Give me a moment to collect my thoughts. I’ve made a seven-season investment in one of the best cop dramas in television history—FX’s The Shield—and it all came to a head last night in 90 tense, dense minutes. I feel like I’ve been emotionally pistol-whipped. In a good way.

Before we talk specifics, let’s move this party to the next page, out of respect for those Vic Mackey maniacs who haven’t watched the series finale yet. (Advice to them: Call in sick, shave your head, hit the sofa, and cue up that bad boy immediately. And look out for spoilers in the paragraphs below!)

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All clear? Good.

The first word that comes to mind is… S#@! As in, Holy. The secondis… completion. As in, I felt a sense of completion when the corruptmembers of the Strike Team finally got their comeuppance. And it was atype of closure that I never quite achieved from the admirable yetenigmatic Sopranos finale.

Series creator Shawn Ryan packed some capital-M Moments into thefinal installment, too many to mention here. I must say that I squirmedin enjoyment watching Ronnie be rewarded for his blind loyalty to Vicwith a big, fat betrayal, and seeing Vic feebly apologize to him as hewas taken into custody. “You’re goddamned sorry?!?!?”retorted Ronnie. (Your anger is justified, Ronnie, but we’re kind ofamazed that you made it all the way to the end, outlasting Lem by twoseasons.) Of course, this season had been spent focusing on a differentStrike Team relationship, Vic and Shane’s. And the fates of those twowere resolved in a way that will stick with viewers for a long time,thanks to potent performances from Michael Chiklis and Walton Goggins.

You knew it wasn’t going to end well for Shane, Vic’s former partner-in-crime, but geez.The events leading up to his death—the curious attention he paid to theteenage clerk at the convenience store; his fixating on the toy policecar and calling for pregnant wife Mara and son Jackson (“Familymeeting!”)—proved to be nice foreshadowing of grisly things to come. Itwas devastating enough that a desperate Shane shot himself on thetoilet, leaving behind a mess of blood and pens, as well as anunfinished suicide note. But then to have Farmington’s finest discoverthe bodies of Mara and Jackson laid out peacefully on the bed—Maraholding the flowers and Jackson clutching the little police car thatShane just bought at the store? Heart: Broken. Mouth: Speechless.

As for Vic? Killing the Mackey daddy probably would’ve been tooeasy. Letting him get away with murder—thank heavens forall-encompassing immunity deals!—wouldn’t have felt right. So Ryancrafted a nifty justice-serving demise for him: Our dirty detectiveloses his family to the witness protection program and is sentenced todeath by desk job, courtesy of the ICE queen. (Mackey, we’re going toneed that 10-page, single-spaced report on gang-related activity by 6p.m.! For the next three years!) What a sight: Vic, dresseduncomfortably in a suit, trapped in his drab office cubicle, watchingas those familiar cop cars whiz by on the streets below. But then, justbefore the credits roll, he pulls a gun out of a drawer, gives a tinysmile of realization, and heads out of the office with a trademarksnarl. Is he off to settle a score? Is he itching for some vigilanteaction? And when he gets to wherever he’s going, are we on his side?These are the fun—not so much frustrating—questions that we’re left toponder.

So, Shield fans, what did youread into that final moment? How do you think this finale stacks upagainst the farewells of other big shows? Were you bummed that Julienand Danny didn’t score more screen time? Did you get misty-eyed whenClaudette told Dutch that she was dying? Should the Dutchman andBillings join forces for a buddy-cop comedy? Are you now holding outhope for a Shield movie? (If you want to read Ryan’s answers to Michael Ausiello’s burning questions about the finale, click here.)

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