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October 27, 2008

Shawn Ryan screens 'The Shield' finale

The screening lights come up.

The room is silent.

Somebody says "wow."

FX just screened the final two episodes of "The Shield" for a small group of L.A. reporters. The network is not sending out screeners to critics. The final episodes are riveting and shocking. The cast's early boasting at TCA, followed by my early gushing about the first half of the season, followed by critic and fan raves about the same, have all led to a finale that's worth the build up.

Without revealing any significant spoilers, below are some points of praise and postscreening quotes from creator Shawn Ryan. If you prefer to watch the finale totally cold, stop reading.

-- Michael Chiklis' performance in the final two episodes is fantastic. Ryan is being accurate when he says this: “There are good actors that after a few years that you realize are one-trick ponies. I have sat in editing room and I've watching Michael so much over the years and for him to come up with four, five, six sides of Vic in the last two episodes that I’ve never seen before is really amazing.”

-- There is a dramatic confession scene that is probably the best in the series.

-- Ryan’s philosophy about finales in general: “Series finales have that responsibility to leave you feeling good about entire series. You want to feel like the viewer closes the book satisfied. And if you strike out on the finale it skews how you feel about the entire series. ... A lot try to chew too much ...  ‘Seinfeld’ ... and ‘Sopranos.’ I thought the ‘Angel’ finale ended well, and ‘Six Feet Under’ ended well.”

-- The final image of "The Shield" is one you will never see coming, yet is wholly earned by episodes leading up to the finale. Ryan says he’s planned this moment for about three or four years. He also described marathon meetings with writers to help generate ideas for the fates of the characters. “I was always suspicious about any ideas that came to us in the first hour or two," he says. "My feeling is if it came to us quickly that it would come to others as well. So we'd knock our heads together for five hours more."

-- Does the ending feel like a conclusion? Yes. Does it tie everything up? No, but even story threads that don’t have a bow on top contain strong hints about what happens next. “I really love how we were able to end it,” Ryan says. “It think we were true to the show to very end. Obviously the big stories end in big ways. At the very least we gave fans and ending they can argue about. But it feels very conclusive to me and that was very important.”

-- How will fans react? "I don't know," Ryan says. "A lot of times I'm right about what fans will think -- because I'm a fan of the show -- other times I'm dead wrong." (For the record, I don't know either. Some fans probably will not like it. But it's the price Ryan pays for being both decisive and not entirely predictable.)

-- The last episode we watched was roughly 75 minutes. It will air as a 90-minute finale.

-- Ryan does something different during the finale's closing credits. Don’t worry, no extended blank screen.

I’ll post more from the interview after the finale airs.


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