Some characters are career-defining and for Michael Chiklis, that character was Vic Mackey, the man who lived in the long shadow cast by the corrupt cop using somewhat unorthodox methods from that masterful series that was ‘The Shield’, a character that’ll follow him no matter what he does. When this happens, an actor has two options. Firstly, they can try to escape the pigeonhole by playing someone so far removed from their iconic past; or secondly, accept that this is now part of who they are. Chiklis already tried the former in his day and it’d be better to pretend that never happened. Now, he’s turned his hand to the latter playing the leading role in his latest series, ‘Coyote’, which premiered just days ago on AXN and where once again we see Michael playing a cop, Ben Clemens.
Ben believes he’s on the right side of the law. In his case, patrolling the border between the United States and Mexico on the US side and at a very specific location. But as was already the case in ‘The Shield’, the lines between good and evil are very rarely as clear as one would imagine, and a far cry from being as cut and dried as the character would have liked to have imagined during his 35 years in the job on the border. He may even discover that he’s been on the wrong side all along. Or maybe not. In any case, the series will see him facing situations that’ll challenge his overly simplistic take on illegal immigration.
So, after spending a lifetime thwarting the entry of illegal immigrants to the United States, Ben now finds himself in Mexico, where for the first time, he’ll be walking in the shoes of those trying to cross. At this point, it’s worth reminding ourselves of the political and social context of the series and remembering the infamous promise Trump made about building a wall to prevent the entry of illegal immigrants from Mexico. Fortunately, as fate would have it the wall was never completed. This context is essential to understand Coyote’s intentions, which are to investigate the complexities of a problem that is far from simple. Our star has spent his life acting as a metaphorical wall, played by an actor who is the quintessence of the long and strong arm of the law given the fervent convictions that characterized Vic Mackey. Consequently, to a greater or lesser degree the series strong-arms a specific type of individual and a series with unequivocal ideas to undergo a complete overhaul. We’re going to dissect this man’s mentality into parts as he embarks upon a journey on which everything is dilapidated, starting with the car he drives along dusty roads and following through with Michael Chiklis himself, with an air of living his twilight years from a guy who in the past would have been the first one to throw a punch, Now, aware he’s on his last legs, Ben calculates his every move carefully.
Chiklis carries the series and manages to produce a compelling storyline based on the idea that Ben will be forced to make decisions he’d never have imagined possible, navigating unchartered territory heavily influenced by ‘Narcos’ and ‘Breaking Bad’. With greater weight from the latter, namely due to the protagonist’s path to uncovering an unfamiliar side of himself, and secondly because they have in common Canadian director Michelle MacLaren, who directs the first two episodes and is also listed as an executive producer. As was the case with Vic Mackey, family plays a pivotal role in Ben’s life, as we’re introduced to a good guy weighed down by the baggage of the mistakes he has made in the past. Despite these references, Coyote is burdened by a script that all too often revisits territories we’ve been taken to before in many other series and this ends up watering down the show’s best intentions to pose difficult questions about immigration. Ultimately, it’s the presence of Michael Chiklis that draws in the audiences, even fighting off that little voice in your head that’s saying ‘Coyote’ will never be as good as ‘The Shield’ as we join our leading man as he treks along this road to ruin.