TV UK, 5 August

Gang wars, corruption and class action lawsuits: The Shield returns.

Dolan Cummings

Topics Culture

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‘This is America!’ protests a gangster in this week’s episode of The Shield (Channel 5, Saturday at 11pm). His mother and sisters have just been evicted because he bought their house with drug money, and new police captain Monica Rawling (Glenn Close) has introduced a draconian seizure programme to pay for her campaign to clean up Farmington. As ever, The Shield remains a cop show with an eye for politics.

While ambitious former captain Aceveda has made it to the city council, his legacy is not great. The new season opened with the strike team disbanded and Mackey off the street working a case that bores him. Claudette and Dutch are in disgrace with the district attorney and also unable to work proper cases. Meanwhile, gang violence rages on the streets. Captain Rawling, having fixed the men’s toilets, is determined to do the same with the gang problem: hence the seizures to pay for a new anti-gang unit and a second chance for Mackey.

This is America, all right, and The Shield has never been afraid to portray the land of opportunity warts and all (all right, mostly warts, but this is a cop show after all). The gangster who has had his mother’s house seized is responsible for having started a gang war in furtherance of his rap career – ‘You can’t buy this kind of street cred’ – in a sorry story involving a young woman also trying to work her way out of the ghetto by, er, modelling in his video.

But, as ever, the cops themselves are no paragons. Mackey’s former protégé Shane has moved on to vice, where he has adopted a young pup of his own to educate in petty corruption and unorthodox management of criminal clients: ‘It’s all good in the hood.’ Mackey can only look on in horror at the monster he has created, warning the other former strike team members that Shane is now a liability and their little secrets are no longer safe. ‘He’s a father now. There’s nothing you won’t do.’ Mackey should know: his own kids have always been central to his character. For the cops as well as the criminals, it is often the desire for security that drives their most reckless actions.

Mackey’s wife, from whom he is separated, now wants him to help her join a class action law suit against the manufacturers of the vaccine she thinks caused autism in their son. While the lawsuit may be characteristically American, the underlying feeling of frustration and powerlessness is both more universal and more contemporary, obviously recalling the notorious panic over the MMR vaccine in the UK. When they find that a paediatrician friend is unwilling to support their case, the couple are quick to shout conspiracy, demonstrating a sense of victimisation and entitlement as intense and irrational as that felt by any alienated ghetto youth.

Asset seizures, gang wars, corruption and class action lawsuits. It’s all good in the hood.

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