The Wire Final Season

It's Time for the Cheese Course!
Talking television.
March 10 2008 7:19 AM

The Wire Final Season

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Dear David,

First, a moment of appreciation: The Wire is a shockingly good television series, and I'll miss it very much. Maybe more than I currently miss The Sopranos. Heresy, I know, but The Wire was not merely entertainment, though it was, at times, hugely entertaining. Think about this: HBO, a division of the putatively soulless Time Warner, funded, for several years, a barely watched television series with nonfamous, mostly African-American actors that confronted two interconnected subjects, the collapse of the American city and the predicament of inner-city black people, that most premium-cable subscribers, and most everyone else, ignore with great equanimity. Astonishing, when you think about it.

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OK, enough gasbagging: It's time for the Cheese course!

As you know, I called for Cheese's death earlier this season (which is uncharacteristic of me, because I don't go around, generally speaking, calling for the deaths of imaginary or nonimaginary people), and to have the deed done by our hometown hero, Slim Charles, was almost too satisfying to watch. Cheese's demise was sublime, and salvational. He died so that we may live—or, more to the point, that our belief in justice might live. The moral arc of the universe may be long, as Dr. King noted, but, at least with Baltimore drug dealers, it bends toward justice. You noticed, of course, that there was redemption only in gangland—the cops have proved themselves ineradicably corrupt (Valchek up, Cedric Daniels out); City Hall is gruesomely cynical (you were right about Carcetti, David), and the newspaper is populated by prize-whoring hyenas. But Slim Charles saves us. The killing of Cheese was more than an individual act of redemption; every drug dealer on the lot knew that, for balance to be restored to their universe, the braying betrayer of Prop Joe had to go. It was his final speech that killed him, a speech that could have been delivered in City Hall or in the newsroom of the Baltimore Sun: "When it was my uncle, I was with Joe; when it was Marlo, I was with Marlo," Cheese said, giving us epigrammatically David Simon's view of our fallen world, one populated almost entirely by empty men with no fixed beliefs, who crave only power and money.  And women, too—Nerese, a Clay Davis without those excellent teeth, is mayor now.

There's too much to discuss here, David—Cedric is a legal-aid attorney, Marlo is a vampire, Bubbles is Jesus (I suppose he's always been Jesus), Michael is the new Omar, Maryland has a gay state-police superintendent, and Maury Levy is Jewish. I had no idea that the shyster drug lawyer with the lascivious lips who secretly controls the drug cartels was Jewish until Maury started talking about mishpoche and brisket. I thought the episode laid that on a bit thick—like Entourage-thick.

I haven't said a word about McNulty's new career in homeless-shelter management. I'm leaving it to you to explain to me why McNulty, who is, comparatively speaking, such an uninteresting character, is treated like the dark but redemptive heart of this entire enterprise.

Jeff

Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for the Atlantic and the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror.

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