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"We’re a family. We’re surviving this together, or we go down together."
DVD ReviewConcluding its fourth season, The Shield promised dangerous waters for the Strike Team with revelations spawned by an Internal Affairs Department (IAD) investigation. Heroin was discovered in the car of Curtis Lemansky (Kenny Johnson), and he is completely unaware of the growing dangers. Lead by Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis), the four-man Strike Team has delved into criminal territory many times over the years, particularly in killing Detective Terry Crowley (Reed Diamond) during the pilot episode. Vic and Shane (Walton Goggins) are the only team members aware of this act, and its ramifications will haunt the team during this chilling season. Using the tagline "conscience is a killer," the writers explore the Strike Team's past actions and present the emotional and physical consequences of working far beyond the law.
The Shield: Season 5 continues the unique series' great success by tackling the emotional ramifications of the team's past actions. The figure driving the IAD investigation is Jon Kavanaugh (Forrest Whitaker)—a straight arrow who does not believe there are grey areas for cops in following the law. Lem gives him the trump card to catch Vic, and Kavanaugh has unlimited department resources to catch his prey. Recent Oscar winner Forrest Whitaker brings serious weight to the pivotal character who can actually match Vic's intelligent schemes. Like Glenn Close in the previous year, his presence raises everyone's game and helps to deliver another excellent season. As Kavanaugh moves further into Vic's world, he starts bending the rules and becomes obsessed with his capture. The 11 episodes continue to raise the intensity and build towards a possible end for Vic and his team. Even if they survive, their once-solid relationships will never be the same.
The series' ensemble cast is solid across the board and delivers a complex story each week. David Rees Snell's Ronnie does not receive the screen time of Walton Goggins or Kenny Johnson, but he provides a grounded presence and grows more interesting each year. Dutch (Jay Karnes) and Claudette (CCH Pounder) handle the weekly investigations, and both characters shine due to smooth acting. Karnes is able to shift easily between silliness and nasty issues, and Pounder always offers a convincing screen presence. Michael Jace receives a bit less attention this year as Julien, but the officer's attempts to train the incompetent rookie Tina (Paula Garces) are memorable. Catherine Dent's (Danny) pregnancy is written into the show and limits her use, but the writers do give her a worthy arc. And I can't forget the remarkable Benito Martinez, whose Councilman Aceveda tries to nail Vic and protect his political career. While every story line doesn't always work (particularly Tina's arc), the actors sell the material and make even the lesser moments engaging.
The Shield is not for all tastes—particularly viewers who object to the considerable sex, profanity, and violence. Others find Vic's ability to commit crimes and get away with them too much to handle. That group should enjoy the fact that the Strike Team does pay a price for their past actions. The tragic finale is extremely personal and does not give anyone an easy resolution. Although many shows tire by this point, this series actually enjoys a creative resurgence during its fifth season, which promises more surprises during its next collection. Enjoy the episode reviews!
Directed by: D.J. Caruso
Written By: Kurt Sutter
Guest stars: Brian Burnett as Lorenzo, Jessie Garcia as Mariano, Allen Maldonado as Evan "Every Day" Dayne, Carla Jimenez as Calida Lavedra
Commentary: D.J. Caruso, Michael Chiklis, Walton Goggins, Kenneth Johnson, David Rees Snell, and Kurt Sutter
Crazy school riots dominate this premiere and even inspire Vic to take a fire hose on the crowds. While the implications of this move are a bit stomach-churning, this is not your average teenage riot. We also meet Lieutenant Jon Kavanaugh, who continues the IAD investigation of the Strike Team. Using a key tip from Aceveda, he picks up Lem and begins a convincing interrogation. Meanwhile, Dutch and Claudette investigate the riot, and Julian struggles with the shortcomings of his rookie partner Tina. This action-packed episode stumbles a bit during its early moments, but the intensity quickly arrives due to Kavanaugh's towering presence.
This worthy opening receives 3 out of 5 Shields.
Enemy of Good
Directed by: Guy Ferland
Written By: Charles H. Eglee and Adam Fiero
Guest stars: Lobo Sebastian as Doomsday, Miguel Najera as Tonio, Dave Matos as IAD Tech Agent, Scott Seymour as Aaron, Onahoua Rodriguez as Emolia Melendez
Commentary: Catherine Dent, Guy Ferland, Paula Garces, and Michael Jace
This story focuses on Lem's interrogation by Kavanaugh, which offers a riveting look at the concluding events of the pilot episode. Aceveda cranks up the pressure and induces Lem to wear a wire. Oblivious to these events, the other Strike Team members intimidate a criminal named Doomsday then watch helplessly as he goes on a murder spree. They consider unconventional methods, which could jeopardize their careers because of the wire. Dutch and Claudette investigate a preacher who may have attempted murder to gain a woman. These events take a back seat to Lem's unfortunate plight, which leads to a riveting showdown with Vic.
Will Lem turn against his buddies? Save yourself, cop with a conscience! This compelling episode receives 4 out of 5 Shields.
Directed by: Stephen T. Kay
Written By: Scott Rosenbaum and Glenn Mazzara
Guest stars: Natalie Amenula as Magdalena, Jesse Garcia as Mariano, Joe Gerety as Traynor Marshall, Laura Harring as Rebecca Doyle, Allen Maldonado as Evan "Every Day" Dayne, and Dave Matos as IAD Tech Agent
Commentary: Michael Chiklis, Walton Goggins, Kenneth Johnson, Scott Rosenbaum, and David Rees Snell
The main plot involves an investigation into sex trafficking operation, but this merely occupies space while the Strike Team tries to solve Lem's dilemma. Tina does get the chance to prove her mettle with undercover work, which surprises a worried Julian. We also meet attorney Rebecca Doyle, who will eventually play a key role in the season. Meanwhile, Vic discovers Kavanaugh's investigation and eventually meets him after realizing that the danger is very real. This interesting episode includes some great moments from Forrest Whitaker and the Strike Team, who must remember to remain on the straight and narrow. Who knew that being a good cop was so hard?
Watching the Strike Team squirm is always fun, which earns this entry 3.5 out of 5 Shields.
Directed by: Guy Ferland
Written By: Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fein
Guest stars: Laura Harring as Rebecca Doyle, Onahoua Rodriguez as Emolia Melendez, Tarrance Ellis as Manfred, Sahara Garey as Marla, and David Grammer as Quayle
Commentary: Liz Craft, Sarah Fain, Paula Garces, Laura Harring, and Jay Karnes
With some help from Vic, Corinne finds out Kavanaugh, who threatens to jail her if she doesn't cooperate. Worried about upcoming criminal charges, Vic asks Rebecca Doyle to represent the Strike Team as a whole, calling them a "family." Oh Vic, when will you learn? In the one-off story, Dutch and Claudette investigate a grisly car crash involving a baby forcibly removed from the dead mother. Their eventual discovery is both chilling and a big surprise. Tina continues to struggle with Julian and the job, and even Danny has little sympathy for her plight. Finally, evidence points Vic to Emolia as the mole, which leads him to choose a possibly nasty resolution. This plot-heavy episode continues to move the story forward effectively. Vic's realization during his confrontation with Emolia is a riveting scene.
Get away from Vic, Rita from Mulholland Dr.! This worthy episode receives 3.5 out of 5 Shields.
Directed by: Phillip G. Atwell
Written By: Kurt Sutter
Guest stars: Katia Bokor as Irina, Jennifer Echols as Peaches Pyman, Laura Harring as Rebecca Doyle, Pavel Lychnikoff as Mikula Popovich, and Onahoua Rodriguez as Emolia Melendez
Commentary: Adam Fierro, Jay Karnes, Emily Lewis, CCH Pounder, and Cathy Cahlin Ryan
Kavanaugh's bug in the guys' clubhouse leads to a possible break when the Strike Team appears to make an illegal drug deal with the Russians. Will this be the end of Vic and his buddies? They've all hired Doyle as their lawyer, but she does not realize the extent of their past actions. Meanwhile, Dutch and Claudette investigate a missing person who may not have actually moved to Panama. Another mistake by Tina could doom their investigation, but Dutch aims to win her respect. This compelling episode cranks up the intensity and ends with a surprise that could have unfortunate consequences.
Kavanaugh's not a happy man. Will he cheer up and accept Vic's superiority? This episode receives 4 out of 5 Shields.
Directed by: Michael Chiklis
Written By: Charles H. Eglee and Ted Griffin
Guest stars: Laura Harring as Rebecca Doyle, Elisa R. Perry as Calypso, Tanee McCall as Liberty, Ray Campbell as Kleavon Gardner, Joe Camareno as Trujillo, and Jessa French as Moni
Commentary: Michael Chiklis, Ted Griffin, Michael Jace, and Cathy Cahlin Ryan
Kavanaugh appears finished by the previous episode's developments, but instead he cranks up the tension by moving into the Barn. Billings loses his office, which creates another humiliation for the mild-mannered captain. Kavanaugh's forceful interrogations of Shane, Danny, and Corinne enhance his suspicions and lead him closer to the truth. He also puts the pressure on Aceveda, which is never a wise move. Meanwhile, Dutch and Claudette get another chance to interrogate possible serial killer Kleavon Gardner, who continues to evade their clutches. This excellent story showcases Forrest Whitaker and includes some of the season's most emotionally draining moments.
Give that guy an Oscar! This episode deserves 4.5 out of 5 Shields.
Directed by: Dean White
Written By: Adam Fierro and Emily Lewis
Guest stars: Laura Harring as Rebecca Doyle, Kareem Grimes as Burnout, Aryan Morgan as Portillo, Rico E. Anderson as Eritano, Jennifer Lynn Wetzel as Tangie, Jeff Leaf as Jimmy Boyd, Ray Campbell as Kleavon Gardner, and Jackson Kuehen as Billy Boyd
Commentary: Adam Fierro, Jay Karnes, Emily Lewis, CCH Pounder, and Cathy Cahlin Ryan
Kavanaugh continues to increase the pressure on the Strike Team, who begin to wonder if having one lawyer is the way to go. Ronnie faces interrogation next on his impeccable finances, which are not matched by Vic and Shane. The Strike Team does show its stuff while helping out a task force, but the IAD investigation dooms their chances to get a job offer. Also, Dutch and Claudette finally trap Kleavon Gardner, but the results of this investigation's strain could be disastrous. The season is rolling now, and there are few missteps leading to the stunning conclusion.
This engaging story receives 4 out of 5 Shields.
Directed by: D.J. Caruso
Written By: Scott Rosenbaum and Shawn Ryan
Guest stars: Onahoua Rodriguez as Emolia Melendez, Gina Torres as Sadie, Luis Antonio Ramos as Guardo, Ray Proscia as Sidney Dirber, De'Angelo Wilson as Marcus Dunn, Anthony Anderson as Antwon Mitchell, Melanie Myers as Paula, and David Batiste as Agent Kyle Irwin
Commentary: Jay Karnes and Shawn Ryan
Hey look, it's Zoe from Firefly! The always-impressive Gina Torres guests as Kavanaugh's ex-wife Sadie, who may have been the victim of a nasty assault. However, Dutch begins to suspect that her mental problems might have played a role. This episode focuses closely on Kavanaugh and delves into some of the issues that lead to his current state. It also gives Vic and Lem a possible sore spot to exploit, but their efforts may lead to even more trouble. Anthony Anderson also returns as Antwon Mitchell, and his presence can only mean sinister dealings are afoot. This excellent story includes great work from Whitaker and Torres and numerous memorable scenes.
Another rough day for Lem, but compelling viewing for us. This stunning episode receives 4.5 out of 5 Shields.
Directed by: Dean White
Written By: Sarah Fein, Elizabeth Craft, and Glenn Mazzara
Guest stars: G-Thang as DeKnight, Laura Harring as Rebecca Doyle, Kenya Williams as Abenah, Rickey T. Chaney as Jaden, V.J. Foster as Smitty, E. Roger Mitchell as Lester Hoffman, Christopher May as Drew Crowley, Laurence Mason as Halpern White
Commentary: David Marciano, Glen Mazzara, Cathy Cahlin Ryan, and David Rees Snell
With Lem under arrest, the Strike Team scrambles to put together the bail money, but Kavanaugh complicates matters by freezing their assets. While being closely observed, Vic and the guys enlist their old pal Smitty and get dirty to free their buddy. Meanwhile, Tina makes another mistake (just fire her, already!) and fails to recognize an undercover officer. With her future in doubt, Dutch and Billings ponder a deal to seal her fate. This episode continues the season's most tedious storyline involving Tina's incompetence. Thankfully, the Strike Team's attempts to free Lem are intriguing, which helps to create a memorable tale.
This solid episode receives 3.5 out of 5 Shields.
Of Mice and Lem
Directed by: Gwyneth Horder-Payton
Written By: Charles H. Eglee and Kurt Sutter
Guest stars: Derk Cheetwood as Jarrod Stahl, Anthony Anderson as Antwon Mitchell, Laura Harring as Rebecca Doyle), Joe Camareno as Alarico Trujillo, John Cygan as Chief Johnson, L. Michael Burt as Moses, Gina Torres as Sadie, Scott Serridge as Elron, Danielle Barbosa as Zoilla Trujillo, Nigel Gibbs as Assistant Chief Roy Phillips
Commentary: Anthony Anderson, Gwyneth Horder-Payton, Michael Jace, Kenneth Johnson, Benito Martinez, and CCH Pounder
Lem decides to plead guilty to the heroin possession, which will keep Kavanaugh from harming the other Strike Team members. To save his friend, Vic makes a deal with Antwon Mitchell to keep Lem safe. But all does not go as planned. Also, Dutch and Claudette face a rift in their friendship due to her illness, and Julien confronts a homophobic criminal. Concluding with an impressive montage backed by the Smashing Pumpkins Disarm, the Strike Team makes a risky decision that could save or doom all of them. This episode brings the entire season together and sets up the remarkable season finale.
The surprise twists keep coming during this classic episode, which deserves 4.5 out of 5 Shields.
Directed by: Stephen T. Kay
Written By: Adam Fierro and Shawn Ryan
Guest stars: Onahoua Rodriguez as Emolia Melendez, Ammar Daraiseh as Gilbos Arkelian, Jordi Caballero as Aldo Melchor, Laura Harring as Rebecca Doyle, Yul Spencer as Tyrez "Spank" Wallace, James Molina as Julio, Leeah D. Jackson as Haley, Ally Walker as Tori Burke, Kwesi Boakye as Wendell
Commentary: Walton Goggins, Kenneth Johnson, and Shawn Ryan
The fifth season concludes with a bang during this 90-minute episode, which contains a final twist that I will not reveal. The basic plot involves the Strike Team's attempts to get Lem out of the country while he considers taking a deal from the Feds. Kavanaugh and Aceveda conspire to bring them down, but even they cannot anticipate the ultimate result. In other news, Danny finally confronts the father of her child, Claudette takes over for Billings as captain, and Dutch files for a transfer. The shocking conclusion promises an excellent sixth season that should remain highly unpredictable.
Bravo! This episode deserves the highest rating. 5 out of 5 Shields!
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A
Image Transfer Review: The Shield: Season 5 utilizes the grainy original 1.33:1 full-frame transfer and does offer some minor enhancements. This season often takes place in small, confined rooms as Kavanaugh closes in on the Strike Team. There are few bright moments, which leads to the grimy picture. As I've mentioned in past season reviews, this release benefits from the less-than-perfect transfer, which corresponds with the series' frenetic style.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: Now writing my fourth review of a season of The Shield, it becomes difficult to write anything new about the audio. This release includes a 2.0-channel Dolby Surround track that works in similar fashion to previous incarnations. It is a solid audio track and provides an effective, centralized presentation, but lacks the complexity to receive a higher rating.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 180 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
25 Deleted Scenes
11 Feature/Episode commentaries by cast and crew on each episode
Packaging: Boxed Set
This release returns to the early-season practice of including commentaries on every episode, which is always a welcome feature. The participants include a wide array of cast and crew members, with Michael Chiklis and Shawn Ryan offering especially poignant material. It’s too bad that Forrest Whitaker was not available to give his input, but his absence is understandable given his busy schedule. Every track offers worthy information, but the highlight is Post Partum, which gives Kenny Johnson, Walton Goggins, and Shawn Ryan a chance to discuss the distressing finale.
Deleted Scenes (21:51)
Shawn Ryan and Jay Karnes provide optional commentary on all 25 deleted scenes, which were often cut for time concerns. Ryan describes how many of them seemed necessary when creating the script, but they were excised because the scenes repeated understood ideas. More than one-third of the removed time comes from Of Mice and Lem, which provides complete versions of key scenes like the confrontation between Vic and Antwon Mitchell. A running joke between Ryan and Karnes involves Dutch’s frequent appearances during the cut moments, which often involve the episode stories.
Season 6 Prequel (14:44)
This compelling inclusion begins during the final scene of the fifth season and involves Vic’s difficulty with Lem’s death. Incorporating flashbacks from a lighter moment several years earlier, the effective piece depicts the funeral and a search for a possible suspect. During its brief running time, we observe the key themes that will dominate the sixth season.
Delivering the Baby: Making Episode 511 (1:28:23)
In similar fashion to Season 4's Under the Skin, this feature-length documentary closely explores the creation of the finale Post Partum. A good portion involves actors’ responses to Lem’s death, which inspired them creatively but saddened them emotionally. Kenny Johnson will be sorely missed on the set, and their feelings are definitely honest and true. We learn plenty about the creative implications of killing Lem and where it may take the show in the future. It’s also great to hear Forrest Whitaker discuss his opinion of Kavanaugh, which varies considerably from the typical fan hatred. This wonderful feature concludes with a moving goodbye to Johnson on the set, which showcases the series’ familial environment.
The Shield Television Academy Panel (29:53)
This excellent half-hour discussion involves Michael Chiklis, Forrest Whitaker, Shawn Ryan, and Lynette Rice—senior writer for Entertainment Weekly. They speak intelligently about a variety of subjects, including Lem’s death, which was not an easy decision. Whitaker uses his mild-mannered approach to discuss his reasons for joining the show and his feelings about Kavanaugh. Ryan is passionate as always, even though he stretches while comparing series devotees to fans of R.E.M. in 1982. Chiklis always gives a great interview, and his candid thoughts make this a compelling feature.
George D. Maycott, motorcycle officer, discusses the Internal Affairs Department during this interesting entry. We also hear from the police technical advisor about their work and Shawn Ryan, who speaks about purposely doing little research on the I.A.D. It’s also notable to hear the guests describe cops’ hatred for Kavanaugh, who would not be a popular figure within an actual police squad.
Fox Movie Channel Presents: Making a Scene (10:34)
This type of segment is common on DVD releases, and usually they are fluff pieces. That is definitely not the case here, however, as this feature focuses on Lem’s death. Kenny Johnson and Walton Goggins are very emotional while discussing their bond, and Shawn Ryan also contributes some interesting comments. We observe the actors working out the scene on the set with no rehearsals, which offers an intriguing look at the creative process.
Remembering Scott Brazil (25:45)
Executive Producer/Director Scott Brazil was a driving creative force behind The Shield, and he developed a strong connection with the entire cast and crew. His best filming work was arguably Back in the Hole—a fascinating extended story that showcased premier work from Glenn Close and Anthony Anderson. Sadly, Scott Brazil died at the age of 50 due to complications from Lyme disease and A.L.S. (Lou Gehrig’s disease). During this lengthy tribute, the cast and crew describe their great respect for him as a person and an artist.
Extras Grade: A
Final CommentsThe Shield: Season 5 retains the high quality of previous seasons and actually improves over the most recent incarnation. The addition of Forrest Whitaker helps considerably, and the exploration of past crimes generates riveting television. Supported by an excellent collection of extras, this release is highly recommended. The sixth season begins on April 3rd, and even novices should tune in to F/X and give the complex series a chance.
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