Season 3, Episode 15 “On Tilt”  (Season finale)

Air date:  6-15-04

Right through the end of the season, they keep putting twists and curves that you wouldn't see coming, yet (and this is the really tricky part) they make good sense afterwards.  

For example, we've been set up since the end of last season to see Claudette ascend to the captain's position as Aceveda moves up to city council, which makes some sense as she's got seniority and superior intelligence and bearing.  Yet it has fallen apart in the last two weeks as Claudette insisted on self-destructing.

Aceveda made exactly the right analysis in shooting down Dutch's protestations on learning that Claudette was not going to get the captain job after all.  "It wasn't my decision.  It was HER decision.  She understands."  Note that Claudette for her part does not mutter even a peep of disagreement with that statement, not so much as a raised eyebrow.

Meanwhile just tonight, an alternate move develops.  It's not quite said, and it was a couple of viewings in before I picked up on it, but now Danny is being groomed for sudden promotion.  Saw not a hint of that coming.

Yet it makes good sense on more than one level.  Danny would probably make a better captain practically.  She's much more a street cop, in touch with the real day to day uniformed officer experience.  Claudette is much more an intellectual, a desk jockey.  To the other officers at all levels in the Barn, Danny is one of them in a way that Claudette just isn't.

Danny also just flat has more good judgment to run the place.  Obviously Claudette has more education, and superior pure brainpower, but her frankly sometimes cheap grasping after superiority makes her unfit for leadership.  The chief was RIGHT to pull that promotion over her continuing willful disruptive disobedience with the Kinsett cases. 

Like Aceveda, Danny's a good, straight cop trying to do the right thing, but with some sense of practicality.  Danny just wouldn't get on some grandstanding high horse and screw up years of everyone's hard work just for the sake of getting to jump up like the Church Lady and do a little Superior Dance.

You might describe it in more and less positive ways, but Danny would be a lot easier for the higher ups to work with.  She wouldn't be nearly as strong willed as Claudette, and more, shall we say,  realistic in her expectations and behavior.


Margos Dezirian sure had a lot of throw weight for such little screen time.  He was only really featured in one episode, "Blowback," which was just the fifth episode in the entire series.  Even there, he was probably not on screen more than five minutes.  He only actually showed up again just last week, for maybe 20 seconds, and then finally tonight for not much more than one minute.

Yet for that less than 10 minutes of screen time, his evil presence has hovered over the show for three years.  I can't think of another character in any tv series ever that has made this much impact over so long a time with so little actual screen time.

Note also that this character was played by Kurt Sutter, who is one of the writers.  For one thing, he wrote the "Blowback" episode that the character was originally featured in.


The writers have always shown great skill at packing lots of little things in, including considerations that would just not get thought out in most shows.  In this show for example, there's a scene at the clubhouse with Vic explaining Margos' business offer.  There's just a quick hint, a few passing words from Ronnie implying that he would be willing to consider such a deal -- before Vic totally and unequivocally rejects any possibility of trying to do business.  It's subtle enough and quick enough that you'll miss that entire little dynamic if you're not paying real close attention.


The payoff of the Margos Dezirian story came out interesting in a couple of ways.  Considering how important this character's presence had been to the show, they paid it off quickly and with minimal fuss.  There was no big gun battle with hundreds of troops for the big season finale.  Vic found someone who could send him a message, and lured him off by himself.  Then there he was, and it's him and Vic, and Vic just takes him out- almost before you can figure out what's happening.  That final scene at Goma's house was probably barely one minute.  Shot twice, Margos is dead, The End.

This does, however, represent a pretty substantial exception for Vic.  He's been happy to help deserving jerks get dead from time to time in various ways throughout the run of the show.  However, this marks the first and only time since the infamous ending of the series pilot where Vic has just absolutely baldly assassinated someone.  Margos dropped his weapon and put his hands up.  He totally and clearly submitted. Vic paused to get his bearings for a couple of seconds, and then just blasted him to hell.


"You can be sure that there wasn't even ONE mistake in 300 cases?"

What a ridiculous standard.  Claudette's so blinded by the chance of getting to claim that she has righted injustice that she's setting up ridiculous standards and unwarranted assumptions.

She simply ASSUMES that if the public defender was taking pain pills, then she was giving ineffective council, and therefore by rights all her cases SHOULD be thrown out and retried.

Further, if there's ONE mistake in 300 cases, it's better to let innumerable murderers and rapists walk.  Now, if she has reason to believe that some specific person was wrongly convicted, then fine, let the exculpatory evidence be exposed.

She found ONE guy here who was apparently wrongly convicted, not by malicious intent but by perhaps sloppy or slightly heavy handed work.

But look what she's getting.  She's freeing someone who has multiple previous legitimate convictions for armed robbery -- and inevitably setting the stage for another roll of the dice for some really ugly characters wanting out.  She may feel real good about herself, but she hasn't done the community any service, nor her department.

Plus, she's assuming that this guy got boned because the public defender was taking drugs.  Maybe he got boned because she wasn't that good in the first place, or just because anybody might slip up on one in 300 cases.  She thought the guy was in fact guilty, and thus wasn't trying that hard to corroborate his lies.

Or perhaps this guy didn't get the defense he needed because public defenders are notoriously overworked, and there are only so many hours in the day to juggle bunches of clients at a time.  Making the judges, courts and public defenders re-consider 300 cases will only make that worse for all the current people in the system.

Meanwhile, the streets are filled with criminals out looting and killing and raping, but she's too busy trying to let the old father rapers loose to do anything at all towards catching the new ones.


A couple of lingering questions got answered.  Apparently the Money Train robbery brought in about $3 million.  In the whole time since they got the money at the end of last season, there had never been any specific amount.

Of course that was $3 million before Lem went all STUPID last week.  Now it's about $195,000.  Yet if Shane just SHOT Lem, he would be the bad guy.


Also, Dutch had been hooked up late in the first season with Kim, the widow of a murder victim.  Apparently she was understood to have stuck around.  It comes out tonight that she moved out about the time of the cuddler rapist.  This would correspond also to the time of the infamous cat killing incident.


Dutch now finds himself back on the list for humiliation and disrespect in the office as payback for having the temerity to suggest that Aceveda should be looking into Vic's Money Train connections.  Of course, Vic was mad about this just exactly because Dutch was correct in his suspicions.

I find it a little depressing that Dutch is so easily cut down by one asshole (Vic) making a few dumb dick jokes.  It strikes me as both stupid and realistic.  Dutch is still the unpopular weird kid getting mocked on the playground.

I just absolutely winced in empathetic humiliation with his limp comeback line about "Pussy said 'yes' plenty of times."  

This stuff is well written, so it's not a criticism of the show, but it really makes me want to take a baseball bat to Vic.  


With only a very few words, the best, most emotionally complex dramatic scene of the show was probably the one with Vic making love to the Armenian accountant.  Start with her relief, then gratitude, then active desire.  Then consider Vic trying briefly to do the proper professional thing and push her away.  But then, he's got just as strong a set of invested emotions needing released. 

Then it twists again in mid sex act as the woman suddenly switches emotional gears from intense sexual need to pure crying grief, and how Vic follows that.  


They got particularly good comedy out of Vic screwing with Margos' minions.  First, there was the spotter.  There's a setup, and it takes about a minute to see where it's going.  Vic hands the guy pencil and paper, demanding that he write as Vic spells it out. L - I - F - E.  New word. S - U - X.  

Then he tells Ronnie to open the window, and stuffs this new note into the spotter's pocket.  "Looks like you're going to DIE a bad speller." 

A suicide note.  Right.  As if anyone would really believe that.


Vic took great glee in putting the fear of GOD into Goma, after he had tried to KILL the Strike Team.  Can't blame Vic for this.  Vic was at great pains to show Goma cop LOVE in front of all the low level punk Armenian gangsters in the holding cell.  He gave this guy just the PERFECT death sentence in their last scene, insisting on giving him an envelope, and announcing that it was $300 in payment as a confidential informer- and that he'd get the rest of his money when he brought in more information. I for one laughed my ass off over this.

Then he made sure that those punks were all turned loose on the phones to call Margos.  Besides being a good payback for this jackass who had tried to KILL him, this also conveniently re-inforced the message that Vic had the travel agent send about Goma suddenly wanting tickets to Venezuela.

Of course, Vic pretty much went straight from there to Goma's house to kill Margos, so this wasn't quite the 100% death sentence that it might have seemed.  Also, this business with Goma at the station pretty well insured that he wouldn't go to his home, and be in Vic's way.  In any case, Goma got to sweat it out. Presumably he's gone somewhere else, not to be seen in LA ever again.


The final scene was beautiful.  Any dumbass cop show could have a big shoot out or stuff exploding, but this intense and personal dialogue takes SKILL.  They had the four Strike Team members, all with their own issues and motivations to express.  Lem still seems about half out of his head, as if he thinks the guys are seriously going to change their minds and think that him literally burning up MILLIONS of THEIR dollars for no reason was cool.  

Shane really took over, exerting determination and control.  Despite how damned stupid he's acted throughout this whole season, his behavior here seemed actually fairly reasonable.  Most significantly, how could he really be expected to work with, to either forgive or -- most importantly -- TRUST Lem after this meltdown?  I know that I for one would not put my life in Lem's hands at this point.


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