SPOILERS for the entirety of The Shield.
The Shield is a single, structurally perfect story. It begins at the beginning, ends at the end, and moves from one to the other in the middle. Each character has a distinct morality and role in the story, in both an archetypal and practical sense – Ronnie is both a pragmatic counterpoint to Vic, and the guy who does the tech stuff. This makes it very easy to consider how it could have all been different, and what show we could have gotten if the creators had made very different choices; as an exercise, I set out to imagine The Shield remixed in the style of other stories.
Mad Men: The first episode plays out exactly as it did in the show proper; the second episode jumps far enough in time that we infer that Vic and Shane got away with the murder of Terry Crowley. Over the course of a decade, Vic ages out of the Strike Team, both literally in that he ages and his lifestyle takes its toll on his mind and body, and esoterically in that his tactics and understanding of the local gangs become irrelevant (think of the brass trying to edge Vic out in seasons five to seven as his style becomes embarrassing). We’d also see how Shane’s racism, poor relationship with his father, and Southern charm all fit together.
The Wire: Vic Mackey’s downfall is covered in the first season, and in counterpoint to it we have the effect of his murder of Two-Time. Whatever Vic was setting out to do in the final minute of the finale is covered in season two. This version of the show would let us see Aceveda’s rise to power, Julian’s marriage falling apart, and Ronnie adjusting to prison; through all of these stories, we see men and women like Vic in every system we pass through – the authoritarians whose methods are unorthodox but get results – and the way gender, race, sexuality, and career affects the consequences for their actions.
Cowboy Bebop: We are introduced to Vic and the Strike Team doing a few ordinary cases of the week. Kavanaugh shows up in episode five, and we learn about Vic and Shane’s crime in flashback. Aside from a few special episodes where Kavanaugh returns, the show is entirely episodic, introducing us to a new and colourful member of LA’s gang scene. Lem’s death, Shane’s murder/suicide, and Vic’s shift to ICE all happen over the final two episodes.
Telltale Games The Walking Dead: You are Vic Mackey, leader of the elite Strike Team in LA’s Farmington district. You must decide how you’re going to solve crimes – whether through authoritarian crushing of civil rights or kinder and more enlightened (but less effective) processes, and the way you play will affect your relationship with your best friend and partner Shane Vendrell.
Lolita: The events of the show, but narrated from Vic’s perspective, with all his rationalising laid out for the reader to see in real time.
The Great Gatsby: The events of the show, but narrated from Ronnie’s perspective.