The Shield: Bitches Brew
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The Shield: Bitches Brew

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The Shield

Bitches Brew

Season 7, Episode 7


"How's your jaw feeling?"

You ever woken up from a bad dream, dreading having to face what you dreamt? If you have, you also know about the glorious rush of sweet relief that comes with knowing that you didn't actually kill somebody or embezzle $150,000 from your company or impregnate the girl you've been dating for four months and really want to break up with. Watching The Shield at its best is like having that post-nightmare feeling for 60 or so minutes, and right now I feel the relief of not having a hooker-beating psycho out to kill me.

Man, what a kick ass episode. The first four episodes of this season were good, but they didn't give me that ol' Shield stomach ache feeling that I had during all of Season Five, when Forest Whitaker was seriously fucking up Vic's shit until Lem was turned into car upholstery. The last three episodes, including tonight's excruciating "Bitches Brew," has brought back that sick feeling with a vengeance.

Frankly it's been uncomfortable at times (in a good way) watching Vic Mackey being systematically picked apart as The Shield comes to a close. Tonight saw the return of Farrah, a whore–no need for euphemisms here, this woman is a straight up ho–who manipulated Vic in Season Three into taking out her pimp so she could become a free agent. And she did pretty much the same thing in "Bitches Brew," tricking Vic into putting his men in harm's way so they could gun down her not-so-suave version of Velvet Jones. Farrah was definitely the worse for wear since we last saw her, but she was still able to zero in on Vic's weakness–his bogus self-righteousness–and use it to help herself and (hurt Vic) by feeding his selfish need to "protect" other people. The flipside of the Farrah storyline was the business with Danni, who isn't waiting around to find out how Vic will rescue her son. This is the second time one of Vic's baby mamas has hit the road to get away from this guy. And you could argue that Corinne was foolish to ever come back, considering the mess Cassidy–remember her?–is in.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that Vic was fired by both the LAPD and Pezuela in, like, two minutes. (How funny that Pezuela was the one who offered severance pay!) As if Vic needed reminding that he's been given a one-way ticket to post-career loserdom, we saw the return of Lester, the creepy ex-cop who made those Rastafarians drink their own pee last season. If Vic is lucky, he's going to be spending the rest of his life hanging out with guys like this. The alternative is that Shane is going to kill him, possibly after he carries out a hit on Ronnie. (Though next week's preview suggests that plan is going to blow up pretty quickly.)

Watching tonight's episode reminded me of a Crosstalk I had with my esteemed colleague Scott Tobias last year comparing and contrasting The Sopranos and The Shield and their anti-hero protagonists. At the time I was complaining about how The Sopranos--my favorite TV drama ever–was playing out in its final season and wishing it were more like The Shield, my second favorite TV drama ever. Now, I can't help but compare how The Shield has come down the stretch to The Sorpanos' final run. For me, so far, The Shield has been more satisfying because Vic's comeuppance feels more organic. Back then I felt that David Chase had stripped his anti-hero of his good qualities and turned him into a "black-and-white baddie" that the audience no longer empathized with. With Vic, Shawn Ryan has been more subtle about revealing how Vic's seemingly good parts–how he takes care of other people, his commitment to his job–can't be separated from the bad because they are rooted in the same character weaknesses. He is truly a tragic character, a man doomed to save himself just long enough for something really awful to come along and destroy him.

Grade: A

Stray observations


--We went 30 minutes before the first commercial tonight. Thank you, unnamed beer company sponsor!

--I was slightly disappointed that Ronnie and Shane didn't throw down tonight, but I'm guessing I won't have to wait long for a brawl next week.

--Claudette's trashed apartment gave me the creeps. Is she going to keel over soon or what?

--What do you guys think?