Thursday, January 31, 2008

Morality & The Shield, Part 2


There are things
I have done
There's a place
I have gone
There's a beast
And I let it run
Now it's running . . .
My way

Lyrics from "This Night" by Black Lab


This song was used in a promo for season six of "The Shield". Its lyrics are rich with the story that “The Shield” has portrayed from the very first episode – the idea of committing an unpardonable sin that defines you & haunts you for as long as you live.

The “original sin” of this television series occurred in the pilot episode. As I introduced to you in a recent entry, this show follows the adventures of an experimental anti-gang & -drug unit. In the first episode, the unit consists of four members. The captain of the police precinct knows that the unit is dirty, but can’t prove it. So he selects someone he can trust, officer Terry Crowley, to infiltrate the unit – a NARC among NARCs. Vic Mackey, the unit’s leader, learns of the captain’s plot, and his brilliant solution is to this problem is to blow the snitch away. And that’s just what he does.

Similar to a common interpretation of the unpardonable sin of the New Testament, disloyalty is the ultimate sin among cops. The pilot of “The Shield” received extreme negative reviews from real-life law enforcement officers because of what they considered the incredulity of a cop murdering a fellow officer. However, as it bears out, the entire series is an outgrowth of that “original sin.” It is true to reality in that the series fleshes out the consequences of turning on one’s own.

Vic Mackey
"I'm a BAAAAD man!"
When Mackey murders Crowley, there is one other member of the Strike Team who knows about it – Detective Shane Vendrell. Vendrell witnesses the deed, and helps cover Vic & his story. Vendrell can’t cope with what they did in the same, easy way that Mackey can, however. It haunts him, and drives him to get into trouble in later episodes. Ultimately, it comes to a point where Detective Vendrell becomes the “beast” that Mackey “let it run,” and in season 6 it starts “running (his) way.” Vendrell mimics Mackey’s deed of murdering a fellow cop for what appeared to be a justified reason. Mackey disagrees, and they become enemies.

I wonder about this idea of a horrible sin – something so abhorrent, so abominable. Something so scandalous, savage, and/or fierce that there is no going back. Something so wretched that it grows out of your control & creates a monster that turns on yourself.

Tom Hanks’ character voices his trepidation in committing such a transgression in The Green Mile. As an executioner at a state prison, Hanks’ character realizes that there is a man on his death row that is innocent of the crime he is being prosecuted for. And not only that, but this man possesses an incredible gift to heal. As the time approaches for this captive healer to go to the electric chair, Tom Hanks’ character wonders what he should do. “I've done some horrible things in my life, but this is the first time I've felt a real danger of hell,” he tells his wife. "On the day of judgment, when I stand before God, and he asks me why did I kill one of his true miracles, what do I say? That it was my job?"

There is an element of shame that I believe to be ungodly. Satan suggests to us that our particular brand of sin is so heinous that we are unworthy of God’s love & grace. However, I wonder about this idea of doing a deed that genuinely leads you down a path where there is no return.

In the Special Features on the DVD for Season 5 of “The Shield,” actor Walter Goggins (who plays Detective Shane Vendrell) talks about the trajectory of the Vic & Shane story-line – from helping one another cover up a horrible deed to becoming mortal enemies. He says, “Wherever it goes, there will be pain to deal with.” The final season will hopefully air on FX in 2008. I can’t wait to see what the writers do with the final installment. If the plot follows through toward a realistic end, I can only conceive of one possibility.

1 comment:

Lloyd said...

Fantastic thoughts, Phillip. And sin does always lead to death. Of course, the real question is whether it will be that of our own soul, or whether we will accept the death of Christ in our place.