With the addition of Glenn Close to its already excellent cast, The Shield
entered its fourth season with tensions high and tempers flaring. Aceveda (Benito Martinez) has gained political clout on the City Council, and former Farmington district officer Monica Rawling (Close) is introduced as the new Captain of "the Barn," where she immediately confronts a maelstrom of personal and professional turmoil. His strike team now splintered, Mackey (Michael Chiklis) has returned to routine detective duty, while Shane (Walton Goggins) and new partner "Army" Renta (Michael Peña) are neck-deep in trouble with Farmington's "untouchable" drug-lord, Antwon Mitchell, a new villain played to perfection by actor/comedian Anthony Anderson. This seemingly traitorous predicament places Shane at further odds with former strike-teammates Mackie, Lemon (Kenneth Johnson) and Ronnie (David Rees Snell), and while Wyms (CCH Pounder) resents Rawling's promotion, the "Dutch" (Jay Karnes) makes a selfish backroom deal that causes further friction with Wyms and Mackey. Tensions are intensified by Rawling's aggressive seizure of homes and property paid for with drug money -- an effective campaign that forces "Danny" (Catherine Dent) and Julien (Michael Jace) and the entire police force to take sides in a hotly divisive civil rights debate that culminates in the murder of two Farmington cops.
Although some critics felt Close was too refined for a series as gritty as The Shield, she quickly found her place in the show's tight ensemble, earning an Emmy nomination (along with Pounder) and giving Mackey a formidable boss who earns his respect. And while Aceveda wrestles with psychosexual demons resulting from his humiliation in season 3, the high-stakes threat of Antwon Mitchell embroils the Barn in a cauldron of mistrust and political upheaval. More than any previous season, this 13-episode story arc is character-based and internally driven by clashing agendas. Sub-plots run the gamut of neighborhood killings and gang-banger conflict, but as always The Shield also finds room for plenty of mordant wit and tension-relieving sarcasm. Like all previous Shield DVDs, this four-disc set includes informative episode commentaries from the entire cast (including Close) engaged in revealing discussions of their creative process with creator Shawn Ryan and several primary writers and directors. Best of all, the "Under the Skin" documentary is a way-above-average, 60-minute survey of The Shield's day-to-day production, offering plenty of behind-the-scenes footage and eloquent insight about the challenge of maintaining high-quality drama during a fast-paced guerilla production schedule. It's essential viewing for Shield fans and anyone considering a career in television. --Jeff Shannon