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'The Shield': Nothing broken here

April 11, 2007 |  8:48 am

Shield300 Vic Mackey, the morally dubious cop at the center of FX’s acclaimed drama, “The Shield,” has outfoxed his fair share of adversaries. But none proved more formidable than Lt. Jon Kavanaugh.

Sadly, all great things must come to an end, especially when they involve Oscar winning actors on series television, and this week Kavanaugh said goodbye to “The Shield” from the very place he hoped to put Mackey: a prison cell.

The exemplary hour highlighted the show’s intricate narrative web and sterling ensemble cast, elements that not only set it apart from every other cop drama currently on television but also beg favorable comparisons to TV’s current gold standard, “The Sopranos.”

tInternal affairs officer Kavanaugh, played by Forest Whitaker, joined the series last season and quickly set his sights on bringing down the corrupt Mackey (Michael Chiklis). As time went on Kavanaugh slowly morphed into a frighteningly similar shadow of his foe, ultimately deciding to plant evidence, coerce a witness and even threaten Mackey’s estranged wife.

Whitaker’s theatricality was initially jarring next to the ensemble’s more naturalistic performances, but Kavanaugh grew more intriguing with every episode and the complexity of the actor’s work deepened. The darker and more unpredictable Kavanaugh’s behavior became, the closer he seemed to capturing his prey. But that was not to be. As Kavanaugh told Mackey in the episode’s final scene: “The truth is, it isn’t your time yet.”

Of course fans of the show already knew that. This isn’t the final season, it’s the penultimate, and the slippery anti-hero must survive.

It seems telling that it wasn’t Mackey who actually brought down Kavanaugh, but former partners Dutch (the under-appreciated Jay Karnes) and Claudette (the magnificent C.C.H. Pounder, who has earned one Emmy nomination for the show but deserved many more). The resident good guys have been on to Vic’s corruption longer than anyone and it was Claudette, still adjusting to her role as captain, whose witness interrogation finally broke Kavanaugh. The baton was officially passed when Kavanaugh ruefully told her that Mackey is her problem to solve now.

It’s clear that Claudette is all too aware of that fact and anticipating how she’ll use her new position of power to go after Vic should scare the tough guy silly, but will he see it coming?

This week’s episode, superbly written by Scott Rosenbaum and directed by Guy Ferland, allowed Claudette a chance to articulate a philosophy that just may carry “The Shield” to the end of its run. “The truth may not always lead us down the path we want,” she told Dutch, “But it’s the only way to fix this place.”

Right now there’s nothing on “The Shield” that needs fixing.

(Photo courtesy FX)

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