The Wire Final Season

Week 4: Cheese Must Die!
Talking television.
Jan. 28 2008 10:29 AM

The Wire Final Season


Dear David,

Cheese must die! I feel very strongly about this, which is why I placed an exclamation point at the end of the previous sentence. Also, Marlo and Chris, but to repair a tear in the moral universe, Cheese must die, not only for betraying his uncle, Proposition Joe Stewart, but for participating in what we assume was the torture-murder of the man who invented the Swanson Hungry Man TV dinner. You know, it's a damn shame that Method Man, a stalwart of the remarkable Wu-Tang Clan, was cast as the most unspeakable bastard on The Wire. I'll never listen to Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) the same way. Not that I've listened to it in 10 years, but you get the point. What next? The RZA as a stoolie? (For the moment, he has my old job at The New Yorker.)


Sorry, back to the coldest execution scene this side of Abe Vigoda. Actually, colder, because, really, did you care that much about Tessio? Clemenza, yes, of course, but Tessio? I liked Abe Vigoda (still alive! better in Fish, anyway.

That was an extraordinarily powerful scene, the martyrdom of Prop Joe. "Close your eyes. It won't hurt none," Marlo said, and my blood froze. It's true that Tom Hagen's "Can't do it, Sally" marked one of the most unforgettable moments in The Godfather, but Marlo seemed to actually embody the Angel of Death. Prop Joe's murder also has a metaphorical power missing from Tessio's demise. What we just saw, I think, was a David Simon op-ed on the miseries of capitalism. The rising young executive learns what he can from his elders and then kills them. In corporate America, the murder victim is left alive, as opposed to what happens in the New Day Co-Op (there's an organization that just ceased to exist—I'll bet my lungs on that), but except for that technical issue, it's the same thing.

I think we can spend all day unpacking the meaning of Prop Joe's execution, but let me make one larger point: What we saw in the undoing of Prop Joe was The Wire at its best. What we saw in the Baltimore Sun subplot this time around was The Wire at its worst. Prop Joe and Slim Charles and all the rest are complicated people; it's too bad David Simon couldn't make the newsroom similarly complicated. The editors of the Sun aren't characters; they're walking indictments. The low moment came when Klebanow warned Gus against cursing in the newsroom. Ridiculous. I'm not saying that once or twice between John Peter Zenger and now, some shmuck in some newsroom somewhere warned a colleague about the use of foul language. But for fuck's sake, that was the most unbelievable thing I've seen in The Wire's five seasons.


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



Scalia’s Liberal Streak

The conservative justice’s most brilliant—and surprisingly progressive—moments on the bench.

Colorado Is Ground Zero for the Fight Over Female Voters

There’s a Way to Keep Ex-Cons Out of Prison That Pays for Itself. Why Don’t More States Use It?

The NFL Explains How It Sees “the Role of the Female”

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B


Theo’s Joint and Vanessa’s Whiskey

No sitcom did the “Very Special Episode” as well as The Cosby Show.


The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Cliff Huxtable Explains the World: Five Lessons From TV’s Greatest Dad

Why Television Needs a New Cosby Show Right Now

  News & Politics
Sept. 18 2014 8:20 PM A Clever Attempt at Explaining Away a Vote Against the Farm Bill
Sept. 18 2014 6:02 PM A Chinese Company Just Announced the Biggest IPO in U.S. History
The Slate Quiz
Sept. 18 2014 11:44 PM Play the Slate News Quiz With Jeopardy! superchampion Ken Jennings.
  Double X
Sept. 18 2014 8:07 PM Crying Rape False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 18 2014 1:23 PM “It’s Not Every Day That You Can Beat the World Champion” An exclusive interview with chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 4:33 PM The Top 5 Dadsplaining Moments From The Cosby Show
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 6:48 PM By 2100 the World's Population Could Be 11 Billion
  Health & Science
Sept. 18 2014 3:35 PM Do People Still Die of Rabies? And how do you know if an animal is rabid?
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.