Monday, March 15, 2004
I just watched the first DVD of Season One of The Shield and though I liked a lot of it (but I'm a sucker for cop shows) I was also surprised by the admiration for Vic, basically a thug on the police payroll. There's an interview on DVD Talk where series creator Shawn Ryan says "Vic is an extraordinarily good cop who uses some extraordinarily bad measures." There's the problem in a nutshell. In just the first four episodes we see--in addition to all the various Bill of Rights and civil liberties violations that are routine in post-Dirty Harry thrillers and cop shows--Vic pimping, dealing drugs (both personally and through his syndicate), running games, abusing multiple suspects, stealing and oh yes killing another police officer, not just getting him killed but flat-out unambiguous first degree murder. I don't see any way this makes him a good cop, let alone an exceptionally good one. Even all the "good" things he does has some kind of personal benefit: giving money to one of his hookers so she and her son can eat, keeping drug dealers temporarily off the street to avoid a war, keeping "civilians" uninvolved, and he even clearly get sadistic enjoyment beating up a pedophile to find out where a girl's being held. If this was played for internal conflict like Tony Soprano or moral ambiguity like recent Daredevil or even for black comedy that would be one thing but so far the "exceptionally good" seems to be the dominant tone. Pretty much by definition this many felonies means he's not a good cop even if it resulted in, say, a 20% decline in the crime rates. Perhaps the show's underlying idea is that the Rule of Law no longer functions in modern society or at least certain areas of L.A. but then that's an odd thing to make a cop show about, not to mention that such an idea is simply wrong. I hope this is something of an over-reaction and that once I see more episodes it will become apparent that the show is going somewhere with the amoral Vic but I'm not sure that this is true or that I'll make it past another disc.