A return to form, if not a return to the sadistic, brutalizing narrative gambit established in Season 1. Season 3 takes on an uncomfortable obsession with sex, intimacy, and friendship, showing how the subversion and perversion of each resides on both sides of the law. Dutch spends a goodly amount of time investigating and solving a devastating serial rape case involving old women, which leads him down a dark path of his own (the crescendo episode is brilliantly directed by David Mamet). Shane falls in love with a Maura, a young woman who at first seems like another inconsequential tart, but turns out to be a raging force all her own when challenged for attention by Vic and the Strike Team. Aceveda comes face to face with a sexual act that confounds his very grasp on sanity, driving him deeper into a well of repressed horrors. Season 3 re-establishes the stakes of The Shield by forcing its anti-heroes to the edge of reason, a place where ambiguity overwhelms any clear cut notion of good and evil and each character begins to crumble under their own personal tremors.