and was a huge oversight for the 17 deleted scenes. But that oversight is only so irritating because of how superb the whole rest of the set is.