The Shield series ended 10 years ago today, and I’m ready to watch it all over again.

Holy crap. Really?

Yep. Tonight marks 10 years since the finale to one of my all-time favorite TV shows knocked me on my butt: The Shield.

For those who don’t know (and what the hell is THAT about?), The Shield was a police drama which ran for seven seasons on FX. Created by Shawn Ryan (The Unit, Timeless, the rebooted S.W.A.T.), 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.

The Shield was absolutely stuffed to overflowing with all manner of riveting performances delivered by talented actors. Filling out Mackey’s strike team were Walton Goggins, Kenny Johnson, and David Rees Snell, all of whom were rock solid in their respective roles. The rest of the main cast – Benito Martinez, CCH Pounder, Jay Karnes, Catherine Dent, Cathy Cahlin Ryan, and Michael Jace – was just as stellar.

Likewise, a number of familiar faces and up-and-comers provided strong supporting turns in recurring or guest star roles: Forest Whitaker, Glenn Close, Reed Diamond, Anthony Anderson, Laurie Holden, and Michael Pena to name just a few from a very long list. The series was filmed in a very immersive, “you are right there in the shit” style, with handheld cameras looking over characters’ shoulders, around corners, through doorways or over the hoods of cars…whatever made it feel like you the viewer were embedded with Mackey and the gang. Way, way more often than not, the writing was tight and gripping, and I quit counting the number of times I sat there watching an episode and thinking, “Daaaaaaaaaaaayum. They really went there?”

When the series premiered, I watched it with curiosity because I’ve always been a Chiklis fan and the strength of the main cast was enough to make me give the show a look. Even before the first hour was up, I was adding it to my TiVo recording schedule (remember those?) but then we get to the episode’s last scene and it just smacks you right in the mouth. From that instant, I knew I was in for the long haul. If you’ve not seen it, I won’t even hint at a spoiler. Just watch the first episode. Trust me.

Vic Mackey is 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. We watched with horrified fascination as Mackey and his team kept finding ways to compartmentalize and justify their actions while still holding on to lingering shreds of morality and decency as they pursue criminals. Then, as everything inevitably started to come apart, we wondered if Mackey and the others might somehow pull off an unlikely miracle and escape unscathed.

SPOILERS FOLLOW!!!
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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.

The scene in the series’ penultimate episode, in which Mackey offers this confession is perhaps my very favorite in the series’ entire run. It’s all Chiklis for nearly a full minute of deafening silence as we watch him gather his thoughts and collect himself before starting to lay it all out, with I.C.E. agent Olivia Murray growing increasingly horrified with every passing second. For whatever the hell my opinion is worth, this single scene should’ve been enough to nab Chiklis an Emmy. That he wasn’t even nominated the year this originally aired is a fucking crime.

(And remember, we haven’t even gotten to the finale, at this point.)

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 a 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….

And scene.

Ten years later, I still consider The Shield‘s series finale one of the best endings to any show, ever. The entire series is unfailingly rewatchable, which is good since it’s about to be released on Blu-ray in December (hint, for anyone holiday shopping for me.). With the new fad of reviving older shows, one has to ask if a return to the world of The Shield might be in the cards. Series creator Shawn Ryan is on record as saying he’s happy with where things ended, but he’s not opposed to reopening that box provided he can come up with something that makes the effort worthwhile. While I totally respect his position with leaving things be, if he ever does decide to scratch that itch, I will totally be there.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for something that’s not at all your typical “cop show,” then I cannot recommend The Shield highly enough.

Lay it on me.

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