The Shield series finale has aired, and one of the most successful cable television shows of all time has finally come to its end. There were many questions left to be answered going into the final episode. Would Vic Mackey really escape cleanly or would he face any retribution or justice? What would happen to his family? Would Ronnie end up in jail after Vic’s betrayal? Would Shane and his family make a getaway? All of these questions were answered in The Shield series finale, and be forewarned, this article does contain spoilers!
I was cautiously optimistic heading into the final episode of The Shield. The show has managed to follow a succinct story line throughout its entirety and never shied away from a dramatic or unexpected moment. So I trusted that it would pull through to a greater degree than say, the awful ending of The Sopranos. Additionally, while none of the above questions were answered before heading into the final episode, the show was heading in a clear direction. We might not have known what was going to happen, but we sure knew that something was going to happen.
The first half of the episode seemed to meander around the way that the first half of the season did. Too much time was spent dealing with subsidiary issues rather than getting to the good stuff, what The Shield series finale should be all about, Vic, Shane and Ronnie and their respective fates. Finally though, you could read Shane’s eyes as he walked into his apartment, after throwing caution to the wind to return there to begin with, Shane seemed to have a plan.
That plan involved a cult-like suicide strategy, poisoning his pregnant wife and his son and then shooting himself once the cops closed in on him. Shane had lost his leverage against Vic when Vic made his deal for immunity from prosecution, and he had no more strings to pull. He always said he wouldn’t let his wife go to prison, but I don’t think we could have foreseen this as his master solution to that problem.
The beauty of this plot twist lies beyond the immediate fate of Shane and his family. Vic and Ronnie should have nothing to worry about. Since the death of Lem, the only reason Vic and Ronnie tolerated Shane was because he could turn them in and talk about everything they had ever done. With Shane and Mara dead, there is nothing that can come back to haunt them now, they should be in the clear. Except Vic already made his own immunity deal, and in the process of admitting every wrong he has committed on the show, from murdering a cop in the first episode of The Shield and on down the list, he implicated his teammate and best friend Ronnie to jail for the rest of his life.
One of the most telling scenes of The Shield series finale was when Vic walked back into The Barn. No matter what happened in his life, Vic always had the support and admiration of the everyday, blue collar cop. Sure, maybe he was tough on suspects and didn’t listen to command, but who cares? He got the job done. As he walked back into The Barn, all of the cops now knowing about his actions and the murder he committed and planned against a fellow officer, all of that respect and admiration turned to hatred and disgust.
Vic’s family, we learned in the series finale, has gone under the witness protection program. He didn’t even get to say goodbye. The wife he tried to protect and do good by – in his own mind – was working with the cops and betraying him. He attempted to save her and in the process gave up his teammate Ronnie, the most loyal member of the Strike Team. Lem, the most innocent member, was brutally murdered by Shane. Shane killed himself, and Ronnie was sent off to prison for the remainder of his life by Vic. No family, and no friends left, and as we learn, no job or passion either.
The Federal agents were not content to let Vic continue roaming the streets, having avoided prosecution for all of his despicable acts. No, Vic Mackey would be a desk jockey for the rest of his service years, wearing a suit and tie, filing lengthy reports and being on time. The last few minutes of The Shield series finale reveal the cops at the Barn rushing out to respond to a call. Mackey sees the police cars speeding by his building. He can’t do anything but watch. He officially has nothing left. Sure, he saved himself from going to jail. But in the process, he destroyed the last bit of himself he had left. The Shield ends with Vic Mackey in his very own ninth circle of hell. Both families he tried to protect, his actual family and the Strike Team, completely disintegrated, at his own doing.
That’s what The Shield was about, at least for the men in the Strike Team. Everybody wanted to protect their own family. For Lem and Ronnie, their family was The Strike Team. And ultimately their trust and love for that family led to their demise, as the men they followed, Vic and Shane, took them continually further down a path of immorality and destruction. Shane and Vic had family outside of the Strike Team. Shane’s ended up dead and Vic’s in witness protection.
Vic is read Shane’s suicide note. And in it is revealed a final moment of clarity before he met his end. For several seasons, since Shane murdered Lem, perhaps the most debated question about The Shield was who was a worse person, Vic or Shane? Who was the more evil of the two, and are they actually any different? In his note, Shane makes it very clear that the root of all of this evil, laid both in himself and in Vic. Vic led the way, and Shane followed all too willingly. They fed off each other and eventually veered down separate paths, but shared the same instincts and motives. Both of these men were criminals, and both of them were evil. Both betrayed a Strike Team brother to protect their own necks. Shane “protects” his family from going to jail by murdering them and Vic gets his family protected from him and perhaps a similar fate, as they start a new life under witness protection.
The most climatic moment of the series finale of The Shield was one we knew would happen. Ronnie would find out about Vic’s betrayal. As Ronnie is being arrested and the scene is unfolding, Ronnie erupts in despair and in anger. He shouts what about protecting the team Vic? What about my choice Vic? I wanted to run, we could have run together he screams. Throughout The Shield, Ronnie was always willing to follow Vic’s lead, to do what he thought was best. The thing he could bare the thought of the least was being sent to jail. And for his loyalty, for his trust of Vic, that’s exactly what happens to him. Vic made one pitiful attempt to yell to Ronnie before he was arrested, far too little and far too late. Another victim of the maelstrom swirling around everything and everybody Vic Mackey cared for or came into contact with.
The Shield series finale somehow found a way to be both unpredictable and satisfying. David Aceveda is able to ascend to the mayor’s office, while his opposing candidate, perhaps metaphorically representing change and hope, is slain. Dutch finally catches his serial killer. Claudette regains her senses and accepts her illness, and Tina becomes a worthwhile cop. And of course, the Strike Team members all meet their demise. The Shield series finale was fully satisfying, and only bittersweet in the fact that the show has indeed, finally come to an end.