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Forget about this fall season.

TV critics can't wait for 2007.

That's when The Shield returns with new episodes on FX. And judging by the season premiere screened here, this relentless tour de force isn't just firing on all 8 cylinders, it's blasting on 12.

The 10 episodes of the sixth season (starting probably in January, maybe March) focus rivetingly on fallout from the shocking murder of strike team squad member Lem. Actor Kenneth Johnson joined his former castmates today at the "Shield's" Hollywood soundstage, eager to see the first episode after he was offed by a grenade from the hand of fellow renegade cop and close friend Shane (Walton Goggans), who was led to believe Lem had turned on the team. These upcoming episodes were originally thought to be the series' end. But creator Shawn Ryan decided he had more stories to tell, through a final 13 to be shot next year for airing in 2008.

"We wanted to not rush past that crime while we were wrapping up everything else," said Ryan, who's been building meaty storylines for all the supporting characters – not to mention the eventual resolution of star Michael Chiklis' series-launching shot to the head of a detective spying on his crooked crew.

Forest Whitaker returns as the spooky internal affairs lieutenant who's out to nail Vic, by any means. And those means look to be getting downright lethal by the final scenes of this season premiere. "You can't see the line anymore," the police chief warns Whitaker's obsessed character, deftly echoing the murky attitude of Vic and fellow cops who plunge daily into the cesspool of those mean streets.

Whitaker will appear in the season's first two episodes, at least, Ryan said teasingly. The softspoken creator tries to maintain an air of mystery about a series so consistently electrifying, fans can't decide whether they want to know what's going to happen, so they can brace themselves, or wait to be surprised, so their jaws can drop.

That happens more than a few times in this kick-butt return, which ranges through a hostage crisis at a free clinic, porno store robberies, more Salvadoran gang warfare, even a brawl in the squad room, and one cop's surprisingly suicidal actions. Amazingly, every member of the extended cast gets fine screen time – even recurring characters like the Salvadoran woman snitch caught in the crossfire between Whitaker and Chiklis – yet the episode never feels rushed.

All the threads from last season are picked up, too – Danny's baby (Catherine Dent gets a breathtaking scene with Cathy Cahlin Ryan as Vic's suspicious wife), Claudette's promotion to captain, Vic's promise to "retire" to hang onto his pension. "The Shield" never forgets where it came from, finally plunging strange straightarrow detective Dutch into a call at a house crawling with cats. (Remember his disturbing twist with the stray at his doorstep?) It begins like a bit of comic relief, then does a horrific 180 to become yet another shocker in this masterful episode.

Wish I could tell you more, but the "Shield" folks would probably kill me.

And I'd hate to miss a minute of what looks, again, like the most amazing "Shield" season ever.


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I can't wait ... and I bet Julian is the one who commits suicide

thats the first person i thought of too... he can't figure out what the hell he wants... to try to be normal or ride the cock. i feel bad for him.. i really do.

i hope he doesn't though..i like him. maybe it will be that little chacha they brought on last year.. the hot cop that dutch drools over....

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i dunno... watch dutch be the father of the baby.. LOL

i hope its forrest whitekers character that kills himself.. that guy irks me out girll.. ugh i hate it cuz he's just so creepy! and he always hits on corrine..

OR maybe shane feels sooooooo bad about Lem that he caps himself...

I wish it would just start like NOW. :laugh:

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yesss shane deserves to be suicidal what a jerk he is!! him and his stupid trashy wife!!

his wife from the Shield was just on an episode of Law & Order (re-run)... she was playing a trashy girlfriend..

she annoys me on the show for some reason.. always bitching about something. lol

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OMG I fucking HATE shane's wife, I wanted Vic to kill her so badly!! I hope when he finds out shane killed Lem he fucking kills that annoying hooker.

But yea, Shane being sucidal does make sense, but then the plot can't really go anywhere cause Vic is trying to be straight and Shane just keeps getting himself into shit.

I'm still rooting for Julian to kill himself lol

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yea but remember in a couple shows after when he was tryin to get that guy in jail, that guys GF had the pic of it on her phone.

I think ur on to something, the pic got leaked!! And then Acevada has to go to Vic for something and that's how Vic gets on his good side and gets more power in the barn. ... ooooh I can't waaaaaaaaaaaait to see the drama unfold lol

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