Category Archives: Season 5

… the life of kings

I have, perhaps, been unfairly harsh in my criticism of season five.  Throughout these ten episodes The Wire has remained an extremely strong, at times brilliant, series.  To slam it for not being the series I wanted illustrates the pitfalls of any long running show.  At a certain point we must start measuring the series against itself rather than against whatever else is on.  Four years of genius have created quite a host of expectations in the audience and while the creators shouldn’t have simply tried to meet them, I would rather they had been thwarted in more interesting ways.  With that in mind, I’ll attempt to look at the series finale for what it is, rather than what it isn’t. Continue reading

Deserve got nuthin’ to do with it

How could I not love an episode that quotes one of my favourite movies?  “Late Editions” has a lot more going for it than Unforgiven references, but I’ll focus on the epigraph before I get into it.  William Munny answers Little Bill Daggett’s protestations with this line just before killing him.  Bill may deserve what he gets by any sensible standard, but within the world of the film such moral considerations are irrelevant.  Neither he nor Munny can claim any measure of righteousness and his death is an inevitable result of the life he’s chosen.  This is Snoop’s final lesson to Michael, one he learns a little too quickly for her.  Michael may be innocent, but that’s irrelevant; holding himself apart is what makes him a target.  Conversely, Snoop is very guilty, but her death isn’t an assertion of moral order.  Michael kills her because he needs to.  West Baltimore is very much like Eastwood’s West; necessity trumps morality in both. Continue reading

A lie ain’t a side of the story. It’s just a lie.

McNulty’s scheme begins to go off the rails just one episode after it finally picks up steam.  “Clarifications” sees him with all the resources he needs to pursue the case against Marlo and anything else the BPD throws his way.  It also sees him bearing a greater resemblance to the bosses he once despised as he tries to balance legitimate casework against the politics of his new position.  The strain is enough to make him confess to both Greggs and Beadie and neither or them offer the validation Jimmy’s been craving since season one. Continue reading

They don’t teach it in law school

Hey, it’s Munch!  I have a special affection for meta-fiction and so a cameo from television’s most ubiquitous detective would, ordinarily, be a welcome treat.  This guest appearance isn’t forced or awkward (as so many of them tend to be) and the fact that Munch first appeared on Homicide and was based on real cop Jay Landsman (who also appears in this scene as Major Denis Mello) adds all sorts of fun layers, but appreciating this involves stepping out of the world of the show.  For The Wire, this sort of distance is counter-productive.  The series thrives on its realism and the characters become progressively less interesting as we stop thinking of them as real people reacting to real things. Continue reading

If you have a problem with this, I understand completely

“The Dickensian Aspect” presents a direct challenge to the “ends justify the means” logic that McNulty and Freamon have been applying all season.  The epigraph is pulled from Lester’s drawing Sydnor into the illegal wiretap on Marlo, though not in on the faked homeless murders.  Sydnor agrees to help without being completely aware of what he’s getting into, much like the audience.  Continue reading

Just ‘cause they’re in the street doesn’t mean that they lack opinions

There’s some more good to be found in “React Quotes,” although it’s mixed in with more bad.  Bubbles and Duquon are probably the highlights of this episode and McNulty’s fraud dovetails nicely into Scott’s escalating fabrications, but the newfound sensationalism of season five claims Omar as its latest victim and we’re again forced to remember that this is a TV show.  Continue reading

Buyer’s market out there

Ah, now that’s much better.  Not only does “Transitions” put less focus on the McNulty plot that I loathe so much, the rest of the players also seem to be returning to their old form.  Omar’s back in town and on the hunt and Marlo’s no longer playing nice with the other dealers.  It’s odd to praise a series for repeating itself but this one was built on cycles and I’m much more excited to see the latest iteration than some nonsense about a fake serial killer. Continue reading

They’re dead where it doesn’t count

“Not for Attribution” continues to push the concepts victim-profiling and a good story trumping good reporting.  McNulty plants enough evidence to link his homicide case to two others and even gets a reporter to buy into it but the story gets buried in the back of the paper and his superiors insist that the case be given similar treatment.  It’s Freamon who hits upon the solution of sensationalizing the case to create a better story.  Continue reading

This ain’t Aruba, bitch

“Unconfirmed Reports” explicitly links the media bias to the pervasive violence in Baltimore and the connection is so obvious that I have to wonder why it wasn’t made earlier.  Bunk and Lester opine that if 300 white people were murdered every year in Baltimore it would considered a national crisis with state and federal police all over it.  If 22 white women, 22 ex-cheerleader tourists, had been found in the vacants last year the media would not have been so quick to forget and the city wouldn’t have dared to suspend the investigation.  But Baltimore isn’t Aruba and public interest is in no way colour blind. Continue reading

The bigger the lie, the more they believe

The most astute critique I’ve heard of The Wire’s fifth season is that watching it is like watching a TV show.  When a friend told me that I countered that it was a superbly written, acted, and directed TV show.  Sadly, both points are true.  By any standard measure, season five of The Wire is great TV but it’s the first season of the show that can be judged by standard measure.  Continue reading