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"The Shield": Crime and Punishment

By       Message James Murtagh     Permalink
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Police Drama vividly portrays a lower circle of hell for a guilty conscience.

Warning:  spoiler alert. If you have not seen the final episode of  The Shield , do not read further. The episode contains a major plot twist which is discussed in this Op- Ed

"Corruptio optimi pessima,”

Latin proverb for “corruption of the best is the worst of all.”

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It is fiendishly appropriate that the television police drama, The Shield, ended its series in 2008, exactly 700 years since Dante began writing the Inferno. The Shield, possibly more than any other series, demonstrates the most intense hell on earth, forcing its worst characters to kill the people and things they love best. 

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Exquisitely appropriate punishments are meted out to the guilty, with twisted, but appropriate, justice. There is no escape for the damned, spiraling into lower and deeper cycles of pain.

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For seven years The Shield, like the Sopranos, and HBO's “The Wire”, shows evil in all its seductive guises. Of the three series, the Shield was most shocking, even moving its audience to cheer for the central character, Vick Mackey, the macho corrupt police detective at his most murderous and torturing self. Even Mackey's murder of a fellow policeman evoked a morbid fascination. How much could one man get away with?

Mackey initially plans to get away Scott-free through a devil-deal to turn state's evidence and become a snitch himself. He claims he beat the system. Or has he?

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Wrong! Fate reserves circles in hell for treacherous murderers even below simple murderers. Not being caught appears infinitely crueler than being fried by 2,400 volts in an electric chair. 

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For his immunity, Mackey betrays everyone and everything he cares about. Mackey is sentenced to life in a cubicle, cut off from anything or anyone he ever cared about. He is in a deep freeze as cold as great lake Cocytus Dante described at the bottom of the ninth circle of hell, reserved for the great traitors of all time. 

Hell's best-kept secret is that we create it for ourselves. Mackey connived, threatened, hoodwinked and betrayed to get this cubicle. It is nothing but an existential nightmare. 

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James J. Murtagh, Jr. is a doctor of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine, and the Medical Director of several sleep laboratories in Southern Ohio. Dr. Murtagh extensively writes on medical ethics. Dr. Murtagh is the founder of a new (more...)
 

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