Welcome to a new feature called The TV Tour Bus. This bus will allow us to go to anywhere—no place is too big, no place is too small, no place is too weird. We will see all the greatest spots from wonderful shows. We will look back on how these places meant so much to our characters, and in turn, so much to us. We will remember all the moments of laughter, drama, and horror. It will be a fun ride.
This time around, the bus will be visiting the gritty settings of ‘The Shield.’ These characters aren’t superhero agents, nor are they a band of rogue, armor-wearing wrestlers (although main character Vic Mackey did once refer to himself as an action hero, and plenty of times the Strike Team did wrestle guys while wearing tactical gear).
‘The Shield’ ran during the same period starting in 2002 as another acclaimed cop drama, ‘The Wire.’ Because of this, ‘The Shield’ sometimes doesn’t get as much love as it deserves. Both shows are a must-watch series. Where ‘The Wire’ puts together strong concepts and themes about the city of Baltimore, and subjects such as class and economics, ‘The Shield’ brings strength in its development of characters and a story where every element moving forward is so closely tied to the show’s very first episode.
From the halls of a unique precinct building, to the rough criminal streets of Los Angeles, the setting of ‘The Shield’ is with our characters during every step of their journey.
Before we roll off here, I must warn that there are major spoilers on the road up ahead. The tour bus is meant for serious fans of the show, who can sit back in their seats and reminisce. Those who haven’t watched ‘The Shield’ by now need to go somewhere and watch it before joining our tour. If not, you’ll have to sneak on and be very quiet.
Ready? So let’s buckle up and begin.
Our first series of stops bring us to the most familiar location that our characters inhabited. For our Strike Team and some of our favorite detectives, there is no place more familiar than “The Barn.” The Barn is also known as Farmington Precinct, but this doesn’t look like your typical LAPD station. It’s an old church. It’s not a pretty place to work, but it does have charm. There’s a bunch of ugly off-white pillars, and a checkered floor that might as well be Vic Mackey’s chess board, as he uses people in the department like a set of pawns.
Let’s go upstairs. “Wait, this bus can go upstairs?” Of course it can! The upstairs opens to the main floor, allowing Captain Aceveda—and later Claudette—to keep a careful watch on the Strike Team. The other rooms upstairs are interrogation rooms, which are as plain as can be. All that’s in there is a little camera, which allows those outside the room (and the viewer) to watch while the questioning of an accused unfolds. The interrogation rooms are the main site for the episodic storylines on ‘The Shield,’ where we saw “Dutch” and Claudette putting in their hours to solve crimes. Unlike Vic’s brutish methods, Dutch and Claudette interrogated the old-fashioned way, with questions and psychology. Dutch once sat in this room and allowed a serial killer to verbally berate him until the police were able to obtain a search warrant. Damn he’s good.
Alright, back downstairs we go. We pass chain-link cages that are for holding those arrested, but look more appropriate for containing zombies in ‘Walking Dead.’
Around the corner we go to the clubhouse. This is where the Strike Team did all of their scheming. It couldn’t be any more of a boys club, with trophies, a dartboard, and even a set of lockers. On the front door is a sign that says “STRIKE TEAM ONLY,” which might as well say, “NO GIRLS ALLOWED.” Really though, what goes on in this room is not for anyone in the PD to hear. If these walls could talk they’d tell stories about accepting bribes, planting evidence, interfering with crime scenes, and killing fellow cops.
Alright, like the Strike Team, let’s hit the streets. The gangs of the Farmington district are numerous. We can see their graffiti riddled across the city. Wait, let’s stop here for a second. We’re going to hold up traffic a bit since we’re in the middle of the road, but oh well. This is the spot where the Strike Team hijacked the PD’s own evidence van. They put bandanas over their faces, stole back a needed piece of evidence, then spray-painted the van with gang signs. After fleeing the scene, they drove around the block and arrived as detectives for their own crime. Can someone give me a count on how many laws they broke just for doing that?
Here’s our next stop. It’s nothing glamorous looking, just an industrial building with containers. We need to go way down to the bottom level, which feels symbolic to the team's continuous moral decline. This table you see all tucked away here was once filled with stacks of money in the shape of a pyramid. While Vic arrived initially with excitement, his face quickly turned to concern, a face matching the others on the team. The team looked at the money from the “money train” knowing full well the problems it would bring.
It’s been a long ride, so would anyone like a sandwich? Anyone? Oh wow, what bad timing for me to ask that. Here’s the spot where Lem ate a pastrami on rye with a side of grenade. It’s a dark, lonely spot, up away from the heart of the city. It’s a place for just two old buddies to have a good talk. It’s too bad what happened to Lem here. Let’s have a moment of silence for him. In that silence, if you listen closely you can still hear the haunting words of Shane as his friend’s charred body plumes smoke. “But I had to, right?”
Lem was awesome and it makes me sad, so let’s get out of here. In fact, we’re gonna also skip the section of the tour where we visit Shane’s living room where he held his, “family meeting.” We will make a detour instead.
Let’s go in this apartment. It seems pretty basic, fairly nice, but nothing fancy. Here’s an ugly looking rug, with diagonal jagged lines and a mix of contrasting colors. Wait a minute, this red here is a bloodstain. This is where Vic shot officer Detective Crowley in the very first episode. From then on the Strike Team would only dig themselves in deeper and deeper, trying to cover the lie.
Here’s our final stop of the tour. It’s an office building for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This sterile environment seems so foreign to Vic. There’s no grit, no streets, just some office cubicle walls. The shape of it though, all walled-in, feels almost like a bull ring. Vic looked as if he would do battle with ICE agent Olivia Murray here. But did Vic go toe-to-toe with her? No, he didn’t. After earlier cutting a deal for immunity for his crimes, he asks her how much memory her tape recorder has. He then spews out all the crimes he’s committed, selling out Ronnie and Shane in the process. By the end, Olivia Murray’s face is a look of horror. We just hired this guy? At least this environment is the perfect justice for Vic—his true hell, an office desk job. Besides, no jail cell could hold the guy; he’d be running the prison from the moment he stepped inside.
So that concludes our tour, folks. There were plenty of spots we never got to visit, but maybe we will save those for another time. Hopefully you can all come join our next tour.