The Wire Final Season
We're doing things slightly differently this week: We're both writing instantaneous responses to the final episode. After our first entries, we'll start reacting to each other's posts. And later, after we've finished up, other Wire fanatics on the Slatestaff may jump into the dialogue for a cathartic farewell.
David Simon really wrapped it up in a bow for us, didn't he? I'm grateful that we learned the fate of all our beloved characters, and grateful that Simon was so kind to them (except Dukie, that is). The three final twists that I enjoyed most:
- The murder of Cheese. Cheese always represented the worst of the street, disloyal to family, stupid, loud, and sadistic. I assumed that Cheese was going to be allowed to get away with his ruthless bullying, and that his monologue would be the last words we heard about the drug dealers: "Ain't no nostaligia to this shit. There is just the street and the game." So it was pure satisfaction when Slim Charles dropped him, taking vengeance for Prop Joe. (Slim Charles makes the new connect with the Greek, thus ending up as a tall, gangly version of Prop Joe.)
- Marlo's return to the street. It didn't exactly make sense to me—does that mean he's just going to be a low-level dealer again?—but that image of him delighting in his own blood, aquiver at being back on the corner, was haunting.
- Michael turning into Omar. Didn't Omar shoot a guy in the leg during a Season 1 stash house robbery? So it was satisfying, in a grim way, to see him reincarnated as Michael.
I remained cold to the Sun plot, and dubious about its premise that newspapers gleefully harbor known liars. The final episode shows us two institutions playing cover-up: The cops/mayor stand by the fake serial-killer story and ride the fake solution to glory. The editors bury evidence of faked news stories and ride their bogus coverage to a Pulitzer. The notion, of course, is that all institutions have the same vices. In its effort to indict all institutions, though, The Wire conflates them. Its love of parallelism—which I usually delight in—ill serves it in this case. The vices of a newspaper are not the same as the vices of a police department or a mayor's office. Newspapers do terrible things—Simon is dead right about their prize obsession and their indifference to local expertise—but encouraging liars is not one of them. As we've seen this week with the pair of faked memoirs, fabulists get caught. Newspaper fabulists disgrace their papers. No editor would willfully ignore evidence of a reporter manufacturing stories the way The Wire's Sun editors do. It would never be worth it. The New York Times and Washington Post would trade any number of Pulitzers to wipe the stains of Jayson Blair and Janet Cooke from their histories. (Incidentally, I nearly jumped out my seat this week when I saw a movie preview for a romantic comedy starring Scott Templeton/Tom McCarthy. It really disturbs me to see Wire actors out of context, as with that new Arby's commercial featuring Maury Levy. But I digress.)
You know what goodbye I didn't care about? Bubbles. Whoops, I mean, "Reginald." Almost all Wire-heads are Bubbles lovers, but there is a small fraternity of us who can't stand him. Except for his great turn as Lear's Fool in Season 3, and his payback against Herc in Season 4, Bubbles has always annoyed me. I have found his redemption this season both preachy and boring. I'm happy he gets to eat in Sis' dining room (especially since his sister is played, wonderfully, by an old college friend of mine, Eisa Davis), but I really could have done with a lot fewer moody stares and cryptic-but-profound conversations with his sponsor.
Did you catch Simon's Hitchcockian cameo? Midway through the episode, he appeared for an instant as a reporter in the newsroom, chewing on a pen and sitting beneath a sign reading: "Save our Sun."
David Plotz is the Editor of Slate. He's the author of The Genius Factory: The Curious History of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank and Good Book. He appears on Slate's Political Gabfest.