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‘The Shield’: Our Vic Mackey Doomsday Clock

Ever since the opening minutes of its pilot in 2002 — when Detective Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) murdered an Internal Affairs officer who’d infiltrated his, er, ethically flexible anti-gang “strike team” — The Shield has been fueled by one simple, high-octane question: When will Mackey finally, finally get busted? Our doomsday clock counts down to midnight, his final hour.

Episode: “The New Guy”

This was essentially the premiere of season six, as up until now the show’s been busy ticking off the previous year’s to-do list: Hastily wrap up the Jon Kavanaugh storyline and thank Forest Whitaker for his excellent work as Vic’s nemesis (check); have Vic track down the drug lord Guardo, mistakenly blame him for Lem’s death, then beat him to death with a chain (check). It’s a clean slate, kids! Which means Mackey should be able to breathe easy, at least for about 42 minutes.

This week, we meet the new guy, Kevin Hiatt (Alex O’Laughlin), a gung-ho, apple-cheeked import who’s being groomed as Mackey’s replacement, and who, as such, we can fully expect will be drawn into Vic’s brutal — but effective! — brand of corruption by season’s end. The show’s most underrated character, Detective Holland “Dutch” Wagenbach (Jay Karnes) spent the episode mooning over his attractive protégé Tina (Paula Garcés), who transferred out of the station abruptly for reasons as yet unknown. And Councilman Daniel Aceveda (Benito Martinez), who now serves roughly the same role in this show as the serpent did in the Garden of Eden, slithers into the precinct to suggest to Captain Wyms (CCH Pounder) that her cops might want to think about solving that brutal machete massacre that was discovered at the end of the season premiere, which everyone then promptly forgot about. All in all, a fairly routine day at the Barn — and a low-stress one for Vic, at least until a last-minute, furniture-smashing freak-out in a hospital waiting room, over a dead gangbanger who tried to go straight. Well, that and a spooky dream his wife had about the ghost of Lem at a barbecue. Don't eat the undercooked turkey burgers, Lem!

Still, Mackey seems (relatively) secure — but wait! According to the teaser for next week's episode, the increasingly loopy Shane will finally come clean about murdering Lem. But it's unclear whom he comes clean to: Wyms, Mackey, or his guilty reflection in the bathroom mirror.

Clock's current time: Twelve minutes to midnight. — Adam Sternbergh