So this is it. The last episode of The Wire ever. What are we going to do with ourselves now?
Possibly the best TV series in the world ever, The Wire has spent five seasons changing the nature of television itself – all with minimal viewing figures. It’s examined the nature of institutions and society. It’s created characters that will last in the memory for years to come.
It’s made us think.
And now it’s over.
As with previous seasons, season five took what we’d already seen and built on it by examining a new institution and its relationship with others. This time, it was the turn of the media and in particular newspapers.
Surprisingly, given that show supremo David Simon was a former Baltimore Sun journalist, this has been the least realistic of any of the show’s many depictions of Baltimore life. A seemingly pre-Internet paper filled with one-dimensional heroes and villains, it’s as if Simon’s slightly bitter brain wouldn’t let him see further than the miseries that led him to quit at the end of the 90s. And unlike seasons two, three or four, in which the institution being examined was the main focus of the story, the work on the ‘Baltimore Sun‘ seemed to have minimal effect elsewhere. Simon seemed to want to get something of his chest and he was going to use The Wire to do it.
More satisfaction was to be had elsewhere, with various plots and sub-plots either finished off – usually for the worse – or tied together to create a new plot. Institutions are shown, once again, to hate anyone who would try to change them, with only the efforts of individuals to change getting any traction. Standards and principles are crushed by compromise and ‘fitting in’, whether that’s in the drug trade, schools, politics or the police. There were few happy endings – unless you count cameos by well loved characters – as is the nature of The Wire. And indeed, in true Wire fashion, you’ll have to have been paying attention for five seasons to see exactly the implications of everything Simon and co throw into the final episode or the mirroring of the various institutions in each others habits and behaviours.
So get your tissues out and get ready to cry – The Wire is over and some much loved characters are going to be gone forever. This wasn’t the best season of the show, but it was the one where everything changed, even though ultimately everything stayed the same.
There is a much better review of the final episode here if you’d like. It’s spoilery though – what you lose in one place, you gain in another.