The Shield: The Highly Addictive Dirty-Cop Drama

shieldPhoto: Courtesy of FX.
Full disclosure: We love TV. So much so that sometimes we'd rather spend a whole weekend in front of the tube than dancing at da club until 3 a.m. The lack of any kind of television service holding you back from feeling our joy? No problem! You can get by just fine on Netflix, Hulu, and the myriad other streaming services rapidly taking over the home entertainment industry (thank you, Internet!).
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Some shows are just better when binge-watched. Whether it's the latest BBC comedy, a PBS miniseries from the '70s, or just that cultish show prematurely scrubbed from a network — we're hooked on the stream. So, we're unrolling Staying In(stant), a new feature highlighting the best of streaming content. Each week, we bring you a show we're obsessed with and think you should be, too.
This week? The Shield, a police drama that isn't afraid to get its hands — or its cops — dirty.
Where To Watch: Amazon Prime
How I Got Hooked:
At first, I teased a friend for binge-watching the DVD sets — haw haw, look at the dude and his cop show! — but then, I agreed to watch the first episode. I'd been anticipating a typical Dragnet-style procedural, but The Shield immediately proved its ability to defy conventions and expectations.
Loosely based on a real-life corruption scandal in the LAPD, the show follows a group of police officers in the fictional Farmington area of Los Angeles. At the core of the story is the experimental Strike Team, an anti-gang unit led by Detective Vic Mackey. His team gets results — through beating, intimidating, blackmailing, and threatening the people they aim to serve. Everyone suspects that Mackey is crooked, but a new captain, David Aceveda, wants to make an example of the Strike Team (not necessarily out of a sense of justice — he's aiming for the mayorship). Right away, Aceveda convinces one of Mackey's guys to take him down from the inside. That's where the drama begins.
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Best Episode:
Just watch the first one, okay? You'll get an idea of the mind-blowing saga that is yet to come. If I tell you anything more, you'll be robbed of all kinds of character development. (And, this show has deep, solid, real characters.) Plus, the guest stars, from Andre 3000 to Glenn Close to Forest Whitaker, are fantastic — they disappear into their roles completely. Unlike a lot of shows that stretch on for seven seasons, The Shield stays consistently strong, with even the tiniest story threads woven together to create a satisfying saga. In the very last hour of the series, Mackey is still feeling the effects of what happened in that first episode. The show is that tightly written.
Why You'll Love It:
There's no filler, which means that every single moment is riveting. (Get ready to gobble up three or four episodes in a row.) Still, it's not all crack-house stakeouts and street shoot-'em-ups. All of the characters, from Mackey to the gangbangers and prostitutes who run in his world, are fleshed-out and three-dimensional, especially in their private lives. In particular, Walton Goggins plays Vic's right-hand man, Shane Vendrell, with impressive range and depth — where was his statuette, Emmy gods?!
And, as entertaining as the show is, it also raises difficult issues around race, class, sexism, inequality, homophobia, and morality. For instance, you know Mackey is a dirty cop, yet you frequently find yourself rooting for him — and what does that say about your own sense of right and wrong, viewer? This is a smart, dark, and daring show that will make you a fan of police dramas. Or, at least, this one.


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