The Wire has often been called the best TV show ever made.
I don’t know if it’s the best ever, but it deserves to be in the top five, easily.
I was considering doing my usual recap, but you know, I’d rather not. Sure, the “serial killer” is caught, as are McNulty and Lester. They get in a lot of trouble, and both basically quit the force. Marlo’s crew goes down but Marlo doesn’t because Pearlman has dirt on Levy (a final gift from Lester), and a copycat killer that the murders can be pinned on due to the copycat being homeless and mentally unsound can go down for two actual murders (a final gift from McNulty, who refuses to pin the fake crimes on a real guy).
And yes, like a good final episode, we check in one a few past characters that stepped away and didn’t reappear yet for this final season. There’s Prez, finding supreme disappointment in a former student. There’s the Greek, still loose and free. There’s Valchek…cripes, that guy…
But what The Wire set out to perhaps demonstrate too well is the cyclical nature of this reality for the city of Baltimore and who knows how many other places like it. For many of the higher-ups, the whole thing is a stepping stone to something greater. Carcetti wins the governor’s race, and Rawls goes with him as the new superintendent of the Maryland State Police. Daniels can’t take much more of the inherent dishonesty involved in his job and doesn’t even stick around to become the Police Commissioner. Instead, he quits and becomes a defense attorney. Hey, Pearlman ends the season as a judge.
Heck, that slimeball Templeton won a Pulitzer for lying his ass off while Gus got demoted for trying to point it out. If there was one satisfying moment in the entire newspaper plot line, it was McNulty verbally reaming out Templeton for printing lies. McNulty knows they’re lies, so he can confess to the journalist knowing full well the reporter would ruin his own career by telling the truth.
But what do we really see? Even as people move on, their roles are filled by others.
McNulty is gone, and he even though got to see his own wake and make up with Beadie, there’s Syndor complaining to the same judge that got McNulty in all that trouble way back in the pilot and as a result kicked off the show.
Omar’s dead, but Michael’s running around with a shotgun, Omar’s signature weapon, robbing drug dealers.
Marlo as part of his deal is forced out of the drug game, but he wants to become a legitimate businessman (like Stringer) but then reacts violently to being forgotten on the corners (like Avon).
Heck, Chris takes a solid rap for all the murders in the townhouses, just like Wee Bey…who appears to be his new pal in prison.
And then there’s poor Dukie, sliding into addiction. He may be the new Bubbles, or the new Sherrod. It’s just tragic.
But even as Lester (still with that stripper from season one!) and McNulty make peace with no longer being cops, even forgiving Kima for her role in getting them forced out, we do see one man who came out ahead: Bubbles. Bubbles is clean, he’s working, and ends the episode finally able to come upstairs from his sister’s basement to have a meal with his only family.
But what did The Wire do? Despite Dominic West’s name being listed first every episode, he was hardly the star of the show. It was a real ensemble cast put together by series creator David Simon (seen briefly working in the newsroom), where the characters were more down-to-earth, showing the real problems faced by a major American city. Crime and drugs were still running rampant alongside poverty and an ineffective police force when all was said and done. This wasn’t a show to give us a memorable lead character like a Walter White or a Don Draper, someone who draws the eye through some powerful, charismatic performance at the center of the action. The closest The Wire came to a character like that was Omar, who hardly appeared in every episode and was ignominiously killed off a couple episodes before the finale. The point was never to make a character to make the audience gasp at how cool the guy was. The point was to show how a real American city may very well be dying, and no one with any sort of power or authority either can or will do anything about it. As the final montage goes through the locations of the five seasons, showing how little things have changed and how the unworthy are rewarded (Valchek is the new commissioner for crying out loud!), there may be little to hope for anyone aside from a man like Daniels getting real police work done and not just to pad an elected politician’s crime statistics, and maybe attacking the problem and not the symptoms.
This was the sort of show you need to think about. Ten out of ten moments where you realize nothing really changed.
But with all that in mind, what’s next for me as a reviewer? I was considering going to Simon’s next HBO series, Treme, but I dug American Gods so much, I thought I should go check out the show that may have put Ian McShane on the map.
Yeah, starting next Wednesday, I’ll be writing up the HBO Western series Deadwood.