Is Vic Mackey "Moral"?

Denali Nicholson writes:

I think you are a little lenient towards Vic. Of course, he it the anti-hero, and the audience can not help but care about him. But one of the fascinating parts of the show that I can not get over is how much you want to believe that what he does is not wrong after all. You want to believe that he has a sense of morality, twisted and warped, but a morality none the less. But, I don't think this is true. As much as I want to see Vic as something resembling human, he isn't. He is a sociopath. He does what he wants when he wants to. Sometimes this results in benefiting other "good" people. Sometimes in hurting them, too. Look at how he treated Danny. It was very clear when he was given the oppurtunity to tell Claudette about what everyone knew already concerning the death of Armadillo, and he didn't take it. The only time we see him pass hurting someone up who is "good" because they are "good" is early on in the first season when he tells a criminal that he can not strong arm a law-abiding citizen, in reference to his
son's schools' admissions head. Instead he bribes her with the finding of her stolen jewelry. Aside from that, look at what he does for "bad" people. His willingness to help them is never held back by moral reasons.

But, why do we love Vic? Everything he does, he does for himself - or for his children, his offspring, or for people he has claimed - his wife, his team, his hooker. I don't think he loves these people as much as he feels he ownes them.

Do we love him because he is effective? Is it possible we want to forgive him his sins because the combination of complete lack of fear and moral restraint has afforded him success in a world where this is rare and good people are powerless. While watching this show, how easy it is to see power as the real good, whether it is use for good or bad.

Many people have argued the case that Vic does have a sense of morality, including you. I disagree.

Miss Denali, you have some exceptionally thoughtful concerns.  Vic surely is morally challenged.  I think that you are way off base, however to call him a "sociopath".  The best definition I could find: "A personality disorder characterised by a continuous and persistent pattern of aggressive behaviour in which the rights of others are violated."  That begins to sound more like a political statement than a psychological diagnosis. 

This may be more a question of whose definition of exactly what rights those are.  Vic does not recognize the written law as some supreme arbiter.  Some banger he knows does lots of bad things, he don't got any rights that Vic recognizes. 

Vic does not, however, represent an ongoing danger to innocent citizens.  He is not out of control, or only rarely so.  He does not just go off on binges of unprovoked brutality against innocent people.  Note for example late in the first season when he had trouble with the Nation of Islam.  Despite them making his life exceptionally unpleasant, he absolutely refused to screw with them.  "As long as you stay within the law, you'll have no trouble with me."  [I'm paraphrasing from memory.]

Yet he is capable of brutality, starting always with Vic's original sin in the pilot, absolutely murdering a brother officer/snitch in cold blood.  He can't take that back, although he has expressed regrets in several different ways. 

One of those ways is restraint.  After that original sin, Vic has somewhat pulled back.  He has not again, not once absolutely murdered someone outright- not the lowest murdering banger.  Not even Gilroy, who threatened his family.  I, for one, would have considered him TOTALLY justified if he had let Shane absolutely ice Gilroy.  Vic's not as brutal as he could be.

Also, for being morally challenged, Vic was ready to go to prison rather than let Armadillo off the hook.  That may not make up for everything else he's ever done, but does not follow consistently with saying that he has "no morality" or that he is sociopathic.

The thing with Danny you referred to comes from dealing with Armadillo.  Vic's boys -without his knowledge- slipped a knife to another inmate to murder Armadillo with, specifically in order to prevent him from talking about Vic.  What Vic would have had to done was to confess to numerous felonies, and implicate his own men in, technically, conspiracy to commit first degree murder- to save Danny from a three day suspension. 

In Vic's place, was he really supposed to rat his boys out on this?  Armadillo so many kinds of deserved what he got.  Vic should have killed him instead of grilling his face. Arguably, the problem was that Vic had too many scruples at the wrong time. 

In the last show of season two, the most recent as of this writing, Danny was actually belatedly fired on the basis of having failed to find the knife that the prisoner didn't get until afterwards. 

How's Vic going to make this right?  That will be a challenge for him going into next season.  What will he have to do to fix this?  For having no morality, he was willing to go a long way to fix the wrong he and Lemonhead did in the first season by planting a gun on Choco.  Of course, in this case putting things right involved armed robbery of an evidence van, and planting evidence on, again, a particularly nasty and deserving banger.

There's no question ultimately that he has a fairly strong idea of morality, and right and wrong.  He doesn't have a classic sociopathic narcisstic self-absorption; it's not always all about Vic.  For one thing, much of the pressure to generate side income comes from raising money to pay for expensive special education for his autistic son.

Consider the last show of the second season "Dominoes Falling" which has the payoff for the "money train" storyline.  Vic was instantly ready to blow off his extremely important part in a multi-million dollar ripoff of mob money without even a look of hesitation because he needed to track down some bangers before they killed more civillians in a gang ritual.  This does not fit with harsher labels that you could apply to Vic, such as "sociopath".

On one hand, Vic has one outright murder to account for, and he can be quite self-serving, taking convenient outs.  He commits what might reasonably described as major felonies in nearly every show of one kind or other.

On the other hand, he has his own sense of limits.  His values are generally fairly predictable and understandable- and reasonably defensible.  He does ultimately (mostly) protect and serve.  The question he frequently asks of himself (perhaps setting the bar too low) is "Have I done more good than harm?" 

Surely the answer is yes.  The next question, however, is that good enough?

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