She walks fine blue line in 'Shield'
Glenn Close is natural as boss, but out of place on the streets
The big news about FX's ''The Shield" is that Glenn Close is onboard this season, as the show's new police captain. The casting coup has been covered in countless articles -- ''FIVE-TIME OSCAR NOMINEE DEIGNS TO DO TV!!" -- with the show's regular actors chanting ''We're not worthy" and Close going on about how humbled she is by the medium's mad production pace.
But aside from Close's obvious star power, and the promotional bump she lends to the kinetic cop drama, is she the right actress for the part? Does she fit into the violently explosive atmosphere of ''The Shield" and its morally blunted LA cop shop, the Barn? In the first two episodes of the fourth season, which begins tonight at 10, those questions remain unresolved.
Close plays Captain Monica Rawling, who is taking over the Barn as troubled, embittered, and self-serving Captain David Aceveda (Benito Martinez) leaves for the City Council. And unquestionably, Close has more than enough presence to stand out among the Barn's ensemble of oversized characters, most notably Michael Chiklis's Vic Mackey, the rogue cop who epitomizes the warped core of the series. In her career, Close has powerfully created a catalog of formidable women, from the rabbit-boiling stalker of ''Fatal Attraction" to Norma Desmond in ''Sunset Boulevard." With her burning eye contact and bright blond hair, she instantly rivals the cannonball-like Chiklis as the show's most visually arresting actor. In her scenes with CCH Pounder, who plays anticorruption cop Claudette Wyms, she further proves she can face off with the best of them.
But still, Close may exude a little too much Hollywood glaze to quickly convince as a street-smart cop who asks a thug, ''Hey big man, you want to get into it?" While her Rawling is eager to tour the streets with Mackey, Close seems out of place cruising comfortably beside the man who lives to fight fire with fire. Close seems more natural on the show as the brains behind a new antigang task force, trying to manipulate Mackey into working for her, saying ''What kind of future are we going to have if you're already lying to me?" As someone who can outthink him, and tempt him with power, she's compelling. As a gritty street cop, well, she's far less persuasive.
When Close and the writers find the right footing for Rawling, the season could be a dynamic one. Anthony Anderson has joined the cast as Antwon Mitchell, a drug lord who's passing himself off as a black-pride activist. It's a fascinating part that, like so much of this series, doesn't just push racial buttons; it holds them down. Anderson brings enough charisma to make Mitchell both appealing, as a speaker urging black men to ''demand respect," and evil, as a pusher undermining and exploiting those same men.
Mackey is going after Mitchell with his usual passion, but one of his former police associates, Detective Shane Vendrell (Walton Goggins), may be one of Mitchell's business partners. And Shane knows all Mackey's many dirty secrets. As usual on ''The Shield," the road to ending crime is fascinatingly twisted.
Matthew Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.