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Fox Home Entertainment presents
The Shield: Season One (2002)

"Good cop and bad cop left for the day. I'm a different kind of cop."
- Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis)

Review By: Dan Heaton  
Published: January 05, 2003

Stars: Michael Chiklis, Catherine Dent, CCH Pounder, Jay Karnes
Other Stars: Walton Goggins, Michael Jace, Benito Martinez, Kenny Johnson, Cathy Cahlin Ryan
Director: Varied

Manufacturer: DVCC
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (contains language, violence, sexual situations, and adult themes)
Run Time: 09h:48m:34s
Release Date: January 07, 2003
UPC: 024543057178
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A AB+B+ A

DVD Review

The F/X cable network rarely draws acclaim as an outlet for creative new television. This channel usually seems more concerned with airing reruns of series like The Practice with abundant showings of the Die Hard films. The initial promotions for The Shield did not immediately draw interest due to this perception. However, it ranks as the most intriguing cop show of the present decade and boasts one of the more talented ensemble casts currently working on television.

At the center of the show's success is the career-altering performance of Michael Chiklis, known mostly for his work on The Commish and Daddy-O. The remarkable actor inhabits Vic Mackey, a brutal cop who moves within the gray area between hero and villain. While stealing evidence, consorting with prostitutes, terrorizing suspects, and dealing nasty retribution to his enemies, he often draws our admiration for other humane activities. His methods may venture into nearly abhorrent territory, but his Strike Team delivers considerable results in halting crime. Mackey also cares for his wife and children, especially once his son is diagnosed with autism. The ongoing conflicts within this fascinating character and our own contrasting feelings about him lead to a season of riveting episodes.

Los Angeles' Farmington police district features a diverse collection of compelling individuals who each deal with the everyday problems in a different manner. Captain David Aceveda (Benito Martinez) tries to lead the department fairly while searching for ways to serve his own political aspirations. Mackey's extracurricular activities immediately make him a target, and they face off throughout much of the season. Detective Dutch takes a more cerebral approach and tries to get into the minds of his suspects. His partner Claudette (CCH Pounder) has a more straightforward approach to police work, and their styles correlate nicely. Officer Danny (Catherine Dent) tries to maintain her femininity while showcasing a tough exterior with her colleagues. Her rookie partner Julien (Michael Jace) is trying to follow his strong religious beliefs while pushing back his rising homosexual feelings. If that wasn't enough, we also have Vic's fellow Strike Team members—Shane, Curtis, and Ronnie—who each deal with their duties in a different way.

It would be nearly impossible to discuss the various aspects of The Shield within this brief introduction. On an overall scale, the series conveys a gritty, realistic tone of daily life on the police force. Questions arise each week that make it harder to distinguish between the fundamental lines of good and evil. Its basic-cable status allows for tougher language and more detailed shots of violence, drug use, and nudity. However, the story lines do not simply fall into the category of exploitative sensationalism. The intelligent scripts, complex acting, and rougher edges make this show one of the most exciting discoveries in recent years.

Here are the summaries of each episode:

Pilot
Directed by: Clark Johnson
Guest stars: Max Perlich (Ponyboy), Reed Diamond (Terry), Jim Ortlieb (Dr. Bernard Grady), Jamie Brown (Connie Reisler)
Commentary: Shawn Ryan (executive producer), Scott Brazil (co-executive producer), Clark Johnson (director), Michael Chiklis (Vic Mackey)

"Mackey's not a cop. He's Al Capone with a badge." - Aceveda

The pilot begins with Captain Aceveda describing the progress of the Farmington precinct to the local press. At the same time, Vic Mackey and his Strike Team are chasing a drug dealer through the streets of Los Angeles. We're immediately thrust into the fast-paced world of this police department and its internal conflicts. Aceveda has commissioned Terry to build a case against Vic, a fellow cop. Meanwhile, Dutch and Claudette investigate the murder of Nancy Reborg and the disappearance of her young daughter. Events become more complicated when they learn her father has sold the girl to a child molester.

It takes little exposition to explain the power struggle occurring within this precinct. This episode deftly brings us into this story and provides an interesting picture of several key individuals. Containing both humor and saddening moments, the story creates plenty of noteworthy questions. It concludes with an effective montage backed by a Kid Rock song that showcases the broad scope of the series. The stunning final action is one of the great shocks of recent television history.

This excellent opening rates 4.5 shields out of 5.





Our Gang
Directed by: Gary Fleder
Guest stars: April Grace (Frances Housely), John Diehl (Gilroy), Reed Diamond (Terry),
Commentary: Shawn Ryan (executive producer), Walton Goggins (Shane), Benito Martinez (Aceveda)

"A cop goes down, we re-establish our dominance on the street" - Danny

An Internal Affairs investigation takes place to discover what actually took place during the tragic occurrence that ended the previous episode. We meet Assistant Chief Ben Gilroy—a strong ally for Vic—and discover more information about the Strike Team. Dutch and Claudette also investigate the death of a churro vendor, which leads them to a violent gang initiation. Aceveda continues to search for ways to nail Mackey, and now he leans on Shane (Walton Goggins) to turn in his friend.

Serving as the second act of the excellent pilot, this episode continues to raise the stakes. Walton Goggins shines while revealing the emotional torment occurring within Shane. Vic also feels his share of guilt, and some nice flashbacks showcase his own remorseful feelings. This story proves that the pilot was no fluke and leads nicely into plot lines that will dominate the entire season.

This successful follow-up earns 3.5 shields out of 5.





The Spread
Directed by: Clark Johnson
Guest stars: Elimu Nelson (Derrick Tripp), Michael Auteri (Desk Sergeant Nathan), Jamie Brown (Connie Reisler), Jenya Lano (Adrianna), Brent Roam (Tomas)
Commentary: Shawn Ryan (executive producer), CCH Pounder (Claudette), Clark Johnson (director), Glen Mazzara (writer)

"We killed a cop." - Shane

On "warrant sweep day," several cops encounter more than the usual small-time offenders. Julian and Danny discover the roots of a large gun-smuggling ring. In the central story, Vic and the Strike Team nab NBA superstar Derrick Tripp during a routine drug bust. Instead of simply booking the visiting player, they devise a more creative plan to help the hometown Lakers and their own bets. While Shane, Curtis, and Ronnie keep him holed up in an apartment, Derrick has some fun and even invites a striking girl over for a rendezvous. His ability to draw women and abundant wealth continue to gnaw at Shane, which could lead to greater problems. Meanwhile, Dutch and Claudette help Connie, Vic's prostitute friend, after a customer attacks her. Julien also begins a homosexual relationship with Tomas, a handsome small-time criminal.

Although not one of the best entries, this solid episode keeps our interest by continuing to build the story from previous episodes. This recalls the early glory days of Homicide: Life on the Street, when it constantly referenced previous moments. We also witness Vic performing a heroic action and saving a young child The writers continue to add layers to his character and avoid any simplistic conclusions. The central story is fairly interesting, although it drags a bit too much in the second half.

This episode receives 3 shields out of 5.





Dawg Days
Directed by: Stephen Gyllenhaal
Guest stars: John Diehl (Gilroy), Camilla Sanes (Aurora Aceveda), Walter Jones (Rondell Robinson), Sticky Fingaz (Kern Little), Dex Elliott Sanders (T-Bonz)
Commentary: Shawn Ryan (executive producer), Catherine Dent (Danny), Kevin Arkadie (writer), Michael Chiklis (Vic Mackey)

"I'm never for sale!" - Vic

The bitter rivalry between rappers Kern Little and T-Bonz heats up and leads to a violent confrontation at a party. Danny and Curtis (Kenny Johnson) are working security at the party, and she identifies the shooter as Rondell Robinson, a drug dealer who deals with Vic. Aceveda recognizes the opportunity to use the situation to nail a case against his rival. The captain also has aims at running for the city council, and taking down a corrupt cop would be his ticket inside. If Danny identifies Rondell as the shooter, Vic could be finished.

The events of this frenetic episode lead nicely into larger problems for the Strike Team in "Blowback." Vic's stake in Rondell's business could raise a problem towards his future on the force. Catherine Dent does an especially noteworthy job in this story and plays a refreshingly larger role here. We also see Vic actually working to prevent more violence in the streets. Unfortunately, even his best intentions don't always lead to a peaceful resolution.

More interesting conflicts earn this episode 3.5 shields out of 5.





Blowback
Directed by: Clark Johnson
Guest stars: Kimberly McCullough (Deena), Brent Roam (Tomas), Joel Rosenthal (Matthew Mackey)
Commentary: Michael Chiklis (Vic), Walton Goggins (Shane), Kenny Johnson (Curtis), Kurt Sutter (writer)

"That's a special kind of crazy." - Claudette

Vic and the Strike Team make a serious drug bust from a group of Eastern Armenian dealers. While confiscating the evidence, they retain a few blocks for their own financial dealings. Unfortunately, Julien witnesses them taking the drugs from a hidden area. While transferring the extra goods to Rondell, Shane's car is stolen. As everything falls into place, the Strike Team must race to find the car before Aceveda discovers their mistake. Meanwhile, Julien continues to struggle with his religious views when dealing with his relationship with Tomas. Vic and Corrine (Cathy Cahlin Ryan) learn that their son Matthew is autistic.

Easily the most intense of the early episodes, this story masterfully weaves together numerous plot lines into a coherent whole. director Clark Johnson deserves tremendous credit for this achievement, which moves seamlessly towards a breathtaking finale. The show really begins to hit its stride in this tale, as the personalities of each pivotal character continue to resound more clearly.

This chaotic episode gets a well deserved 4.5 shields out of 5.





Cherrypoppers
Directed by: D.J. Caruso
Guest stars: Jamie Brown (Connie Reisler), Kim Miyori (Mrs. Park), Jay Harrington (Tom Ross)
Commentary: Jay Karnes (Dutch), Scott Rosenbaum (writer), D.J. Caruso (director), Shawn Ryan (executive producer)

"People see me as a joke around here." - Dutch

Feeling that no one takes him seriously as a detective, Dutch is determined to prove them wrong by catching a serial killer. After discovering another young prostitute with her face down, he tackles the case in full force. Multiple divisions scramble across the city and deal with all types of prostitutes and lowlifes. While searching for clues, Vic uncovers a very disturbing child pornography ring. Meanwhile, another IAD investigation begins due to Julien's statements about the Strike Team stealing drugs. On a lighter note, the only toilet that works floods the squad room.

Jay Karnes finally gets a chance to shine by wonderfully conveying Dutch's obsessive nature. After spotting Danny getting together with Vic in the previous episode, he becomes even more focused on the work at hand. While sometimes overshadowed by Chiklis and the more boisterous cast, Karnes carries this distressing tale.

Although the plot is a bit sensationalistic, some top-notch acting earns this episode 3.5 out of 5 shields.





Pay in Pain
Directed by: Clark Johnson
Guest stars: John Diehl (Gilroy), Brent Roam (Tomas), Carlos Sanz (Detective Carlos Zamora)
Commentary: Rohn Schmidt (director of photography), Dean White (co-producer), Bill Gierkant (camera operator), Shawn Ryan (executive producer)

"What's fair for them out there has to be fair for us in here." - Julian

Continuing to track the serial killer, Dutch and Claudette must take a break and tackle a smaller fish—a possibly fraudulent psychic. However, she may prove her worth by providing a clue about the murders. In the central story, Vic and Shane team up with Detective Carlos Zamora, a former gang member who has a more humane relationship with the criminals. Their investigation of possible hate crimes will lead to surprising results. Vic must also deal with his own loyalties to Shane, who could be sacrificed by Gilroy to the IAD investigation.

While an interesting episode, this entry serves more as a bridge to the next few episodes. Carlos Sanz does a nice job and proves to be one of the better guest stars of the season. The largest moment occurs in the finale, where Vic discovers a possible escape route from the growing investigation.

Although not one of the best, this solid entry still deserves 2.5 out of 5 shields.





Cupid & Psycho
Directed by: Guy Ferland
Guest stars: John Diehl (Gilroy), Jamie Martz (Sammy), Autumn Chiklis (Cassidy Mackey), Dick Anthony Williams (Reverend Cook), Brent Roam (Tomas)
Commentary: Glen Mazzara (writer), Michael Chiklis (Vic), Walton Goggins (Shane), Jay Karnes (Dutch), CCH Pounder (Claudette)

"Don't believe everything you read." - Shane

Following a frenetic car chase, the police discover a badly burned body in the trunk of the fleeing criminal. This opens up a case on a meth ring that has caused more destruction recently. Meanwhile, the IAD investigation causes Gilroy to reassigned the Strike Team to random partners. Dutch works with Shane to solve an old murder case that fell between the cracks. The victim's wife is an attractive young woman who immediately draws Shane's eye. However, she may have a thing for the Dutchman. Now possessing knowledge of Julien's relationship with Tomas, Vic uses it in an effort to save the Strike Team.

An enjoyable story with several memorable moments, this episode temporarily reverses Vic's downward spiral. The banter between Shane and Dutch is classic, and both actors do some of their best work. Vic and Claudette also pair up for the meth investigation, and it shows an interesting contrast in styles. Extra praise should be given to the musical choice of the concluding Magnetic Fields' song.

Another excellent episode! A strong 4 out of 5 shields are rewarded.





Throwaway
Directed by: Leslie Libman
Guest stars: Tangi Miller (Rebecca Wyms), K.K Dodds (Kim Kelner), Rolando Molina (Hector), Roscoe Lee Browne (Bryce Wyms)
Commentary: Shawn Ryan (executive producer), Kevin Arkadie (writer), Ewyen Klean (music director), Kenneth Johnson (Curtis)

"A'int nobody getting past me." - Curtis

While investigating some truck jackings, the Strike Team again runs into trouble when Curtis shoots the wrong guy. Before the guys realize the mistake, they have already planted evidence to avoid any more problems. To complicate matters even further, Curtis is falling in love with the victim's sister. In other disturbing news, coyotes attack a blind old man. We also learn the results off Danny's sergeant's exam.

Once again, the Strike Team must go beyond the confines of the law to save their own skins. While this trend has grown a bit tired, Curtis' romantic involvement is a nice touch. Kenneth Johnson finally receives more screen time, which is a refreshing change of pace. We also learn more about Claudette through the arrival of her father and daughter.

A collection of fine moments earns this episode 3 out of 5 shields.





Dragonchasers
Directed by: Nick Gomez
Guest stars: Jamie Brown (Connie Reisler), Frank Grillo (Officer Paul Jackson), Michael Kelly (Sean Taylor), Sandra Purpuro (Tereza Varela), Nichole Hiltz (Tulips)
Commentary: Catherine Dent (Danny), Michael Jace (Julien), Scott Rosenbaum (writer), Shawn Ryan (executive producer)

"I want to die!" - Connie

After her mother dies, Connie must overcome her drug addiction to avoid losing her son. Vic decides to help her go "cold turkey," and a small glimmer of hope exists. Meanwhile, the Strike Team goes undercover to investigate muggings at a local strip club. Shane becomes a bit too personally involved and could ruin their case. Also, Dutch may have a lead on his ongoing serial killer case, and Danny is bitten by an HIV-infected perpetrator.

Dragonchasers is my favorite episode of the season. The moments with Connie are especially distressing, but the end result is entirely believable. Dutch's confrontation with a suspect who dissects his personality is one of the highlights of the season.

Bravo! This episode rates a perfect 5 out of 5 shields.





Carnivores
Directed by: Scott Brazil
Guest stars: Katy Boyer (Maureen Wilmore), Mailon Rivera (Xavier Salaam), Sticky Fingaz (Kern Little), Walter Jones (Rondell Robinson), Brent Roam (Tomas)
Commentary: James Manos Jr. (Consulting Producer), Glen Mazzara (Executive Story Editor), Scott Rosenbaum (Staff writer), Kurt Sutter (Staff writer)

"Julien, did you want to die?" - Danny

A drive-by shooting begins yet another raucous episode. The writers are really starting to resolve some of the major story lines that have covered the entire season. Drug dealer Rondell Robinson and his buddy Kern Little are attacked by unknown assailants but escape unharmed. The Nation of Islam aims to stop his business, and Rondell is not helping matters either. Meanwhile, Dutch and Claudette investigate some rough home invasions in the Korean community. Headlines about the IAD investigation also doom the chance of Vic's son to enter a special private school.

With numerous stories ongoing at the same time, the most troubling is Julien's descent into a nearly hopeless demeanor. Michael Jace reveals this fact in excellent fashion, and his ultimate confrontation with a small-time criminal is especially troubling.

Several classic moments earn this episode 3.5 out of 5 shields.





Two Days of Blood
Directed by: Guy Farland
Guest stars: John Diehl (Gilroy), Geoff Meed (Wally Forton)
Commentary: Michael Jace (Julien), Cathy Cahlin Ryan (Corinne), Kurt Sutter (writer), Guy Ferland (director), Shawn Ryan (executive producer)

"Two women are dead because of your little scam." - Vic (to Gilroy)

Part one of the extremely intense season finale brings Gilroy's unethical actions to the forefront. After being involved in a hit-and-run incident, he commissions Vic to assist him. Unfortunately, Gilroy is playing for a much larger stake than this troubling incident. Meanwhile, Shane goes undercover as a cockfighting trainer during a two-day festival. If that wasn't enough, Aceveda and Claudette must investigate a murder of two African-American women that could incite an entire community.

Vic's exploits don't seem nearly as pathetic after viewing the backstabbing tactics of Gilroy. His unfair dealings will eventually cause a deadly riot. The story also boasts one of the funniest subplots of the season involving Shane's undercover activities.

Waiting a full week for the finale would have been torture. This one gets 4 out of 5 shields.





Circles
Directed by: Scott Brazil
Guest stars: John Diehl (Gilroy), Lana Parrilla (Sedona Telez), Cedric Pendleton (Tio)
Commentary: Michael Chiklis (Vic), Benito Martinez (Aceveda), Scott Brazil (director), Shawn Ryan (executive producer)

"I am not like you!" - Vic (to Gilroy)

Part two begins immediately within the riots that concluded Two Days of Blood. Following these events, bogus 911 calls lead several cops into nasty ambushes. Gilroy now realizes that his days are numbered, but he decides to play Vic and Aceveda against each other to save his career. The two rivals must work together to destroy his plans.

Action overtakes this story as cops are under siege all over the city. Especially distressing are scenes involving random house calls that could lead to murder. While everything occurs, Vic continues to ignore his family. His final breakdown upon this realization is a classic moment. Michael Chiklis delivers an unbelievable performance that wonderfully carries the show into its second season.

An intriguing conclusion earns this episode 4.5 out of 5 shields.



Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The Shield appears in the original full-frame format that corresponds with its television origins. While the source material obviously limits the picture quality, it remains very clear and bright. The show utilizes shady colors that exude a gritty realism, and this transfer nicely conveys that atmosphere. Few defects exist during the episodes, and the grain common on television shows rarely occurs.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Much of the series' success stems from a hard-hitting soundtrack of tough rock tunes that matches the rough environment. This collection offers a 2.0-channel Dolby Surround transfer that presents the music and harsh sounds of the area with surprising impressiveness. Once again, the television origins do lessen the track's overall depth, but it still provides an excellent listening experience.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 208 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish
17 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
13 Feature/Episode commentaries by Cast and crew (every episode)
Packaging: Unknown
Picture Disc
4 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual
Layers Switch: uknown

Extra Extras:
  1. Pilot Script
  2. Casting Tapes (eight actors)
Extras Review: Every episode of The Shield contains a full-length commentary track with a group of four or five key players. They include star Michael Chiklis, executive producer Shawn Ryan, as well as the writers, directors, and pivotal cast members. Chiklis' statements are especially down-to-earth and interesting, which makes his rise to prominence even more satisfying. Ryan anchors most of the commentaries and provides plenty of compelling insights. Other impressive speakers include director Clark Johnson, Walton Goggins, and CCH Pounder. The specific participants for each episode are listed above within each description.

The Making of The Shield offers a 20-minute glimpse into the production. It contains promotional interviews with all the key players and plenty of shots from the series. Specific segments concern the look, the central setting, and cast members. Less efffective is the FX featurette, which runs for 2 minutes and includes very basic information. We also are able to view interesting casting tapes for the eight primary actors. Each one runs for about a minute or two and covers scenes from the early episodes.

I especially enjoyed reading through the pilot script, which appears in easily navigable screens. It may be a bit much for the average viewer, but is still a nice feature. Finally, the set also offers 17 deleted scenes covering most episodes. Shawn Ryan provides a brief audio description of the reasons for the cut before each scene. Most of the moments were removed for time considerations. The highlight is the entire five minute version of Vic's breakdown, which is even more distressing here.

All of the extra features (besides the commentaries) appear on Disc Four.

Extras Grade: A

 

Final Comments

Homicide: Life on the Street easily ranks as my favorite television drama of all time. It showcases realistic characters portrayed by remarkable actors who don't fit the mold of the typical television persona. The stories are complex and avoid the typical clichés of lauded series like NYPD Blue. Few shows have even come close to reaching the pinnacle established by this creation. The Shield is a much different show than Homicide, but it does capture the similar atmosphere of police life. It comes closer to equaling that mastery than any series of this young decade.

 


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