Thursday, February 3, 2011

TV on DVD: The Shield (Season Three, Disc One)

Episodes covered:  Playing Tight, Blood and Water, Bottom Bitch, Streaks and Tips

After two seasons of breathless, intense action, The Shield has become a little boring.

Which isn't to say that any of the early episodes of season three are bad, per se.  The things that worked for the show in the past are all still here – the shaky-cam, cinema verite style that puts the viewer right in the middle of the action; the skillful ensemble acting; the dynamic interplay between police officers with different motivations and different detecting styles.  And if The Shield is ever going to produce a "bad" episode it hasn't done so up to this point.

But the problem is that nothing has really changed since the end of season two.  There are hints that Vic and the Strike Team are going to start feeling some payback for their Armenian Money Train heist, but that storyline seems to have mostly been put on the backburner for the time being.  Tavon, the intriguing new member of the Strike Team – and a potentially interesting foe to Vic if he were ever to get wind of the rest of the Team's extracurricular activities – is (apparently) dead by the end of "Streaks and Tips," when he gets into a car accident.  Aceveda has decided to stick around and continue heading up the Barn until his city council job seat takes effect, leaving he and Claudette in the same stalemate that the end of last season seemed to bring to a head.  Claudette and Dutch are still basically acting as partners.  Danny, fired at the end of season two, is already back in uniform by "Bottom Bitch," and she even has brief appearances in season three's first two episodes, basically negating a major plot development from last year's finale.  And in "Streaks and Tips," Danny and Julien are once again assigned to be partners.  In other words, we're pretty much back at square one.

The Shield works best when the characters are getting in way over their heads, escaping from entanglements in such a way that they create even more problems for themselves and others.  Shawn Ryan & co.'s reluctance to meaningfully change up the series' dynamic does a dramatic disservice to the show and to its fans.  The promise that a righteous, anti-Strike Team Claudette would be running the Barn in season three was exciting, suggesting that the noose would tighten around Vic's neck to a previously unseen degree, bringing The Shield to ever more intense peaks.  But so far the writers seem afraid to take the risks necessary to keep The Shield as edgy and exciting as it has been in the past.

Quick Thoughts:

- Not too much to say about Shane's new girlfriend yet, since it isn't clear where her storyline is going yet.  I can't say I'm too excited about the hints that she might be crazy, though, since crazy girlfriend plots are usually not terribly interesting.

- The battle between the Strike Team and the Decoy Squad could potentially become interesting, but so far the latter group seem like they'll simply be cannon fodder for whatever this season's major storyline turns out to be.

- The beating that Julien received at the end of the second season seems to have unleashed a violent streak in him.  In "Playing Tight," Julien breaks the arm of one of the former officers involved in the beating, and in "Bottom Bitch" he gets unnecessarily rough with a man he's arresting.  Plus, Danny and another officer respond to a domestic disturbance at Julien's house in "Streaks and Tips."  Although Julien is mostly in the background in these first several episodes, and it isn't clear where his storyline is heading this season, he remains arguably the show's most compelling character.

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