The Wire Final Season

Week 10: The Major Flaw of the Final Episode
Talking television.
March 10 2008 1:27 PM

The Wire Final Season

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The Wire. Click image to expand.
Lance Reddick in The Wire

Dear David,

In re: the last episode of The Sopranos—I missed it. Was it any good? I haven't heard much about it.

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I thought you were going to "tee up" the Sopranos question for me. Seems like you answered it, and pretty well, too. I think David Chase is Dostoevsky, and David Simon is Dickens (and Larry David is a nitrous oxide Kafka and David Cassidy is Tom Wolfe and David Milch is … who, exactly?). By framing the question this way, you're forcing a retreat from my earlier contention that The Sopranos may be less durable than The Wire. Character studies are eternal, and Tony Soprano was the most complicated character ever to appear in a television drama.

The Wire's pedestrian, journalistic (not that the two are necessarily the same) final scene left me a little cold, and not only because it featured Jimmy McNulty, who remained, until the bitter end, exceedingly uninteresting. I don't know that I agree with your statement that the last minutes of The Sopranos represent the "the greatest final scene in the history of the moving image"—don't ask me to nominate an alternative, please—but it was absolutely brilliant. The last half-hour of last night's Wire—in particular those lingering shots of Baltimore (Look, tall buildings! Over there, container ships!)—brought to mind, more than once, the montage song from Team America:

Show a lot of things, happening at once,
Remind everyone of what's going on, (what's going on?)

The minor sin of last night's episode was in its over-explication. It's not much of a sin in the scheme of things. The major sin of last night's episode was the major sin of the entire season: the soap-opera brouhahas at the thoroughly unbelievable Baltimore Sun. I won't beat this dead horse anymore, though. Unless you want me to.

I'm not sure, by the way, that David Simon modeled the most repulsive character in The Wire on himself. I think he modeled the most repulsive character on an ugly stereotype.

Jeff

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