“Greenlit” (season two, episode five; originally aired 2/4/2003)
“Where’s the good in this?” Lem asks about the Armenian Money Train. He’s asking how to rationalize armed robbery of such grand proportions. Shane thinks, pretends, or lies that he’s being almost altruistic. “You think I’m doing this for myself?” When Armadillo resurfaces in two creepy ways—children overdosing on his poisoned product on one side and Armadillo himself approaching Danny about Vic on the other—the Strike Team decide that he needs to be taken out. Shane can’t see a better way. Ronnie, either. It’s very convenient for them. At first Lem refuses to help kill Armadillo, but after a few more overdoses, he comes around. He tells Vic the only solution to their problems is to take Armadillo out. It’s hilarious watching Vic feign reluctance, squinting and testing how committed Lem is to the new plan. Which brings him to one final rationalization: “I am not gonna lose my job so some kid-raping piece of shit can bargain down his sentence and make me his bunk-mate.”
The decision to greenlight Armadillo couldn’t have come at a better time, because Aceveda is finally realizing his incentives to keep covering for Mackey aren’t all that strong. He gives Vic latitude in the early going. “Whatever you’re gonna do, do it quick.” Like with Lem, Vic pushes Aceveda to own up to his own criminal plans, forcing him to nod vigorously while his mouth denies involvement: “You can’t use Felipe in an undercover capacity. Even though he’s lead us to Armadillo, he’s a minor.” It’s delicious. At least Vic doesn’t pretend he’s a saint. But the more children die from Armadillo’s free samples, the more Aceveda realizes the advantage in getting Armadillo by whatever means necessary, even if it means exposing Vic and the Strike Team to Claudette. Armadillo gets the better of all of them. First Vic’s sting goes so wrong your stomach goes cold. He’s illegally using a minor to catch a dealer on tape, using a phone to call the minor every so often to await the signal for drugs on the table. But the dealer catches wise and clicks redial just before Vic bursts in. The Strike Team gets the dealers on their knees in a few seconds, and then in the silence of the aftermath Vic’s phone starts ringing. The last minor who helped the police try to catch Armadillo’s crew wound up raped and tattooed. In the end Claudette and company close in on the wrong address while Vic and company get to the right one, only to discover Armadillo had his own brother killed. He greenlights Vic and/or the Strike Team and walks off into the night with a phone off the hook, borrowing the creepy unknown (as well as the wrong house gambit) from The Silence Of The Lambs.
The best part has nothing to do with Armadillo whatsoever. There’s an honest-to-goodness sweet subplot about a lost, elderly Alzheimer’s patient named Jeannie revisiting places from her past. Dutch and Claudette interview her high school sweetheart, Earl. Earl met Jeannie a year after the war in a soda shop, and he delights in reminiscence. He tells them, “If she still looks as good as she used to, giver her my number.” Maybe that’s a clue, that quid pro quo, that passably romantic line that hinges on the superficial. When Claudette and Dutch find Jeannie, she’s on her hands and knees on the sidewalk at Echo Park being harassed by some kids. It’s enough to distract from what she’s doing with her hands. But just as this storyline about an old woman rescued from violence wraps up, Dutch reveals what’s really going on. A newborn baby was found smothered in Echo Park back when Jeannie was young, and he was found in the exact spot where elderly Jeannie was clawing at the cement. A degenerative illness exposes an old couple to be murderers. When Jeannie’s daughter looks at Dutch like he’s despicable, he tells her, “I just wish you had a chance to know your brother.” And then he gives Claudette a speech about how selfish and animalistic society is. Bob and Marcy are still getting to Dutch, just as Armadillo’s getting to Vic, just as Yassirah’s getting to Danny. Now how long until Mackey starts nagging at Claudette?
- “Greenlit” is written by Kim Clements and directed by Terrence O’Hara.
- Speaking of Yassirah, this week she’s (allegedly) behind a prank that causes Danny to think her mother passed away. Is it really this hard to connect her to some of Danny’s harassment?
- Danny threatens to tell Julien’s fiancée about his past but eventually realizes it’s not her place. Instead she writes a review of Julien saying he needs to work on communication and stress management, which seems pretty indisputable to these eyes.
- On the bright side, Vic gets the outed informant into a gang rehabilitation center. There is hope after all.
- Danny’s first two reactions to Julien’s engagement: “Married? To who? That mom you’ve been seeing for like a month? Please tell me this is a joke” and “Julien, Jesus.”
“Homewrecker” (season two, episode six; originally aired 2/11/2003)
“Homewrecker” begins with a heart-pounding 911 hang-up that Danny and Julien investigate. The lights are off. There’s a dead woman in the doorway. The only sounds are the creak of the floor, cars driving by outside, and Danny’s periodic, by-the-book radio calls. The lighting comes from the police flashlights, and the duo go room by room, finding more and more dead women as they go. It’s a battered women’s shelter. There’s another riveting scene when the house director shows up, and she slowly realizes how seriously her life has changed just in conversation with Vic about the crime scene. Only Claudette applies Occam’s razor to the killer: “Maybe he just doesn’t like women.”
There’s a lot of that going around. The killer turns out to be a fireman named Mike who killed his battered ex Julie and her housemates and ran off with his son but not his daughter. His best friend is a cop named Lou who tells Dutch and Claudette about Mike and Julie’s relationship. He admits Julie got beat up every now and then, but adds, “It was never as black-and-white as she made it out to be.” So it’s not that it’s okay for Mike to beat Julie. It’s just that she was kind of asking for it. Danny dresses down the Strike Team for kneejerk-mocking her for asking them to consider women for the fifth spot. (“Yeah, we’re bringing in Batgirl and Charlie’s angels.”) The PI tells Vic that Corinne’s remaining faithful to him, and that by contrast his ex would be “balling the milkman” any time he left the house. Vic talks about a prostitute with a tip in some vulgar language that fails to amuse Claudette. And then there’s a killer little scene outside Lou’s interview room where Dutch and Claudette are trying to decide whether or not to cut him a deal in order to get to Mike before he hurts the son or anyone else. Vic barges in ready to cut corners as usual, but he gets even more hardline when Claudette unwittingly offers him the right cues for projection: Mike’s a cop who’s obstructing justice, and that naturally brings out Vic’s sympathies. The guys end up overruling Claudette even though she refuses to acknowledge that Vic’s vote counts in their investigation. In a tough climax that inverts the original crime (i.e. this time someone is let into Mike’s safe space intending to bring him down), the violent misogynist shoots Connie just to prove he has power.
It’s an unusually heroic scene for Vic. As soon as he gets a chance, as Mike’s son accidentally distracts his father, Vic dives for the blinds so the snipers can get a shot. It’s too late for Connie, though, her blood smeared on the wall behind her. So not only does Vic get to play hero but he’s also unusually sympathetic. And Connie really is getting her life together at the end. It’s her dogged investigation that leads Vic to Mike’s hideout. She died without having a chance to relapse, so she goes out the master of her demons trying to do good. “Homewrecker” shows several characters in new light. Aceveda even puts on a uniform as part of a new monthly requirement. He eats up the mock applause from the Strike Team, because it sounds the same to him. After Aceveda takes some kid’s bike to return to the ostensible owner, Julien even gets in on the fun, joking, “Two hours on the street and you’ve already cracked a case.” Aceveda responds seriously: “Well, you know. Once you’ve got it, you never lose it.” He’s grinning like a fool. He lives for this shit and has no idea how superficial it is. This being The Shield, the bike he took wasn’t stolen after all, and he gets dressed down by the kid he took it from, a real go-getter who cries racial profiling and gets Aceveda’s badge number, and buys a new bike for the other kid. He doesn’t solve any crimes. He uses cash and connections (Julien of all people) to paper over them. It’s just a shame he doesn’t have to wear a uniform more often.
- “Homewrecker” is written by Shawn Ryan and Glen Mazzara and directed by Scott Brazil.
- Armadillo’s phone call gets him for accessory murder and conspiracy to kill a police officer apparently. It’s a start.
- Seriously, why do the Farmington police have nothing on Yassirah? How hard can it be to check her phone records or something? Aceveda saying, “We can’t prove any of that” sounds like a writer’s excuse.
- Similarly, is it that difficult to tie the cash from Lou’s bank account to Mike’s wallet? Tracing cash is a method on The Shield, and it doesn’t seem that difficult (to this layman) to jump from that to obstruction of justice, but then I don’t really know what’s legally required to charge that crime.
- Aceveda, who knows nothing about Julien’s past life, gives him one piece of advice about marriage: Don't keep secrets.
- Aceveda is my favorite cop. He doesn’t even ask for proof or information or anything. He just finds someone riding a bike that fits the description of the brand-new stolen one and says, “You may be young, but I will arrest you. Give me the bike.”