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TV Review: Mackey's bad, and that's good for 'The Shield'

Sunday, January 05, 2003

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

With "The Sopranos" in reruns until September, the time is right for the return of FX's "The Shield," which is almost as gritty, coarse and profane in its depiction of an antihero as the HBO hit. "The Shield" also continues to be a mighty fine hour of character-driven drama.

"The Shield"
When: 10 p.m. Tuesday on FX

Starring: Michael Chiklis


Detective Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) is the morally ambiguous center of "The Shield" universe, committing crimes at a rate commensurate with his arrests of other criminals.

At the end of the show's first season, Mackey's efforts to juggle his work responsibilities with his criminal life and his family life came crashing down. His wife, Corrine (Cathy Cahlin Ryan), took their three children and fled, sending Mackey spiraling.

The new season begins five weeks after last year's season finale, and Mackey's arrest rate is down. Even his boss, precinct captain and political opportunist David Aceveda (Benito Martinez), notices.

"You better find your game and find it quick," Aceveda advises before forming an uneasy, mutually beneficial alliance with Mackey.

Rated TV-MA and meaning it, "The Shield" continues to be shocking, but not in a gratuitous way. Viewer discretion is advised, however, particularly toward the end of next week's episode when an out-of-control Mackey goes too far even by his own standards.

It's not the envelope-pushing profanity and violence that should be the focus when considering "The Shield." It's the quick plotting that can turn on a dime, the subtle character traits that seep out over time and the tremendous acting by the entire ensemble.

Chiklis won an Emmy in September, but the entire cast is deserving, perhaps none more so than CCH Pounder. As Detective Claudette Wyms, Pounder has always been a forceful presence on the show, but last season she was more willing to overlook Mackey's manipulations. This season, Wyms becomes more forceful, and Pounder is easily up to the task.

"You're going to see some kind of kicking and screaming you never knew existed if you trying pulling me off of this case," Wyms tells Aceveda in next week's episode.

Jay Karnes, as socially inept detective Dutch Wagenbach, also gets a few shining moments in early episodes, particularly in scenes with civilian watchdog Lanie Kellis (Lucinda Jenney), who complicates the lives of everyone on the force.

With Mackey and Aceveda forced to work together, "Shield" creator Shawn Ryan has diffused the Road Runner-Wile E. Coyote dynamic that threatened to develop between the pair last season. It's a shakeup that ought to ensure more surprising twists in episodes to come.

Rob Owen can be reached at rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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