This review will contain spoilers for Season 5. The Strike Team must deal with the death of Lem while Shane must learn to live with his horrible secret. Meanwhile a new detective is brought in to replace Vic, who is slowly being forced out.

The Lowdown

Season 5 of The Shield ended on a momentous event that promised things would never be the same for the Strike Team. Previous seasons would end on a climactic moment and then be settled early the next season and return to the status quo. With Season 7 promised to be the final season for the police show, creator Shawn Ryan pulled out all the stops and never looked back in this pivotal season.

When Season 5 came to a close, Vic was on the ropes as investigator Jon Kavanaugh had sunk to Vic’s level by framing him for something he wasn’t guilty of. That storyline was wrapped up rather quickly and cleanly in the opening of Season 6 so the show could move on to the more important issues at hand. The shocking finale of Season 5 ended with the death of Lem at the hands of fellow Strike Team member and close friend Shane. When Vic, Shane and Ronnie walked away from Lem’s dead body, Vic swore he would kill whoever was responsible.

What makes The Shield such a great show is the acting. From top to bottom, this is the best ensemble cast I have seen on free television. Starting at the top is Michael Chiklis as Vic Mackey. He has developed into a character that has so many faces and pent up emotion, he burns the screen every time he appears. He might be the most dangerous character on television and he is the glue that holds this show together.

During Season 6, he is given a new character to play off. Vic finds out early on he is about to face a review board hearing to determine if he will be forced into early retirement. A new detective, Kevin Hiatt (Alex O’Loughlin), has been brought in and the Strike Team is turned over to him to run until Vic finally is forced out. Watching the two characters interact, it is clear how Vic Mackey is, and always will be, the big dog in the Barn. Not to say O’Loughlin does not do a good job in his role, but Michael Chiklis has played this role for so long it almost seems like a second skin.

Walton Goggins also brings the goods this season as Shane as he runs the gamut of fear following his devastating decision, from  suicidal tendencies and manic depression to the eventual caged dog instincts that begins to slowly destroy everyone once loved. Goggins is said to become his character for the entire day of the shoot and that is scary because Shane Vendrell is the most damaged character on the show and quickly becomes the most interesting. Watching a man unravel and disintegrate before your eyes is a very interesting thing.

Another highlight of The Shield is watching the supporting characters as they interact throughout all The Strike Team’s antics. David Rees Snell, who never even had his name in the opening credits the first three seasons, finally steps forward here. As Ronnie, the other Strike Team guy, he finally makes Vic realize he was someone who could have helped the entire time if he had just been trusted. He is also the only man left standing that Vic can trust throughout the season. The guy did such a solid job this season I wish I could have seen more of him in the first five.

A personal favorite of mine is Dutch. I was very disappointed at his role this season as he primarily played an odd-couple role to new partner, and former captain, Billings. I grew to hate Billings over the season, seeing him as a weasel and very slimy character with no good qualities whatsoever. The fact that Billings played such a large role in an ongoing subplot made me want to see Dutch bring him down in Season 7 even more. Another new character playing off Dutch is a young Latino detective named Tina. Of course, since she is a young female, Dutch wants her and that is boring. I would rather see Dutch solving a serial killer case. The only payoff to this storyline is bringing Danny back into the spotlight after she was relegated to a background character during her pregnancy.

The characters of Claudette and Aceveda continue to be interesting. I was a bit disappointed with Claudette’s character because, where she once stood for what was good amongst the shades of gray in the barn, she now seems more like an authority figure, a talking head, and less like a righteous police officer. Aceveda is just as slimy as ever and he continues to be a perfect foil for Vic Mackey.

The main storyline drives the stake through the relationship between Vic and Shane and the sixth episode, Chasing Ghosts, is the best of the season. Co-written by Shawn Ryan and directed by Frank Darabont (Shawshank Redemption), this episode hit me squarely between the eyes and left me dazed. When Vic confronts Shane about the murder of Lem and the two throw verbal jabs back-and-forth, it is devastating. Everything is left on the table and nothing is held back. It is the best episode in a great season.

I could argue the finale is a little disappointing, but it served its purpose. Season 6 is not about ending on a cliffhanger that could be solved in Season 7. This Season is all about setting up the eventual downfall of the entire Strike Force. No one is going to come out of this in one piece and Season 6 is a perfect setup for that eventual implosion.

The Package

Saturn’s Sons (29:46) explains that Season 6 is actually an extension of Season 5, as ordered by the network. That is the reason Forest Whitaker was in the first two episodes of this season. This feature examines the storylines and arches of Seasons 5 and 6 and talks to everyone from creators to cast. It’s a nice, in depth look at the scripts.

Two Directors (29:26) is a feature talking about the directors that worked on the show. They talk to Frank Darabont about his episode (Chasing Ghosts) and then focus on Paris Barclay, who directed the finale (Spanish Practices).

Franke Potente: Full Circle (14:15) talks about her guest starring role this season. For those who don’t know, she was Lola in Run Lola Run and the love interest in The Bourne Identity.

FX Preview: Sons of Anarchy (00:32) – It is what it is. There is almost nothing in this preview that tells me anything about the show.

Deleted scenes are included with most episodes and include optional commentary by Shawn Ryan. There are commentary tracks on almost every episode as well. This is a mix and match of cast and crew members so the tracks never get boring. Frank Darabont is even on board with commentary on his episode. Just about everyone you would want to hear from is included in either the commentary tracks or the featurettes. This is a solid set with everything you could want to know about The Shield.