If you thought that Mackey's play on Kavanaugh last week was enough to slow down the internal-affairs investigation, think again. Tonight Kavanaugh actually escalates the war with Mackey -- and, as we know, Kavanaugh plays dirty.
I have seen a rough cut of the episode which looks to be a bit longer than the final on-air version, but it's still absolutely stunning. The interrogation scenes recall the greatest in-the-box moments on ''Homicide: Life on the Street.'' Forest Whitaker, playing Kavanaugh, once again proves why he is so dangerous to Mackey, and how many ways they resemble each other -- charming, single-minded, lethal.
The episode is also a strong statement about the roles women play in the lives of the regular characters, and in the lives of the criminals, and how vulnerable those relationships can make the men.
This week I've been watching the third season of ''NYPD Blue,'' because it's coming out on DVD. The show was firing on all cylinders then, sad and anguished and harsh and funny. (There's a weird little nod to ''ER'' in one episode.) It and ''Hill Street Blues'' and ''Homicide'' are all part of the foundation of ''The Shield.'' But the FX show has used that foundation admirably, building a show that tonight at least is on the same level as its predecessors, and possibly even better.