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Episode: "Co-Pilot" (Season 2, episode 9)
AKA: "The One That Tried to Explain Too Much"
"The Shield" is among the more consistent of the great 21st century cable dramas. You might prefer one season to another, or be able to pick out some memorable individual episodes, but there's also no sore thumb season like most of its contemporaries had, and there's really only this one episode that doesn't work at all. And it's not for a lack of trying, either. Because the actual series pilot plopped viewers down in mid-story, creator Shawn Ryan and his top lieutenant Glen Mazzara decided to use this episode as a true origin story, detailing the creation of the strike team, Aceveda's arrival as commander of the Farmington district, his recruitment of Terry Crowley to spy on Vic Mackey, etc. Ultimately, "Co-Pilot" tries to squeeze way too much incident not only into an hour of television, but into a short period of story time. The original pilot suggests, for instance, that the strike team had been together a long time before Terry was assigned to the group, which is how he winds up on the outside looking in, but "Co-Pilot" has Terry show up only a few days after the group is formed. In the show's later years, Ryan would quote his friend and sometime-collaborator David Mamet's philosophy that "backstory is bullshit." That approach might have convinced him not to bother with "Co-Pilot."