When The Shield first appeared on TV, many people were quick to dismiss it as something worth watching. Cop shows during those days were a dime a dozen, every channel had one and the network that it premiered on, FX, wasn’t exactly a network that was known for its original shows, rather for re-running shows like Buffy The Vampire Slayer and The X-Files. But the people who tuned in to see the pilot episode knew otherwise and knew that this wasn’t just another cop show.
Created by Shawn Ryan, The Shield remains for me and many others as one of the finest TV shows ever to grace our screens. Driven by a powerhouse performance by Michael Chiklis as the manipulative and brutal Vic Mackey, The Shield was a TV drama like no other. Depicting the social unrest and high crime rate of a fictional L.A suburb known as Farmington, The Shield went far beyond what most people expected from a basic crime drama and featured a cast of unforgettable characters and some of the best writing ever seen in a TV show.
In Vic Mackey, the show gave us perhaps one of the most memorable anti-heroes in television history and throughout the show’s seven season run Chiklis’s portrayal of Mackey was easily one of it’s biggest highlights. If you look at characters like, Tony Soprano and Walter White, you have characters that always have either a heightened good or bad quality but with Mackey it was an equally varied amount of the two and even though he does some truly heinous acts through the course of the show, you always found yourself rooting for him which for me made him the definitive anti-hero.
But Chiklis was never alone, always complimented by excellent performances from a superb cast, first of which was Walton Goggins‘s tremendous, unhinged turn as Detective Shane Vendrell, Vic’s partner-in-crime, but Jay Karnes, CCH Pounder, Kenny Johnson and Benito Martinez were nothing short of fantastic either. The show had some great guest stars as well, Forest Whitaker and Glenn Close being perhaps the two most memorable ones. Whitaker in particular completely changed the trajectory of the show when he came on during the fifth season and suddenly you could see intensity and conflict bleeding out of nearly every frame.
But above all, The Shield was amazing television, never shying away from brutal violence, controversial themes, and compelling character clashes, it’s safe to say that the show was gritty to a fault and through its wonderful seven season run, the show practically redefined what a television drama should be about. There were more than a few times when the show got under my skin simply because I was so involved and invested in it that I couldn’t help but feel that way.
And credit must be given to Shawn Ryan and his team of writers, one of which included Kurt Sutter, who went on to create Sons of Anarchy for FX. The writing was one thing that remained consistently great and time and time again the writers would sink us in compelling conflicts and intricately plotted story-lines. The show’s fifth and seventh seasons can be considered as all-time greats.
And when the time came for the show to reach its climax, it gave us what I consider to be the greatest and most powerful series finale in the history of television, so devastating but so true to its characters. I will even go as far as to say it is one of the most visceral and gut-wrenching things I have ever witnessed on-screen. That is how great it is.
Thirteen years on and The Shield is just as resonant as it was when it first premiered on TV. The show has served as a launching pad for FX to bring in new shows like Sons of Anarchy, Justified, American Horror Story and will forever remain as one of the best things to ever hit the small screens.