I have to say that I'm loving Forest Whittaker's presence on The Shield. I know everyone was crazy about Glenn Close when she played the captain in the last series, but although I think that Close is one of America's best actresses, to me she didn't stand out - she blended nicely into the cast. Admittedly a mark of her talent, but it made me wonder just why the critics seemed to think that it was so important and amazing.
Whittaker however, is not playing a role that should blend in. His Lieutenant Kavanagh is an outsider, someone viewing the characters from a distance, judging and manipulating them. He is also a man of many appearances, creepily affable when trying to win you over, insincerely diffident when cornered, and, beneath it all, hard and calculating. It also helps that the scriptwriters are always careful never to make any character completely likable or detestable. Although Kavanagh is from Internal Affairs, and is investigating an extremely corrupt police officer (chrome-topped anti-hero Vic Mackey), his motives and methods seem, in different respects, both honourable and suspect. This all adds up to an excellent chance for Whittaker to show off his wide acting range.
Of course, I can't recommend that you watch The Shield, if you don't already. What, to me, really makes it into great drama is that, compared to other police shows which strive to make traumatic and violent crimes more palatable, The Shield goes out of its way to make sure that what is horrible in real life, is horrible on the screen. Recently Mackey held a knife to the throat of a witness that Kavanagh was using against him. How often do we see women with knives at their throats on TV shows and movies? And how rarely is it actually as unpleasant to watch as this was? How often do we truly get a sense that, even if no actual violence occurs, the victim is still being put through a terrifying ordeal?
Great television. Difficult to watch.