Music, movies, TV, whatever. It’s all pop culture to me. If I throw everything from 2008 into a pot, it seems like various TV shows keep bubbling to the top.
“The Wire” wrapped up its final season, and while I never watched the show while it was in its run, I plowed through the entire series in a one month run and yeah, it’s probably the best show ever made… even if its final season was perhaps its weakest. (Give me season 2 for drama and plotting and 4 for the devastating inevitability of failure for all of the kids trying to make it on the street.)
“Mad Men” is the most unique show on TV, and continues to dazzle.
For comedy, you have “30 Rock” and “The Office” being the two funniest shows on TV.
But the very best thing of 2008, regardless of media? That was easy. It was 90 minutes of pure awesome.
“The Shield,” Season Finale: “Family Meeting”
The season finale of “The Shield” towered over everything produced in 2008. It was a serious punch to the gut, wrapping up the show in a mind-bogglingly amazing way. If I was arguing “Best Show Ever,” I’d still put its overall run behind “The Wire,” but man… it quickly closed that gap with this episode.
(Warning: There be spoilers beyond.)
If “The Shield” can be summed up in one pithy phrase, it’s “one bad deed leads to another, even worse one.” Each season had the Strike Team dealing with shit overflowing from one cup to the next, and it all started in the very first episode, when Vic Mackey killed Terry Crowley. That murder, that first bad choice of many, hovered over the series’ entire run. It set Vic and the Strike Team up to keep trying to top that particular dodge, emboldening them to rob Armenian money trains and take on everyone from Glen Close and Forrest Whitaker (whose perfectly modulated performance of quietly controlled menace was a highlight).
Vic finally came clean about everything in the second to last episode, and it was one of Michael Chiklis’s greatest moments, though he had plenty throughout the show’s run. But he still couldn’t escape his fate, and that fate was the show’s most brilliant stroke, turning the biggest and baddest detective on the force, the one with the most swagger, the biggest gun, the biggest… everything, into an office drone in a cubicle. It’s the coldest ending imaginable, and one of the funniest scenes of the year was Mackey showing up in his ill-fitting—both literally and figuratively—suit for the first day of the rest of his life. His scene with the HR person, where she tells him about lunch protocol, was sublime. Vic Mackey ultimately won—he got full immunity for his illegal activities from the feds—but he lost everything: his family, his job, his friends, and his dignity. Kudos to Shawn Ryan for daring to end it this way.
That Shane’s ending was more inevitable didn’t make it any less devastating. If Walton Goggins doesn’t win all sorts of awards for his portrait of desperation this season, they’ve lost whatever credibility they had. Shane was my least favorite character, in that I just hated the dude. The look on his face for the last handful of episodes was so haunted. He’s a bad guy, yeah. He’s done terrible things, but he was following the “king,” as they called Vic in the last episode. Unlike Vic, however, he had no way out. The way the show handled his end, with his family, was unexpected and devastating. “Family Meeting” indeed.
That Ronnie ended up the last Strike Team member standing, the only one who’ll end up in prison for what they did, is a wonderful irony since he was the least developed of all of the characters. His big moment, when he’s being arrested and finds out that Mackey didn’t get him the same deal he received, was amazing: “You told them all of it?” It’s his realization that he’s a chump, yet another pawn in Vic’s game of self-preservation.
And who better than to deliver all of this to Vic, and to shame him in front of every other cop on the force, than Claudette. She lost most of her dignity when she realized she couldn’t get Vic, but the final scene—another amazing performance from both Chiklis and CCH Pounder—when she reads Shane’s suicide letter to Vic… whoa. “They were innocent and they are in heaven now, and we’ll always be a family,” she read to Vic.
Though she’s dying of Lupus—quick, call Dr. House!—the moral center of the show stayed that way until the end.
Every character got their own little bit of resolution, even if most of it was bleak. Dutch got his serial killer and possibly some romantic action with a lawyer, though it cost another woman her life; Aceveda will be mayor, but he’s become the empty suit everyone assumed he’d become; Julian remains in denial over his sexuality; and as with the actual Rampart division of the LAPD, and its scandal, that served as the basis for this show, things will eventually go back to normal in The Barn. And in the end, everyone will lose something.
We lost a great show.