It occurred to me that a few months ago I blazed through season three of The Shield, but failed to review it. This fifteen-episode arc deals largely with the after-effects of the notorious Money Train heist, and how Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) and his strike team handle the pressure of concealing their secret from increasingly suspicious colleagues — especially Detective Claudette Wyms (CCH Pounder), whose relentless integrity makes her more and more of a pariah in the Barn. Other highlights include an entertaining rivalry with a new decoy squad, a traumatic experience for Lieutenant Aceveda (Benito Martinez), and a chilling one-shot appearance from Clark Gregg — which leads to a memorably repulsive moment from Dutch Wagenbach (Jay Karnes). The Shield builds momentum with each season, and the further it goes, the more its central long game — which centers on Mackey’s precarious methods-versus-results balancing act — takes impressive shape. I’m looking forward to riding this series out.
More recently in the Land of TV Antiheroes, I polished off season seven of Dexter. I’m afraid the show’s incremental decline, which probably started in season five but didn’t really start to show until the Doomsday Killer business in season six, steadily continues here. The twist at the end of season six puts drastic — and often unconvincing — new stresses on the relationship between Dexter (Michael C. Hall) and his sister Deb (Jennifer Carpenter). But beyond that tonal shift, Dexter doesn’t feel like it has much left to say here in season seven. It overuses Chuck’s Yvonne Strahovski as Dexter’s confidant du jour, while under-utilizing a formidable Ray Stevenson in a Ukrainian mob subplot that sputters out with disappointing lack of fanfare. The show remains entertaining, at least, and Carpenter is still magnificent — her performance all the more impressive for the incredible emotional contortions thrown her way. But the mystique is much faded, and it’s clear there’s little more to do than wind it down and tie off the threads. I’ll soldier through for completism’s sake, of course, but it’s sad to see a show that used to be so special and compelling turn into just another franchise.