POSTED BY STUART LEVINE
And so it ends, and the finality of it saddens me deeply.
Not only did the fifth season of "The Wire" conclude Sunday night, but now the series is over too. Mort. Done. Finito. After 60 brilliantly written and acted episodes, I find myself with an incredibly empty feeling, not knowing if anything so good will come our way on television ever again.
I've now watched the 95-minute episode "30" (meaning end of story in journalistic circles) twice, trying to absorb everything creator David Simon and episode co-writer Ed Burns and director Clark Johnson wanted to say about Simon's Baltimore -- its cops, politicians, drug pushers, lawyers and everyone else who makes the city an ever-changing and, quite depressing, living organism.
The finale lived up to all expectations, certainly one of the best closing episodes of any show ever. Loose ends were wrapped -- at least most of them anyway -- and McNulty and Lester took the fall for their ill-fated serial killer chicanery. Not with jail time, but an end to their lives as cops. And they should consider themselves lucky that's all they got.
So many great scenes here and countless memorable lines that keep running around in my head. Lets get to them, while wondering if the city is going to have enough money to pay for the TV that Carcetti broke in his office:
(Note: Photos attached here don't necessarily have anything to do with the final episode, or even this season, but are just some pieces of art that pay tribute to the actors on "The Wire.")
-- Norman might've been the most underrated character on the show. Kudos to Reg Cathey for always offering up the right quip at the perfect moment. As Carcetti is trying to wrap his head around the phantom serial killer and how it's going to make him look if the truth gets out, Norman sees the irony in what the police have wrought and laughs while his boss if freaking out.
"It does have a certain charm to it. They manufactured an issue to get paid. We manufactured an issue to get you elected governor. Everybody's getting what they need by make believe. … I wish I was still at the newspaper to write on this mess. It's too fucking good."
-- Nice to see Jim True-Frost make a small but powerful appearance again as Mr. Pryzbylewski, who seemed completely overwhelmed by his raucous charges in season four but had a nice handle on the situation Sunday when a kid steps on another kid's sandwich.
What was tragic, however, was seeing Dukie lie to him. It pained Dukie to bullshit Mr. Prezbo, who was fully aware he was getting conned as well. Yet, Mr. Prezbo still gave Dukie $200 out of sheer respect for him, and so wanting him to find his way in life. Dukie's tall tale about getting a GED didn't give Mr. Prezbo much of a choice -- he couldn't and wouldn't call his former student a liar -- but it was obvious, especially when Dukie walks back with the cash to the junkman, that getting a degree isn't on the agenda.
-- Simon took a nice shot at the Bush Administration when Bunk tells McNulty, after Landsman yells at McNulty for needing less resources, "Just like a war, ain't it. Easy to get in, like hell to get out."
-- Here's one element of the Templeton/Sun storyline that bothered me. Gus has Templeton dead to rights, with all kinds of evidence that Templeton is making stuff up left and right. He's got the word of the Iraqi War veteran, research from Robert about more fabricated quotes and, the coup de grace, the blank notebook that Alma gave to Whiting.
Yet, in the montage, Templeton is receiving his Pulitzer (talk about wanting to throw up) and Klebenow and Whiting are there, with shit-eating grins ear to ear. OK, Simon has made these guys pigheaded and dumb, but they're not stupid. With all that evidence, how could they not have, at the very least, investigated the allegations put forth by Gus that Templeton was a rogue journalist? In the age of Jayson Blair, it seems inconceivable they would've taken Templeton's side every time and not given any credence to a veteran editor of their own news desk.
Marlo: "You round up as much muscle and get that boy." Chris: "He did Snoop cuz he knew he was armed." Marlo: "He knew he was armed cuz he knew he talked about the damn reup."
-- Last week Marlo told Levy that Michael wasn't a snitch but Levy must've put it in his head that Michael -- or at least someone -- fessed up to the cops about the reup.
-- Nice to see there were no bad feelings between Kima, McNulty and Lester after Kima tells them she's the one who told Daniels about their little game. McNulty looked at her as if to say, "Yeah, you did what you had to do. I respect that."
-- After Marlo decides to sell his drug connect for $10 million, it was fascinating to see Cheese try to take the crown by force, natch. His speech about having no love loss for looking back and revisiting history might've been the most chilling dialogue in the episode.
"There ain't no back in the day, no nostalgia to this shit. There's just the street, the game and what happened here today." Wow, that's griping stuff.
And then Slim puts a bullet to the back of Cheese's head -- as a payback for guys back in the day ("That was for Joe") -- while an associate wonders how they're now going to come up with the money to keep them in the game. Lots of sentimentality from that group.
-- Everybody else catch Simon's cameo, as the camera pans across the Sun newsroom?
-- Kima and Bunk have fun at the murder scene near the end, when she tells him to watch out for shell casings. Man, I'm already missing the Bunk.
-- Ah, Bubbles. The guy's been beaten down so hard, for so long, that he can't even see the ray of light he shines to those around him -- and now to the readers of the Sun. And to see him having dinner with his sister during the closing montage, finally sprung from that dank basement he's been holed up in. Man, talk about coming full circle.
-- Loved that Stan Valchek became police commissioner after Daniels, way too admirable and classy to keep juking the crime stats for Carcetti, stepped down. Good 'ol Stan has the moral fiber of a flea, and he'll be more than happy to report any numbers demanded by mayor to be Nerese Campbell.
-- The most joyful scene amid a wave of heartbreaking ones was McNulty's wake. He wasn't six feet under, of course, just the death of him being a cop, wearing a shield. Landsman's speech was pitch perfect and there weren't many dry eyes in Kavanaugh's when he said that Jimmy was "natural po-lice. … Brother, when you were good, you were the best." Amen to that.
-- A bit surprised Simon, a stickler for proper journalism, would let Fletcher show Bubbles the story before going to print. That's a big no-no in the newspaper biz but, understandably, it was a device to let Bubbles think about if he wanted to share his roller coaster life story with others.
-- And, finally, although season five was spectacular -- Did we expect anything less? -- here's for a trip down memory lane to the great and everlasting characters of seasons past: Avon, Wallace, Ziggy, Bodie, Sobotka, Bunny, Cutty, Stringer, D'Angelo, Nick and, who could forget Brother Mouzone. Each made their presence known in each and every scene.
-- What I'll take from "The Wire" -- at least right now, I could change my mind when I start watching season one again at some point in the future -- are the four boys that got caught up in the vicious cycle that anyone rarely, if ever, escapes. So to Randy, Michael, Dukie and Namond, I'm sorry you got caught up in the game, but, as Namond has proven, you can get out and make a difference. There is hope. There just has to be.
It's just too damn bleak to think otherwise.