Episodes covered: Greenlit, Homewrecker, Barnstormers, Scar Tissue
Though they were obviously originally conceived for a television audience watching week-to-week, this group of episodes feels almost like a self-contained unit. Disc one already laid the groundwork for the season's main storylines, more or less freeing these four episodes up to deal explicitly with one of The Shield's central themes - tenuous partnerships. Despite the show's usual frenzied pace, the storylines actually aren't moving ahead that quickly - the Armenian money train scam hasn't even really gotten off the ground yet - but it's still plenty riveting to get an in-depth view of how the various partnerships continue to be affected by the events of the past. And just when it seems like the show is stretching out its storylines to last until the end of the season, the episode "Scar Tissue" comes along and wraps up one of the season's storylines in surprising yet satisfying fashion.
Armadillo is a man without loyalty. One of the reasons he's such a dangerous threat is that he can't be dealt with in the way that Vic and his Strike Team usually deal with drug dealers. He isn't interested in making a deal with Vic the way that Tio or Rondell were in season one, and because he knows about those deals, and also has visual proof of Vic's brutality in the form of the stove burn marks on his face, he actually has leverage over Vic. Vic tries to put a scare into the drug dealer by threatening to have his imprisoned brother "greenlit" (shived by a fellow inmate doing the bidding of the Strike Team), but Armadillo calls the cop's bluff by greenlighting his brother himself, thereby eliminating the possibility of the person closest to him testifying against him in court.
This cold-blooded lack of loyalty makes Armadillo a dangerous man, but it also leads him to his death. The Strike Team spend most of their time in these four episodes attempting to find Armadillo before he informs the other cops about their drug ties and exposes Vic's brutality. They are having a harder than usual time working together, with Shane being a little too eager to crack skulls, Lem feeling morally uncertain about the situation with the Armenian mob, and Ronnie becoming paranoid about Armadillo's threats of vengeance against the Team. Ronnie's fears are validated when Armadillo gives the cop a stovetop scar to match his own, but rather than throwing the Team into chaos, the potential setback actually causes Vic, Shane, and Lem to band together in an effort to stop the ruthless drug dealer. But just as they are about to take Armadillo down by themselves, a small army of other uniforms show up and allow Armadillo to surrender peacefully. Vic, in a scene beautifully played by Michael Chiklis, decides to give up his corrupt ways and take the heat for all of the things that Armadillo could reveal about the Team's illegal activities, but Shane and Lem come up with a clever plan to simultaneously cover their asses and put a stop to the universally loathed drug kingpin. They convince one of Armadillo's many enemies to do something blatantly illegal in front of another cop to get himself arrested, and therefore thrown in the same holding pen as Armadillo, and then slip him a knife that he uses to stab the drug lord with nine times, killing him.
Shane and Lem's plot eliminates their most fearsome enemy - and provides the first concrete evidence on The Shield of why these guys are so close, as well as marking the first time that Shane and Lem do something useful - but it further complicates Danny's problems. She's the one who patted the gang member who stabbed Armadillo down before he was thrown in the holding pen, and while failure to notice the knife (which, of course, he didn't actually have on him at the time) would probably be reason enough for Aceveda to suspend her as he does at the end of "Scar Tissue," it is only the latest of her personal and professional problems. The fatal shooting of the Muslim man from disc one keeps coming back to haunt her, as someone (most likely the dead man's wife, though the episodes neither confirm nor deny this) has splashed paint on her car, planted marijuana in her police vehicle, and given her a prank phone call saying that her mother is dead. The stress of this situation is understandably affecting her work, and also reigniting the strain on her partnership with Julien. Of course, it doesn't help that Julien is so far in the closet, and so firmly committed to his sexual reorientation, that he has jumped into a hasty marriage engagement to the girlfriend he met in the season premiere. The stress of maintaining a false sexual identity is obviously going to get to Julien very soon, but his police work isn't suffering so far, and in Aceveda's eyes he seems more competent than his more experienced partner at this point.
Another police officer experiencing a slump is Dutch, whose investigations into the sleaziest corners of crime are beginning to take a toll on his temper and outlook. Dutch can still close a case - as seen in "Barnstormers," where he arrests a rapist-murderer - but he is starting to have to bend the rules to do it, as he takes Vic's advice to "make the evidence fit the case" by planting a torn-up bra strap in a suspect's apartment. Considering the man's violent outburst after Dutch convicts him, it seems likely that he was the actual killer, but I imagine that Dutch will have to face some consequences for planting evidence in the future, especially since he doesn't seem to have the constitution of a confidently corrupt individual like Vic. And since his partner, Claudette, is currently on a very tense anti-corruption crusade against Vic and Aceveda, and seems on the verge of exposing the less legal aspects of their tenuous partnership, Dutch would be wise to steer clear of any further unsavory police work. But since this is The Shield, you can bet that he'll have to deal with the consequences of even this relatively minor infraction before too long.
- Connie - the junkie prostitute last seen abandoning her baby toward the end of season one - reappears in "Greenlit" as she attempts to become one of Vic's paid C.I.s, but is abruptly killed at the end of "Homewrecker." It seems like kind of a waste of a potentially interesting supporting character, since the end of her season one storyline would've been a better endpoint for the character, and her story as a recovering addict could've been intriguing if it had played out longer.
- That said, the scene where Connie gets shot is one of the most insanely nail-biting scenes that The Shield has produced to this point. It just keep upping the ante, first with the wife beater holding Connie hostage, then with him forcing Vic to drop his gun, then with Connie actually getting shot, then with the revelation that the man's young son is in an adjacent room, and finally with Vic tearing down the curtains so that the snipers outside can get a clear shot on the deranged lunatic.
- Ronnie is emerging as the Team's "computer expert," which I guess at least finally gives him something to do. Perhaps when he returns from his facial surgery he'll have a more well-defined personality.
- There is an ongoing subplot about Aceveda insisting that the Strike Team hire a fifth member, preferably a minority. I hope that the show follows through on this plot soon, since Vic having to train a rookie in the Team's methods could teach us a lot more about how they work together and give us a clearer idea of the members' personality differences while also giving the Team yet another complication to deal with.
- Claudette drives a further wedge in the Mackey marriage when she has a tense chat with Vic's wife, revealing details of his unwholesome extracurricular activities while also fishing for further evidence of those crimes. Great scene - on just about any other show, CCH Pounder would clearly be the best performer, but the ensemble is so solid all around that we're lucky to get extended scenes involving her character.