• The Shield: The Complete Series (Mill Creek Entertainment) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment
    Released on: December 18th, 2018.
    Director: Various
    Cast: Michael Chiklis, Catherine Dent, Walton Goggins, Michael Jace, James Karnes, Benito Martinez, CCH Pounder
    Year: 2002 - 2008
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    The Shield: The Complete Series – Movie Review:

    The Shield lasted for seven seasons after debuting on the FX network in March of 2002. The series was set in Los Angeles and revolved around a cop named Detective Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis). He works out of the Farmington neighborhood, and area that suffers from high crime and some particularly nasty gang violence. The cops in Farmington operate out of an old church converted into their headquarters. Here Mackey leads the Strike Team, a group that is also made up of Shane Vendrell (Walton Goggins), Curtis ‘Lem’ Lemansky (Kenny Johnson) and Ronnie Gardocki (David Rees Snell). What sets this team apart from other cops is that they’ve been given the go ahead by the powers that be to use violence when necessary. They answer to Captain David Aceveda (Benito Martinez).

    Mackey and company aren’t always on the up and up. When standard police tactics don’t get them what they want, they’re not above breaking the law to make it happen. They’re also prone to dipping into whatever happens to get confiscated from the drug busts that they’re involved with on a regular basis. At the same time, Aceveda can’t complain too much – he’s got political ambitions that need to be looked after that these guys get results. Regardless, in the first episode the powers that be put a new recruit on Mackey’s force, Terry Crowely (Reed Diamond). He’s an honest cop and the rest of the crew are instantly suspicious. In the first episode, Mackey shoots him in a bust, framing a crook for the incident. This move sets into motion a whole lot of trouble for the various players involved and of course, there’s more than one side to how all of this plays out.

    As various stories evolve over the course of the show’s seven seasons, the characters get fleshed out. We learn about Mackey’s difficult home life and his struggles to hold onto a marriage that is clearly failing and to be a father to two autistic kids. Lemansky develops issues with his work, showing some obvious fear that things won’t end well for the group, while Vendrell adjusts to married life himself. We meet some of the supporting characters – cops in blue like Sgt. Danielle "Danny" Sofer (Catherine Dent), Julien Lowe (Michael Jace) and Tina Hanlon (Paula Garcés) and higher up Farmington officers like Holland "Dutch" Wagenbach (Jay Karnes) and partner Claudette Wyms (CCH Pounder), the two morally upstanding officers who work out of the barn, as well as Steve Billings (David Marciano). They’ve all got issues of their own to deal with, from health problems to questions of faith and morality to dealing with their own sexual identity and orientation. Some of these people care more about the difference between right and wrong than the others.

    Later plot developments keep things interesting. Aceveda eventually lands a spot on the Los Angeles City Council, hoping to make it up the ladder and eventually land a job as the mayor. He and Mackey develop a pretty intense rivalry that carries on through a good part of the series’ run. Mackey also develops a rivalry with Claudette and Dutch throughout the show that can often lead to tension amongst the ranks. Eventually Danielle, who has a past of her own with Dutch, and Vic carry on an affair and when she gets pregnant, winds up working the desk.

    The various threads of the series weave their way through the show very intricately. The writing on the series is top notch, it stays grounded and always feels very realistic. The characters are not so much good and bad as they are human, operating in a grey area of sorts where it isn’t always clear what the right thing to do is. Of course, we know Vic shouldn’t be abusing his power the way that he does, but we also understand how difficult and dangerous his job is and why he would be tempted to behave the way that he behaves. He and the rest of the Strike Force are clearly flawed individuals, but in the context of the ‘big picture’ that the series creates, there are times where you completely understand their actions. So too are there times where you can easily condemn them. The moral ambiguity of many of the characters keeps them interesting.

    The performances are very strong across the board. Mackay is fantastic in the lead, delivering a series of powerhouse performances throughout the show’s run. CCH Pounder is every bit his equal and stands out as one of the finest of the performers on a very well-acted show. The rest of the regulars are very strong here as well, Benito Martinez doing a fine job in his politically ambitious role. The series also features some interesting guest stars like Glenn Close, Forest Whitaker, a pre-Walking Dead Laurie Holden, Michael Peña and Franka Potente.

    One thing worth noting is that the episode ‘Mum’ as presented on this set is an edited version, presumably one prepared for broadcast in the UK. Missing from this episode is a chunk of footage from the scene where Aceveda is sexually.

    The Shield: The Complete Series – Blu-ray Review:

    The Shield: The Complete Series is framed at 1.78.1 widescreen and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition, with the series’ seven seasons spread across sixteen 50GB discs. Taken from new 4k restorations, the series, which was originally shot on 16mm film, looks very good here. Mill Creek’s decision to cram roughly seven episodes on each disc hurts the compression here and there – you don’t have to be eagle-eyed to see frequent compression artifacts – but detail is generally good and the series’ intentionally gritty looked has thankfully maintained... mostly. Some mild DNR does appear to have been applied here. Colors look really good, black levels are fine and skin tones appear lifelike and realistic. There’s no real print damage here to complain about and while this isn’t as sharp looking as something shot on 35mm might be, overall the picture quality here solid.

    As to the aspect ratio, The Shield was shown in 1.33.1 fullframe in North America (though was reportedly broadcast in 1.78.1 in Europe) but series creator Shawn Ryan has stated that each episode was composed with 1.78.1 in mind knowing that HDTV’s were going to become the norm. This tends to prove accurate when looking at the compositions. Yes, there are spots here and there were you could argue that the framing looks a bit tight but these are exceptions to the rule. Overall, 1.78.1 looks fine for this material.

    The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio tracks for each episode are also of pretty good quality. Dialogue stays clean and clear, even in the busier scenes, and there’s definitely some noticeable surround activity throughout. The LFE is strong and powerful without burying anything and the score sounds solid. There are no noticeable issues with any hiss or distortion to complain about. The music seems to almost always come out of the center channel in the mix, however, which is kind of odd. For some reason the Animal Control episode in season seven has an audible anomaly where some of the audio sounds kind of thin and slightly distorted but no other issues were detected during playback.

    Mill Creek has carried over all of the extras from the previous DVD releases – and there are a lot of them. There are audio commentary tracks included here for every single one of the episodes included in the first and final seasons of the show, and then select commentaries on every other disc in the set. These cover an insane amount of ground and involve a whole lot of people who were clearly very important to the quality of the show. We hear from writers, directors, from Ryan himself as well as most of the key cast members about what went into making the show, the scripts, details of various episodes and loads, loads more. These tracks are literally a treasure trove of information on the history of the series.

    There are also deleted scenes included on each disc in the set. Some of this material is throwaway type stuff, just extended character development snippets and the like, but some of it is more interesting than that and it’s interesting to see just how much of it has been made available to fans here.

    On the season specific discs, there are also a few featurettes to be found. The fourth disc has a Wrap Day featurette that shows what it was like finishing up the second season, disc seven has a making of piece that covers season three’s fifteenth episode (this thing is eighty-minutes long and crazy in-depth!), disc nine has a featurette that looks at the making of Under The Skin (another very in-depth piece, this one clocking in at an hour in length), disc eleven contains an episode specific making of featurette covering Delivering The Baby that runs almost ninety-minutes as well as a season six preview, disc thirteen contains featurettes on Saturn's Sons, Two Directors that run a half an hour each and a fourteen-minute piece called Full Circle that focuses on the involvement of the always lovely Franka Potente, and then disc sixteen rounds things out with featurettes covering the show’s final season and then its final episode that both run just shy of a half an hour in length.

    Additionally, there are a few new extra features exclusive to this Blu-ray spread across the last two discs in the set. Disc seventeen contains a few sections, the first is Crossing The Line. Here we start with a half hour piece on The Rampart Scandal that covers the actual events that inspired the creation of the series. In this piece some actual police officers familiar with the case are interviewed alongside some journalists who covered the controversy when it broke in the late nineties. Behind The Shield is a half hour piece that involves all of the core cast members as well as Shawn Ryan, looking back at the making of the show and sharing some interesting stories from the time they spent working together on it. There’s also a quick two-minute piece that shows off some of the effects work that was done for the show and an eleven-minute featurette that interviews George D. Maycott, an L.A.P.D. officer who worked as the show’s technical advisor.

    In the Framing Farmington section we begin with a ten-minute piece called Raising The Barn which interviews production designer Kitty Doris-Bates about building the headquarters for the Strike Team members. Making A Scene is a ten-minute vintage promotional piece that was done to promote the series as it was moving from season five to season six while The Editing Room is a quick piece that shows the difference between the original and edited versions of a key scene (we won’t spoil it) available with or without director’s commentary. Sound Surgery is a quick two-minute segment that explores some of the sound design and ADR that was used in the show while in the eight-minute A Place We Call Home we get more recollections from Ryan and the cast about the bonding that they did over the span of the run with some admittedly rather sad footage of the set of The Barn being taken down at the end of the show’s run.

    In the Strike Team Only section we get a bunch of raw footage of cast auditions for the main cast - Chiklis, Dent, Goggins, Jace, Johnson, Karnes, Martinez and Pounder. These are interesting to see but not likely anything you’ll go back to. Still, cool to have it here. The Director’s Roundtable is a forty-eight-minute discussion led by Ryan where he and show directors Scott Brazil, Paris Barclay and Peter Horton discuss their work behind the camera and how they all worked together to stay consistent in terms of tone and style.

    Disc seventeen also contains a twenty-six-minute tribute to the late Scott Brazil. He worked on the series up until the fifth season as a producer and occasional director but sadly passed away in 2006. Here some of the cast and crew share some fond memories of the man, it’s a nice piece and worthy of being included here.

    Disc eighteen features a fifty-six-minute 2018 Cast Reunion with Ryan, Chiklis, Dent, Garces, Goggins, Johnson, Karnes, Marciano, Martinez, Pounder, Ryan and Rees Snell. Again, they look back on the making of the show and tell some interesting stories about what it was like to be involved with the series in addition to exploring how some of the characters evolved as the story progressed. The ATX Television Festival: The Shield Writers Room Panel spends an hour with Ryan and his writing team, made up of Kurt Sutter, Glen Mazzara, Scott Rosenbaum and Charles Eglee. They talk in quite a bit of detail about the themes and ideas that the show explores as well as the evolution of certain characters featured in the series. There’s also a nineteen-minute Beyond the Badge Retrospective wherein the show’s producers as well as some of the cast and crew chime in alongside a few different television critics about the influence that the show clearly had over the modern TV landscape and how it played a big part in boosting the careers of more than a few people that were involved in it.

    If that weren’t enough, there’s also the packaging to discuss. The eighteen discs are held in a sturdily constructed book, one disc on each page. That page, in turn, contains the contents of each disc and some basic episode information. This book, which features a very cool badge replica on the front cover, fits inside a thick cardboard slipcover that lets the badge poke through the front. This cover has a magnetic closure on it so that when the cover wraps around it holds it in place. It’s classic and very well designed.

    The Shield: The Complete Series – The Final Word:

    Mill Creek Entertainment’s Blu-ray release of The Shield: The Complete Series is a good one, presenting the gritty and groundbreaking cop drama in good shape, with fine audio and with an impressive selection of extra features both old and new. The show itself is rock solid, a hard-hitting crime drama with an excellent cast, fantastic writing and very strong directing. Highly recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized The Shield: The Complete Series Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      4k transfer and they jammed all the episodes onto 16 discs? This is why I didn't buy their shitty kids in the hall set, they cut the total number of discs from the A&E seasons down substantially, and the episodes look like garbage. Sounds like it's a bit better here, but what a shit deal for a show that I consider to be top-tier television.
    1. Darcy Parker's Avatar
      Darcy Parker -
      There are plenty of reports on the BluRay.com forums that the audio on this set was really disappointing, and the streaming version actually has the broadcast surround mix.