"Are you ready for this?" quintessential cop on the edge Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) asks his longtime nemesis, Councilman David Aceveda (Benito Martinez) in the season finale. With more than a year between seasons, we're always ready for The Shield, which rivals The Wire not only in quality (not everyone is ready to play at this level, as Mackey states at one point) but also in the lack of appreciation for one of television's very best shows. Again, another great season, and another Emmy snub. There ought to be a law. There is much more to The Shield than its shocking and brutal violence and language. This penultimate season, which turns the heat on Mackey, a one-man good cop/bad cop, to boil, is "all kinds of personal" for its intimately observed characters. Mackey is obsessed with finding out who killed Strike Force member Lem, while Kavanaugh (Forest Whitaker), just as obsessed with taking Mackey down, recklessly crosses the line to "frame a guilty man." Meanwhile, Mackey keeps moving the line as he relentlessly pursues the drug kingpin he has judged responsible for Lem's death, going so far as to stage a faux kidnapping of his suspect's girlfriend. In one of the season's most excruciating scenes, he turns chain-wielding executioner. What viewers know, but Mackey initially does not, is that the killer is a guilt-ridden Shane (Walton Goggins), Mackey's best friend. Shane, ultimately exiled from the Strike Force, becomes embroiled in an ill-fated association with the daughter of Armenian mob boss, putting Mackey's family in peril. Back at the Barn, newly promoted Claudette Wyms (CCH Pounder) is under intense pressure as the precinct's body count mounts. Her former partner, Dutch (Jay Karnes) develops a crush on Tina (Paula Garces), the pretty new cop he is mentoring. She has a one-night stand with hotshot Kevin Hiatt (Alex O'Loughlin), the new guy whom Wyms fears may learn too much from Mackey or not enough. The tension builds inexorably to a season finale that fulfills all expectations, in which the resourceful Mackey, facing a review board hearing, must scramble to save his badge, resulting in a surprising alliance that bodes well for the final season. "Trust me," he states at one point, "There's a way out. There always is." From first episode to last, The Shield's sixth season is gripping, gut-wrenching stuff. To quote Shane: "Put another one in the win column." --Donald Liebenson
Continuing directly after season 5, Vic and the Strike Team are distraught over Lem's death. Shane has been overcome by guilt and becomes reckless and suicidal. Kavanaugh refuses to let the case die and resorts to planting evidence and coercing witnesses to lie about the Strike Team. Dutch and Claudette begin to suspect his integrity. Vic learns from Claudette that the Chief plans to force him into early retirement — and vows to wreak bloody vengeance on Lem's killer before losing his badge. Claudette learns that the Barn could be shut down if no improvements are made by the time quarterly crime statistics are released.
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