Vic Mackey’s free, or is he? #VicMackeyFreedomDay!

I only just became aware of this today, thanks to a friend. Friday, November 25th, 2011, marked the three-year anniversary for the finale to one of my all-time favorite TV shows, The Shield.

For those who don’t know, this was a police drama which ran for seven seasons on FX (those being the shortened 10-13 episode seasons typical of scripted shows produced for airing on basic cable stations like FX, USA, TNT, etc.). Created by Shawn Ryan (The Unit, The Chicago Code), it starred Michael Chiklis as police detective Vic Mackey. A corrupt cop who didn’t start out that way, Mackey did everything with an attitude of “the ends justify the means,” which led him from being effective if not orthodox toward the dark side, and we get to watch his high swan dive toward oblivion as his actions destroy or assist in destroying pretty much everything and everyone around him.

Mackey was a role Chiklis seemed born to play, and despite the indefensible deeds he committed as the series progressed–many of which he and his “strike team” of fellow detectives were able to pull off without being caught–part of us still wondered if he might get away with it all in the end. As everything started to come apart, we kept watching, trying to see how Mackey might pull off that very unlikely miracle.

If you watched the show, you know he didn’t get away “clean,” and his team fared rather worse than he did. With his professional and personal life crumbling around him, Mackey goes to the feds and cuts a deal. He secures employment with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency as well as a plea bargain which grants him immunity from all his past sins. In exchange, he must offer up a full confession of everything he and the strike team have ever done, as well as secure the bust of a major drug dealer. I.C.E., now properly horrified at everything for which they’ve just given Mackey a free pass, force him to serve out his 3-year employment contract by manning a desk, writing endless, boring reports. Any failure to abide by the conditions of his agreement nullifies his immunity deal, and he can then be prosecuted for his past crimes.

For a man used to all-but unlimited power as the leader of an elite police unit, this is a fate worse than death for Mackey, made all the worse by his status as complete outcast from his former police department and the disappearance of his wife and kids into the federal Witness Protection Program. The final scene of The Shield, which takes place after his first day of work at I.C.E., very heavily implies that Mackey might not be keen on keeping up his end of the bargain for the ensuing three years.

Guess what? That was on November 25th, 2008, and the three years was up this past Friday. So, the question is: What happened to Mackey? Did he swallow his pride and serve out his “term?” Could he have blown it with some infraction, minor or otherwise, and end up in prison for life? Was he popped by a former enemy, or did he just finally eat a bullet from his own gun? Or, maybe he went “Bandit…Reynolds style!” in the hopes of finding some form of redemption, even if only in his own eyes?

Apparently, this past Friday was designated “Vic Mackey Freedom Day” over at, and they even celebrated it over on Twitter, which I somehow completely missed. There are some fun theories and other speculation going on, both at the website and on Twitter, as to what finally became of Mackey. As we’re unlikely to ever revisit the world of The Shield (though I’d kiss Shawn Ryan’s feet if that ever were to happen in any fashion), we’re just left with our theories.

Personally, I chuckled at the notion that Mackey might find some reason to team up with John McClane, or Jack Bauer. You can even throw in Jonas Blane and anyone else from the 303rd Logistical Studies Unit, if you want. Now there’s some action to rival The Expendables.

What say you?


About Dayton Ward

Freelance word pusher. Husband. Dad. Trekkie. Rush fan (the band). Tampa Bay Bucs fan. Observer/derider of human behavior. I know where my towel is.
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6 Responses to Vic Mackey’s free, or is he? #VicMackeyFreedomDay!

  1. Kevin says:

    Vic Mackey also went into witness protection, though the exact mechanism of this is unknown, and apparently suffered a psychotic break that caused him to forget most of his former life. These two events may be related. Even without his memory he could not stay away from police work, though his years at a desk apparently mellowed his approach to fighting crime. Letting his underlying artistic nature assert itself, he became a police sketch artist. He also remarried; his wife is a research biologist with two teenage children whom he seems to believe are his own. For undisclosed reasons his wife and stepchildren allow him to persist in this delusion. In his witness protection persona of Jim Powell, Mackey led a comfortable if not challenging life until a plane crash in Brazil nearly killed him and his new family. About twenty episodes of complications followed, but despite numerous opportunities Mackey’s old personality did not reassert itself and the Powell family was cancelled due to lack of interest.


  2. Dayton Ward says:

    I should ban you for daring to refer to Vic Mackey and Jim Powell in the same sentence.


  3. Kevin says:

    Hey, don’t Hulk out on me, man.
    At least I didn’t mention he used to be Tony Scali….


  4. Dayton Ward says:

    I enjoyed Chiklis on The Commish, but he was absolutely riveting to watch as Mackey. The scenes where he confesses everything to the I.C.E. agent, and then again when he and Claudette have their final meeting, is some of the best work Chiklis has ever done, IMHO.


  5. Irshu says:

    I backed Mackey throughout the entire series, especially when Cavanaugh pursuing hot on their trails. But he just went pure evil on the final half of the last season. He’s a pure hypocrite and will bend any rules to protect those who he cares. He doen’t have a morale either. What happned to “Team comes first”, when he secure immunity for himself and Corrine and left his best friend, Gardocki to rot in prison; A person who covered Mackey’s ass to the end with no questions asked…

    I think what Murray did to Vic was completely deserving, There is no way he’s going to make it to 3 years…He’s now a shark thats trapped in a tiny pond


    • Dayton Ward says:

      He was evil from the first episode, and his actions indefensible, but there were times when we thought, “Hey, he might find a way to redeem himself, somehow.” There also were times when I really thought they’d surprise us and have someone like Acaveda or Cavanaugh might actually take him down, if only temporarily. Then came a point when I realized there would be no redeeming Mackey, and it was all about how far he would fall and how much destruction he would inflict on his way down.

      I’d love to see something set several years after the show, revealing what happened to the various characters.


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