How The Shield ruined The Wire for me
Anyone who’s seen Shawn Ryan’s ‘The Shield’ in its entirety will be aware of what an utterly gripping, intense, and well-acted show it is.
Spanning seven glorious seasons that began in 2002 and saw out its final one in 2008, the Michael Chiklis-led show revolving around a four-man police unit (known as the Strike Team) who bend and break the law to get results and benefit themselves, is arguably one of TV’s greatest ever series.
To a non fan, ‘The Shield’ (on paper at least) sounds like something we’ve seen time and time before - another US series about crooked cops is nothing new, but the way creator Ryan and his crew portray the morally ambiguous and sometimes outright shocking events Vic Mackey (Chikis) and co. involve themselves in is undoubtedly special.
A blistering pace of storytelling echoes aspects of the more recent phenomenon of ‘Breaking Bad’; specifically where quick, smart solutions to on-the-spot problems are needed. Not only that, but ‘The Shield’s’ style was frenetically shot with handheld cameras. Combine it with a lightening-speed edit barely gives you time to breathe, amidst the ongoing issues Mackey has to face in regards to the pressure from Internal Investigations following him round like a bad smell. Season finales were brilliantly set-up and explosive (quite literally in some cases), with the series finale perfectly seen out as it ties up loose ends and gives us some sort of closure.
After all was said and done and karma bit Vic Mackey hard, I needed a new fix; something to wind away my evenings in binge mode. The general consensus pointed towards ‘The Wire’, which was regarded as one of the greatest shows ever made, seemed like my next fix. Coincidentally it ran during the same years (2002-8) as ‘The Shield’ did but didn’t register on my radar. Continuing my thirst for top quality television of the police variety, I popped the acclaimed HBO pilot on, but what I took away was an unexpected fulfilment.
Simply put, I struggled to get into its story because of its slow pacing. Granted, it’d be foolish to turn your nose up at anything that’s prides itself as a slow burner - I’m not saying that’s to its detriment - but in direct contrast to having had the thrill ride of ‘The Shield’, it actually made ‘The Wire’ near impossible to get into.
Even after four episodes it still wasn’t clicking for me, which was terribly frustrating. As great and varied as television is, when you’re used to speeding round in a Ferrari and are then forced to go 10 under the speed limit, the transition’s naturally going to be a challenge. Unfortunately, being unable to get into a series means you simply struggle to engage with it - not least guster any enthusiasm. In short, I regrettably gave up on ‘The Wire’ after this short spell and never returned. So thanks a lot, ‘The Shield’.
Should I go back after all this time? Have you found yourself in a similar predicament? Share your thoughts in the comments below…
Mike P Williams is a freelance TV, film and entertainment writer, with an obsession for all things Game of Thrones, Jurassic Park and Pixar. Over the years he’s written for the likes of MTV, Total Film, BuzzFeed, and Yahoo Movies UK.
Picture credit: HBO, Fox