It's fitting that David Simon dubbed this episode, "#30#" - old school journalism for the end of the story. There was a lot that was fitting in the last episode. So much to write about. And yet, not. I could probably go on and on - yeah, like I haven't already on this blog and in The Chronicle - but at some point you can't say anymore. I wonder if Simon and his stable of writers ever thought that. They did one of the best jobs of telling a complete and compelling story as has ever been done on television. It was thorough and detailed and nuanced and complicated and touching and pointed - on and on. I'm not sure another season would have added more glory to the gold.
And, after putting this last episode off for a very long time - I just couldn't bring myself to watch it early - it's incredibly sad to see it go. And when it was over, I just sat back, arms crossed, and thought on it. And the best I could really come up with is, "Great as usual. What else can you say?" I mean, I may ultimately end up writing more and more about this as the weeks pass, but I honestly don't have too much to say other than the last episode ever didn't let me down. There's something comfortable in that. This series went out as brilliantly as it came in, and I say that knowing finales to seasons are difficult enough, but finales to series are impossible to pull off. No one will ever be entirely happy - perhaps not even the series creator or the writers themselves. Endings are hard. Everybody knows that.
I suspect people might be split into two camps - loving the extended montages that wrapped up so many storylines (which held true to "Wire" tradition) and those who might have preferred a more "Sopranos"-esque ending that left more up to interpretation and left characters and storylines in the ether. Me, I liked the tidy ending because it has been done in the past and hasn't detracted from the quality and, more importantly, why not reward people who have watched five seasons of the most complicated, novelistic stories ever told on television? Hell, "The Wire" is hard work. Always has been. There's no shame in a reward for the effort.
Two things: 1) It ended as about as satisfying as I'd hoped. I loved it. I wanted no more from it - or at least I feel that asking for something more and better and different than what we got would be some unseemly shit. So yeah - I loved it. Period. 2) As a television critic, I hate to see "The Wire" go. Because even though I have faith in other storytellers - and in tales heretofore untold, at least with "The Wire" I know I've seen the best. Everything else to this point is 2nd best. So that passing - it's never good. As a critic, I want to be able to dissect the best that television has to offer. And for five seasons, that was one unbelievably great run. So, without question, it's a little bit of a downer knowing that the crown is retired.
A very quick recap, just to credit the writers for deftly closing so many of the complicated plots they uncorked at the start. This was an ambitious season, storytelling-wise, and though many people (including me) had doubts early on, I think all the strands came together just beautifully and were told supremely well. And the wonderful aspect to it all is that most of the main players don't get the justice or end-result they most deserve because it would collapse the machine from the inside. Institutional failure through and through. We saw that in Season 1, Ep. 1. And we saw it here in the series finale. Ass covering of the highest and lowest order. Let's start in reverse this time. Seems fitting.
Once the lie gets found out and the damage is not exactly done - please say you didn't expect swift and complete justice - all that's left is the accounting:
+ McNulty quits. He appears to make good with Beadie. As his last televised act, he brings the homeless guy back home. The question is, of course, what next? We'll never know. Is he happy? Can he NOT be po-lice? Make of it what you will.
+ Lester retires. He's looking pretty happy with those miniatures.
+ Marlo's out of the game. And into real estate? Somewhere Stringer Bell had a good laugh. But that was never Marlo's role. He was never meant to play that. So he gets back in the game. No need to guess what will eventually happen if he lives past the election. There's only two options.
+ Herc is buying drinks – using the expense account, like Levy said. Looks like he'll be doing whatever Levy says from now on and forever. Still mucking it up in the future - no doubt.
+ Scott got his Pulitzer. The bigger the lie.
+ Greeks in business with Slim Charles, et al. The game goes on.
+ Carcetti wins. The sell-out is complete.
+ Fletcher takes over when Gus is moved to the copy desk. But Gus is proud of him. And Gus, well, he bleeds ink. Journalism is what he does. Anyone who thought he'd just walk - forget it. This is more real.
+ Alma's in the deepest of bureaus. Punished for trying to mess up the glory.
+ Valchek! Man, that was one big laugh. “Fits like a glove!”
+ Dukie shooting up. The evolution into the new Bubs is complete.
+ Pearlman as a judge. Daniels as a lawyer. And happy together.
+ Chris getting with Wee Bey - a lot of muscle coming together. Two lifers standing strong.
+ Michael as the new Omar. Savvy fans saw this and the Dukie fate coming a while ago.
+ Bubs at the dinner table. – Finally.
+ Kennard busted. Inevitable.
Corruption and politics, lies concealed, same as it ever was...Yep, this was the grayest of all grays, this series. It nailed human behavior and the actions of institutions and the people within them pretty damned well.
Tidbits from the episode (see, I knew I couldn't be as short as I promised....)
+ Carcetti apoplectic in the opening scene as the lie, in full bloom, was explained to him. A fine job of acting there.
+ “Everybody’s getting what they need behind some make believe.” – Norman.
+ “I wish I was still at the newspaper so I could write on this mess. It’s too fucking good.” – Norman.
+ “Oh, I wouldn’t worry about Bill Rawls. I believe he’s about to have one of those ‘road to Damascus’ moments.” – Norman, absolutely owning the front of the show…
+ The Prezbo cameo. A bearded man. But also a wiser man. Jaded? At the very least, he knew that was the last time he'd ever help Duquan.
+ “Short of any new leads, what can I do? I can’t make shit up, can I?” – McNutty. Oh, that was rich.
+ The look on Jimmy’s face when Freamon says “they know everything.”
+ “Why aren’t we fired? Why aren’t we in fucking bracelets?” – McNutty. I loved this moment of suspended animation, when we all realized that the lie meant everybody was going to hit the ground a little softer than expected. Bounce, even. It was situational ethics across the board.
+ I like how the direction went back to the black and white surveillance camera shots of yore.
+ Governor restores homeless cuts and the Sun takes credit for it based on its coverage when it was really Carcetti’s politics in play.
+ “I expect to be back in the pawn shop unit and you my brother are gonna ride the boat.” Or not, Freamon. And maybe the "not" was better than expected, too.
+ Bubs moral complexity is great. “Man’s making me seem special for doing what the fuck I need to be doing.” He doesn’t want the “good stuff” to get out. Doesn’t think he’s worth it. This is Bub’s cross. Who knew he was Irish?
+ How long before Scott might have killed one of the homeless himself for a story?
+ Bunk: “How are you not in jail?” McNutty: “I don’t know. The lie is so big, people can’t live with it, I guess.”
+ Scott: “You’re not serious?” McNulty: “No. I’m a fucking joke. And so are you.”
+ The shot of the door closing after Scott walks out of Homicide – that’s a call back to the very first episode when the director was trying to help explain who the hell everyone was - a series of closing doors suggested which department they were in - as this rapidly unfolding series pandered to no one from minute one.
+ Levy explains the details to Marlo: “You understand?” Marlo: “Give up the crown.”
+ Herc: “Just doing what I do.” Yeah, Herc, screwing it all up royally.
+ “The tree that doesn’t bend breaks, Cedric.” - Marla Daniels. “Bend too far and you’re already broken.” - Cedric Daniels.
+ Slim Charles killed Cheese. “That was for Joe.”
+ “There you go, giving a fuck when it ain’t your turn to give a fuck.” – Bunk to Kima, both of them back out doing police work, by the book.
+ Sydnor going to Judge Phelan, ala Jimmy in the first season. “Just keep my name out of it.” Yeah, that will happen.
+ Marlo turns into Stringer Bell? Ha. And Clay Davis there to see it. No doubt he’ll get his hands in one of those deep pockets. But Marlo walks out. It’s not him. He wants to be back running corners, maybe back to the beginning, the thrill of it all. Bloodthirsty, for sure. Rebuild the crown maybe?
+ And Michael becomes Omar. Shotgun, too. On purpose – no doubt.
+ Lots of loving shots of Baltimore on the montage. A final nod. A city that gave its all to great television.
+ Nerese and the Daniels file. You knew it would pop back. And Daniels would have stayed put if not for his ex's career ambition. A fine man, even in the end.
+ Natural po-lice. - Landsman at McNulty's fake “wake.” McNulty did the right thing, too. He walked away. It gave everyone the chance to remember the good. Landsman's send off: “He was the black sheep. The permanent pariah. He asked no quarter of the bosses and none was given. He learned no lessons. He acknowledge no mistakes. He was as stubborn a Mick has ever stumbled out of the North East parishes to take a patrolman’s shield. He brooked no authority. He did what he wanted to do and he said what he wanted to say. In the end, he gave you the clearances. He’s natural po-lice.”
+ That, of course, will have a lot of people talking. McNulty's fate. His decision. How he was sent out and remembered and, apparently, forgiven. Only right, then, that he forgave Kima (so did Lester).
+ The shot of McNulty laughing on the table – great.
+ Lester's time in: 32 years. 4 months.
+ McNulty? “He gave us 13 years on the line. Not enough for a pension….”
+ Landsman: “Brother, when you was good, you were the best we had.”
+ And with that, it's time to put on "The Body of An American" by the Pogues and sing it like you mean it.
+ Here's to "The Wire." When it was great it was the best we ever had.