Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Wire, "-30-": Farewell to Baltimore

Moment of silence as we mourn the loss of the most amazing drama in TV history.

Okay. Very, very, very long spoilers for "-30-," the series finale of "The Wire," coming up just as soon as I find an up-and-coming TV critic to one day replace me...

(Also, if you're looking for the David Simon Q&A, click here. It's very long, and I'll have an abbreviated version both in the paper and on-line tomorrow morning.)

"Let's go home." -McNulty

Of course the final shot of "The Wire" is of Baltimore. Of course it is.

As David Simon says in our interview -- and as he has said throughout the show's run -- "We knew that the ultimate star of the narrative was Baltimore, and by extension the American city, and by extension America." No final image other than the Baltimore skyline -- particularly seen from the distance of the highway, a remote view seen by travelers who would be terrified to ever set foot in the West Baltimore the show has depicted for five seasons -- would have been appropriate.

The finale provided closure by the barrelful for all the human characters -- in many ways, it was the antithesis of "The Sopranos" ending -- but the one character whose fate remains very much up in the air is Baltimore itself. When the cycle turns round and round -- when a Bubbles escapes the junkie life only to be replaced by Dukie, when Carcetti sells out every last principle in order to become governor, when the keys to the police department are taken from Cedric Daniels and handed to Stan Valchek -- what can be done to save the city (and, by extension, America)? Can anything? Or was Bunny right last week when he said that there was nothing to be done?

I should say upfront that my experience of watching "-30-" will be different from yours. I got the final three episodes a few weeks ago, and after using a lot of willpower to tend to more pressing professional and familial obligations, I stayed up until 2 a.m. that night watching all of them. (And another hour past that, just trying to get my brain to stop replaying certain moments over and over.) So I view "-30-" and "Late Editions" and even "Clarifications" as one large chunk of the greater whole. (Ideally, "The Wire" is a show that should always be experienced at least three episodes at a time.) So my feelings about it are tied up with my feelings about "Late Editions," which in turn are tied up with my feelings about "Clarifications."

Stepping back and rewatching each one a week apart to take notes for blogging purposes, though, I can see how someone might find "-30-" (the title, for those who don't know, comes from a now largely outdated bit of newspaper shorthand to point out the proper end of an article) a bit of an anti-climax of "Late Editions." And, certainly, there's nothing quite as affecting as Dukie and Michael in the car.

But if you've been watching this show long enough to care about Bubbs' trip up the stairs (and, okay, I teared up at that) or Kima and Bunk presiding over a crime scene on the same sidewalk where William Gant was killed, then you should know by now that, like "The Sopranos," "The Wire" usually puts the emotional fireworks into the penultimate episode (The George Pelecanos Tearjerker Special) and then spend the finale on resolution.

And boy, there was a lot of resolution here. You can wonder about what might happen with certain characters -- specifically, how McNulty and Marlo each deal with becoming a man without a country -- but for the most part, we know exactly how everyone ended up, and if they've stepped into another character's role, then we have a pretty good idea what the future holds for them. Sure, Michael's having fun taking Omar's place as the Robin Hood of West Baltimore, but we also know that most Omars (albeit not all; see the real Donnie Andrews) wind up catching a bullet. The best case scenario for Dukie is that he drags himself out of addiction one day many years from now the way Bubbs did, but I don't even know if that's realistic; Bubbs had a sister who could provide the slimmest of support systems when he needed one, where Dukie has no one.

('Scuse me while I go find my David Simon voodoo doll.)

Now, some people I know who have already seen the finale thought it provided too much closure, that Simon tried to rush too many endings into 93 minutes -- or that he spent time spelling out fates (like Dukie and Michael) that should have been clear from previous episodes. I've also heard some complaints that too many characters get something too closely resembling a happy ending (McNulty seems okay with losing his badge, Daniels looks happy as a lawyer) or the direct opposite, that the ending is far too dark (Carcetti is governor, Nerese mayor, Valchek commissioner, Marlo is a free man, Jimmy and Lester and Daniels aren't cops anymore, Templeton gets a Pulitzer while Gus and Alma are demoted, Dukie's a junkie, etc.).

Me, I thought it felt just right.

First, some of the endings are ambiguous enough that they could be read as either happy or sad. Yes, Marlo is technically unpunished by the law for his role in those 22 murders (and many more), but Ronnie's deal with Levy winds up being the worst possible punishment for the man. In jail, he's still making money off the co-op (as Slim notes he could) and no doubt doing easy time like we saw Avon doing in season two, and his name lives on in the streets as the man responsible for all that killing. Death is something he was prepared for, too; as he told Vinson a season or two back, he knew his reign would likely be short and end in incarceration or death, but he thought it was his time to wear the crown.

But to be excommunicated from The Game? To be granted money and freedom but lose his power and his rep and the only world he's ever known or cared about? That's some "Twilight Zone" stuff right there. As Simon (who refused to elaborate on whether Marlo's return to the corner was a one-time thing or the beginning of his attempt to return to that life under the cop's noses) puts it in our interview:
Marlo is cut off from the source of his power, desperate to rescue his name. To me, the great irony is that Marlo ends up being granted what Stringer wanted -- and he has no use for it. To me, to a guy like Marlo Stanfield, hell is a business meeting with a bunch of developers. For Stringer, it was all he wanted.
Similarly, Jimmy's early retirement can be read as either his salvation or a cruel punishment. Throughout the series, it was suggested that his whole life was the job -- hence the mock wake when he had to leave it -- but we also saw, over and over, that the job was killing him. The policework fueled the booze, the booze fueled the anger, the anger fueled the work, and on and on. Stringer's death was enough of a shock to make Jimmy take a step back to at least something simple like going back in uniform, and for a while, he seemed happy.

But he was still a cop, still close enough to his old shenanigans that he was able to get sucked back in by the bodies in the vacants and his role in Bodie's death, and here he hit rock bottom. He drank, he whored himself around, and he invented this bogus serial killer that helped bust Marlo (sort of) but that also hurt -- and in two cases, resulted in the deaths of -- innocent people. Losing his badge was the very least he should have been punished, and yet it's also the best thing that could happen to Jimmy McNulty the man. When he sits with Beadie on her front steps, he looks a little lost (I can't see him taking a job like Herc's with Levy or the one Bunny had at the hotel) but not unhappy, exactly. If he wants to have a chance to be a real person with a real life, he needed to get away from that job, and his behavior this season guaranteed that he would. He can't bring back those two homeless men the copycat killed, but at least he went to the trouble to undo Larry's kidnapping and bring him home. When he tells Kima (in another moment that made my eyes a wee bit moist) that, if she thought she needed to turn him in, then she was right, he's not just trying to make her feel better; he believes that he shouldn't be a cop anymore.

As for the rest of it -- and I'll be hitting the fates of every major character at some point during this review -- I thought most of it worked perfectly. Some things may have felt rushed -- specifically Dukie's scam on Prez, which I'll get back to -- but others were perfectly-timed. The show spent a season-long story arc on whether or not a man would get to go up a staircase and through a door, and all the set-up was worth it for that brief glimpse of Bubbs bounding up the steps and sitting down with his family at the dinner table. You want to talk about earning a moment? That, there, is an earned moment.

Some characters got better than they deserve (Valchek, Rawls, Templeton, Herc and Levy, the politicans), some got worse (Dukie, Gus) and others came out about right (Cheese, Chris, Lester), but The Game is The Game, the system is the system, and life goes on. Until something fundamentally changes, there will always be another Marlo, another Omar, another Burrell, etc. The show has always been cyclical. Remember the end of season one, with Poot having absorbed some of D'Angelo's lessons about slinging and passing them on to the new version of himself? This is what the show is, was and always will be, because, as David Simon sees it, this is what the system is, was and always will be.

(Ironically, one of the episode's biggest victims is not a person but an institution. Think how much better off the Baltimore Police Department would have been with Daniels as its commissioner. Valchek's just another symptom of the same disease. In this show's fictional universe, what's done to the BPD is just as tragic as what happens to the kids who aren't Namond.)

Before I get to individual characters and moments from the finale, I want to say a few words about the Baltimore Sun story, which was supposed to be the spine of the season just as much as the kids were for season four, Hamsterdam was for season three, etc. Again, Simon is going to go into great length about this in the interview, but his fundamental argument is that all the stuff with Templeton is a smokescreen. As he sees it, the real problem at the Sun isn't what Scott's doing, but what isn't being done by everyone else: covering all the stories we're aware of this season, but that the Sun omits from its pages (Joe and Omar's deaths, the disbanding of the MCU, Carcetti pressuring the cops to cook stats, etc.).
"That is the last piece in the ‘Wire’ puzzle: If you think anyone will be paying attention to anything you encountered in the first four seasons of this show, think again."
And I see what he's saying, to a point. I certainly took notice of those various moments when Alma would pitch a big story (to us) to Gus and it would wind up as a brief, or out of the paper altogether. And I think the Templeton story did add some value, both as a parallel/aid to the McNulty story, and as a reflection of some of the bigger lies that have been foisted on us by politicians and the press in recent years. (Like so many things in "The Wire," the serial killer storyline can be read as an Iraq parallel, which I guess would make Marlo into Afghanistan, but maybe that's a stretch.)

My problem is that, especially from the moment Twigg took the buyout and left, the screen time has been so disproportionately in favor of Templeton making stuff up and against incidents of the rest of the Sun staff failing to adequately report what's really happening in Baltimore that the story completely overwhelms the subtext. Worse, it feels like it runs counter to everything "The Wire" is about.

Simon has said time and time and time again that network TV dramas take the easy way out and portray corruption and other villainy as an individual problem. Get rid of the one dirty cop on the force, the one crooked politician at City Hall, and everything will be fine. "The Wire" doesn't believe that, and yet it spent so much time in its final season on a story of one individual causing all these problems for his institution. Firing Templeton from the Sun wouldn't come close to solving the paper's many problems, but the amount of time spent on him makes it seem like it would, you know? "If only Gus didn't have to waste so much time chasing down this jerk's lies, things might get done around here!" And, yes, Scott is very much enabled by Whiting and Klebanow, and by what Simon sees as a prize-chasing culture that's now endemic to places like the Sun. But I feel like the problems plaguing newspapers and other media (and just in the week between "Late Editions" and the finale, I've heard of half a dozen friends at various papers either getting laid off or reassigned to jobs designed to make them quit, so it's bad, people) go much, much deeper than the various incidents of fabulism. I don't object to it being included -- my first editor at the college paper was a fella by the name of Steve Glass -- but I wish it had been balanced in with more incidents of why the Sun never properly tells the stories we know are out there.

Now, with a finale so wide-ranging and dealing with so many people, I feel the best way to proceed is to take it character-by-character (or group-by-group) and discuss their fates, what that implied, and whether I liked it, then hit some other unrelated points before opening up the floor to everyone else. Even though there's nothing remotely as baffling as Tony Soprano with the onion rings and the Journey, I imagine we're going to have a lot to talk about for a while, still. Since I largely dealt with Jimmy and Marlo above, let's start with....

Dukie (and Prez): I can't tell you the number of e-mails and comments I've gotten in the last week along the lines of "If they make Dukie into a junkie, I'm going to kill David Simon." If I was Simon right about now, I'd want to see if Donnie Andrews does bodyguarding work (or maybe some of the recon soldiers from "Generation Kill" can moonlight). Talk about a stomach punch. On the one hand, they absolutely set this up last week -- have been setting it up practically since they introduced Dukie as the one clean member of a family of junkies. (I'm far from an expert on addiction, but even I know that if you're raised in that environment, even if you hate it and understand how destructive it is, when things go bad it can be very hard to resist the temptation.) So I should have been prepared for the image of Dukie shooting up, or before that, of Dukie scamming money from Prez. But even so...

(stream of curses deleted)

(another stream of curses deleted)

(tissue box reached for)

One of the surprising things Simon mentioned in the interview was that the writing staff, early in season four, wasn't sure whether it would be Dukie or Randy who would wind up taking Bubbs' place. Randy was my favorite of the boys, so I'm not sure I could bear to see that, but Dukie stayed with us even longer, was even more innocent and more put-upon, and to have him go down the exact road his family did...

(resisting urge to curse again)

I do find it surprising, and yet not, how myself and so many other "Wire" fans seem most invested in the fate of the boys, who didn't even show up until the series was 60 percent over. It's a testament to the great job the writers and those four actors did with these characters, but it's also a mark that they're, well, kids. Tragedies suffered by anyone are bad, but by kids -- especially three nice, warm-hearted, well-meaning boys like Dukie and Michael and Randy -- the pain feels magnified a hundred-fold. I feel bad that D'Angelo and Omar died, that Bunny lost his pension, that Daniels had to retire, but few things on this show will ever sting as badly as seeing Wallace die, or hearing Randy yell down the hallway at Sgt. Carver, or seeing Dukie in that alley, tying off a vein.

If I have one issue with the story, it's what I alluded to above: I think, within the chronology of the episode, his scamming Prez should have come much closer to the end than the beginning. If we assume that the meeting in Carcetti's office is the morning after Daniels and Pearlman found out what McNulty did, and that Lester running into Ronnie at the courthouse takes place, at most, a day later (and more likely on the same day; I didn't think to check the wardrobes), then Dukie goes to Tilghman Middle either the day after he's dropped off with the Arabers, or the day after that. And while I have no problem believing he'd fall that quickly into the lure of dope -- given the hopeless circumstances, wouldn't you? -- I feel like running a con on one of the few remaining human beings who knows or cares about him is something he would have needed just a little longer to fall into. Again, I'm no addiction expert, and maybe Dukie's new mentor guilted him into it in exchange for letting him stay at the stables, but dramatically, I would have liked more passage of time for that.

Now, remember what I said a few weeks back about how I hoped we didn't see Prez again? At the time, I was worried he might get laid off as a casualty of the budget games with the serial killer, but even with his job secure, I still wish he hadn't come back. Sure, he looks to have gotten the hang of being a disciplinarian without losing his innate Prez-ness, but I didn't want to have to see him encounter Dukie that way. All season, and especially in the last week, people have been hoping that Dukie would go to Prez for help, and I'm sure the writers knew people would be thinking that, so they take our expectations and use them to club our heartstrings to death.

While Prez may be naive in some ways, he was a po-lice long enough to know what Dukie was up to from the minute he got a good look at him, but he went along with it, anyway, either on the minute off-chance that he was wrong, or, more likely, because he feels guilty for Dukie being in his current circumstances. Maybe, Prez thinks, if he had been warmer towards Dukie when he visited him with the little present at the end of last season, instead of taking Ms. Donnelly's advice to try to divorce himself emotionally from ex-students, Dukie would have come to him much sooner than this moment. And now, if he sticks to his promise to not want to see Dukie again, who does that leave for Dukie to run to if he decides he wants out? Nobody, goddammit. And I'm going to move on before I begin ranting and raving about the fate of a fictional character who from minute one was designed to break my heart, and onto the only slightly more optimistic fate of....

Michael: I'll admit it: while a lot of the commenters over the last two weeks (beginning with when "Late Editions" first played On Demand) have been predicting Michael as the new Omar, his raid on Vinson's rim shop took me by complete surprise when I first saw it -- and yet it was one of those glorious moments where everything makes such perfect sense that it put a big smile on my face.

It's funny how, for the better part of this season, and even last season, many people (including me) have been declaring Michael to be "the new Bodie," "the new D'Angelo," "Marlo in training," "Avon in training," etc. As some of the commenters last week noted, Michael has always been written and portrayed as kind of a mirror character. Other characters look at him and see something of themselves in him, which is why so many people were eager to mentor him last year. Bodie saw another great corner boy, Marlo a fellow self-made man, Cutty a great boxer, Prez a good student, etc. He has traits in common with other characters, but the one that's always defined him has been his independence, his lack of interest in being beholden to anyone. He worked Bodie's corner to make money, and willingly took instruction from Chris and Snoop, but that was to pay off the debt for them killing Bug's dad. He's always been his own man, even though he's still technically a boy.

So even though his path and Omar's only crossed twice, and neither occasion was what you would call a mentor/mentee opportunity, it makes perfect sense that this is the man whose footsteps Michael would ultimately choose to follow. Michael's too independent to function properly within any institution, and his experience of the last year or so has made him unfit to do anything but be a criminal, so that leaves a role that's in The Game but not of The Game. Plus, he's shown in the past a certain flair for the dramatic, notably in his plan to humiliate Officer Walker and his theft of The Ring from Walker. Is Tristan Wilds aping Michael K. Williams a little too much in that scene at the rim shop? Maybe, but Michael's young yet; I imagine he'll develop his own style over time. I doubt, for instance, that we'll ever hear him whistling nursery rhymes.

Reginald: Should we even call him Bubbles anymore? Is that the name he should be known by, or just the name he used when he was on the street? Last week, he introduced himself at the NA meeting as Reginald, but quickly slipped in a reference to his nickname. Names do have power on this show (just ask Marlo), and I like to think of the guy who read his story in the Sun, who wears sunglasses to keep his mind clear on a sunny day, who gets to go up those steps and through that door and eat a meal like a member of the family instead of an untrusted burden, as Reginald. In my dream world where HBO revisits "The Wire" every five years or so, I'd like to think that Reginald would barely factor into the new narrative, that he might get a cameo like Namond and Bunny to show how well he's doing, but that he wouldn't get sucked back into storylines and communities that he's graduated from. And I smile every time I think of him casually jogging up those steps, like it ain't no thing that he gets to do it.

Lester: Like Jimmy, he seemed at peace with retirement. He had already spent 13 years (and four months) in a kind of retirement in the pawn shop unit, and he had lectured Jimmy in the past about the importance of having a life outside the job. I'm sure Lester will miss the work, miss being able to pull off his usual investigative miracles, but he has his dollhouses, and more importantly has Shardene, who all but worships him. (Look at how happy she is just to be with him while he works on that tiny furniture.) I think Jimmy came to realize much sooner what a mistake the serial killer scam was, because he was at the center of it while Lester was just using it as a tool to focus on Marlo, but when Ronnie points out that he's the reason they lost the money trail, I think Lester finally gets it. This is, in fact, on him, and it's time to go and enjoy other things.

(With 20/20 hindsight, I suppose there was a way to pull off the scam without having it taint the Marlo investigation, but it would have involved a lot more patience and the hope that, as the money tap stayed on, he would have eventually been able to get approval for a legal wiretap. Then again, a legal wiretap might have gotten Levy's attention, depending on whether Lester had plugged the courthouse leak by that point. As with so many things about this show, I keep looking for ways that things could have turned out better than they did, but in "The Wire," the fates are the fates.)

Kima & Bunk : There remains debate over who did the right thing with their knowledge of the phony serial killer: Bunk, for keeping silent to protect his friends Jimmy and Lester; or Kima, for ratting them out and endangering the Marlo case in the process because it was the right thing to do. As I said last week, I have no problem with what Kima did, just as Jimmy and Lester themselves don't seem to by the end.

That said, whether or not Bunk tattled to Landsman, he and Kima were the straight cops of this season, Kima by telling the truth when she knew it, Bunk by finding a way to put a murder charge on Chris without having to resort to Jimmy-level shenanigans. So I like that they wind up as partners at the end (and, as mentioned above, are working a murder at the same location where Bird killed Gant for being a witness in D'Angelo's trial). But though Bunk quotes his "There you go, giving a fuck when it ain't your turn" line from the pilot, Kima isn't the new McNulty; she's the new Bunk. (Sort of.)

Sydnor & Carver: If there's a cyclical bit of recasting that felt a little abrupt, it was Sydnor as the new Jimmy. Until he got sucked into the fake serial killer scheme a few episodes back, Sydnor had always been one of the cleaner characters on the show, arguably the only cop with no dirt on him, or who never did things that he knew would hurt other people for selfish reasons. Once he got in with the plan, he certainly soaked up a lot of knowledge from Lester, but this is one of those things that probably would have benefited from an extra episode or two, so we could have seen some signs that Sydnor was starting to enjoy his role as a renegade cop.

I have no problem whatsoever, though, buying Carver as the new Daniels. (You'll note that, when Sydnor is bitching to Judge Phelan the way Jimmy used to, he complains about "Lt. Carver" getting the run-around from some major, in the same way Jimmy used to argue on Daniels' behalf. I'm sure Carver's just as in the dark about Sydnor's "help" as Daniels was.) Carver was Daniels' protege before he was Bunny's (and again after, when Daniels was running the Western), and I'd argue he's grown and changed as much as or more than any other character on the show. Season one, Herc and Carver were interchangeable. Now, Carver's a natural po-lice, the type who, in a less dysfunctional department, might make one hell of a commissioner some day. It's good to know that the department hasn't lost all of its good cops overnight.

Daniels: Again, Daniels for Valchek is one of the most lopsided trades this side of Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio, or Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano. It sucks that Daniels loses his shot at the top job -- and that the BPD loses an upstanding reformer in favor of the hackiest of all possible hacks -- but like Jimmy and Lester, Cedric at least has the love of a good woman (depending on your opinion of Ronnie), and he seemed okay with finally putting his law degree to use. (Interesting that he would choose to be a defense attorney, but I suppose staying away from the State's Attorney's office keeps him out of the sphere of influence of people like Nerese.) It's also interesting that he chooses to sacrifice his career for Ronnie's -- he probably could have fought Nerese and won, but at the cost of Ronnie's job (and maybe Marla's) -- where Ronnie isn't willing to sacrifice herself to blow the whistle on Jimmy, Lester and Carcetti. I'm not saying the situations are completely analogous, or that Ronnie should be forced to give up her job instead of Cedric, especially since she does put herself at considerable risk with Levy. And speaking of which...

Ronnie, Levy & Herc: ...where the hell did that Bawlmer accent come from in the Levy negotiation scene? A very odd choice. I can see where they were coming from with that -- in a completely desperate moment, when Ronnie's risking her career and even freedom to get some kind of justice for Marlo and company, she drops whatever cultured airs she's taken on over the years and reverts to the scrappy native girl I'm assuming she used to be -- but they've never gone into her backstory enough for it to quite work.

Still, I really enjoyed that scene and the way that Maury, once again, finds a way to turn an impossible situation to his advantage. Along with Clay, Maury's one of the true villains of "The Wire" -- people like him allow the Marlos and Stringers of the world to thrive -- and so it's appropriate that he comes out of the series stronger than ever, much as I would love to see him and Herc (who has now unambiguously sold what's left of his soul for more attaboys and brisket invitations) doing hard time for their various infractions over the years. A "Wire" where Maury Levy gets caught isn't the show we know, is it?

But back to Ronnie for a moment. I didn't catch it until the second viewing (a lot going on in this one, sorry) that her judgeship comes directly from Steintorf's promise that he and Carcetti would remember whatever she did to salvage as much as possible from the Marlo case (specifically, the conviction for the murders in the vacants). So her motives still aren't 100% pure when she goes to barter with Levy. But that seems about right for the honorable Ms. Pearlman. On a show full of characters who either battled in vain to change the way their institutions operated or who rolled over and supported the status quo, she was one of the few who fell in between those extremes. She usually did mean well, but she also never wanted to upset her bosses, or her pals across the aisle. This was about as heroic a Rhonda Pearlman as you're ever going to see. And whatever issues I may have had with the sudden appearance of the accent (not to mention the execution of same, though the locals can defend or assail that better than I can), I thought Deirdre Lovejoy did a great job in that scene where she defended herself and the plea to Lester and Jimmy.

Carcetti and company: Behold, the triumph of the hacks. Norman is now reduced to playing the jester (we only ever see him anymore when there's a joke to be made), while the odious Steintorf is the real power behind the throne. Tommy the reformer has become everything he swore he would fight against, and in the process has helped elevate fellow hacks like Nerese, Rawls and Valchek. Nothing will be done to fix Baltimore with those people in charge, and with half the state money already committed to PG County, and no doubt with Tommy already trying to position himself for a presidential run a few terms down the line. I cringe thinking about how I let the show lull me into believing in Carcetti's "new day" back in season four. And speaking of New Days...

Cheese, Slim & the co-op: The finale didn't offer much in the way of viewer gratification, but Cheese taking a bullet to the head certainly qualified. Excuse me while I get all action movie fan and say hell yeah!

I've noticed in some fan circles that Cheese evinces even more hatred than Marlo. No doubt it's because he betrayed his own kin, and after said kin had already risked his own neck to protect Cheese. (Remember, if Joe had given up Cheese to Marlo after Omar robbed the re-supply, Joe wouldn't have had to introduce Marlo to Vondas, and he might still be alive because Marlo didn't want to lose the connect.) So on that level, Cheese's death -- particularly at the hands of master-less samurai Slim Charles -- was awfully satisfying. There were many points during the series when I wanted to see Snoop dead, but the actual moment of her demise deliberately denied us any real visceral pleasure, because she took it with such dignity and because it was another part of Michael's slide into hell. But Slim putting a bullet in Cheese's head while Cheese was in the middle of a bile-filled monologue celebrating the lack of loyalty and nostalgia in the drug game... that was nice. After Bubbs walking up the stairs, it may have been the most uplifting moment of the whole finale.

("The Wire": a guy goes up some stairs, and another guy takes a bullet to the head for being an asshole, and these are the feel-good moments!)

It's unclear exactly how the new version of the co-op is going to work -- or even that it's a co-op, as opposed to Fat Face Rick and Slim somehow scrounging up 10 million on their own or finding some other way to get an in with Vondas. (Given that Slim was Joe's #2, and that Vondas had established with Marlo that he dealt with both bosses and their seconds, I wondered why Slim didn't just try to go directly to Vondas. Surely he knew him and where to find him, and it's not like Marlo was the most reliable of referrals given his current situation.) What really struck me about that whole part of the story was how much trouble these drug lords were having coming up with that much money, especially all together. From what I remember of Lester and Prez's calculations of Stringer and Avon's profit margin back in season one, those guys were much better with their money than the old hands in the co-op.

The Greek & Vondas: Same as it ever was. "Always business." With The Greek as the representative for pure capitalism, I knew there was no way the cops would even get close to him and Vondas. As with Levy, Clay, etc., a "Wire" where Vondas wound up in bracelets wouldn't be true to itself.

I know there was grumbling about why The Greek gave Marlo the okay to kill Joe (Simon explains it in the interview), just as I imagine there will be some more about why The Greek continues to do business in Baltimore given that they've lost two shipments (three, if you count the one they left on the docks at the end of season two) due to their various partners getting sloppy. And, again, I view it as The Greek deciding that these are acceptable losses and risks when weighed against the benefit of having the entire city all to themselves. If one distributor falls, even if a shipment or two gets taken, there will always be a new distributor, and enough demand for the product to make up for what was lost. And The Greek will always be so far removed from the action that he can easily flee for a little while should things get the slightest bit hot.

Chris & Wee-Bey: It oddly warmed my heart to see these two stone killers as prison yard buddies. There are, of course, many parallels. Both were their boss' top enforcer, just as both were either father or father figure to one of the boys to season four. Wee-Bey did the right thing by Namond in giving him up to Bunny, just as Chris thought he was doing the right thing by Michael in beating his stepfather to death and then training Michael to be a killer himself. (Hey, intentions count for something, don't they?)

Rawls: I know I mentioned him briefly in the passage about Carcetti, but I think Rawls deserves his own entry, if only for uttering one of the funniest lines in "Wire" history, when he asked McNulty whether he was really killing the homeless guys himself.

The thing about Rawls is that he's not a Valchek, someone who wouldn't know his ass from a hole in the ground. There were plenty of signs over the years that Rawls knew what he was doing (him figuring out that the street signs at Kima's shooting had been turned, him being the first one at COMSTAT to understand what Bunny was doing with Hamsterdam), and even a hint or three that he might have been interested in properly fixing the department if the opportunity were given to him. (He didn't seem displeased to witness Daniels dressing down Steintorf last week, for instance.) But between his own petty grudges and the realities of the department and City Hall, he settled into his role as attack dog guardian of the system. Even McNulty, desperate to dig himself out of the damage he created with the serial killer scam, refused to go along with Rawls' order to coerce a confession to all of the "murders," and as Jimmy, Bunk, Jay and then Daniels all walked away from him, you could see that Rawls knew it was too much, too. Still, I doubt he'll run the staties any differently than his predecessor.

Templeton, Gus & The Sun: I discussed my larger beefs with this story way up top. In the end, things played out about as expected, given the show's worldview and what each character had done to this point. Gus doesn't get fired, but him being sent to the copy desk is every bit a waste of his talents as putting Jimmy on the boat or Lester in the pawn shop unit. Alma, who might have been a good cop shop reporter one day -- and who was still preferable to whatever rookie they throw into that beat next -- gets banished to the county bureaus, and I would even argue that putting Fletcher into Gus's job just as he was starting to show real talent as a reporter is a waste of resources. It's typical of Klebanow and Whiting that they get tumescent over this nonsense homeless series about which many obvious questions have been raised -- if nothing else, you would think the undercover cop's account of what really happened with the myserious gray van would have finally given those two some pause -- while completely ignoring what sounds like a tremendous piece of narrative journalism by a less-favored son.

(This, by the way, is one of those areas where telling a story about a newspaper on a TV show gets tricky. Were this a book, they could run some significant excerpts, if not the whole version, of Fletch's profile of Reginald/Bubbs, but instead we have to take the word of Gus, and of Walon, that it's so wonderful. Be a nice web or DVD extra if Simon were to bang out his own faux-profile under Fletcher's byline.)

As for Templeton, yes, he gets his Pulitzer. (And, while I initially questioned whether Klebanow and Whiting would risk submitting the story when several staffers could bring great humiliation on the paper by ratting it out, Simon said that in real life, Marimow and Carroll did submit the lead paint series written by the alleged fabulist.) But he has to live with the knowledge of what he did to get it, and that other people know, too. It was one thing for Scott to get so much attention for a situation where he thought he was making stuff up to add to a real story, but to find out that even the parts he thought were true were bogus -- to find out that he was played by a fabulist just as much as he played his bosses -- clearly messed him up. (Jimmy spilling the beans to Scott was one of the finale's highlights. "The Wire": a guy walks up some stairs, another guy takes a bullet in the head, and one liar tells the truth to another! The upliftingest show ever!)

And, sure, Gus could try going public with the file he and Robert put together, but it would no doubt get him fired -- and given the vast number of newspaper vets around the country who are suddenly in need of work, this isn't a good time to get yourself fired.

A few other random thoughts on "-30-":

-With Clark Johnson back in the director's chair for the first time since season one, we saw a couple of visual signatures that the show stopped using after he left -- specifically, the use of black & white surveillance footage (as in McNulty and Daniels on the elevator), security mirrors (Levy meeting with Marlo) and other viewpoints designed to show how often we're being watched -- and how many ways there are of seeing a single situation.

-Another obvious full circle choice was the use of the Blind Boys of Alabama's version of "Way Down in the Hole" from season one (still my favorite of the five) as the song over the final montage, which was itself filled with images, locations and people from seasons past. In addition to the final fates of all the above characters (and of Crutchfield busting Kenard for the Omar killing), we saw the original basement headquarters of the Major Crimes Unit, the low-rise courtyards where D'Angelo once ran things (plus, later, a glimpse of D's hand showing off the chess pieces), a Port police car (presumably Beadie's) driving through the stacks, the police boat on the harbor, and Old-Face Andre's corner store, among other familiar sights.

-Even more poignant was the interlude of sunrises and sunsets over various Baltimore neighborhoods that separated the episode proper (the resolution of the serial killer story and Marlo's case) from the extended epilogue. The city seemed so peaceful and beautiful in those shots -- a place worth fighting to save, you know?

-A number of people last week "guessed" that the business cards at Christenson's murder scene meant that the copycat was the homeless guy who collected cards. That was the closest anyone here came to posting something I worried might be a disguised spoiler, but I left it in because, frankly, they spent so much time on the guy earlier in the season that I suspected he would come up again, and as soon as we saw cards scattered at that first crime scene, I knew what was what. And I'm not so smart that other people couldn't have figured out the same thing.

-In case you were wondering, the courthouse leak was grand jury prosecutor Gary DiPasquale, played by Gary D'Addario, the Homicide commander during the year that David Simon was writing "Homicide" the book, and the inspiration for Gee on the TV show. He's popped up on "The Wire" a handful of times over the years (his most memorable appearance was earlier this season, when he heckled the guy who complained that he was too important to wait his turn). I'm fine with the leak being a very minor figure like that; the leak itself wasn't a major storyline, but rather a plot device to enable the deal Ronnie brokers with Levy.

-Look closely, and you can see David Simon in the Sun newsroom, typing next to Zorzi, at the very start of the scene where Scott tells Klebanow he doesn't feel well enough to write about the killer's capture. And the sign in front of Simon reads "Save our Sun."

-Among the many, many, many things I'm going to miss about this show is Lance Reddick's perfect posture and dead-eye stare, two traits he got to show off during several encounters with McNulty.

-I like how we transitioned from Jimmy, back in the good graces of Beadie's kids (if not Beadie herself), showing them "the dreaded crab claw," to Reginald and Walon eating actual crab claws.

-Whatever hatred I now have for Carcetti doesn't extend to Aidan Gillen's portrayal of him. Carcetti's struggle to find something, anything, to say about the truth about the serial killer was one of the most priceless moments all season.

-How much do you think everyone at the faux-wake knew about the real reasons for Jimmy and Lester's retirement? Is the serial killer/Marlo story going to become the cops' own version of the death of Omar, where the story keeps getting elaborated upon as time goes on, but no one from outside the culture ever hears about it? And I hope you caught, after "The Body of an American" came on one last time, that glimpse of the photos of Det. Cole (aka Bob Colesberry, late "Wire" producer) and Col. Foerster (aka late "Wire" actor Richard DeAngelis) on the wall at the bar.

-Two things of note from Marlo's return (temporary or not) to the corner: 1)The legend of Omar's death continues to grow and grow, now involving hitmen from New York; and 2)After three years of people questioning why Marlo had the power when Chris and Snoop were doing all the heavy work, we see that Marlo can handle himself just fine in a fight, thank you. Admittedly, those two corner boys didn't look like they'd been through Chris' combat training school, but winning one against two when the other two have a gun and a knife is still impressive.

Lines of the Week:
"I wish I was still at the newspaper so I could write on this mess. This is too fucking good." -Norman

"I believe he's about to have one of those 'road to Damascus' moments." & "See? The police commissioner done fell off his ass." -Norman

"Shit is like a war, ain't it? Easy to get in, hell to get out." -Bunk

"To be continued." -Daniels

"I remember 'clean.'" -Gus

"You're not killing them yourself, McNulty -- at least assure me of that." -Rawls

"You're mishpacha now." -Levy
"If you say so." -Herc

"Though had he lived, his dick would have been 134." -Carver

"Detective, if you think it needed doing, then I guess it did." -McNulty

"That was for Joe." -Slim Charles

"This sentimental motherfucker just cost us money!" -Tall Man

"There you go, giving a fuck when it ain't your turn to give a fuck." -Bunk

"You just a boy." -Vinson
"BANG!" -Michael's shotgun
"That's just a knee." -Michael
Whew.

Well, that's all I've got for the moment, so fire away. I'm going to dearly, dearly miss this show, but I'll say this: in the '80s, I never thought TV drama could get better than "Hill Street Blues" and "St. Elsewhere," and then it did. In the '90s, I didn't think cop shows could get better than the early seasons of "Homicide" and "NYPD Blue," and then they did. It's easy to look on the final episode of "The Wire" -- and of an HBO schedule that's now devoid of "The Wire" and "The Sopranos" and "Deadwood" -- and wonder if the latest golden age of drama is over. But I can see myself 5, 10 years from now writing something like, "I know this sounds like blasphemy, but (insert name of new show written by some guy named David here) may be even better than 'The Wire.'" Whoever wants to try to get to the top of this mountain has his or her work cut out, but I think it can be done. "Hill Street" taught people to watch TV in a new way, which in turn led to "St. Elsewhere" and "NYPD Blue." "Homicide" allowed "The Wire" to exist. I'm sure somehow, someone's going to figure out how to build on what Simon, and Burns, and Colesberry and Pelecanos and Price and Lehane and everyone else here created. And I look forward to watching and writing about that show when it comes. Watching "The Wire" may have made me terribly pessimistic about the future of our country, but it fills me with hope for the future of TV.

Months back, I said that I intended to immediately follow the end of the series with a rewind back to the beginning, so I could blog about seasons 1-3 in the same depth I gave to season four and season five. And I still want to do that, but, frankly, I need a break. As you can imagine, these reviews take a lot of time to do properly, and with the rest of primetime TV weeks away from returning, my schedule's going to get even busier in a hurry. I want to say that I'm going to try picking up with season one in two or three weeks (and I'd post them on Sunday nights or Monday mornings as if they episodes were still airing), but in case it takes longer than that, please understand. But I'm looking forward to going back to the beginning to see what other "Yo, my turn to be Omar"-esque moments were planted early, and to relive great moments like the chess lesson, the F-word crime scene, Bubbs on the park bench, etc. If everything about "The Wire" is circular, then it feels right as we come to the end to go back to the beginning, and very soon.

What did everybody else think?

239 comments:

1 – 200 of 239   Newer›   Newest»
Anonymous said...

First! Now I have to watch the show, then read all this.

Mrglass said...

While it wasn't the best episode of The Wire, or even a very good one, "30" was the only possible way to end the best series ever. No surprise really in the conclusion of the serial killer arc, many people had foreseen the massive cover-up. That Templeton actually wins a Pulitzer seems excessive, but it follows the over-the-top madness of the season.

The parrallel between Dukie and Bubs was heavy-handed, but then again it shows the circle of addiction, a major theme of the show. On the other hand, I hated hated hated the final scene of Michael. It was nothing more than a heavy wink to fans, useless, Omar was a unique character. Is Michael supposed to be gay too now? Just silly.

Too many parrallels in fact were present to go over all of them ("The game is the game"), but there is one I feel is most surprising: Marlo and McNulty. Both end up completely lost, retired without any clue what they should do now. While Freamon seems happy to have given the middle finger one last time to the system and returns to a happy home with a pension, McNulty is... just fucked. Beadie barely smiles in their last scenes together, you just feel their relationship won't last long. As for Marlo, he lost his crew and his reason to live. He will end up dead or in jail eventually, he was defeated without being arrested.

Best scene (or rather, best shot): Wee-Bay and Chris in jail, soldiers sacrificed by their respective bosses. Somehow I feel there could have been a whole season about Marlo, Chris, and Snoop. We knew so little about them; although that was part of their "charm". And how ironic is it that Slim Charles end up one of the new kingpins? You knew it was coming when he openly said he wasn't "cut to be no CEO".

One last thing: unlike Carcetti and the newspapers who in the end couldn't care less about the homeless, David Simon kept them at the forefront the whole season, even in this final episode. It is therefore fitting that the last person we see in the series is this poor Larry, going "home", to the streets of Baltimore now home to all of us Wire fans.

jen said...

Just a short comment now...more later. Wow, Slim Charles. Shooting Cheese. Made me scream and cry. A lot. I love you David Simon.

Tim Masterson said...

Two words sum up the anger and frustration of what David Simon and Ed Burns have been presenting for five seasons: Commissioner Valcheck. The hack to end all hacks.

I'm going to miss this show.

Anonymous said...

Stealing a line from someone else "institutions are the Greek Gods" of the Wire. We are stuck in a continual cycle repeating itself unable to control our own destiny.

Tim Masterson said...

By the way, Alan, outside of the show itself, that was a terrific recap. You did a great job with these and this is no exception. Great work and thanks for giving us an outlet for this.

Anonymous said...

A good but not great effort by Simon. Once again too much of the newspaper storyline and not enough of Dukie and Michael. All the scenes with Daniels, Rawls and Carcetti were fantastic. I thought Dominic West was fantastic in this episode, finally realizing how the consequences of his actions effect others. I loved when Bunk, at the scene of the copycat murder victim told McNulty "you light a match and everyone get's burned". This was the exact same thing Freamon told McNulty in Season 3 and it gave me chills down my spine.

Things I really disliked:

The Michael as Omar scene was over the top and took me out of the whole show. Mike doing the Omar "sneer" and a jokey one-liner was just absurd. 93 minutes for the finale and this is all we get of Michael.

I am still not sure I am buying Marlo selling his connect to go legit. You would think certain people would wonder why he is out of jail so easily while everyone else went down (the Greeks?). His concession to leave the life was way out of character. The parallel to Stringer was cheesy. I think his final scene was meant to tell us that he will return to the game.

I would have liked to see some more anger from McNulty and Freamon that Marlo just walked after dropping (at least) 22 bodies.

I am also a little disgusted my Kima (although this is really not a fault with the show). I guess she stopped caring about the family that Marlo had killed.

The Syndor as McNulty scene was also horrible. Dukie as Bubbles was heartbreaking but a little to sudden. Too much of the cycle continues cheesiness from Simon. I expected better.

Overall, a good episode (not as brilliant as Chase's Sopranos finale). The fake wake was fantastic and moving. This may have been Daniels best episode ever. A nice wrap up.

kathy said...

I thought almost everything about this was so well-done and I'm with Alan on the Bubs thing, his walk up the stairs was the heart of the episode for me.

But I found Dukie's slide extremely unconvincing. That, that was not earned. It doesn't compute that a kid who worked so hard to survive would fall into hardcore junkie behavior (scamming the one person he still had a hope of counting on) in the matter of a couple of days.

It doesn't even compute that Dukie would use in the first place. That was a rare misfire on the part of the writers. The Dukie character as we came to know him would have reached out to Prez for real help, not gone to the needle in the space of day.

Hearing that they wanted to have one of the 4 boys 'become' Bubbles helps explain why that transition felt so forced - it was. It wasn't a natural evolution of the character, it was a plan to show a pattern.

But again, overall, it was a very satisfying ending, many other great shows have crashed and burned when faced with putting on a finale. Very good ending to a great, great show.

KcM said...

I need some time to process my thoughts on this last episode, but in the meantime, I'd like to pushback on what seems to be a growing consensus: here, at THND, and elsewhere.

Now, there's no such thing as a lousy episode of The Wire. But, imho of course, not only was Episode 59 not the best season of the series, it wasn't even close to the best season of the season. I much preferred tonight's, Ep. 52, Ep. 54, Ep. 57 and 58...heck, I'll come out and say it. I thought Ep. 59 was one of the weakest episodes of the season. Everything about the Marlo bust felt rushed, as if the show had to hurry and get this major plot point out of the way to give the show the ending it deserved.

And, while the Snoop-Michael-Dukie situation was a sad one, I didn't feel nearly as moved about that resolution as I did about many of the ones seen tonight. (I'm just going to hazard a guess, and suggest that people with children are putting much more emotional investment into Michael and Dukie's fates. But we've seen wasted youth throughout The Wire, from Wallace to D'Angelo to Bodie to, most heartbreakingly, Randy.)

More later, but just wanted to throw that out there before the CW sets any more. I found this episode much more satisfiying than last week's, by far.

LDP said...

Loved it, as usual. Excellent recap, too.

One silver lining about the show's departure: I can get rid of HBO now.

Tina said...

I made it almost all the way to the end, but Bubbles walking up the stairs and sitting down at the table did me in. The episode may have made me laugh more than any other of the series, but I sobbed from that point to the end.

As for the rest -- usually the last episode of each season is more of a wind-down, where we think we know where things are going (down) and they do. For the first time, at several points I realized I absolutely did not know what would happen next. And every time Herc was onscreen, I held my breath that he'd say something to make things worse.

Commisioner Valchek. Wow.

Nice homage to Homicide -- or I'll take it as such -- with the last episode using a line from the first (There you go, giving a fuck...) at a murder scene. Yeah, I know the first ep of The Wire didn't use it a crime scene, but cut me a little poetic slack, will ya?

More later, but time to watch it again.

KcM said...

And by best season of the season, I meant best episode of the season. Sorry, carry on.

Anonymous said...

In Valchek's one scene this season, he brought up the idea of becoming Commissioner. I always thought it would be a perfect cynical ending.

But goddamned David Simon had to ruin my smile at that cynicism by immediately cutting to Dukie shooting up. FUCK!

It was a bit weird that there was so much "___ is the new ___", but I think the point is, they're still individual people who will do their own unique things, but they're playing their role in the overall game. Every individual is human an unique, but there are only so many options within each world.

Michael as the new Omar was a bit much, mainly because, if he's going to be a stick-up boy, why stay in B-more, where there are likely still a lot of people looking for him?

I feel like the few problems I do have would've been smoothed out in a full season, and none of it felt wrong, exactly. [I agree the Dukie/Prez scene felt early, but I imagine that the Arabber knew that the longer Dukie stayed with him, the less likely anybody would give him anything.]

dan said...

I have only one thing in mind to say, but your comments make me think of one other point -- if Kima is the "new" anything, it is indeed the new McNulty. There was no reason, beyond her own personal sense of principle, to report the homeless murders. In a sea of shit -- which Baltimore's institutions so thoroughly are, as this last episode drives home ad nauseum -- to make such as stand is pure self-indulgence. Particularly since the scheme worked perfectly, except for her tattling.

As for why Freamon and McNulty don't care that she told, that's the thing I wanted to say -- they don't care because everything is fucked up beyond all belief. What is striking to me is that a show which appears to be so strident in its mission has this as its final message. Did we need to be told that?

It is only if we accept this that the new characters moving into the established roles or tropes makes any sense. Why should there be a new Omar, for example, or a new Bubbles? It seems entirely too facile a way to dramatize that violence and drug addiction will continue to be problems.

What I thought of at the end was ho different McNulty standing on the highway was to Naimon standing on the porch looking at the empty streets at the end of a prior season. Naimon is looking at a space where anything is possible; McNulty is looking out at a place where nothing is. The nihilism of the show is capped by all of the good characters who attempt to make change getting destroy, and all of the characters who play along or say nothing getting ahead. I'm not even sure reality is that bad.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Michael as the new Omar was a bit much, mainly because, if he's going to be a stick-up boy, why stay in B-more, where there are likely still a lot of people looking for him?

For the same reason Old-Face Andre thought going to the east side of town would keep him safe, for the same reason Bodie was afraid of Philly radio stations, for the same reason Omar came back from NY even though Barksdale and Bell had a bounty on his head, for the same reason Wallace came back from the country: because Baltimore is all these people know.

Anonymous said...

"Everything about the Marlo bust felt rushed, as if the show had to hurry and get this major plot point out of the way to give the show the ending it deserved."

I thought it was great that the thing that would be the ultimate climax of an episode in most cop shows was the thing that happened right at the beginning of their climactic episode.

That was, I believe, the only major drug arrest since the first season (the third season arrest was for weapons). But it was just a step along the way in the construction of that episode.

JZ said...

Simon for President after two terms of the nice Senator from Illinois.

Alan, you said it all. Well done, and well done, everyone, all along with the insight and the love and the debate and all of these things.

The notebook was blank.

Wow.

SJ said...

How about this line:

"There you go, giving a fuck when it ain't your turn to give a fuck."-Bunk to Kima. The same thing he said to McNulty in episode 1, season 1.

I have to admit I was a little disappointed with the finale. Mainly because I wanted to see something horrible happen to McNulty. He got away too easily, but then again he had to if Carcetti wanted to become governor.

Also, Michael HAD to use the shotgun? Could they make it more obvious that he was the new Omar? Not subtle at all.

The Wire is not a show where we see a lot of character development (since most of them are developed already), but Prez's transformation from crappy policeman to a hardened teacher has been excellent, and he has been one of the most underrated characters in the show.

And Simon almost gave me a heart-attack when they showed the wake!

One last thing: I found two scenes to be disturbing: Marlo standing at the corner by himself and Templeton's "it's in my notes!" act. I think both scenes showed a different kind of psychopathy (is that even a word?)

Chris Littmann said...

Geesh, Alan, leave something for us to say! (I kid, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your novel, I mean, review after the show ended.)

Just wanted to thank you for posting all these reviews each week.

Bubbs going up the steps. Michael as Omar. Slim Charles capping Cheese.

You know, a lot of shows would've ended with that detective's wake, but as I said to my roommate: "Give it time, they're going to do something to crush our souls." And then, Dukie. Damn, DS!

Many thanks to David Simon for this great show.

Nicole said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alan Sepinwall said...

If they are still in a relationship, she should be recusing herself from any case he handles, or he should request a transfer of the case to another judge.

Ronnie makes a joke about how it's her first case as a judge and already she's going to have to recuse herself.

TuckPendleton said...

Not much to say but a thank you to David Simon et al, and to Alan for all the great columns and recaps and thoughts.

Goodnight, werewolves.

Anonymous said...

"If they are still in a relationship, she should be recusing herself from any case he handles"

That's exactly what she's saying in the dialogue, "my first case and I have to recuse myself." (Possibly "my first case of the day, I can't watch it again just yet.)

0221 said...

"Dis-a-POINT-Ting" -- Otto

Please understand that the worst single season of “The Wire” is better than anything this side of “Deadwood,” but I really think Season 5 suffered in several unrecoverable ways.

First: Marlo & Crew. Because the intricacies of the Barksdale/Bell operation were the focus of seasons 1 and 3, it made dramatic sense for Marlo to be a lurking, dark figure without any nuance. Because season 4 was really about the kids, Marlo never needed to be front and center. So when Marlo becomes so central in season 5, the writers have simply not done the work to make his operation deep or believable. He’s running the show because he’s ruthless, yet he’s cautious. He drops bodies (even though hiding bodies in the vacants was apparently a complete waste of time, as even the paper can’t be bothered to run more than a graf on Prop Joe and pushing back Omar’s death to another day), but we don’t have any sense that he actually runs the drug trade. We just have to accept that while Avon and Stringer needed each other to control the West side, Marlo can succeed—in a quotidian sense—because he had Chris and Snoop, with no other details.

Second: The Sun. This could have worked, but it didn’t. The reason is that Simon and Co. simply did not spend enough time creating the characters, instead creating dull archetypes better suited for a “Ripped From the Headlines” Law and Order episode. This is a consequence of the decision to continue the stories of the kids from season 4 and the Carcetti Gubernatorial run in addition to the serial killer plot, Marlo’s attempt to consolidate power (b/c there are only three “muscle” in Baltimore, apparently) and The Glorious Redemption of Reginald.

Third: The Serial Killer Plot. I could successfully buy McNulty’s role in the plot, though it didn’t exactly feel real. I could absolutely not buy Freamon or Sydnor. Their inclusion in the plot ignored both characters established in previous seasons, and I could never get past that.

Fourth: Parallelitis. Why would Dukie have to become Bubbles II? Why would Michael have to become Omar II? Why would Snoop ask “How’s my hair look?” before getting killed? Because it seems like the sort of thing that happens when you get so focused on parallelisms that you ignore the actual characters you’ve worked so hard to develop. The bending-over-backwards to fit our beloved characters into a rigid, pre-planned structure just didn’t feel honest, not in the way seasons 1-3 did.

Anyway, them’s my two cents. I keep reading that all y’all wept over so many fates, but the season just felt so hollow to me. Thanks for allowing me this forum to spend 500 words on it!

Anonymous said...

Wow - I am still sitting here in the dark, letting it all set in. While it wasn't the greatest of Wire episodes (not even close) I do thank David Simon and Ed Burns for giving us so much closure. There were probably too many easy outs (winning the Pulitzer - never) but they can be forgiven for giving me a little bit of peace, bringing back so many. Thank you David Simon, Ed Burns, et al for such an amazing five seasons.

And thank you too Alan for doing such an amazing job with your weekly wrap ups. They were literally a life saver as I tried to digest all that I had seen. Many, many thanks for giving me a place to go to ponder such an amazing show.

Now I am sitting here in utter depression thinking of what to do with a Wireless future. And the only thing I can think of is to start rewatching the series from the start.

I look forward to your blogs on season one, two and three when you get to them Alan. I will be watching along too.

Anonymous said...

All I have to say is at the end of these 5 seasons I am in awe. And Alan your writing on the show has elevated the experience of viewing it. Thanks to you and thanks to the Wire. These characters will stay with us for a long time...

Josh

vadmspartan said...

This is how you end a show. It just felt right. I can't say I'm not satisfied with how it ended. I'll probably come back with a more critical perspective later, but wow.

I don't know if I have a reason to watch TV now or have an HBO subscription. I guess I can wait for Generation Kill though. Thanks for the memories David Simon, et al.

(You do know what et al means right?)

Tim Masterson said...

The reason is really worked for me, as a series finale, is that the show doesn't have to go on. As a whole, we know what life will be like in Baltimore in five years, 10 years, etc... Good cops will be stifled by bad bosses, politicians will try to cover their own asses, drug bosses will come and go and there will always be someone to take their place, etc... My favorite parts of the musical montage were the faces. The people of Baltimore, not characters in a show, whose lives are affected by decisions made in police stations and city halls in the name of self-interest, not the greater good.

dez said...

It was a bit weird that there was so much "___ is the new ___",

I think part of that is seeing the parallels, and part from reading Dominic West's interview with the L.A. Times wherein he said there were characters who would become "the next Omar," etc., without revealing which characters he was speaking about.

Loved the ep, bittersweet as it was (and several of the characters' fates were bittersweet, if not just bitter). Glad to see Bubbs doing so well--I thought I'd read that Bubbs was based on a real person who died and that Simon was going to be true to that person's fate, and for once I'm glad my memory failed me! Phew!

My fave moments were Bubbs going up the steps and Slim capping cheese (I cheered), and I also found Commissioner Valchek to be a hilarious bit. I was pissed about what happened to Alma and Gus vs. Templeton, though (wanker!). Still, kudos to you, Mr. Simon, for your wonderful achievement.

Mo Ryan said...

Thanks, Alan, for the Simon interview and for this.

If only I could get the image of Dukie shooting up out of my head.

But Bubbs coming up the stairs -- that doesn't make up for what happened to Dukie, but it's sure choked me up.

I sure hope you're right about the future of TV. Within the next year or so, we'll also see the end of Battlestar Galactica and The Shield. Thank goodness for Mad Men.

Anonymous said...

Quote of the week:

Rawls "The Back-Channel is the way to go!"

Had me rolling instantly

Toeknee said...

Alan, I may miss your recaps as much as I’ll miss this show. “It's typical of Klebanow and Whiting that they get tumescent…” That line really had me laughing – a great callback to the dialogue from an earlier episode this season. And thanks for confirming that that was David Simon at a desk in the newsroom. As you look forward to writing about some great show in the future, I look forward to reading what you write.

OK enough ass-kissing…

I think a lot of the complaints people have had about things being rushed is simply due to the fact that the season was shorter thank Mr. Simon wanted.

At first I cheered when Dukie went to see Prez, hoping that he’d find a way out of his dire situation. But that hopeful feeling disappeared almost right away.

A nice touch – after Jimmy left his “wake”, he gave some money to a homeless person on the street.

I wondered why Avon wasn’t shown in the jailyard with Wee-Bey and Chris?

And maybe I should know this, but did we ever find out exactly what it is that Daniels did that was so wrong, and how his wife would share the guilt? I can’t remember if this was clearly spelled out for us.

Siddhartha said...

I thought it was such a satisfying ending. But I don't know if that's the feeling I wanted to have for the "Wire" - it was great TV but did it fit? Maybe I'm a masochist, I have to watch it again to re-evaluate.

There have been a few comments about the Michael-at-the-rim-store scene but you've got to hand the writers credit.

They show the scene with Marlo going up to the corner and then immediately cut to the rim shop as if to show Marlo taking up with his old life again. But it turns out it's just Michael there to rob the joint.

Pretty good deke. (Similar to when Chris and Snoop are training Michael in the cold open but it looks like they're hunting him down in Season 4.)

Ronnie Mo said...

This episode pwned Sopranos finale.

Anonymous said...

Perfection.

What an experience, no tv show or film has ever made me feel like this. Hell, even all the classic books I have read do not compare. The Wire is simply the best.

I will need to rewatch to catch everything again, but this was as good as I expected it to be.

Part of me wishes Mike would have just let Dukie stay with him and be his partner. So at least the two of them would have each other. I guess they both know that what ever allows Mike to do what he does Dukie doesnt have it in him. Still part of me wishes him and Dukie would be partners robbing the game that robbed them of so much. And you nailed it in the review Alan, no matter how much wealth and rep Mike gains it will likely end with a bullet. Maybe eventually Duke can at least make it out. After watching this episode "Late Editions" is even sadder, Bug,Mike, and Dukie will never be with each other again.

I really dont have much to add to the police stuff. Glad McNulty escaped and hopefully he can find something to do that he will enjoy. What a great ending for Valchek, that asshole ends up as Commish, oh poor Baltimore.

Marlo's journey in the end was a pleasent suprise. While it is hard not to wish pain on a man who has caused so much, a lot of depth was added to his character. He really showed how smart he is and if Marlo was born in the suburbs he would probably have been on his way to runnin a major company. While his name may never be remember like Omars, or one day Michaels, Marlo won, he beat the game. I took the last scene to be a final hurrah, a final chance to feel the rush that Marlo has to give up.

Levy really came along way from just being a character that showed the levels of corruption. He was great this season. And while the Herc angle seemed to be a way to keep him involved his role in the finale was real good.

Bubbles journey was a great story and what a conclusion.

And the shots of Baltimore were a great touch, good decision.

And finally I feel bad for the people who did not enjoy the season like I did. After rewatching the episodes the last few days this season is as good as the others. 7-10 were outstanding. I can see people saying the 4th season was the greatest season of a show ever, but the 5th is right there with the other three seasons. Fuck those CNN critics who said the ending was too network like, and all these people complainin bout the newspaper and fuck whoever leaked the episode cause I accisently read about Cheeese and Dukies fates.

Thank you David Simon, HBO, and all that took part in this show I have enjoyed every moment. Thanks for all the great reviews Alan, the part from last week about the drug industry replacing the blue-collar jobs during the bust was a wonderful catch that I wouldnt have picked up.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree that the "parallelitis" syndrome hurt this final episode, and this season of the show in general. I appreciate the Wire's ability to foreshadow and plan far in the future, but this was taken way too far. The Wire's essential complaint is that institutions destroy individuals, but I think the show's writers themselves degraded certain characters by making them each fit a slot carved out for them from another character on the show. When Dukie becomes Bubbles, Michael becomes Omar, and Sydnor becomes Mcnulty, those moments don't exactly sit right because they don't seem completely appropriate for the character. I was deeply troubled when I read in Simon's interview that the writers decided between Randy and Dukie for who would become the next Bubbles. That didn't seem to really treat those characters as real characters.

ME said...

I just want to echo everyone who thanked you for the fantastic recaps.

I'm looking forward to seasons 1-3!

Thanks!

Siddhartha said...

Oh, also, I'll have to watch Season 5 again to figure this out for sure, but with all things playing out the same way BUT removing the McNulty's serial killer scam, could Marlo go down?

On 1st thought, Bunk still can track down Chris' DNA from Bug's dad as part of his investigation into the vacants bodies (and probably sooner since he has being held up by McNulty's bodies). They have Chris and Snoop on the weapons charge already so is there a chance that they could have gotten Chris to flip Marlo so that Chris could have stayed with his family?

That would be the final irony if true.

Mr. Bad Example said...

I haven't been so fulfilled by a TV Show during it's entire run since Seinfeld, and that was, after all, comedy. The fact that The Wire managed to keep me son engrossed (obsessed, even) during every little scene, every seemingly-insignificant quote, is a testament to the genius of Simon and Burns. May their word-processors never crash during the run of "Generation Kill", etc.

Now, regarding "___ becoming the new ___" discussion: let's not forget that every day, in every city, people are becoming new Bubbleses, Marlos and Omars by the dozens. Yes, there might be subtle nuances here and there, but the fact that those archetypes are being filled in astounding numbers is the real message here, not whether Dukie is the logical choice to become an addict. Hell, I'm surprised they only showed one of our four corner kids from S4 hitting the needle. This being The Wire, I kept expecting for the vic that Bunk and Kima find at the end of the episode to turn being Randy, or Donut running over Bug in a stolen car, or some bad shit like that.

We're also making too much about Michael going for the shotgun as his weapon of choice in his new incarnation as a freelancer. As far as I'm concerned, both him AND Omar owe a debt of gratitude to Samuel L. Jackson in Jackie Brown: "When you absolutely, positively have to kill EVERY MF'er in the room..."
He might have been talking about an AK-47, but there's no arguing the kind of approach the aforementioned anti-heroes took to their business all but mandates equal amounts of massive firepower and dispersion. Hence, sawed-off shotguns.

I also take a little bit of hope in Gus' warning to Whitting: "Maybe you get a prize. And maybe later you have to give it back", or words to that effect. These things may take time, but eventually they surface and all sorts of shit hits the fan once they do.

Was this one of the best episodes? Not really. Was it consistent with end-of-season episodes? It was. Did everybody deserve their respective corollaries? That's a matter of preference, to some degree? But more importantly... is this the end? I hope not. I harbor hope that Simon will get to revisit his character's fates ever 5 years or so, as Allan mentioned. I would even buy "The Wire: comic books or pulpy novels, if they meant to provide additional insight on this world I've come to love. I guess the next best thing I have right now is buying the entire series on DVD and revisit Bawlmahr in all its faded glory, since my wife has finally agreed to give it a chance. It's all good. And it couldn't last forever, tight?

Only maybe it will.

HonTea said...

Alan, just want to say thank you so much not only for the reacaps for the past two seasons, but also for committing to recapping seasons 1-3. Clearly, it will be no small task, so thanks in advance.

Mo Ryan said...

I think I finally figured out what bothered me about the Sun plot: It's like going to someone else's high school reunion.

What could be less interesting, right? To listen to people tell stories for hours about people you've never met and adventures that were had years ago?

In my opinion, DS went to a great deal of trouble to recreate to a very great degree the Baltimore Sun of some years ago, and to depict a particular series of events that went down there. Trouble is, that sequence of events isn't particularly interesting to people who weren't there at the time. Well, to me anyway.

And like you said, Alan, the "do more with less" part of the Sun story -- which is a huge reality in our business, and a very depressing one -- got short shrift. Scott's fabulism got much more play. And I don't buy that the shrinking of the pond creates more liars in journalism. I just don't. I think entitled, narcissistic jackasses like Scott Templeton have always existed and will always exist. And they are such a minor part of what's happening to journalism, all things considered, that the focus on that part of the story just bugged me.

It's like your house is on fire, and your neighbor walks by and says, 'Hey, did you notice your have a broken window?' It's like, 'Seriously? You think *that's* the problem?'

Admittedly, they tried to depict stories falling through the cracks because of cutbacks and such, but overall, the Sun story just never worked for me. And yes, my own experience as a journalist colors my view of that story, I'm willing to concede that.

As for Dukie's slide into addiction, I don't know why, but I bought it. I think the final rejection by Michael drove him over a cliff, emotionally. He knows there's nothing in his future and no one is there for him. Why wouldn't he start using something that could help him defer all that pain?

ami said...

Too much to comment on right now--though I can say I'm oddly satisfied with where we leave these characters--except for Dukie of course.

Alan, I stumbled onto this blog around the time of the Sopranos finale, and I've been a regular visitor ever since. Thank you for helping enjoy the greatest show ever even more.

Heather said...

My Rhonda Pearlman accent theory: I'm just going to pretend that when Deirdre Lovejoy originally auditioned for the show, she used a Baltimore accent, but then they decided to use more generic accents, so she dumped it. Then, as a reward, they let her use her little accent during the finale.

Although, your answer is way better than mine.

I always thought Pearlman grew up rich anyway because if not she seriously must contend with some really high rent with that house she has from Seasons 2 -5.

Tina said...

Toeknee: Daniels had been part of a drug detail that had been skimming money from their dealer busts. Apparently it's all in the file Nerese had, including Daniels' sudden increase of income.

More random thoughts:

Nice throwaway line that Cheese put up Prop Joe's house to get out on bail. That worked out well, didn't it?

And a little heartbreaking that in Jimmy's last case, he again shows that he is/was great police.

Dukie's last scene had him in the corner of the frame, small. Almost as if it was so painful to see him there that there should be a little distance. Or maybe that's just me.

barefootjim said...

I haven't read any of the other comments yet, but I just wanted to say that this was the first place I went after I finished watching the finale.

Thanks, Alan, for these amazing recaps. I was a latecomer to this show: spent 2007 watching the DVDs of the first four seasons just so I could watch this one in real time.

What a gift we have been given by HBO with this show, and Deadwood and The Sopranos.

Now what?

Jeff L said...

Did I miss it, or did we never find out just what was in the folder about Daniels? Seems very un-Wire to have a McGuffin like that.

Belle is... said...

I feel a little empty. Not because I didn't find the finale satisfying (I did) but because this is the first show I've ever been obsessed with. I wonder what I will obsess over now. What will make me look for parallells, what will shock and awe. I was an English major in college and I haven't any of the skills I learned to get that degree since I left school seven years ago on anything but this show. It will be missed.

I'm too emotional to say much more about the show just now. But I want to say to you, Alan, thank you! The series wasn't finished for me when the credits rolled. It was finished when I came here and got your last recap of the show. Thank you for your time, your patience, your writing, your wit, and your insight. I look forward to dissecting Seasons 1-3 with you in the upcoming weeks.

A thank you to David Simon as well for many, many great televison moments and books, but most notably today for Cheese getting shot. I laughed until I cried. It was one of the most gratifying moments ever.

Anonymous said...

Alan,
Thanks so very much for your thoughtful insights and re-caps. I am spoiled since I get to read you in the Star Ledger all the time, and I am glad others get a chance to experience what us Jerseyans read every week from you.
One quick question for you...is this the only episode in the history of the show where the epigraph was in fact not spoken by anyone....you can see it in the background in the Sun office in that one scene...it is the last line in the quote by Mencken.
Just wondering...will write more after I have watched the episode a few times.

SJ said...

It would be interesting if they released an updated version of the book "The Wire: Truth Be Told" (Must-have for obsessed fans like me). It only really delves deeply into seasons one and two, and it would be great if they added in info about season 3-5.

Anonymous said...

awesome job, great insight and summation of the final episode but the Tom Waits (the original) version of "way down in the hole" (season 3) is and always be the best, sir.

Anonymous said...

On a slight tangent, I wanted to ask: Should TV critics have been allowed to watch the finale beforehand? I mean, it wasn't done for The Sopranos.

I'm asking because it seemed like a minefield the past few days avoiding finale spoilers.

On the one hand, with the advance copy, Alan is able to have his review (watched twice!!! complete with David Simon interview!) up on his site immediately. But the problem is that critics like Alan (and a few others) are thankfully of a rare breed who don't want to spoil ANYTHING about the final episode.

On the other hand, there were other critics who just couldn't help revealing nuggets about the finale in advance, without ANY spoiler warning. I've been searching through Google News the past few days looking for Wire tributes, instead I got Wire spoilers:


For instance:

--The Kansas City Star published the name of the song at the end of the finale, which prompted David Simon to complain.


--The New York Post's TV page on Saturday had a picture of Freamon and McNulty with the words "It spoils nothing to reveal to you that the final line in The Wire is 'Larry Let's Go Home.'" ( The New York Post also spoiled last week's episode when it wrote before Episode 9 aired: "Without revealing too much of what happens in the final two episodes, I feel it's OK to report that three more characters we haven't seen yet this season make brief reappearances - Bunny Colvin (Robert Wisdom), Namond Brice (Julito McCullum) and Prez Pryzbylewski (Jim True-Frost).")


--The Chicago Tribune published a review that turned up on Google News Saturday morning which lead off -- without spoiler warning -- with the following words: "An image has been in my mind since I watched the series finale of "The Wire." It's a scene of a character named Dukie preparing to shoot up drugs." (NOTE: Now it states "Spoiler Alert!" before the article, but that wasn't there yesterday morning. I wouldn't have read that paragraph if it there was a spoiler alert.)




--And, finally, the Baltimore Sun published this headline this morning: "The Wire' finale is a cop-out for a once-great show." I don't know about you, but that headline basically spoiled what was going to happen for me.


So the question is: Should TV critics sign some kind of oath promising not to reveal any spoilers (at least without warning!)? Can they be more conscious of their audience?


Sorry to divert from topic, though it is relevant to the finale. (By the way, the final scene of the finale was posted yesterday on YouTube, yet another site where you can easily get spoiled.)

lungfish said...

I liked that when McNulty was leaving his "wake", he hands a couple of bucks to the homeless guy sitting outside the bar.

Nicole said...

Clearly Bubs meeting the family and Dukie shooting up disturbed me enough that I completely misheard Ronnie saying she had to recuse herself. Glad Simon got that right.

A satisfying conclusion to a great series... now I need to start from Season 1 to catch what I missed.

paul said...

The show ended the way it had to. The point of the parallels was simply the more things change, the more they stay the same. Some of them felt a bit abrupt, but overall it worked. Dukie didn't even feel that abrupt. This is his world now. He has nothing else. They've been setting that up for a while now. Sydnor was the only one that felt a bit disjointed to me.

As to the complaints of Michael copying Omar too closely, use your brains. Long before this in the life of the show, Omar had become legendary on the streets. Hell, Michael knows Omar better than most as he actually went up against Omar. If a kid on the streets of Baltimore is going to be a stick up artist, of course he's going to emulate Omar in every way he can.

This was a fantastic show and series in every sense. I could quibble with choices made here or there in various episodes in various seasons, but what's the point. Save your quibbles, and enjoy what we just saw.

BTW, Alan, I am a Baltimore native, and that was not a Baltimore accent Ronnie was using in the scene with Levy. I think she was just trotting out her version of the "tough lawyer in negotiation mode" dialect. If you want authentic Baltimore accent, listen to the real Jay Landsman (whatever his character's name is). It doesn't get any more Baltimore than that.

Anonymous said...

[quote]One quick question for you...is this the only episode in the history of the show where the epigraph was in fact not spoken by anyone....[/quote]

The "If Animal Trapped, call xxx-xxxx" text that is frequently seen on vacants was used as the epigraph for I believe the season 4 finale.

alli said...

"The Wire's essential complaint is that institutions destroy individuals, but I think the show's writers themselves degraded certain characters by making them each fit a slot carved out for them from another character on the show. When Dukie becomes Bubbles, Michael becomes Omar, and Sydnor becomes Mcnulty, those moments don't exactly sit right because they don't seem completely appropriate for the character. I was deeply troubled when I read in Simon's interview that the writers decided between Randy and Dukie for who would become the next Bubbles. That didn't seem to really treat those characters as real characters."

I think that's because they were treating those characters as institutions - so just as there is a new police commish, there is a new Omar. Because in West Balmer, not having a stick-up boy is just as unthinkable as not having a police commissioner.

It's also a nod to how much the fans treated those characters as institutions - as pillars of the show. The parallelism continues their legacy, and in a way, lets The Wire live on in perpetuity.

SJ said...

I believe there have been only 3 real Baltimoreans on the show: Felicia Snoop, Lt. Mello (played by the real Jay Landsman), and the actress who plays Ms. Donnelly. It's clear from their accents that they are different from the rest.

Anonymous said...

From the Sun:
There is a reason the ratings so declined this winter, with audiences of only about half a million viewers on some Sundays. Although HBO believes more viewers are watching On Demand, the cable channel says it can't yet quantify the numbers. Either way, it seems as if The Wire has been abandoned by all but its hardcore fans as Simon replaced a wise and moving exploration of life in Baltimore City schools with a hollow newspaper rant that had all the universality of a home movie.

Where to start? The reference to the episodes with under a million viewers - nothing to do with going against the superbowl and the oscars, two of the most watched broadcasts world - and state- wide every year?

Theidea that so many viewers left because of the news room storyline is far off. The wire is more popular now thna ever, with dvds being experienced by new people and the hype spreading. The truth is, as evidenced by the 200+ posts left after the episode 9 re-cap tells us the Wire arguably has the most devoted and intelligent fanbase ofany show.

Brooks said...

I have a million things to say about this episode and season as a whole, here's a couple of thoughts.

My disappointment can be summed up by my reaction at the end of the episode, OK, it's over. In other seasons I've sat on my couch for awhile just thinking about the storyline and feeling emotionally spent. Not here. Everything was spelled out almost too nicely. The only character we're left with uncertainty about is Marlo. Many of the characters fates were also quite predictable so the episode did not educate as much as it affirmed the obvious.

Two things I might've done differently. Make the Dukie scene longer and more vivid. In earlier seasons we got to see Bubbs shoot up, close ups of the needle going into his vein, the subsequent physical effects, the shaking and drooling. Was there anything sadder than Dukie's story? A kid with potential but a life of undeserved shit, too much to dig out of. I think the tragedy wasn't capitalized enough.

I would also liked to have seen the brisket dinner at Maury's house with his family and Herc. Picture a beautiful home in the suburbs and a loving family sitting at the dinner table with a lavish spread in front of them. They thank god for the food and everything looks perfect in this successful businessman's house who is well respected in the community. Only we know the truth behind his money and the measure of his character. The hypocrisy would be downright painful for the viewer.

Anonymous said...

"Where to start? The reference to the episodes with under a million viewers - nothing to do with going against the superbowl and the oscars, two of the most watched broadcasts world - and state- wide every year?"

Yeah, beyond the fact that a large percentage of the fans watch on On-Demand [and a contingent either gather together or bootleg it because they don't have / can't afford cable], they're only counting the Sunday broadcast of a show HBO shows at least four or five times every week.

Siddhartha said...

In the David Simon interview, he talks a lot about embedded symbolism...did anyone catch when Marlo, obsessive about "wearing the crown", is in his suit, he's wearing a purple (known to be the 'royal' color) pocket square in the shape of a crown?

KcM said...

Anon, I'll agree with you that there was absolutely no reason for the last three episodes to go out to critics. They got the last seven episodes already. Was the show going to build a new fan base with three episodes to go?

It's something that's irritated me quite a bit lately regarding a lot of web venues. Alan (and Matt & his crew over at THND) do great work with the web recaps, so I don't fault them. But they would've done great work without having seen these three episodes first, and the rest of us wouldn't have had to dodge spoilers for the past three weeks.

A related problem is happening in election coverage at the moment. The Clinton campaign in particular is leaking to blogs they feel "matter," such as Politico's Ben Smith and the Atlantic's Marc Ambinder. Now, unlike Alan and Matt, these guys are rather terrible bloggers, and pretty soon they begin parroting the party line without doing any cross-checking, just because they're lazy and self-entitled. But that, in turn, influences the coverage of the election as a whole, because political journalists are equally lazy and herdish and just grab whatever they've seen on the Internets.

(The NYT had a fashion article, linked to by the Atlantic's Yglesias (also Exhibit A in what's going on), and it encapsulated the problem: The "it" bloggers are basically a microcosm of fat, white, nerdy Templetons, who'd rather write long and discursive posts about each other's bellybuttons than anything of substance. In other words, they'll post anything you give them. Indeed, Simon made the same point in his long conversation with Alan today, with his "extended scene.")

I'm digressing, so I'll shut up now, but, to me, the leak of the final three episodes to *special* writers is a symptom of the same problem. In the age of the Internet, there are no real gatekeepers anymore. Creating the illusion of them just results in information being denatured and spun badly at the source (or, in the Wire case, being spoiled for the rest of us not in the inner circle.)

Anonymous said...

"I'm digressing, so I'll shut up now, but, to me, the leak of the final three episodes to *special* writers is a symptom of the same problem."

(This is the original TV critic-complaining poster) Actually, I believe all TV critics got the final episode in advance. I don't think I would have a problem if the finale was given to certain critics who are known to use caution.

Anonymous said...

"did anyone catch when Marlo, obsessive about "wearing the crown""

It suddenly occured to me how embedded the checkers/chess scene was in the series... the old way of doing things, there was a King, and that was respected. In the new way of doing things, anybody can make a run to the end of the board and become a king ... but when the king falls, there are already several more.

Or something like that anyway. The brevity of Marlo's reign makes me think of the kings in checkers.

McKingford said...

It's typical of Klebanow and Whiting that they get tumescent over this nonsense homeless series about which many obvious questions have been raised -- if nothing else, you would think the undercover cop's account of what really happened with the mysterious gray van would have finally given those two some pause

Except the cops simply tell the paper they don't think Templeton's account has any merit, but they don't say why. From an operation perspective you can understand why: they wouldn't want to blow an undercover cop's cover just to precisely refute a newspaper account. So while we the viewer knows that Templeton's full of it (and knows how), his editors don't.

RE: Dukie chronology

I don't necessarily watch the Wire with the view that all story lines and narratives are taking place in sequence and in parallel, at the same time. If you watch the series with this perspective then some story lines, which might otherwise be plot wholes, work just fine. The Clay Davis trial is one example. It's totally unrealistic to think Clay Davis went to trial a few days after being indicted - in fact, it's so unrealistic, this *can't* be the way it was intended to be depicted. I think instead, his trial happened many months after his indictment and the series simply showed his trial taking place in Episode 7 because that's when it was convenient to show it, but without suggesting that the trial took place in the days after the indictment which a literal viewing would require. It's enough that it happened after the indictment and that his acquittal took place before Lester shakes him down for information.

I think watching the series this way this makes sense with Dukie. It probably isn't realistic that Dukie is a full-blown, vein-tying addict who hustles friends and acquaintances down for a few bucks the day after Michael drops him off. But I don't see anything in the depiction of Dukie with Prezbo that suggests that it *is* taking place the next day.*

*If one has a literalist fetish, then are we to take it that Valchek gets appointed the day after Daniels was? Or that Carcetti was elected governor the next day?

Anyway, Alan, I think your critique of the Sun plot is bang on. I've long defended that plot-line against most of the criticism, but felt a bit let down by this part of the finale, and I think you really nailed the why.

McKingford said...

Just to add a point I forgot about Cheese.

I agree that his shooting was one of the more satisfying moments given that, to me, Cheese was probably the most odious character on the Wire. Having said that, I don't think his death can entirely be attributable to chivalry on Slim Charles' part. Remember, Cheese was supposed to take 20 years as part of the deal that sprung Marlo. There's no way Cheese is chipping in to be part of the connect if he thinks he's spending 20 years locked up. In fact, as a criminal lawyer, I can tell you that one of the hardest things to do is convince a guy on bail to do time - especially big time. So I think Cheese had to fall to make the deal work, because he would never have agreed to it himself.

DK said...

Just a note to those thinking the Dukie story was too quick, that he descended into drugs in a matter of days. We see him ask Prez for the money and give it to the Araber on the same day. But he's not doing heroin then. He could just as easily be helping out a guy he thinks could help him. Some scenes of the montage at the end took place several months (at least) later in the story. For example, we have a new mayor and governor and see Tempelton winning the Pulitzer. Each of those events was a long way off from when Dukie went to Prez. So if the shoot-up scene happened 8 months down the road, would you still argue it was too fast? I wouldn't.

Anonymous said...

But Dukie's behavior in the scene with Prez is classic addict's behavior, and the guy says to him something about getting the testers.

I don't think Dukie is Bubbles so much as he is Johnny or Sharrod.

hills said...

ok, but what of rawls' trip to the gay bar in like season 3 when the muslim hitman was searching out omar's boyfriend? what the hell happened to that storyline? and i would have loved for them to play out the cheese wagstaff as randy wagstaff's father storyline, especially since the kid was soooooo prop joe's (his natural great uncle) relation, slanging candy with different t-shirts and what have you. I agree the micheal situation as the new omar was all but perfect. i almost cried over dukie and i'm mad at prezbo for taking the hardline with dukie early on and i'm madd at dukie for not going to prezbo earlier for actual help. but then again, since prezbo took the hardline when dukie gave him the gift, i dont know if i would've come to him either. kennard is the marlow (stringer/avon) mirror, spider is the new bodie...but dukie shooting up was awful to watch. i literally almost cried. all in all, i'm totally disappointed in carcetti and the sun paper's bosses for knowing the bullshit and not calling it. why couldn't everyone go out with some dignity like snoop?

snoop: "how my hair look mike?"

mike: "you look good girl."

alan, i appreciate your "tv will be this good again" pep talk at the end because i'm really sad and am seriously considering cutting off my cable. what else is there to watch? oh yeah, and i borrowed Simon's first book, "The Corner," from my buddy to give me a new fix.

Anonymous said...

I may be reading too much into it..

But in the scene with Steintorf as Daniels is moving into the Commissioner's office, the camera seems to linger on the moving box for a moment. Just as Steintorf tells Daniels that he'll have to juke the stats for a couple of quarters. The box says "100% Recycled". That may have been unintentional, but it summed the scene up for me. Same shit, better office.

McKingford said...

ok, but what of rawls' trip to the gay bar in like season 3 when the muslim hitman was searching out omar's boyfriend? what the hell happened to that storyline?

Why does it have to be a storyline? I've never really understood why so many people wanted The Wire to expand on this point.

OK, so Rawls was gay - it may be an interesting bit of trivia about him, but doesn't need elaboration. Kinda like real life: some people are gay, some aren't. Sometimes it's a surprise, sometimes it's obvious. Why does it need to be a big deal?

washerdreyer said...

Why so sure that Kenard was being arrested for Omar's death? He had surely committed other crimes, and who knows how long after the death the arrest seen took place.

Anonymous said...

Why so sure that Kenard was being arrested for Omar's death? He had surely committed other crimes, and who knows how long after the death the arrest seen took place.

there's a homicide police behind him in the scene (crutchfield?)

Anonymous said...

I think Norman as the court jester is actually quite purposeful--his was always a pragmatic approach so I don't think I would buy him falling for the spin. But, the spin starts to become so absurd that one has no choice but to play jester.

Best Norman line of the night:

Evrybody's getting made on some make believe!

Chris said...

As the greatness of The Wire comes to a close, thanks for your blogging on the show Alan, it's really helped me keep up and catch some things that I missed the first time around. I have one last question: DVDs. Can we expect a bundle of the series anytime in the future? When? I'd love to revisit the show from the beginning again, and since I haven't caved in yet and bought any of The Wire's seasons, I might as well wait for the bundle!

editrix said...

I can be as critical as the next person, but it bothers me that so many people who claim that a certain show is the best in the history of television (whether The Sopranos, Deadwood, or The Wire) have so many nitpicks and disappointments to air. Who are we to critique and second-guess the creative geniuses who have given so much of themselves for our edification and enjoyment? As I said once on TWOP, I would have followed the Sopranos writers into hell. And I'd do the same for the writers of The Wire. It must be so dispiriting for them to read all the criticisms, right down to the choices of camera angles. Whoever could do better... go ahead and try.

Kyle Wasko said...

That Baltimore Sun review linked to above might be the most incompetent thing I've ever read. Yikes!

Mark said...

A few random thoughts:

I'm with editrix on the aggressive nitpicking issue. Sure, there are things to be critical of (and Alan nailed them in his recap). She's clearly not advocating mindless adulation; just keep things in perspective please. This is/was indeed on of the finest things ever on TV, and Simon, Burns, et mult. al. (ha!) deserve praise for what they've accomplished. The nit-picking here and on other boards was distressingly often completely overblown.

As for the less-than-obvious (on third thought) comparison with the ending of "The Sopranos": I knew all along that "The Wire" would not break with its tradition of straight, realistic storytelling. We've come to expect certain formulaic endings from past seasons, and even though "The Wire" has a tradition of not giving the viewers quite what they want, it has never departed from its writing traditions and tropes, including the parallelism and the ending montages. "The Sopranos" was more "avant garde" (or retro) with its experimental blurring of dream and reality (from the very first season, and usually in the last two episodes of a season). It dissected its characters as much as it dissected conventions of narrative; and in the very end, it did both. "The Wire" has always been the more compassionate show in both regards.

I'm proud to say that I managed to avoid most spoilers, except for the occasional "Next Week on The Wire" preview (I hated those). I did so by actively staying away from this board (not your fault, Alan, but it would have been too easy for someone to post a spoiler comment), not reading any reviews in the paper, not even going anywhere near YouTube, etc. It was a tough two weeks, but it was worth it. Sorry it didn't work out so well for some of you.

There was one more spoiler that I wish I could have avoided, which was buying "The Wire" soundtrack, which contains part of the dialog between Dukie and Michael in the car at the end of episode 59.

About the episode itself:

I appreciated the many callbacks to earlier episodes or seasons: McNulty confronting Templeton paralleled McNulty hearing "his" FBI profile. The distant train going by as McNulty is sitting outside with Beadie. McNulty's fake wake being anything like what Beadie had told him it would be like (she might still be right in the end). Shardene still touched by Lester's doll furniture. Prez having come a long way from brutally beating a West Baltimore kid in the second episode to being an effective, compassionate teacher.

About Dukie: It's sad, but also easily explainable (if not predictable) that he would become an addict. He grew up around addicts, he has lost his family and all of his friends. With Bug he has lost his purpose, and with Michael his only source of income and companionship. He's too young to work, but too old for school. With everything that happened to him in the last two seasons, it's not surprising he would start using drugs.

Michael as the "new Omar": It worked for me. We knew from the very first episode he appeared in that he was capable and that he had a code he lived by (not taking Marlo's money). At the same time, Snoop was correct that he never belonged anywhere. He worked out in Cutty's gym, but he never accepted his offer to train him. He was trained by Snoop and Chris, but that was a calculated deal. He knew that he was being targeted and he proved smarter than his opponents. He knows how the drug trade works and he has an axe to grind. It is completely believable that we would try to emulate Omar to convey the message that he means business, shotgun and all. Omar is a legend, which was again confirmed in this episodes, with stories being told about him, kids playing Omar on the street, etc. Why not use the fear of Omar to his advantage?

Thanks once again to Alan for the great insight and for running this board. I look forward to your commentary on seasons 1 through 3, and I'll wait however long it takes for you to find time for them. I'll probably rewatch the entire series from season 1 once the season 5 DVDs are out.

Anonymous said...

Alan,
Remember in episode 35 when we saw Rawls in the gay bar... why do you think the writers never took that anywhere? Seems like it could have been an interesting storyline.

Anonymous said...

To quote David Simon in the interview right below this post:

We could have cannibalized Rawls' moment in the gay bar and advanced that moment, but I'm not sure we would have created any more theme, and on some level it was very satisfying just to grant the notion of a closeted gay man's sexuality a moment on screen and then move on. There was something very compelling and real about just acknowledging that but not making it into grist for a storyline that didn't add anything to our portrayal of Rawls.

Jason said...

Another character parallel I was thinking about after the show ended was Carver and Namond. Carver in the first season is a knucklehead, just like Herc, but Daniels, Colvin and Mello all take him under their wings through the various seasons so that he comes out a thoughtful, honest cop by the end. It's sad to see that it took all that effort by his commanders to help turn him around, same as it took Bunny's extraordinary undertaking to turn Namond around. If not for those commanders, it likely could have been Carver pulling that teacher from his car rather than Colicio.

jkb

DennisP said...

Surprised no one has mentioned how the police fail to realize Snoop's death and how they could have had the ability to pin her as the source (even if she knew nothing of the code).

Would've been interesting to see that come out after the fact and McNulty/Lester realize they missed it and aren't as great as they think they are.

Indeed said...

I'll give you a "hell ya" for Slim taking out Cheese...and for saying That was for Joe. That was exactly my reaction too - and it included some fist-pumping.
I'm sure I'll have more to say later as I read through the comments. Wow, I'm going to miss The Wire.

Martin said...

Couple of random responses to your excellent review:

...where the hell did that Bawlmer accent come from in the Levy negotiation scene? A very odd choice.

Yeah, I was wondering that too. Pearlman always had perfect diction all throughout the series, and suddenly she's talking like she's got a mouthful of gum. I kept expecting her to drop a "You okay der, hon?" or similar Dundalk-ism in there. I think you're right, and it was a sign of her desperation and frustration that her native accent came out, but it was very jarring and strange.

Norman is now reduced to playing the jester (we only ever see him anymore when there's a joke to be made), while the odious Steintorf is the real power behind the throne.

Norman probably has realized that there's no hope of keeping Carcetti on the straight path, and he, like so many other players in the game, simply wants to keep his job, so he's deliberately reduced himself to being the Greek chorus and the comic relief--pointed, but nonthreatening. You could see this happening at the end of S4 when he's having the drink with Royce's advisor, and they're both lamenting what shitbags their bosses turned out to be. Note that Norman used to be a Baltimore Sun guy--and he can't very well go back at this point.

And Steintorf...ugh. Whenever I imagine what a Clinton campaign staff meeting must be like, I have no problem envisioning Mark Penn playing the Steintorf role.

So on that level, Cheese's death -- particularly at the hands of master-less samurai Slim Charles -- was awfully satisfying.

Cheese's death was, like Omar's many superhuman moments, a nice reminder that this is drama, not perfect reality, and sometimes it just makes for a better story to smoke the bad guy. And Cheese was unquestionably a bad guy in every respect.

Good call on Slim as "ronin," by the way--although he's not been the most developed of the characters, we've seen that Slim has a respect for the rules of the game and honors institutions, such as his horrified reaction when he finds out that Bell ordered the violation of the Sunday truce, and his acceptance of potential death at Omar's hands. Slim clearly had no love for Marlo and the way the game was developing, so to see Cheese yammering on about the game was probably more than he could take. A man got to have a code, as Omar said, and Slim has at least some semblance of such.

There's so much to say that we could all go on for days about this, but I'll stop here. Great work, Alan, and thank you for your wonderful coverage of what was the best show on television.

Ben Guest said...

Great work Alan, as always.

As for Kennard, was Crutchfield the detective who "caught" Omar's murder?

Alan Sepinwall said...

As for Kennard, was Crutchfield the detective who "caught" Omar's murder?

Crutchfield and Norris were the detectives on scene when Bunk showed up to see Omar's body, so yeah.

Alan Sepinwall said...

On 1st thought, Bunk still can track down Chris' DNA from Bug's dad as part of his investigation into the vacants bodies (and probably sooner since he has being held up by McNulty's bodies). They have Chris and Snoop on the weapons charge already so is there a chance that they could have gotten Chris to flip Marlo so that Chris could have stayed with his family?

No way would Chris ever flip on Marlo.

Also, it's implied that Bunk decides to obsessively go down every avenue of the case in response to McNulty's serial killer BS. Without that motivating factor, I don't know that he ever discovers the link between Partlow and Bug's dad.

Alan Sepinwall said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
quipu said...

We made a special effort with the finale, and watched it on a projector. I swear, we could have stared at those contemplative, elegaic shots of Baltimore all night.

What impressed me most about the finale was the way it both rewarded viewer expectation whilst gently subverting it at the same time. Anybody who's watched the Wire up to now knows what to expect from the show, and how the show works. People who correctly guessed that Marlo would walk away, that Michael would become a stick-up boy and that Dukie would become an addict, could not really be given props for their clairvoyance. They were perfectly in synch with the mentality of the show.

But the way the finale gave us the endings we expected, whilst slightly twisting them. Michael has become Omar, and in the same moment that you cheer at this result, you are also forced to acknowledge what that actually means, given the stunted life expectancies of stick-up boys. (The development also lends a lovely resonance to the first time Omar sees Michael and remarks, "He's just a kid".) Dukie becomes an addict, but the development is given a more savage twist by having him reunite with Prez, and effectively dissolve the last link he has to his childhood. And Marlo... wow... The scene where he returns to the corner, and stands there, besuited and bleeding, caught between two worlds, was simply masterful.

Of course I'm cherry picking my favourite moments here, but all-in-all, I thought it was a triumphant conclusion to the show.

Thanks Alan for your commentary, as well as all the readers for their insightful comments.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I wondered why Avon wasn’t shown in the jailyard with Wee-Bey and Chris?

It felt more appropriate that the two seconds -- who both took the hardest fall for their respective organizations -- to be hanging out together without any bosses around. Plus, Avon got his goodbye with his pathetic gang symbol salute to Marlo much earlier in the season.

Alan Sepinwall said...

On a slight tangent, I wanted to ask: Should TV critics have been allowed to watch the finale beforehand? I mean, it wasn't done for The Sopranos.

Technically, a number of New York-area critics (including myself) got to see The Sopranos finale in advance. It was only a few hours in advance, and we had to watch it at HBO headquarters, but it was done to allow us to make deadline.

As to the larger question, the situations aren't the same. Sopranos was a phenomenon, and one that was going to be written about exhaustively whether or not critics or other members of the press got to see the finale ahead of time. The Wire has always been a much smaller show, and one that has survived almost entirely on critical praise. (Note that the order for this fifth season came only after the TV critics of America collectively prostrated themselves before the show in and chanted "we're not worthy!") In sending out those final episodes, HBO was risking leaks (which occurred), but they also got a lot of people to write one last time about the show and encourage people to watch the finale.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I believe there have been only 3 real Baltimoreans on the show: Felicia Snoop, Lt. Mello (played by the real Jay Landsman), and the actress who plays Ms. Donnelly. It's clear from their accents that they are different from the rest.

There have been many more natives than that, though some don't have accents as pronounced as those three. As Simon notes in the interview, lots of small roles over the years were filled by people he essentially plucked off the street because there wasn't money to bring in actors from NY or LA. Donnie Andrews, for instance, is a "real Baltimorean" -- he just doesn't have the accent.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone tell me the music that was playing in Bubbs' sister's house when he came up to offer her the crab legs? Thanks

Alan Sepinwall said...

I don't necessarily watch the Wire with the view that all story lines and narratives are taking place in sequence and in parallel, at the same time. If you watch the series with this perspective then some story lines, which might otherwise be plot wholes, work just fine. The Clay Davis trial is one example. It's totally unrealistic to think Clay Davis went to trial a few days after being indicted - in fact, it's so unrealistic, this *can't* be the way it was intended to be depicted.

Because everything on this show is connected -- it's such a fundamental theme of the series that HBO turned it into a tagline -- I think we have to assume that all the events are happening in the sequence with which we see them, and in relation to one another.

I have an easier time going with the chronology of Clay's trial than I do with Dukie scamming Prez. The former is a procedural detail, and while the show has usually been a stickler for that sort of thing, it can also be sacrificed for the sake of good dramatic storytelling. But the show almost always takes the proper amount of time with the character moments -- again, it's why we needed 10 episodes before Reginald could go up those stairs -- and it rang slightly false to me that Dukie would have reached this point this early in his life as a junkie.

If one has a literalist fetish, then are we to take it that Valchek gets appointed the day after Daniels was? Or that Carcetti was elected governor the next day?

Everything from the start of the episode until the sunrise/sunset interlude takes place over the span of a few days following the brass finding out the truth about the serial killer fraud. Everything after that interlude takes place over a longer period of time -- in particular, the closing montage, which, as has always been the case, spans months and months worth of story.

Alan Sepinwall said...

To quote David Simon in the interview right below this post:

I would strongly suggest that people with questions about the finale or the series at least skim the interview, as I tried to cover as many of these unanswered issues as possible. Around the same point as Simon is explaining why he never returned to Rawls' secret life, he also explains why he didn't mind ever getting into Cheese as Randy's father, for instance.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Surprised no one has mentioned how the police fail to realize Snoop's death and how they could have had the ability to pin her as the source (even if she knew nothing of the code).

The cops knew about Snoop's death -- Ronnie references it while negotiating the deal with Levy -- but by that point, it didn't matter. Too many people knew too much.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your great review. It hink going back to Season one is a great idea. I've thought about going to get the DVD soon as well.

Mrglass said...

About Snoop: we never got to see Marlo and Chris's reactions to her death. It would have been interesting to watch in particular Chris's response, since they were pretty much inseparable for three seasons.

This trio stayed an enigma until the very end, in contrast to Stringer and Avon, whose thoughts and emotions were much clearer to us.

Anonymous said...

The Micheal as Omar thing wasn't handled well. Micheal very well could have turned into a stick up boy. But he wouldn't have been a wisecracking Omar. The scene should have shown a ruthless, almost silent, and very emotionally controlled Micheal doing his thing. Upon making his exit he finds himself facing a "citizen". (say a young boy in his school clothes)" In that moment he lowers his weapon and counsels his junior partner, "never a citizen."

Micheal becomes a version of Omar, but his own version.

kathy said...

Because everything on this show is connected -- it's such a fundamental theme of the series that HBO turned it into a tagline -- I think we have to assume that all the events are happening in the sequence with which we see them, and in relation to one another.

Plus, if I have to factor 'Lost'-y time-skipping into the already insanely complex structure of "The Wire", my head is going to explode.

Anonymous said...

Just so, so very sad to be done with The Wire. . . Indulge me in a couple of comments about some things I haven't seen here yet-

(I'm paraphrasing here) While out selling newspapers, Bubs/Reginald asks Fletcher "what's the point of writing this newspaper piece about me;" why put in the good and the bad stuff about me?" And Fletch answers, "Because just maybe somebody reads it and thinks about it, and maybe thinks something different." I haven't see anybody speculate yet on whether Bubs' sister was maybe that one person who read it and then thought something "different" about Bubbles and that's why she finally let Reginald come upstairs.

Could that be Simon trying to tell us that even as inept and useless as the newspapers are now, they still have real power to change lives and unlike the other institutions which are all shown as unredeemable in the end (Valcek as BPD Commish, Carcetti as Gov.)at least the newspaper has done one fine thing?

WRT to Marlo's last scene on the corner wearing his royal purple pocket crown and Simon's echoes of Greek myth--King Midas anyone? The short-term wish to wear the crown and get all that he desires is fulfilled, but now when Marlo could just walk away to live as the richest man around, he can't give up what he most loves--The Game and being the King, but he also can't touch it or it will be lost to him like Midas' beloved roses or his daughter, he will lose it--Ronnie and the cops will be down on him the second he's back in The Game. He's forever barred from touching what he loves the most, but if he tries to leave it to save himself, with his name nothing but a joke in the streets now, then he's ex-King Midas in his donkey ears! Oh, the gods (and Simon) are cruel.

Somewhere in an interview I saw Simon make a joke about a Jesus complex. But it's always been the pantheon of Greek gods that Simon ET AL. have been about to me. Even the connect, this world's Overlord, was The Greek. Why Greek? It could have been anything really but he chose Greek. Gotta mean something.

Lastly, on Simon and the train tracks-- I have to think that Simon's simple symbolism here is to just remind us that our beloved Wire characters can always just LEAVE! But they don't; they stay in Baltimore and by choosing to stay in this world they seal their fates. We can argue about how difficult it would be for some of them to leave but it is possible. Look at what happened to Simon when he (figuratively at least) left B'More for Hollywood, left newspapering for screenwriting!

Just my $.02. Thanks for it all, the show, the intelligent criticism, the insightful comments. I'm bereft now.

avincent52 said...

Alan
Nice work.
Wasn't this finale almost anti-Sopranos? David Chase's finale was deliberately provocative.. David Simon's tied off the loose ends and but for Dukie, (which you could see coming a mile away) had few unsettling moments.

But what about the copycat serial killer?
It seemed like little more than a plot device, designed to get the plot from Point A to Point B in 93 minutes, but the whole Bitey Game ended up costing two people their lives.

And yet McNulty all but ignores it, and Lester seems completely unfazed.

Is that a comment on McNulty and Lester et al.? If so, why not some kind of small moment that acknowledges that these victims are more than just two more body bags.

After all, these deaths were the cost of the the happy endings for McNulty, Lester, Pearlman, Carcetti, Levy, Beadie, Rawls, Valcheck, Carver, Templeton, Marlo and others too numerous to mention. (Okay, not unambiguously happy, but certainly happier than the show seemed to promise in episode 7)

A brief reminder of this could have served to balance an uncharacteristically upbeat episode.

Mrglass said...

@Anonymous

"what's the point of writing this newspaper piece about me;" why put in the good and the bad stuff about me?" And Fletch answers, "Because just maybe somebody reads it and thinks about it, and maybe thinks something different."

Maybe that applies to Bubs's sister, but it certainly works for the Wire five seasons too, and DS opinion on "the war on drug"!

Anonymous said...

For those who watched both the leaked version (and presumably the critics copy) and this, did you notice the odd sound edit changes?

The music in the first Kavanagh's scene, the music as Bubbles goes up the stairs with the crabs, more background noise in the homicide offices, changing "play the fucking song" to "put the fucking song on" and moving it a couple seconds, adding a bit to the Omar story as Marlo crosses the street (making it much less subtle and more annoying), adding Nerise saying "Commissioner Valchek" when it was clear without it, etc. Mostly just weird, though some also seemed like unnecessary changes to explain things for idiots.

Also, think they made a mistake with Gus wearing the same clothes (Alma might be too) in the scene where he confronts the editors about Scott and the one where he talks to Alma in front of the Mencken quote. A day had clearly passed in the rest of the Wire world, Scott had said he was going home but is back for the second scene and the Bubbles story has come out. Surprised they didn't catch that given that it's an important scene in the finale.

Simon Crowe said...

Although it's a fun game to play, I don't know that it's useful to debate which "Wire" episode is the best, since out of context an individual episode wouldn't make a whole lot of sense. That said, I thought this was a very strong finale - resolving many points, reinforcing the idea of the system always winning, but not answering everything. (I'm glad we didn't get a scene of McNulty working as a security guard, etc.)

I loved the visual joke of McNulty on the table at the wake, but where did the Homicide Sgt.'s speech come from? McNulty is a good detective, but has been an annoyance to his superiors literally from the pilot and that character in particular has never liked him.

Again, not really the point, but a much better finale than Sopranos. Sure it's depressing, but the show's central humanity shines through - with the Sopranos you could just see David Chase balling up page after page and throwing them in the trash can.

Mo Ryan said...

Anonymous 12:30, I can address the Chicago Tribune story that got out there via Google.

That was a technology screwup, plain and simple.

I did a Sunday Wire story for print, much shorter than what's on my site now. In print, I made sure there was giant spoiler warning in red letters, for those who didn't want to read the article before the finale airs (and if you're asking why it was in Sunday's paper, it's because we thought people might want to read it right after the finale aired and also I'd have a bit more space to write longer).

We have a shovelware program that takes print stories and automatically puts them on the Web, and somehow that one got up on the site a day early and with the spoiler warning at the end. A reader alerted my via email and I had that version of the story (which I was told wouldn't appear on our site at all this weekend) taken down immediately.

I am sorry if anyone came across that via the Web, but I did all I could to keep it off our site. And the blog version of that story went up very late Sunday night, just so it wasn't up before the finale was over.

Having said all that, anyone searching for "Wire" information/tributes etc on Google in the days before the finale airs -- well, you're probably going to come across things that pertain to the finale.

dez said...

I think entitled, narcissistic jackasses like Scott Templeton have always existed and will always exist. And they are such a minor part of what's happening to journalism, all things considered, that the focus on that part of the story just bugged me.


For the average viewer, though, I think the focus on Templeton's lying liarness is more relatable, especially when you've got Hollywood making movies about people like him. That's an easy route to get viewers interested in the newspaper story, IMHO.

Anonymous said...

Sorry if anyone already addressed this before but looking back across the whole series, I don't think I got a good sense of where the police "come from." I mean, we see how institutions and their problems create the "bad" guys and the "pathetic" ones but I don't think the show ever addressed how people go down the path of becoming natural po-lice. Sure, we see Carver, Sydnor, Greggs, Daniels and Herc grow up through through the police ranks and professionally mature but why did these Balmore peeps become cops in the first place? What forces pushed them towards fighting crime? I grew up in the 'hood in Chicago and suffered several instances of police brutality and indifference so I am biased against cops in general. I think cops tend to be people who grew up with chips on their shoulders and serious attitude problems and inferiority complexes, so I thought it would be interesting to show how the police become police. I don't think any t.v. show has done this other than simply showing the cops as perpetuating the family business or reacting to some egregious instance of violence that affected them personally.
Carver grew up in the East side projects, Bunk and Burrell went to school alongside Omar and Prop Joe, respectively. What made them choose the different path?

Anonymous said...

"Can anyone tell me the music that was playing in Bubbs' sister's house when he came up to offer her the crab legs? Thanks"

I'd have to check to be sure, but I thought it was "Assume the Position" from Lafayette Gilchrist (off of The Wire soundtrack).

Anonymous said...

"I loved the visual joke of McNulty on the table at the wake, but where did the Homicide Sgt.'s speech come from? McNulty is a good detective, but has been an annoyance to his superiors literally from the pilot and that character in particular has never liked him."

Landsman has always respected McNulty, even while fucking with him. If you're going back to the first season, watch the scene between Landsman and Rawls [fourth or fifth episode, I think] where he goes into Rawls' office and begs for another chance for McNulty, because he knows that McNulty is good police. He describes several specific examples of why McNulty is as good a detective as they have.

Rawls hates Jimmy, but Landsman only hates Jimmy's tendency to make Landsman's life more difficult by pissing off the people above Landsman.

lungfish said...

- How old is Kenard? Can he be tried as an adult for Omar's murder? Will he be back out on the streets young enough to become the new Marlo?

- To the earlier comment on if Michael's had fully become the new Omar, homosexuality included- that's what I thought initially when I saw the boy next to him. He does have that history of sexual abuse with his (step)dad.

Anonymous said...

Who WAS that boy with Michael in the rim shop stick up? Have we ever seen him before?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Who WAS that boy with Michael in the rim shop stick up? Have we ever seen him before?

I forget where I read this (maybe TWoP?), but someone said he was one of the other kids who worked Michael's corner, along with Spider and Kenard.

Anonymous said...

"Can anyone tell me the music that was playing in Bubbs' sister's house when he came up to offer her the crab legs? Thanks"

"I'd have to check to be sure, but I thought it was "Assume the Position" from Lafayette Gilchrist (off of The Wire soundtrack)."

That's it. Thank you! It overshadowed the whole scene for me; Bubbs was going up the stairs and all I could think about is 'holy crap, what is that beat?!'

OtisIsHungry said...

Can we please talk some more about the TRAINS and TRAIN TRACKS since they were apparently so important to DS?

Are the trains symbolizing the rushing forward of the fates and the need for the individual characters to to just step off the tracks or get run over? The characters can't stop the trains from going forward, all they can do is get off the track. . . as in--you're either on the train or off the train?

Anonymous said...

Lunngfish,

I am not sure if we are supposed to assume Michae is gay, but as you mentioned with his history of abuse it makes sense. We did see him hook-up with a girl in the season 4 finale though. Michael's transformation into stick-up boy is right up there with Bubbles and McNultys series long arc.

After thinking about the show all morning I have to say I am even more suprised at how well the ending was put together. I did not really have a problem with the way Snydor or Dukie became the next McNulty the next Bubbles. Also thanks to the person that put up the link to the Baltimore Sun Review of the finale, that was one of the most bias reviews I have ever seen. They really make it seem like Simon nailed them dead on. That is the kind of ether that makes ya soul burn slow.

paul b. said...

"Rawls hates Jimmy, but Landsman only hates Jimmy's tendency to make Landsman's life more difficult by pissing off the people above Landsman."

I was about to say the same. I'll add that being the kiss-ass he is, Landsman is willing to put up with Jimmy's crap because he gets the clearances, i.e. improves his squad's stats.

Demosthenes said...

Brilliant review. Thanks for writing it.

First, the Sun review was hilarious. There's no way they could have treated the show fairly, so they didn't try.

More important, though, is what didn't get discussed. Simon goes on about institutions and whatnot, and does a good job of showing why the people in the mayoral office (and maybe even the state house, though Carcetti's snub of badly-needed county officials seemed a little too convenient) can't really make change.

That said, this is about the War on Drugs, and the War on Drugs is fought out of Washington. There were hints of that in season 3 with Hamsterdam, but it was never followed up on, and that's a shame.

In a current electoral environment where the Democratic front-runner is an admitted fan of Simon's show, I do wonder at the omission.

Christina said...

“Michael as the new Omar was a bit much, mainly because, if he's going to be a stick-up boy, why stay in B-more, where there are likely still a lot of people looking for him?”

Maybe because Baltimore is all he knows? Why did Wallace come back to die? Remember when Bodie didn’t know that you got other radio stations when you left the city? Or how uncomfortable the kids were when Bunny took them to Ruth’s Chris for dinner? I think it’s hard to not realize how absolutely parochial these boys’ lives are – they know THEIR corners and that’s all they know. (And the same is, in many ways, true for the other characters too, like the port guys in season 2 or McNulty’s being so lost in Teresa’s world, or for that matter, Marlo being totally out of place with the developers, and going back to the corner because that’s what he knew.) I guess you can take the boys out of the corner, but you can’t take the corner out of the boys. (And I just want to say I’m using the word “boys” here ONLY because they all seem so damn young to me!)

dez said...

- To the earlier comment on if Michael's had fully become the new Omar, homosexuality included- that's what I thought initially when I saw the boy next to him. He does have that history of sexual abuse with his (step)dad.


Omar worked with friends, etc., who weren't gay. Michael emulating Omar doesn't mean he's emulating *everything* about him. Plus, being abused as a child doesn't turn you into a homosexual. I wish that stereotype would die already.

Anonymous said...

"Can we please talk some more about the TRAINS and TRAIN TRACKS since they were apparently so important to DS?"

To be honest, I'm a big fan of symbolism which, emotionally-speaking, seems right, but you can't quite put your finger on a verbal, logical explanation as to why. I'd rather not have it explained "This symbol means this," because it has so many potential shades of meaning.

"I am not sure if we are supposed to assume Michae is gay"

Being gay has nothing to do with being a stick-up boy; Simon has always said that being gay was not a defining characteristic of Omar, it was just a part of his personality. If Simon were to suddenly make Michael gay with no real set-up (and there was surely room to add it in his relationship with Dukie if that was the way the character was going), I think it would go against a lot of what Simon himself believes.

"We did see him hook-up with a girl in the season 4 finale though."

Don't forget the girls at Six Flags.

Anonymous said...

"Plus, being abused as a child doesn't turn you into a homosexual."

Note that the only other character we know to have been sexually abused is not gay.

Anonymous said...

Re: Kima being the new Bunk, in the pilot, it was actually Jimmy who first told Bunk about "giving a fuck when it's not your turn" when Bunk finds a decomp and Jimmy makes him take it solo.

Also, McNulty hated Daniels at first, thought he was a company man, which differs from Sydnor's reflection on Carver. Although I do see the Carver/Daniels corollary.

I buy the Sydnor thing, mostly due to the fact that while he has never been a rule-breaker, I think he fits that "natural po-lice" mold and has shown frustration with the lack of resources throughout the series. McNulty was tamer once upon a time as well. I think its tough to juxtapose Season 1 McNulty with Season 5 Sydnor, when we're so used to seeing Season 5 McNulty every week

MBJ said...

It's hard to go undefeated, but 59-1 is a very respectable record.

Alan, thanks for blogging on the best show ever created. I hope you are correct and that we may all be touched like this again somewhere down the road.

Dave S said...

I don't have much to add... thought the end was wonderful... glad the penultimate episode was one of the all-time best. Loved the McNulty wake, might have been my favorite Wire scene ever.

I'm sad to see the series gone. Wish it could've gone out without any complaints, but there was never a bad episode and that's quite the accomplishment. I'll miss these characters quite badly.

Hope Simon's New Orleans series lives up to my expectations. Maybe a couple Baltimore folk could vacation in New Orleans every episode.

Anonymous said...

"I am not sure if we are supposed to assume Michael is gay"

I'm sorry but that is the stupidest thing I have ever read on this site. I cannot fathom how anyone with a functioning brain could make such a leap.

Are we supposed to assume Sydnor is Irish? Is Sydnor now an alcoholic womanizer?

Are we supposed to assume Chris Partlow loves tropical fish now?

Since Valchek took over Rawl's job as Police Commissioner, are we supposed to assume he is gay too?

The ______ is the next ______ is a metaphor for the cyclical nature of the game. It does not mean that these characters are literal CLONES of their predecessors.

Just like Marlo replaced Avon, each generation will bring their own twist to their archetypal roles. They are different characters after all.

OtisIsHungry said...

I was somewhat troubled by "Sydnor as the new McNulty" until I realized that throughout S5 we had seen Sydnor moving this direction--Sydnor always comes up as REAL po-lice. After all, it was Sydnor who broke the clock code most recently, and Sydnor who (despite the howls of surprise from the fans) immediately jumped right into Lester & McNulty's scheme when offered the chance. DS was setting this up for us. It was just a little bit short.

Anonymous said...

"adding Nerise saying 'Commissioner Valchek' when it was clear without it, etc. Mostly just weird, though some also seemed like unnecessary changes to explain things for idiots."


Idiots need love too, right? I don't see the problem with that.

I understand peoples' gripes about the so-called "parallelitis," such as Dukie becoming "the new" Bubbles. However, it seems consistent with The Wire's overall message and agenda. Sure, people are individuals, and for the sake of fiction, characters are individuals with their own personalities, idiocyncracies, etc. But what The Wire comes down to is that it makes no difference once that individual is swallowed up by his surroundings. Peoples' environments, circumstances, institutions seem to overwhelm people, no matter how well-intentioned, brilliant, or strong. Dukie, though all of those things, fell victim to circumstance. In the end it doesn't matter how unlikely turning into an addict seems for Dukie as a person. The bottom line is that it can happen to anyone, and that it happens to so many. If the show is truly about seeing and understanding, then to see Bubbles as an addict then a former addict isn't enough. We have to know how and why he became an addict in the first place, particularly since he is so charismatic and brilliant as an individual. Dukie showed us in a heart-wrentching fashion. If you don't understand how Dukie's fate on the show ends with him tying off a vein, then you don't understand the message of The Wire.

Anonymous said...

For a lasting impression, it was something to see where Dukie is heading, but Micheal seemed like good of a friend and far to intelligent to really allow Dukie to go down this path.

How did Micheal not set up Dukie in a safe place? It appears he would have the money to do it with his latest escapade.

BEC said...

Michael's stick-up partner, I believe, was a classmate from Prezbo's math class last season.

Anonymous said...

So, Alan: When are you going to write a blog post about the parallels between The Wire and Eliot Spitzer?

Isn't it funny that he was actually caught by a federal "wire"?

Anonymous said...

The other stick-up kid used to be in Michael's drug crew. He was usually in the background with Spider and Kenard. He was there when Colicchio had his rage fit. He was leaning against the wall when Spider and Kenard brutalized Dukie. He was also sitting next to Spider when Snoop rolled by Michael's corner. He was probably one of Michael's classmates or one of the many kids who hung around the Fayette Street Mafia.

When you watch Season 4 again, you see that Michael was quite popular. He had a lot of friends even though he kept them at arm's length. A lot of those kids looked to him for social approval. He just likes calling his own shots. Michael was always a little bossy like that. He kept everyone in check. Even Kenard respected him after that beatdown.

I'm not surprised Michael cut off Dukie. Michael did the same thing to his former best friend, Namond. When Namond got beat up by Sherod and that other boy, Michael told Cutty that it was Namond's business and to stay out of it. The one time he did step in for Namond was Kenard's beatdown. After that, Michael lost all respect for Namond and ended their friendship. Dukie became his replacement best friend. Now that Dukie is a junkie, Michael has moved on. That's how he is.

Anonymous said...

Michael's stick-up partner, I believe, was a classmate from Prezbo's math class last season.

not sure about this, but he is definitely on the corner when collichio jacks them up in episode 4

Anonymous said...

I think Marlo's return to the corner was similar to Frank Sobotka's "need to get clean"

After his arrest Frank worked a ship as a longshoreman, not a checker.

Marlo needed to do what he considers the basis of his identity, take a corner from someone. I don't think it means he's going to get back into the drug game.

Al said...

A scary moment? During the closing sequences they show the young kid who killed Omar being led away by a homicide cop. There's a body in the alley in the background. The kid gives the same icy stare to the cop as he gave Omar and when he was about to kill the cat. A serial killer in the making, Snoops replacement. Best show ever created.

trevor said...

No doubt this show will be the curriculum for some college english class one day. It has been the most satisfying series I have ever followed. I regret finding this blog only a few weeks ago. No one I know watches The Wire, a situation I'm sure a significant portion of us can sadly relate to.

I liked the wrap up stle of the ending. For me, it makes the roles that these characters played timeless. I'll stress that its not the characters that are timeless, but the roles they fill in their society. The individuals themselves are more like food for the society; they either become part of it or discharged as waste. It's inevitable, like stopping a freight train.

I'm not sure if the trains were symbolic of individuals trying to reform the system, I forget the subtext of the scenes where they are drinking by the tracks. But on the premise of being powerless in the face of the machine, history is filled with the names of the radical people that changed their games. Also, with a critical mass of Carvers (my favorite I, loved that podium scene where he is announcing additional cutbacks), Gregs, and Bunks, the machine can change for the better. However, approximately 0% of us will be in the history books, and wishing for more Carvers is like wishing Dookie went to Prez for help. Simon leaves these possibilities in his Baltimore, but he is telling me that it just doesn't tend to happen. It's tragic, but thats the story.

Anonymous said...

"During the closing sequences they show the young kid who killed Omar being led away by a homicide cop. There's a body in the alley in the background."

I think that was just a sleeping homeless person; Kenard seemed to be in an area similar to the places where homeless have been shown to congregate. I figured he was hiding out.

If it were a situation where there was a fresh body down, there would be other police beyond just Crutchfield there, a lot of black-and-white cars. And, most likely, if they came upon a body *and* the killer was still there, a homicide detective would not be the one who wound up arresting the kid. SWAT or QRT or somebody else would secure the situation. They would presume he was armed and dangerous until proven otherwise.

Anonymous said...

"No doubt this show will be the curriculum for some college english class one day."

The University of Virginia already has a writing class in the English department this semester with The Wire as its only topic. Damn, I wish I were in that class.

Thanks, Alan.

Anonymous said...

"Kenard seemed to be in an area similar to the places where homeless have been shown to congregate. I figured he was hiding out."

I think that was the alley from season 4, when the boys are trying to catch the pigeon. He appears to be hiding in their old hangout.

Anonymous said...

I think that was the alley from season 4, when the boys are trying to catch the pigeon. He appears to be hiding in their old hangout.

That's sad. I remember this alley. It's where Michael and the Fayette Street Mafia ambushed the Terrace Boys with their piss balloons. It's the same memory that Dukie was clinging onto. Kenard was hiding in his old childhood hangout. These places were a refuge for lost children. One last shred of safety.

Now Dukie is shooting heroin in a stable and Kenard is in cuffs. Sadly, they fit now.

Anonymous said...

amazing show, amazing write up. might have to watch all 5 seasons in a row at some point...

one quick note on Dukie scamming Prez. Running a scam doesn't mean he's a junkie at that point. He's homeless. Broke. No family, abandoned by his best friend and former source of income. He was happy to make $10 a day in the previous episode. We know he ends up shooting up, but he's got plenty more reasons to scam Prez than just heroin.

Anyone else notices he asks for approximately $350 (a couple hundred plus $150 for the GED) , then tells the aribger (sp?) he got $200?

Anonymous said...

"one quick note on Dukie scamming Prez. Running a scam doesn't mean he's a junkie at that point. ... He was happy to make $10 a day in the previous episode. We know he ends up shooting up, but he's got plenty more reasons to scam Prez than just heroin."

It seems like a real stretch to say that he wasn't using prior to that Prez scene, given that his whole demeanor has noticeably changed, given that he is suddenly begging for hundreds of dollars rather than the $10 he was happy to get the day before, given that the only other thing he does in the whole episode is shoot up.

You're saying that Dukie would beg for hundreds of dollars from Prez solely based on his good nature and give it all to the junkman? Beyond that, why would the junkman then say that they had to go to (wherever) to get the testers that were being put out? "testers" are free vials of drugs.

I was in denial for the last two weeks that Dukie would become a junkie, but that scene with Prez hammered it home in my mind. I don't see how you could watch that scene and not know he's using. Even Prez knows.

"Anyone else notices he asks for approximately $350 (a couple hundred plus $150 for the GED) , then tells the aribger (sp?) he got $200?"

I think he wound up getting $200; Prez didn't believe him, and he barely kept up the lie.

And it's "arabber".

Anonymous said...

It's obvious that Dukie was already a junkie when he approached Prez because his entire personality had changed. When have we ever known Dukie to be dishonest, cunning, thieving, deceitful, shifty, manipulative...??? He was a different person. Not the sweet tender-hearted guileless youth we once knew. The Dukie who appeared before Prez was a lying, scamming, sneaky con man. The only explanation for this sudden transformation is drug addiction.

I have never tried heroin but I suspect it's one of those drugs that can destroy someone overnight. The Dukie we knew and loved died the moment he injected heroin into his veins. The shell that showed up at Prez's school was not Dukie anymore.

The game hasn't changed. It only got more fierce. Dukie fell much faster than Bubbles. He will never recover. He is the next Johnny who will die of AIDS. Or the next Sherod who will overdose at 16. Life is cheap in Baltimore. Dukies are a dime a dozen.

Dust Speck said...

Just a couple points of a counter-criticism.

In the last 30 minutes there was a series of scenes with the sun rising and setting over the Baltimore skyline. That seems pretty clear to be another way of saying "three months later" or whatever, without going into 24 style specifics. So I have a hard time getting worked up on that stuff. Time has always been a little nebulous on the Wire, it just does not seem worth worrying about. So long as whatever happens could have happened, then I think its all good.

Which brings me to Michael as Omar. I had no problems with this. First off, its not like Omar was the only guy running around robbing drug dealers. He may have been the best, the most colorful, and the most honorable, but Omar was not alone out there. So it's not like Michael inherited the throne or something, he just chose the same profession.

What I really liked about the scene was how happy Michael seemed. It is a joy we have seen from Omar, especially towards the beginning of the series. And it makes sense. Here, for the first time that I can remember, Michael seems truly independent. He is out there, pretty much alone, pitting his wits against the world. He does not need Marlo, or Chris, or Prez, or Cutty to rescue him. Finally, Michael is free to take care of himself, support his brother, and adhere to his own code -- whatever that may turn out to be. It is hard to imagine Michael's story not ending in tears, but at least he has found a place in the world that makes sense. And that, for me, is the Wire. Explaining the "why" behind the individuals and institutions of urban America.

dez said...

Now that Dukie is a junkie, Michael has moved on. That's how he is.


Generally agree with your analysis of Michael, except that Michael moved on prior to Dukie becoming a junkie. He separated from Dukie for Dukie's own safety because Michael was marked by Marlo's people. I was hoping he'd go back to "rescue" Dukie once he decided to become a stick-up boy, but Dukie was never any good at that sort of thing.

Anonymous said...

dust speck -

Maybe it's just me, but when I am criticizing (minorly) the quickness of the shifts, especially for Dukie and Michael, I am not misunderstanding the montage sequence that leads into the extended epilogue; I'm just saying, in terms of screen time, it seemed rushed. I could've used a bit of a bridge, that's all.

Anonymous said...

"For the same reason Old-Face Andre thought going to the east side of town would keep him safe, for the same reason Bodie was afraid of Philly radio stations, for the same reason Omar came back from NY even though Barksdale and Bell had a bounty on his head, for the same reason Wallace came back from the country: because Baltimore is all these people know."

That's a fair point that a few others made (I would've used their shorter quotes but can't find them now), but my point is this:

He gave up Bug to keep Bug safe, right? But, knowing that, why wouldn't he at least drive over to DC [or maybe start with *East* Baltimore] to become a stick-up boy, rather than robbing people who KNOW HIS NAME.

He's putting Bug and his own aunt in danger the first time he hits somebody who decided to call him out, and I don't buy that Michael would be *that* ignorant, since he was just one episode prior making a point of leaving Bug behind because of how hot he was.

Now that I think about it, imagine a sequel where Michael robs some new up-and-coming crew looking to make a name, and Bubbles trades them information for a fix. That's the situation Michael is setting up right now. It seems out of character, he always seemed more careful than that.

plot said...

I'm surprised that no one caught on to the positive side of Cedric's resignation evidenced in Ronnie's courtroom. He and Ronnie could finally reveal their relationship with no negative consequences. When Ronnie recused herself it was a moment of personal triumph, that she wasn't Cedric's secret anymore. Nice touch.

I have no criticisms of the finale, only quibbles. The Sun angle felt truncated or distorted somehow, but the message was pretty clear - excellence is becoming a detriment in the corporate world. Learn to not care or you are screwed - which is the lesson bored into us at every turn. But Simon makes us care, damn him.

Funny, I don't see Michael as Omar's parallel exactly. Omar continued to connect with the world, to love people, while Michael is going to end up like Marlo, a psychopath, shedding all possible joys (if only for Honey Nut.) No one is going to take Omar's place on the street, as far as myths go. Michael isn't going to whistle while he works or give away drugs to his friends or find love. Like Marlo will never have the mythical status of Avon Barksdale (though he wants it so badly), Michael will never be Omar.

Avon and Omar will make it to the Elysian fields. Marlo and Michael will remain the petty Creons.

Anonymous said...

Michael did not look happy or joyful to me. He looked foolish and pathetic. I see nothing positive about his ending.

Michael's soul died the moment he separated from Bug and Dukie. Those were the last remnants of his humanity. When we first met Michael, he was a pure and noble boy. He wanted to go to school, hang out with his friends, work out at the gym, take care of his little brother, live a normal life. He was morally upright and rejected criminal pursuits. That boy no longer exists. Now Michael is truly lost forever. He is gone -- just like all his childhood memories.

The thing that replaced him is monstrous and frightening. Like Dukie, he is a shell of his former self. Not the same person. He has become thoroughly corrupted and tainted beyond repair.

Michael had the chance to walk away after Marlo retired and Cheese was killed. Instead he chose to lead a life of violence and terrorism. Michael's transformation is even more sickening than Dukie's. It goes to the heart of evil.

Steve said...

Thanks for the great coverage of this series. I don't know a single person who watches it so I looked forward to your blogs on Mondays. It's hard to try and recruit friends to watch when I tell them they need to netflix the first 4 seasons to appreciate it. I saw the Homicide reunion movie on Sleuth last week for the first time in years. It reminded me how sad I was to watch that show slip from the first 3 years. I was also surprised that even though I watched every episode, there were several characters I barely remembered. I don't believe I will ever forget any of the characters from "The Wire".

lls said...

I feel like I have to post just so my thank you can be registered in public. I will miss this show terribly.

I loved the finale. It fit with the past season's finale and it didn't "tie" everyone's story up, but it addressed them.

One moment I particularly liked that no one has mentioned was when the homeless killer calls McNulty a coward. West did a fabulous job reacting in that scene. I teared up a little and felt truly sorry for McNulty in that moment (and I'm one of the viewers who thinks he should have been punished much more for his actions).

I think people are overreacting with their criticisms about the "parallelism" and "cyclical" nature of the finale. The Wire depicts poverty and the war on drugs. Those are structures that are inherently cyclical. It would have been disingenuous and unrealistic to show anything different. The whole premise of The Wire is that we are operating within systems that make it almost impossible to create change.
I don't think it's accurate to complain, "oh, dukie just became the new bubbles". No, dukie became a drug addict, because what else was left for him to become?
The overwhelming message is not "here is how our 15 characters recreate themselves within our story" but "here are the fates of people within this world".
I for one hope that everyone who has trouble shaking that image of Dukie in the alley, finds out a way that to help real Dukies in the real world.


* one last thing. In regards to the poster who mentioned wishing to know what drove the cops to become cops in the first place, I definitely agree, that would be very interesting, and I was thinking the same thing during McNulty's wake scene. (also- chitown represent!)

Anonymous said...

Funny, I don't see Michael as Omar's parallel exactly. Omar continued to connect with the world, to love people, while Michael is going to end up like Marlo, a psychopath, shedding all possible joys


This is so true. Omar was a sentimentalist and a romantic. He was altruistic and deeply compassionate. He valued those emotional ties because it kept him human.

Omar took his grandmother to church every month. Omar took care of his godfather Butchie. Omar held onto Brandon and Dante even though they weren't cut out for the game. Omar always followed his heart and wore it firmly on his sleeve. Omar was a proudly passionate man.

Omar would have remembered the piss balloons. He would have cherished that memory as much as Dukie. Omar would have never dumped his best friend in a junk yard and never looked back.

Michael is the exact opposite of Omar. He is like Marlo. Michael has cut off all his emotional ties with family and friends. He sheds any sentiments to the past. He refuses or is incapable of recalling a happy summer's day. Michael is heartless and cold. He views humanity as weakness. He rejects his childhood friend. He won't allow himself to hug his little brother even knowing he may never see him again. Michael says a man shouldn't shed any tears. He is hollow inside.


Avon and Omar will make it to the Elysian fields. Marlo and Michael will remain the petty Creons.

Amen.

mywaydimag said...

The leaked version had U2's "One" playing in the background when McNulty and Freamon were in the bar (which in my opinion actually fit very well), while the actual, aired version had an instrumental song.

allday said...

Here's a great big symbolism question: Did anyone else think the copycat killer was meant to be a personification of Baltimore? One of his lines, "I've killed millions, and they killed me" describes precisely what is happening in the finale - everyone recognizes the institutions are broken, but nobody risks their own interests to fix them: Carcetti needs the stats, Daniels needs to protect Rhonda, Prez takes the advice he was given not to care too much. And we end up with Nareese as mayor, Valcheck as commissioner, and Dukie as a junkie.

Also, "I always know exactly what I'm going to do before I do it," is a pretty articulate description of The Fates for a crazy, business-card loving homeless guy.

Anonymous said...

[i]The finale provided closure by the barrelful for all the human characters -- in many ways, it was the antithesis of "The Sopranos" ending [/i]

Alan,
You really need to grow up a little with this stuff. It's pretty clear from Chase's latest interview (and about a hundred other hints) that Tony died that night. You're being stubborn b/c you predicted Tony would survive the series.

Besides, Chase told you Tony died with the "Planet of the Apes" analogy. You were at the TCA awards (so was I) yet you conveniently glossed over the significance of that statement.

and the last episode of "The Wire" was fantastic and that was a great review.

Anonymous said...

Swiss Cheese! Yah!

Anonymous said...

For all you Wireheadz:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=kHXpgbQrsEo

How cute and adorable "Kenard" & "Bug" are!!

Anonymous said...

It's interesting to me that the fabulist Templeton is the villain of the newspaper story, yet newspaperman Simon uses the fictional vehicle of The Wire to tell his truth about Baltimore.

The "Dickensian Aspect" of the Sun's approach to homeless story is mocked, yet it's the Dickensian aspect of The Wire that make the story compelling to us (and the Shakespearean aspect that makes it tragic.)

This is not a criticism, it's just interesting.

paul b. said...

"But, knowing that, why wouldn't he at least drive over to DC [or maybe start with *East* Baltimore] to become a stick-up boy, rather than robbing people who KNOW HIS NAME."

Vinson was low-hanging fruit. Michael worked for Marlo, so he probably eventually learned where Marlo kept his money. Maybe he has no idea who any of the other drug kingpins are in town, let alone where they keep their money and/or stash.

"When Ronnie recused herself it was a moment of personal triumph, that she wasn't Cedric's secret anymore."

Hmmm...they were shown eating together in a restaurant at the end of Season 3. I always thought that scene indicated Cedric was finally ready to stop being sneaky, which would mean the secret's been out for years. Or are we to believe that all this time those two were seen in public together under the guise that they were conducting business?

plot said...

Not to load up on the Sopranos (again!) but Chase is not necessarily in control of the ending of the series. He may have intended something that the viewers can reject entirely. Once an author lets a piece go, it's out of his hands.

I don't think that Tony died. The whole last scene was more of a dream sequence than reality. It's entirely valid to view the end as something different than Chase intended and be right. Especially in a series like the Sopranos, where the internal dream life of the characters was so present, the ending is completely up for grabs. It's what made the ending perfect. End of story...all the stories.

plot said...

"I always thought that scene indicated Cedric was finally ready to stop being sneaky, which would mean the secret's been out for years."

Yes and no. Cedric still only referred to Rhonda as a "person he cared about" or "a source", never publicly by name. They had to tiptoe around Cedric's 1st wife and her career; also possible conflicts between their own jobs.

Yes, everyone knew...but no one acknowledged it. The recusal made Ronnie so happy, I have to think that she and Cedric had to feel some relief that they were untouchable now.

Anonymous said...

Great job!
This was not a TV show,but rather our society. If you want to feel good, implore a friend to take the time to view the series from the beginning. It has become like a "good chain letter" for me. They all will thank you.
If there is a tragedy to me, it is about Wee-bay and Chris. Intelligent,thoughtful and competent people who were forced to use their skills for bad things. If they had found the wayout that Cutty laments, "I wish I knew.", a life in jail might not have been their fate. I was hoping for a scene in the finale where Wee-bay would be reading a newspaper clipping showing his son's triumph, but that was too much to ask Simon for.
As to Prezbo,I taught 8th grade in the inner city for 4 yeats and his maturation as a teacher and reaction to Dukie's return mirroreed my experience.
As with "Hill Street" flawless
entertainment.

Robert Ullman said...

"I don't think that Tony died. The whole last scene was more of a dream sequence than reality. It's entirely valid to view the end as something different than Chase intended and be right. "

The fact that this is still being debated is exactly why it was a failure. If you believe in your story, have the stones to tell it. The ambiguous, "it is whatever you think it is" nonsense just seems lazy.

I respect Alan's opinion as a TV critic like I respect few others (Blue fan since the beginning), but I have no idea how someone could find "brilliance" in the Sopranos after the second season. It drives me crazy that that mess was being talked about on TV (and on the Nightly News?) for days, but THE WIRE ends with nary a mention. It's so unfair, it's almost like David Simon wrote it.

Anonymous said...

Let's remember that Michael is a kid, just like Dukie, Randy, and Namond. Had things not tunred out the way they did, I've no doubt he would've continued to take care of Dukie and Bug. I think it's a bit unfair to lay Dukie's fate on him, Michael's living the only life he knows how to live, and he did the best he could for Dukie and Bug as long as he could. Let's not forget he promised Bug that there'd be more money, so he has do what he knows how to do get that money. In the end, he's the child of a dope fiend,who'd been taking care of himself and his brother since he was a baby himself. Does this make his choices right, no but it is unfair to judge him anymore harshly than any other kids, or to judge him based on the realities of your world and not his own.

Anonymous said...

Alan, you wondered why Daniels is the Defense Attorney and not a prosecutor. That chocie makes perfect sense to me! Why would he take a job that, in part, would require him to defend the work of the very police dept. he resigned from leading because he wanted to run a clean shop? Add that the file could still hurt him if he were working for the city, but not really raise an eyebrow if on the other side of the courtroom...because cultural cynacism almost always assumes that all defense lawyers are dirty...and there's the genius of Simon...even in the little things. And while I will agree this last episode was not the best of the Wire episodes...it, and your blog shined nonetheless. Thanks to you both!

plot said...

"he fact that this is still being debated is exactly why it was a failure. If you believe in your story, have the stones to tell it. The ambiguous, "it is whatever you think it is" nonsense just seems lazy."

I feel ya. Chase turned The Sopranos into a bloated mess at times, because HBO wouldn't let it end in 4 seasons the way it should have. After S2, there was an odor about The Sops that Chase was just messing with us and didn't have much else to say. As further evidence, Northern Exposure had the same exact problem. Chase doesn't know how to bring a story home.

But I still found the ending to be perfect, flawless, absolutely rightrightright. If good editing had been in place, if the show had stayed lean and graceful, you might see what I do - that the final ep is more about the sharp ending of our relationship with these characters and all their symbols. Guess Tony might as well be dead, because we will get no more. Our keyhole into their souls is closed.

The ambiguity is not a failure, given that Chase never gave us undeniable good vs evil in the first place. The show was one (over) long debate.

Completely unlike David Simon and Ed Burns, BTW, who never disappointed, never messed with us cynically, always had a point, and made me so sad we have to say goodbye to all these beautiful characters. I want them all back already. Damn.

rockovergraceland said...

shameless plug....If the final WIRE Montage chose Frank Sinatra 'This Town' to end with...hmmmm.... I also did one for arcross 110 st...
cheers
Alan ya the best ...got late to the WIRE game but wow...great Write ups...loved yopur Sopranos and LOST reports...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HxaAzggeD-4

Patrick said...

"The fact that this is still being debated is exactly why it was a failure."

For me, it's the complete opposite. I think it's pretty clear from the thematic and narrative arc of the show that Tony lives on, but clearly those final moments, regardless of whatever happened after the black, were singularly iconic and struck a chord with the public.

But, if you subtract that last minute, The Wire finale actually reminds me a lot of The Sopranos' finale. Most of the big action is over, characters find their place and life goes on. We say good bye to all the characters and end with a feeling of resolution and a reaffirmation of the series' essential character, which for The Wire is Baltimore and for The Sopranos is family. In neither case is the finale a particularly standout episode, but in each case, I felt fulfilled by what happened.

Dust Speck said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dust Speck said...

Do folks really see Michael as somehow worse morally at the end of Season 5 than he was at the beginning?

Isn't it better to be robbing drug dealers than killing for one? Wasn't Michael supposed to be killing kids at the beginning of the season?

Won't Bug probably be better off in what will likely be a better environment?

And didn't Dukie ask to be dropped at the Arabers? Don't get me wrong, Dukie is a tragedy, but that's not on Michael.

It is also worth pointing out that while Dukie's family was a bunch of junkies, Michael's family consisted of some unknown father, a junkie mother, a stepfather who molested him, and a baby brother who Michael clearly loved more than anything else in the world. Even to the point where everything Michael did once Bug's daddy showed up was in the Bug's best interest. And that means Michael is cold like Marlo?

Come on now. He isn't Omar, but the kid isn't chopped liver either.

Anonymous said...

Since last week's epigraph was an 'Unforgiven' quote in a slightly different context, it's worth pointing out that the last line of the series is the last line of 'The Searchers', "Let's go home."

Make of that what you will.

Anonymous said...

And "Michael is the new Omar" in the same way that "Marlo is the new Avon". The new generation is fiercer. I wonder if Michael will be strict about no-citizens or not...

plot said...

'And "Michael is the new Omar" in the same way that "Marlo is the new Avon". The new generation is fiercer.'

Yes, they are more fierce, almost clinical and institutional in their power plays. One reviewer said that Marlo made him nostalgic for the good ol' days of Avon Barksdale. Marlo is totally committed to the pathology of power. He doesn't even seem to enjoy it so much as know it perfectly.

It's like with each generation the myth and motives get degraded, the logic colder.

The only hope? That someone recognized Cheese as the lowest form - no morality or loyalty or honour, a complete degradation which could not be endured. Little Charles, the reluctant king who wants no authority, has to put things straight.

Anonymous said...

I like the way the Barksdale investigation was ultimately vitally important to the series finale. If Freamon hadn't continued investigating the money -- if he hadn't specifically pushed Pearlman to suppoena Clay Davis's records -- the whole case against Marlo would've probably been lost.

And that, even then, Lester wanted to continue following the money.

Jay said...

Great discussion. A couple of stray thoughts:

McNulty served in the BPD for 13 years. David Simon worked for the Baltimore Sun for...you guessed it... 13 years.

Based on Clay Davis's stray comment at his trial, I made a mash-up of the Wire and Survivor.

Survivor: West Baltimore - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bb5kqMEwu20


I don't know about y'all, but I'm going to treat Generation Kill as a de facto Wire Season 6. It may not have Baltimore, and it may not have our favorite characters, but it will have the blistering rage of Simon and Burns. I was intrigued to see how all of their research for that project seeped into Season 5, with all the references to Iraq.

JZ said...

Guys! No spoilers!

What. Nothin'?

I watched it again last night, and probably will tonight. One thing that struck me? When Six Feet Under ended, I was on the couch crying for a good five minutes.

When The Wire ended, I had a satisfied look on my face, sort of like McNulty's in that final cut.

And about Dukie: I found myself inspecting his arms in his scene with Presbo. No marks. But that doesn't mean he hasn't already started snorting.

That whole arc breaks my heart. But again, wasn't Bubbles that smiling, charming, innocent kid in a city that will eat you alive on the street?

John I said...

Just like the Sun story was really not about Templeton and what was reported, but rather the real stories that were missed due to a myopic and downsized newsroom, the Cheese and Randy story was to a certain extent about what Cheese didn't do: Randy needed a real parent in his life and his dad was out gang banging and rolling in millions of dollars. For me that's why Cheese really needed to get whacked.

Doug S said...

Fantastic summary Alan, thanks. You've made this season even more enjoyable than it otherwise would have been.

Strange no Clay in the finale...

I wasn't able to watch the finale live, was actually traveling to DC, and I drove home last night, passed right by Baltimore on 95, not far from where Jimmy pulled over at the finale's end. When I got home hours later and watched the episode, that final moment struck home even more.

I thought tv could never get better than Buffy, then Deadwood, so I hope someone actually can improve on The Wire, head and shoulders the best show ever. Can't wait for the complete dvd collection.

avincent52 said...

He and Ronnie could finally reveal their relationship with no negative consequences. When Ronnie recused herself it was a moment of personal triumph, that she wasn't Cedric's secret anymore

You'll remember that Roger Twigg rattles this off the Daniels/Perlman connection rather casually, after Scott goes "who's this" when Gus hands him the photo.

Why Daniels a defense attorney? Because you can make more money. Being a prosecutor is a stepping stone, as it was to Rhonda.

I loved the series (and the commentary about it here) but I thought the finale was weak. There wasn't a moment that really surprised me or more to the point, made me think or feel anything (except Dukie which was really inevitable)

Unlike Hamsterdam, it's a cover-up that works, a lie that everyone swallows. Which is consistent with the story arc.

But unlike in seasons past, there's no sense of the cost of any of this. Everyone had a happy(ish) ending. No deaths. Nobody going to jail. No lives or loves ended (again except for Dukie)

And more than a few Up With People moments. (Bubs, Omar's spirit living on in Michael, Cheese getting his, the McNulty lives moment at the wake, the nicemaking between Bunk, Kima, and McNulty.)

I can buy David Simon telling us that the lie doesn't have a cost for the liar (Carcetti becomes gov, Templeton gets a Pulitzer (does he learn to pronounce it right?) and McNulty doesn't end up dead or in jail. )

But that there's no cost for anyone? That's CSI: Baltimore.

A disappointing end to an amazing show.

quipu said...

I've read this on a couple of sites now and really don't get it. Why do people keep on taking Michael's ending to be a happy one? What planet are you living on?

As exemplified by Omar, the life of a stick-up boy is one that tends to be brutish and short, and death, when it comes, tends to be ignominious and sudden.

Couple this with the fact that Michael can no longer be there for Bug in the way he wants to, and you've got a pretty bleak future ahead of you.

Also, it helps that you don't confuse "making the best of a bad situation" with a "happy resolution". Daniels has become a Defence Attorney, and he is still with Perlman. But he's given up the job he spent the last 5 years working for, and as a result there remains very little chance for change in Baltimore. Some might argue that with Valchek in charge, things may be even worse, with more and more stat games, or investigations which will follow the dictates of his capricious behaviour. Remember this is the man who started an investigation all over an insult, and then tried to have it shut down when it deviated from his intended target.

The overall feel of the ending, in fact, seems to be that of "Life Goes On". Given everything that we've seen in The Wire for the past 5 seasons, does that suggest anything close to a happy ending?

Shelley said...

I don't agree that no one paid a price for what they did. Just because a character doesn't end up in jail, doesn't mean they're walking away untouched. We saw McNulty starting to struggle back when he had to perpetuate his scheme, saw his colleagues wasting their time with the fake case while "real police work" got ignored, saw how much he'd sold his soul when officers blackmailed him for favors, nearly lost Beadie (and, if they stay together, put a serious roadblock in their relationship that might take a lifetime to work through), the person who had brought sanity and stability back into his life. While he doesn't exactly get fired in disgrace, he has to give up The Job, the bedrock of his identity and the one world in which he thought he truly fit. Finally, McNulty had to have felt some guilt for the copycat murders, and the fact that he brought his homeless "victim" back from VA suggests that McNulty knows darn well what he's done and how a lifetime might not be enough to make himself whole again.

Throughout the last several seasons, McNulty has exploded with temper tantrums worthy of any 8-year-old when things don't go his way, but in the end, when he was found out, he just had a resigned, almost relieved look, that whatever came his way now was deserved. I think he'll beat himself up sufficiently, which would accomplish more than any jail time ever could.

avincent52 said...

Why do people keep on taking Michael's ending to be a happy one? What planet are you living on?

I'm not suggesting that Michael's arc is a happy one or that it's likely to have a happy ending. But the last time we see him it's a Robin Hood rob-from-the-rich, Omar-esque moment of triumph. All good. But I might have tempered it with a quick cut to a scene with Slim or someone suggesting that he's still the hunted one.

As far as Daniels, it was inevitable that the file was going to come back to haunt him, sooner or later.
He went out largely on his own terms, much more so than, say, Bunny Colvin or Frank Sobokta, having protected the people he loved and gotten at least a few bad guys off the street before he lost his soul completely.

I think he'll beat himself up sufficiently, which would accomplish more than any jail time ever could.

I think that if we've seen anything in five years, it's that Jimmy McNulty has a preturnatural ability to forgive himself.
In season 1 he got Greggs shot.
He's back at it.
In Season 4, he gets Bodie killed.
He's back at it.
He wrecks his first marriage.
He's back at it.
He wrecks his relationship with Rhonda
He's back at it.

At least earlier, we saw a little remorse before he backslid.
Not this time.

And no, refusing to put a couple extra murders on a guy who's going to spend the rest of his life in a mental hospital, doesn't count. (IMHO, It was actually one last chance to stick it to Rawls.)

And chauffeuring Larry back doesn't even make up for what he did to Larry, much less the two homeless guys who got killed.

Anonymous said...

Michael is no longer being hunted. That's the point. Marlo sold the connect, lost his muscle and left the game. Cheese was killed right away. There was nobody coming after Michael. In fact, I'm sure the Co-op would be happy that Snoop is dead.

Michael even said that "Marlo isn't around anymore". He knows there is a power vacuum.

For two seasons, we watched how Michael was coerced and forced into the game against his will. Now all that pressure is gone. He is free.

Yet this is what he chooses to do with his life? It shows you just how much he has changed for the worst. Marlo and Chris have left a major imprint on his psyche. Michael is damaged goods now - just like Kenard. The innocent boy with a chance for redemption has turned into another predatory criminal.

Anonymous said...

And "Michael is the new Omar" in the same way that "Marlo is the new Avon". The new generation is fiercer.

The new generation is fiercer because they are not beholden to the past. They do not cling to sentiment and nostalgia. They live in the moment. They are ruthless and nihilistic.

Nobody bats an eye after Snoop is killed. Even Chris is indifferent. Life is cheap. They move on. It was just “her time”.

Cheese’s speech is prolific in that it encapsulates the essence of this new generation:

Cheese: There ain’t no back in the day nigga! Ain't no nostalgia to this shit here....there's just the street, and the game, and what happen here today.

This is echoed by Michael:

Dukie: You remember that one day summer pass? You remember ...

Michael: I don’t.

His memory is wiped clean. Michael has no sense of the past or the “back in the day…” Clearly, Michael is not one of those “sentimental motherfuckas”.

As Dukie approached the heroin addicts with trepidation, he looked back once more at his former friend… but Michael had vanished. That image was truly chilling.

Kenard, too, had no respect for an OG like Omar. This man was a legend but to Kenard he was nothing more than a frail gimp that needed to be put down.

This is a fundamental difference between the “old heads” (Avon, Slim, Omar, Rick) and the new generation (Marlo, Chris, Snoop, Michael, Kenard). It’s why the game got more fierce.

If I were Slim Charles, I would always keep an eye on those children. Never sleep on the kids. One of them just might blow your head off while you buy a pack of cigarettes.

I don’t see Slim or Rick lasting long. Soon enough, there will be another hungry young sociopath like Marlo on the rise up. They take what they want.

Anonymous said...

"But unlike in seasons past, there's no sense of the cost of any of this. Everyone had a happy(ish) ending."

I don't understand how McNulty's ending is being considered "happy". We're talking about a guy who has lost the only job that ever mattered to him, or that he had any skills at. He has no education. He owes huge monthly child support payments to his ex-wife that he couldn't pay when he *did* have a job. His current wife doesn't make enough to support both of them and her two kids. He's the only cop of the bunch who retires without a pension. And, unlike Herc, I just can't see him working for Levy.

I think people are confusing the little bits of redemption he's given with a "happy ending", as if it's happy just because it isn't completely bleak. It reminds me of 'The Graduate' ending, except that he has less prospects than they did.

"IMHO, It was actually one last chance to stick it to Rawls."

So you think, what, that he was tearing up over his joy to be sticking it to Rawls one last time? And the fact that everybody, even Rawls, agrees with what he says and doesn't pin the murders on him, they're all sticking it to Rawls too?

Jimmy shows genuine regret. Whether it's sufficient or not is personal, but it's reductive to suggest that he doesn't show any regret. He tears up *again* when he tells Griggs, "If you think I needed to get done, then I guess I did," because he knows it's true.

avincent52 said...

I don't understand how McNulty's ending is being considered "happy". We're talking about a guy who has lost the only job that ever mattered to him, or that he had any skills at. He has no education. He owes huge monthly child support payments to his ex-wife that he couldn't pay when he *did* have a job. His current wife doesn't make enough to support both of them and her two kids. He's the only cop of the bunch who retires without a pension. And, unlike Herc, I just can't see him working for Levy.

Well, for starters, the fact that he's not in the prison yard with Wee Bay and Chris.

What you say is true but...this job he was so good at was eating him alive (and everyone else he seemed to care about--his wife and kids, Beadie, Kima, Bunk, even Lester)

And he brought it on himself . Except to the delusional Mr. McNulty, this was an absolute best-case scenario, with the copycat providing a deus ex machina.

Again, except for those two poor mopes who got done by Business Card boy.

Jimmy's tearing up? I tear up when I listen to "Racing in the Streets" not when I contribute to the torture murders of two innocent people. In that last shot with Larry, I see a guy who thinks he's done his good deed for the day.

I dunno. I'd have liked to have seen some real wrestling with demons on Mr. McNulty's part.
A trip to the traintracks where he stares down the freighter and jumps back at the last second. Or not.

Or goes down to the morgue to check on some detail or just say goodbye and has the ME reveal some tiny detail about the guy he helped get killed.
"Hey, he's got a tattoo on his back. A fresh one, too. I wonder who Rosie is?"

Something.

But in any case Landsman's gotta be happy. He got what, 30 clearances between Bitey and the vacants?
Talk about juking the stats.

A free born man in the USA...

Anonymous said...

"Well, for starters, the fact that he's not in the prison yard with Wee Bay and Chris."

What Bunny Colvin did was far more illegal than what McNulty did, but nobody would argue that his ending in the third season was happy simply because he didn't go to jail. How many deaths did he contribute to?

"Except to the delusional Mr. McNulty, this was an absolute best-case scenario,"

That seems like really circular logic to me; you dismiss *any* concerns that anybody (including McNulty) has over the actual deaths, and then say that, since all of that negativity is dismissed, the ending is happy. Well, yeah, and if you ignore the fact that Chris is in jail, he'll be taken care of for the rest of his life, so I guess that's happy too, right, as long as you look at it from only one specific narrow POV.

"with the copycat providing a deus ex machina."

If you want to write it off as that, fine. I think that, in a show where the gods are directly represented by powerful people, calling him a deus ex machina is a misuse of the term, but, again, that's fine.

However, it seems reductive to say he's just that. I mean, for starters, if Freamon hadn't pushed Jimmy to do actual policework to make the serial killer case look better, Jimmy would never have caught this guy. It's not a deus ex machina that Jimmy is a good detective who remembers little details of things he has seen; that's been established for 59 episodes leading up to this one, and meant to again contrast Scott Templeton, who also met the killer -- what do you think the chances are that Scott recognizes him? [I do wish that McNulty had found Scott's card in the guy's box.]

"In that last shot with Larry, I see a guy who thinks he's done his good deed for the day.

I dunno. I'd have liked to have seen some real wrestling with demons on Mr. McNulty's part."

That seems like circular logic again. You dismiss any complex emotion that Dominic West does express in that final moment, and then say the show should do you've dismissed. (And, frankly, the replacement scene you suggest seems like the hyper-cliched version of what you're dismissing, nothing like 'The Wire'.)

"He got what, 30 clearances between Bitey and the vacants?"

25; the four murders Jimmy invented are still open as far as anything the show has said.

An interesting thing I realized -- Kima snitches to Daniels, but because she does, Pearlman is ready for what Levy throws at her, and comes back with her own dirt, leading directly to all the murders Chris did being closed... except for the triple that Kima caught which, as far as we are told, is still open. I love that Kima's good deed does not help her in any way.

Anonymous said...

Is Daniels ending "happy" or "unhappy"? I mean, in an immediate sense, he looks happy, but, in sacrificing himself for people he cares about, he also gives up on the police department, which he also cares about, and leaves it in the hands of Valchek.

I really don't think that anybody's ending was simply happy or sad, except Dukie and *maybe* Bubbles.

Also, keep in mind, these "happy" endings are also partially offset by all the unhappy endings over the years (Wallace, Frank Sobotka, Prop Joe, Omar...).

avincent52 said...

Okay, you liked the ending. I didn't. Whatever.

What Bunny Colvin did was far more illegal than what McNulty did

What Colvin did wasn't illegal. (To channel Jay Spry for a moment, legality, like pregnancy, is binary. Something is either legal or its not.) Police are granted and use discretion in deciding when they'll arrest a suspect and when they'll look the other way. (The bottle in the paper bag example) And they certainly tell potential perps, "You can do this, but if I catch you doing that, you're going to jail." Granted, Hamsterdam took that to an extreme, but if there was a way to charge Colvin, Royce might well have done it, or at least seriously pondered it as an option.

As for the "cost" of Hamsterdam, while some junkies OD'd there, Simon wasn't suggesting that more of them died than if they were shooting up on inhabited corners. If you insist on a literal, conservative reading of "repentant McNulty" sections of the "text" then please apply it here as well.

By contrast, the list of things you could charge McNulty with is a yard long starting with evidence tampering and false report, and everyone, McNulty included, seemed to know it.

And as Rawls pointed out, there was a huge dollars and cents cost to McNulty's charade, and the money to rent those Lexuses from Enterprise all came from a city that couldn't pay police and teachers.

FWIW, if this ending caused so much angst for everyone, how can you call Kima snitching a "good deed?"

I'd argue that Rawls is gonna find a way to blacken the earlier Bitey murders, with or without McNulty's help.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed the final episode. Those who wanted a perect "Wire" type ending with pain and gripping irony, and justice (for the people we like and those we despise) is a lot to ask. With so many story lines and characters how do you wrap this all up neatly. If they showed Michael saving Dukie and riding off into the sunset, woul that make people happy. Would having Levy get busted, and come clean Marlo give the viewers just what we want? True fans of the wire know things do not tie up neatly.
This ending was 1,000 more gratifying than the Soprano's ending. Thanks to the writers cast and crew for making television show we will all never, ever forget.

"String??, look at me....where's Wallace?? String!!!??? Where the F* is Walllace??!!!

Lord knows, I'll never forget that scene as long as I live.

SoCal said...

I felt so good when Slim took down Cheese!

After Joe was popped and Slim turned down the chance to work for Marlo, I was hoping in some way he would come back to avenge him, but i expected (hoped) it to be teaming up with Omar to take out Marlo.

But Slim was smart. Even though he said at the last co-op meeting that "He wasn't a CEO-type," he was all along. All he had to do was wait for a power vaccuum, which came when Marlo went down.
Then with his take down of Cheese, it was the last of the Marlo crew.

And now Slim is Co-King. And at least there is now once again a vestige of the "old-school code" that Prop Joe lived by and allowed the co-op to thrive for all those years.

Slim, just watch your back for the next Kenard!

Anonymous said...

"To channel Jay Spry for a moment, legality, like pregnancy, is binary. Something is either legal or its not."

More illegal as in the potential penalties would be worse. (And "more pregnant" would mean further along in the pregnancy; the "binary" correction you're *trying* to make actually applies to people saying "a little bit pregnant" or "a little bit illegal".)

"Royce might well have done it, or at least seriously pondered it as an option."

Except that Royce wanted to keep it; Burrell and Rawls both mention the potential to charge Colvin with a crime.

"Simon wasn't suggesting that more of them died than if they were shooting up on inhabited corners."

Allow me to Jay Spry you right back -- you mean "stating"; you are not in a position to say what Simon was or was not suggesting.

"By contrast, the list of things you could charge McNulty with is a yard long starting with evidence tampering and false report"

That's not a contrast; Colvin is guilty of dereliction of duty, insubordination, false report (when he claimed the woman was a witness), collaborating with the drug traffickers, and he is ready to fall for Carver tampering with evidence on his behalf...

The reason he doesn't fall is the same reason McNulty doesn't fall; they wouldn't fall alone, and the people who would fall with them are too vital to the mayor.

"And as Rawls pointed out, there was a huge dollars and cents cost to McNulty's charade"

And Colvin bought a woman a new house.

"FWIW, if this ending caused so much angst for everyone, how can you call Kima snitching a "good deed?" "

I don't understand how you can talk about things on the show in terms of stark, black-and-white morality. Is this the first episode of 'The Wire' you've ever seen?

"I'd argue that Rawls is gonna find a way to blacken the earlier Bitey murders, with or without McNulty's help."

You can argue whatever you want, but that statement is literally nonsensical. Rawls's final act as commissioner is to publicly say that they have closed two cases and are not likely to pursue closing the other four, after which Daniels is named commissioner. Rawls has no further authority over the investigation.

(Beyond that, you *could* argue that Valchek will insist on turning the names black, and I would agree that it's possible, in that nothing in the show explicitly contradicts this, but I think that, once the story becomes, "killer caught, everything okay," the media coverage will die down, and nobody will care whether those specific stats go from red to black. Valchek will be juking stats at a much higher level than that. They don't care about actually closing the case, they just care about the public perception that it's closed.)

Alan Sepinwall said...

And now Slim is Co-King.

A lot of people seem to be reading the coffee shop snippet that way, but I just figured Fat Face Rick is now the head of the co-op, and Slim is working as his number two just as he worked as Joe's number two (and before that, Avon's). Vondas had previously established that he would deal with the head man and his second.

Maybe I need to ask Simon about that.

dez said...

Nobody bats an eye after Snoop is killed. Even Chris is indifferent.

I don't think he was indifferent so much as pragmatic. I'm sure if he was out of jail, he'd be avenging her death.

As for Bitey's murders, they're technically open, but Rawls said at the press conference that Business Card guy was suspected in them, so as far as everyone else is concerned, the murders as "solved."

Anonymous said...

"As for Bitey's murders, they're technically open, but Rawls said at the press conference that Business Card guy was suspected in them, so as far as everyone else is concerned, the murders as "solved.""

Exactly; as far as the media is concerned, they're solved. As far as the public is concerned, they're solved. But the names will remain in red -- because people don't care about the stats in a vacuum; they care about the stats inasmuch as they can help politically. Rawls already has his promotion secured, Daniels is falling on his sword, and by the time Valchek is named commissioner (seemingly November or later), the public won't be worried about the murderer.

That actually happens a lot with real serial killers, where they can only prove a few of the murders, and the person is insane anyway, so they prove what they can, and the rest of the murders are technically open, but nobody's spending any time trying to solve them. That sort of thing *only* matters to the clearance rate, so it's somewhat fitting that the last thing Jimmy does is fuck with the clearance rate, just a little bit.

plot said...

"That actually happens a lot with real serial killers, where they can only prove a few of the murders, and the person is insane anyway, so they prove what they can"

It happens with perfectly sane murders as well. Wayne Williams in Atlanta was railroaded into being a serial killer when there existed very little evidence that he even killed one Atlanta child. He was convicted for killing 2, and the rest are still open. The Press has moved on.

Anonymous said...

I just figured Fat Face Rick is now the head of the co-op, and Slim is working as his number two just as he worked as Joe's number two (and before that, Avon's). Vondas had previously established that he would deal with the head man and his second.

That was my impression as well. The Co-op members each bought a share in the connect. They own it collectively. It appears Fat Face Rick is the head of the Co-op now (taking over Joe’s role in an administrative capacity). Slim Charles is his #2. I see Slim as more of a clerk/bodyguard. He is not the “Kingpin”. Slim didn’t contribute any money for the connect. He only works for other people. Slim has always been a company man. He is there because he is Rick’s second (just like Chris Partlow was Marlo’s man).


I don't think he was indifferent so much as pragmatic. I'm sure if he was out of jail, he'd be avenging her death.

Chris did not look the least bit upset about Snoop. In fact, his face registered irritation at the idea of wasting muscle to go after Michael. Snoop was a soldier – just another pawn. Like everyone else. she's expendable.

plot said...

"I just figured Fat Face Rick is now the head of the co-op, and Slim is working as his number two"

Makes sense. I don't think Slim was lying when he said he wasn't "the executive type" (or something like that at the last co-op meeting.) Slim seems more like the maintainer of the rule, rather than the ruler.

avincent52 said...

Is this the first episode of 'The Wire' you've ever seen?

You mean this is like a series or something?

SoCal said...

"Makes sense. I don't think Slim was lying when he said he wasn't "the executive type" (or something like that at the last co-op meeting.) Slim seems more like the maintainer of the rule, rather than the ruler."

Good points by Plot and Alan, but my rationale behind that is Slim popping Cheese in front of everyone was a "leader" type move where he was asserting himself.

Next time you get a hold of Mr. Simon i would appreciate if you asked him about this Alan!

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