Michael Chiklis in The Shield by Prashant Gupta/FX
In all of the hubbub being made over anticipating Sunday's final episode ever of
, it seems unfair to let
end its penultimate season without some fanfare.
As I noted when both shows returned within a week of each other in April, these dark dramas are among TV's best. As their seasons unfolded, they lived up to my expectations. Quoting myself at the time: "
is first-rate pulp fiction, blisteringly intense as it grabs you by the throat.
is more like classic literature, achieving a level of artistry with its aching yet witty realism while delivering violent jolts that sneak up on you like a sucker punch."
Both of these series ask us to empathize with pretty despicable characters, no doubt. But it's hard to imagine any
fan not cheering Tuesday night for Vic when he realized he's now sitting on a trunk full of leverage, the key to save his job. Likewise, who didn't cringe as Shane fell further into the abyss in his dealings with the Armenians? The sequence in which Shane basically kidnapped Vic's frantic wife and daughter, locking them up for their safety (though it felt to them they were being held for a much darker purpose), was unbearably intense. Even when Shane tries to step up to do something heroic- taking out the hitman who came to Corinne's house, leaving a blood trail that understandably freaked Vic out- he comes off looking worse than ever.
My notes for this episode are full of exclamation points, an indication of how breathlessly things unfolded. And yet there was time for emotional reflection, in the sad story of homeless Miracle Joe, whose fate led Dutch to tears- and into a passionate clinch with Danny. Who knew this sad sack could score by revealing his sensitive, rather than smarmy, side? Meanwhile, Claudette kicked Hiatt out of The Barn (the actor has another gig lined up, as the lead of CBS's
), setting the stage presumably for Vic's triumphant return.
Unlike Tony Soprano, who last we saw was curled up in an unmade bed in a dark room with only a gun for comfort, Vic appears to be sitting more prettily as we head into
's final stretch next year. Bet that won't last.
Speaking of betting on things, I'm currently in the process of eating my words for having bet against CBS reviving
. Guess what? Those words taste kinda like Skippy. (As in peanut butter. As in nuts. Get it?)
The crusade to keep
alive, including a highly publicized stunt involving mailing nuts to CBS headquarters, was without question the hot fan campaign of this cancellation season. And while few columnists or critics, having lived through these things before, were in the business of giving these fans false hope, in retrospect this is one of those cases where giving a show like this a second shot actually makes sense.
From the start, I felt it was short-sighted of CBS to cancel this show, despite slipping numbers in the back half of the season (a result of a long hiatus and a return on a night then dominated by Fox and
, unlike nearly anything else on CBS's schedule, has a cult vibe, one that resonated on the Internet and the blogosphere. For a network that's trying to increase its buzz quotient while building its online business with the Innertube outlet,
is precisely the sort of show CBS should be nurturing.
I say this as someone who's not exactly a fan of
. I hated it at the start, but stuck with it and felt it got more compelling when the townspeople had to confront some dicey ethical survival issues in the post-nuclear winter, and it moved on from letting Super Jake save the day each week. The show built to a strong cliffhanger climax as the neighboring cities of Jericho and New Bern engaged in open warfare over the region's limited resources. In some ways, it's the heartland version of
(a lot more square, a lot more ordinary, but not without points of interest).
Reviving a show after its official cancellation is very rare, and I wouldn't expect to see others following suit- so no, fans of
The Black Donnellys, Veronica Mars, What About Brian
, etc., who keep writing me, I wouldn't get your hopes up. So how to explain this possible resurrection? In part, I'm thinking if CBS were more confident about its new lineup, featuring several shows so risky (
Viva Loughlin, Moonlight
) they make
look run-of-the-mill, the network might not feel the need to have this as backup. But also look at all the free and positive publicity CBS will enjoy by giving
a new lease on life.
Whatever happens next, whether
returns at midseason as a limited series (more like a miniseries continuation) or if it ultimately has an even longer life, there's no way to look at this situation as anything but a triumph for the fans.
How rare is that? And how fitting for a show that, at heart, is about surviving against the odds.