Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Evolution of Vic Mackey

The final season of The Shield has begun airing on FX, which is nothing if not bittersweet. Over its run, there have been some unforgettable moments. There was maybe the most brutal fight I've seen on television this side of Deadwood when Shane and Tavon faced off in the show's third season. Aceveda, when still Captain, was raped at gunpoint, after which he found his own way to exact revenge. Wagenbach surprisingly strangled a cat after getting eaten up by a serial killer case. Shane unilaterally decided that Lem needed to be taken care of and dropped a grenade in his old friend's lap. IAD Lt. Kavanaugh (portrayed by Forest Whitaker) pursued Mackey voraciously for two seasons. Hell, Anthony Anderson used "The Shield" as a platform to show he could act.

All of these moments for all of these characters are all really window dressing, though. Since the show's inception, it has been propelled by the actions of Vic Mackey, who much to a certain friend of mine's chagrin is masterfully played by Michael Chiklis.

When the show began, we were introduced to a protagonist who ran things very crooked (the pilot ended with him shooting a departmental mole that had been placed on his Strike Team), but there did seem to be a cause for all the mayhem. As the conditions of the streets of Farmington (a fictional, crime-ridden barrio in Los Angeles) are brought to light, it becomes quickly clear that conventional police work will probably prove to be insufficient. Vic and the Strike Team make the city safer by allowing for the gangs to run things relatively unfettered by police interference as long as conflicts remain bloodless. Once a drop of blood hits the pavement, though, they will lash back at the gangs with an unholy force.

It is clear from the start that--regardless of the moral implications inherent in an oversight of this nature--the effectiveness makes it necessary.

As the show progresses, Vic ends up getting in deeper and deeper, drifting further from operating anywhere near a moral center. Greed starts to play into his motivations; the Strike Team knocks off an Armenian money train; more and more of his actions are driven by self-preservation, which becomes more and more convoluted the deeper he gets.

With the first two episodes of this season, the culmination of all of his shady dealings are (is?)coming to a head. With the Armenians having put out a hit on Vic's family in last season's finale (because of Shane selling Vic out to the Armenians, which Vic doesn't fully know), Vic saw fit to pit the Armenians (who now think that the Strike Team is out to help them) against the Mexican gangs in an all-out turf war, but that is already spiralling out of control, much like Vic's life seems to be.

His lies are catching up to him, and as time passes those lies are accumulating at an exponential rate. In the show's final run, we are sure to see something explode. Whether or not the explosion is as big as the mess Vic has made for himself over seven season is yet to be seen. It should be impressive.

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