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The Shield 7x02: "Snitch" Review
Well, wasn't that a goddamn season premiere? "The Coefficient of Drag" left some tantalizing clues as to what was to come in subsequent episodes: a brewing gang war, Shane allied with his former friends once again; an ICE agent working out of the Barn. The season opener was one of the best episodes of the series thus far, at least in my eyes, so "Snitch" had elevated expectations for it going in. I don't know about other viewers (nor do I care - a lot of them don't think McCain and Palin are noxious wastes of human life, which is why I tapered off my posting at TheShieldRap), but I expected fast and furious plot developments and an upping of the ante. In a sense, "Snitch" disappoints because the pace is significantly slower than the previous episode and certain storylines initiated in the premiere do not appear (Aceveda doesn't appear at all, Ronnie's leadership of the Strike Team is not touched upon much, Olivia Murray is a glorified cameo). Yet just because it did not play to my expectations does not mean the episode blows. Indeed, by not doing the expected, "Snitch" works better as an episode of television rather than simply a piece of the arc.
The first scene of the episode, Vic and Shane going to the place Vic stashed Aramboles (which is where they took Guardo...Vic has a great line: "On a clear night you can see Guardo's house from here. Don't worry, I haven't seen his ghost around."), perfectly illustrates the difference between the Strike Team reforming in Season 4 and the shaky alliance now. Vic was willing to give Shane the benefit of the doubt then and now he treats him like shit, insulting him with every other statement. Veiled insults like that Guardo comment are peppered throughout the scene, and Vic refuses to keep him in the loop as to what's really going on, even when Shane is tasked with ensuring safe passage for Aramboles to Mexico. It looks like Vic won't ever forgive Shane for what he did. And even if he does, Ronnie won't. I suspect Shane will meet a bloody end by the culmination of the series. The acrimony between Vic and Shane reaches a plateau at the end of the episode, with Shane whining about Vic not accepting him into the fold again, denigrating Ronnie in the process by calling him Vic's "whipping boy for life". No matter what errands you run for him, you still killed Lem, you asshole.
THE BEARD'S GLORIOUS RETURN
Pezuela fires the first volley in the gang war, setting up a hit on Rezian in prison though Vic warns against it. Unfortunately for the team, Pezuela remains steadfast in his desire to kill off some Armenians and matters get worse when Rezian pledges that if he dies, his second in command has already been ordered to murder some cop families. The Strike Team case for the episode, in addition to keep the gang war from causing unintended damage, is to stop a series of murders that happen by no coincidence on the same morning as LA's list of Top 10 criminal organizations is published in the newspaper. The gang behind the shootings turn out to be Spook Street, a gang not even on the list (in case you're wondering, the Byz Lats are #4 while the One Niners are #5). After several episodes focusing on the Mexicans and the Armenians, it's nice to see an episode centered on the black gangs (who lost their prominence following Antwon's incarceration at the end of Season 4). The kids behind the killings - and they definitely are kids - show themselves to be the exact kind of shitheads who make banging look ignoble in contrast to shit like American Gangster. By the end of the episode I wanted to punch the punk in the face even though you can't punch television characters unless you're on a powerful hallucinogen. The scene of the Spook Streeters' arrest is emblematic of The Shield's law enforcement/civilian relationship. Certain areas of Farmington are so economically depressed, so tired, so desperate for anything, capping random white folk and getting caught for it's a badge of honor.
How long before Dutch strangles Billings?
Vic and Shane have to stop Rezian's hit as well as get Rezian out of jail. To accomplish these tasks they enlist Moses of the One-Niners to provide protection for Rezian in county and Shane manages to get Rezian's accountant to recant his testimony with some veiled threats towards him. The latter leads toward a great scene in which Shane implies the Armenians have a hit out on the accountant's college age daughter. This calls back to classic Strike Team scenarios in which they subliminally suggest the person in question not testify or withdraw (an example: the Strike Team candidate Robbie Villenueva being dissuaded by Vic through the Armadillo threat). And it shows how competent Shane can be if he tries. Or rather how competent he can be when the writers don't need him for the idiot fuckup role. Rezian survives the assassination attempt, although he's still pissed off at Shane. Ungrateful bastard! Aramboles is safely coyoted to the much beloved goat farm, which raises the notion that Aramboles may come out of The Shield better than a lot of the others. Vic calms down Pezuela and demands 10 grand a week for his troubles. The balls on that guy!
Dutch and Billings have to solve a case wherein a woman was killed with a cinderblock and despite an apartment building full of witnesses, no one's willing to talk. Billings shows his "Billings Minimum" level of effort which pisses off Dutch and causes him to bring all the tenants back to the Barn. Billings uses this situation to sell food from his vending machines to them. Yet ironically, despite Billings being lazy, he manages to have the moment of inspiration that leads them to the culprit of the crime. Although it'd get tiresome if Billings always cracked the case, but I think it does well in showing that Dutch flounders when he doesn't have a partner to temper his theories and his interrogation style. As for the resolution of the Top 10 gang shootings, Claudette interrogates the baby banger herself and CCH Pounder is given the opportunity for a scene that is sure to have been submitted for an Emmy. I don't normally like "ACTING ACTING ACTING!" scenes, but Pounder masterfully delivers a monologue of sorts about the nature of the word 'nigger' and its use by ignorant kids. The writing is so good and the acting is so good I'm willing to let the obvious Emmy baiting slide. Especially as the storyline's capped off with the perp's lawyer lodging a complaint that Claudette called his client a nigger, to which Dutch quips: "So you're a racist. How's that working out for you?".
A place is fucked when a celebration occurs upon residents being arrested for murder. Fucked and HILARIOUS.
Unlike the previous episode's abstract title, "Snitch"'s meaning and relevance is easy to get since a shitload of snitching goes on. A grandmother tired of the violence and ready to meet Jesus snitches on the Spook Street soldiers. Vic and Shane snitch to their respective interests about insider information. Vic snitches on Aramboles to both Pezuela and ICE. The deputy snitches on Shane's interaction vis-à-vis the accountant, which also compels the accountant to not snitch on Rezian. Cassidy snitches on Vic. She does so to Billings, telling him about Vic's tying up Mara. It's fortuitous she told Billings, because if she told Dutch Vic would be fucked. See, Billings is a lot more useful than one may think at first glance. In a way, The Shield is about communication, and everyone basing their actions on different sets of information. Shane is in the dark about Vic's larger scheme. Corrine knows something's fishy with Vic's lies, but she doesn't exactly know what. The tenants of the apartment complex won't communicate the truth to Dutch. Pezuela puts a hit out on Rezian because Vic gave him false information, and Rezian thinks Diro's still out to get him from a lie Shane fed. It's amazing that just one lie falling through could get the entire Strike Team killed.
Shane's daddy issues could fill a fucking omnibus.
7x02 has great dialogue even for The Shield. The turns of phrase on the show routinely make me laugh amidst the murder and darkness, but 7x02 is perhaps the funniest episode ever. This may explain the poor reception "Snitch" has received; one would think because of how absolutely gutwrenching the last season or so has been, comedy is out of place. But if Season 6 had a flaw besides Corrine and the goddamn dream, it's the moments of lightness were nearly nonexistent. The subject matter called for it, yes; I didn't expect nor want the Strike Team cracking jokes in the immediate wake of Lem's death. But the darkness overwhelmed at times and made the viewing more akin to being punched in the gut for 45 minutes rather than 'enjoyable'. Now Vic is back to his delightful turns of phrase and there's more comedic relief than Billings' slacker antics. Most importantly, the humor fits the show and isn't godawful, brain destroying trainwreck garbage 'comedy' one finds on the Law & Orders, the CSIs and everything else formulaic and law enforcement-y. For example of "Snitch"'s lighter moments, a plot thread in the baby bangers storyline is Spook Street is working with Al Qaeda, something Vic and Ronnie scoff at but nonetheless have to factor into their investigation.
The Billings Minimum solves yet another case!
"Snitch" doesn't do a whole lot to advance the larger arc, only incrementally moving the players (Rezian from prison to freedom, Aramboles from Guardoville to the goat farm), but it harkens back to the days when The Shield would actually have standalone episodes. Those disappeared by Season 3 and only briefly returned in the beginning of Season 4 until leaving completely with the entrance of Jon Kavanaugh. Now, if the standalone episodes continue and stall the overarching plot I'll be less kind. One more-or-less standalone in a season of 13's acceptable to me, however. Also, who can say no to Billings slacker comedy? Fucking no one.
The Hotness: Autumn Chiklis. No, no, I'm kidding, don't Gary Glitter me (that has so many different definitions I'm not going to bother listing them). Despite a lack of screentime, I think I'm gonna go with Laurie Holden as Olivia Murray. I was lusting after her back when she played Marita on The X-Files and she looks just as hot now as she does then. When do you think Vic will tap that? He's due; guy got nothing in Season 6, though I suppose that's because he was a little busy finding Lem's killer and trying to save his job. But drama like that's never stopped Mackey before, has it? (Let us all fondly remember the time Vic fucked that Armenian chick who cried halfway through.)
Best Line: This is a tough one. But after much consideration I'm giving it to two lines, both said by Vic: "When the men from UNCLE are cruising Alvarado looking for Osama, I'll be sweatin' some good old fashioned trash-talking American dipshit!" and "On the Internet, Dutchboy is still a 13 year old girl looking for her first training bra.". The two lines address the same plot point of the cops receiving intel that Spook Street may be working in tandem with Al Qaeda. Oh, Al Qaeda, you've brought me so many treasured memories.
Classic moment of the episode: Dutch taking the entire apartment complex's residents down to the Barn for questioning.