On Tuesday, Nov. 25, after seven seasons, FX’s police drama The Shield comes to an end with a 90-minute finale that reveals the ultimate fate of rogue LAPD Det. Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) — but it also lowers the curtain on his Strike Team cohort, Det. Shane Vendrell (Walton Goggins).
The two have been joined at the hip since the pilot, when Vic murdered cop Terry Crowley (Reed Diamond), who was a mole in Vic’s double-dealing Strike Team, and then made Shane his confidante and accomplice after the fact.
From that day forward, the murder — the show’s version of Original Sin — corroded the souls of both men. In the last few episodes, Vic has scrambled to find an exit strategy from his long litany of misdeeds, and fugitive Shane has struggled desperately to find a way to save his own life and the lives of his family.
But in the finale, scores must be settled and debts must be paid.
"On some level, it is a Shakespearean tragedy," says Goggins, calling in from Vancouver, Canada, where he’s shooting a movie. "The show is about so many different things; to sum it up with one comparison would do a disservice to what we’ve tried to do.
"But I do think that, in these last five episodes, for me anyway, you get a glimpse of what this guy, Shane Vendrell, could have been like, the life that he could have led had he not made the decisions that he made and had he not partnered up with Vic Mackey.
"Whenever these two guys get together, something bad happens. It’s just the nature of their friendship. And it is tragic, and it is sad, because they do just want to get out from underneath this. They’re living in this fantasy world, the idea of just escaping this.
"What happens is a foregone conclusion, and it is fated from the moment that the bullet was put into Terry’s brain."
Goggins reads from an email he wrote to his friends and family, expressing how he felt about the show coming to an end, saying, "The Shield, at its core, is a story about morality, a shifting morality; for some, a morality of righteousness and truth; for others, a morality of convenience.
"The duality of these truths will collide. True to our nature, there will be no easy answers."
While The Shield took the conventions of the police drama and stretched them to limits unseen since Hill Street Blues — and then went to places Hill Street had feared to go on NBC back in the ’80s — it also became one of the greatest film showcases for parts of Los Angeles not usually seen on screen.
In seven seasons, Vic and his team never made it to Beverly Hills, Malibu or the Santa Monica Pier. Instead, their Los Angeles was a city of small wooden houses, shabby stucco apartment complexes with filthy pools, chain-link fences, scrubby yards, warehouses, trash-filled alleyways and nighttime vistas of the blazing lights of Dodger Stadium deep in the Chavez Ravine.
"It’s the city I live in," Goggins says, "and over seven years, I got to see it in all its glory. I don’t think Los Angeles has ever been photographed that way on television. It was always a surprise. A lot of people made a habit of getting tacos wherever we were filming and comparing them to the tacos we ate the day before."
Asked what neighborhood sits atop the taco scale, Goggins says, "There was a taco joint, it was season three, right down off of Rampart, south of Rampart. It was awesome, was so good. Then there’s some right off Sunset that are wonderful. I forget the names of them now. There was a running card with names way back when, but it’s long since vanished."
Goggins says he’s made fast friendships with many of The Shield cast members and crew, so he expects to see them again. But there’s one relationship he’s going to have to leave behind.
"For me," he says, "I’m going to miss Shane. I really had a hard time laying that leather jacket down. It really became an alter ego for me. It became a place of refuge where I could work out sh-t from my own life. It was a very, very healthy outlet for me, personally.
"He was the kind of guy that, at the end of every day, I just wanted to hug him. Being on the outside, and having my life experiences, I just wanted to say, ‘Buddy, you can start over today. You can be OK.’"
Goggins would also like Shield fans to know that, "in both our successes and in our failures, our heart was in the right place. We tried to make the best show we possibly could, day in and day out.
"We’re goin’ out on top."