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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled iThe Shield/i: Animal Control
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Illustration for article titled iThe Shield/i: Animal Control

Over the past six-plus seasons we've seen Vic Mackey do a lot of terrible things, but for a long time he's mostly been on the straight and narrow. Think about it: Since the money train debacle, he's pretty much kept his nose clean. Anything shady that he's done could be justified for the good of the job. The freewheeling cowboy of the first couple of seasons has evolved into a relatively good cop who no longer crosses the line for personal gain. The problem, of course, is that things like murder, armed robbery, and wanton corruption have a way of coming back to haunt you, and as the current season unfolds we've all been waiting for Vic's sins to finally bury him.

But after "Animal Control" it doesn't seem like the writers are interested in a traditional comeuppance. Terry Crowley might really be dead and buried after all, but Vic has a tragic flaw that's proving to be even more devastating. Building on last week's terrific "Game Face," tonight's excellent episode further exposed the rank hypocrisy behind Vic's two-fisted, macho cop self-righteousness, and how his inability to admit to himself who he really is–like Shane, like Ronnie, and now like Olivia–is slowly undoing him.

Over and over again tonight, Vic's self-delusion undermined him. With Corinne, he played the bad parent card, implicitly threatening to take the kids away and later denying doing so, and never conceding the obvious fact that the Mackey family was destroyed because of his selfishness and dirty dealing. With Olivia, he tried to talk her out of doing the right thing by turning herself in. "I'll protect you," he promised, when in reality he was trying to keep her from fouling up his little Armenian-Mexican mobs standout. (By the way, now that Rezian and his pals are dead, can the Armenian mob sue for being depicted as such easily duped buffoons on a TV show?) Olivia wasn't interested in whatever cockamamie scheme Vic was trying to sell. She has blood on her hands, and she wants to make amends. That's something Vic, for all his talk of justice and vows, would never do.

Which brings us to Shane, who was set up by Vic and Ronnie to be killed by the Mexicans and survived, not because Vic had a change of heart, but because he was lucky. I've been slightly disappointed this season that Walton Goggins hasn't had the kind of big emotional scenes he was regularly handed in seasons five and six. (The "Shane kills Lem" scene from season five's epic closer "Postpartum" is probably the single most powerful thing I've ever seen in a TV drama.) But tonight's closing scene was just as effective even though the volume was turned way down. Vic has always assumed that he's smarter than Shane, but because Shane is more comfortable with who he (and Vic) is he now has the advantage. Shane killed Lem because, at the end of the day, it was the safest bet for his own survival, a lesson her learned from Vic with Terry. The difference is that Shane can also own the shame of his act and live with it; Vic hides behind "the shield" of his job and puts himself on a higher plain where he doesn't belong. No wonder he holds so tight to a gig with such shitty hours.

"I'm not Shane," Vic pompously hissed at Ronnie at one point tonight. Maybe not, but he better hold his nose and climb back into the gutter if he wants to survive next week, I suspect.

Grade: A

Stray observations

—I wrote so much about Vic and Shane that the downward trajectory of Dutch is saved for the "Stray observations" section. Certainly this reflects worse on me than the show, since I really like how the naked guy case was handled. It's funny how Billings was right again about his overreaching partner, who appears headed for a breakdown. Lock up your cats!

—It was also great to see Tavon return, though I'm not sure I buy Shane's cowering after his bullshit story was finally blown. Is "I know who you really are" the best Tavon can do? Tavon doesn't make the Top 10 of bad things Shane has done.

—When is Vic gonna sleep with Olivia already?

—What do you guys think?

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