I'm one of those people who has loved "The Wire" and could never understand why it wasn't placed on the same level as The Sopranos when -- in my opinion -- it was clearly their equal. Last Sunday night was the final episode of the show and I was stuck out in the Carolina Lowcountry with no access to HBO.
Now that I'm finally back home, Comcast and HBO On Demand allowed me the pleasure of seeing the finale without it being spoiled by others around me who had already viewed it. I was pleased with the finale and a random search on the internet proved to me that most other fans were too.
Why did I love the show so much? Well, it showed real characters from the black community in an unvarnished kind of way and without some ridiculous sentimentality. It didn't show the black community, it showed a slice of it in a realistic way. I appreciated that, artistically.
I also have a couple of tenuous links to Baltimore that first drew me to the show. Most relevant was a consulting job I used to have. The firm I worked for specialized in doing disparity studies. These were compare and contrast analyses of a defined business market (city, region, state, etc.) from the perspective of available minority businesses and some city or state governmental unit.
One important contract we won was for the City of Baltimore. The minority business office in that city, our sponsoring agent, would have fit perfectly in The Wire. The city council, and I mean the real deal, would have fit perfectly on The Wire. I had a city official in essence tell me, to hell with the United States Supreme Court and their rulings on affirmative action, set-asides, etc.
This was 1999: I knew then, I was in the wrong "bidness" and needed to make a change. Baltimore's housing department was under FBI review, there were political shenanigans going on all over the place, and the entire minority set-aside scene was a game that rewarded gamesmanship rather than any modicum of competence.
Naturally, with this background, The Wire conceptually worked for me. Beyond that, however, the writers and actors collectively brought to life characters that you genuinely cared about. Positively and negatively. I read a good wrap-up by Jonathan Toomey at The TV Squad; you would have to read the entire piece (and the comments) to really capture the flavor of the show and the finale. However, these passing thoughts from Toomey give you a sense of just how many characters [by the way, for a snapshot of the incredible number of characters via their headshots, check this out] were successfully worked into the show and how much people cared about them. The list could be much longer:
Dukie. Sad. I still can't figure out why Prez gave him any money though. By the way he handled his new students, Prez isn't a fool now. I suppose he wanted to believe Dukie had a chance, but all it took was one look. Donnelly saw it and wouldn't let him into the school. I think what surprised me the most was that Dukie didn't even try to hide it and run with his lie of getting a GED. Prez gave him the money and Dukie just walked off with the arabber to go and shoot up. The new Bubbles. Again, sad. On the flip side, the original Bubbles finally got redemption via Fletcher's front page story. It seemed that something public like that is what it took for Reginald's sister to see that his rehabilitation was real. She let him upstairs. He's finally out of the basement -- in more ways that one. For those that are curious, the title of the episode "-30-" is journalistic slang for "the end." It refers to the practice of ending telegraph transmissions with XXX, aka "30." This episode's quote refers to what H.L. Mencken thought the job of being a newspaper reporter was: the life of a king. We never really found out precisely what was in Cedric's file, other than his involvement with the Eastern vice squad and the missing money. What was his link? He was willing to resign over it to help Marla and Rhonda keep their jobs so it must have been huge. I say that because despite his anger for McNulty and Lester and what they did, he said he still cared about them. He had dirt too and wasn't that much better of a person if you look at it that way. Why air out your own dirty laundry when you can just make a clean break? Great to see Lester show up with Chardene at the "wake." I was hoping he'd hop on the felt with Jimmy though. Jimmy had a great line when Landsman was pressing him about the manpower and the lack of work: "I can't make shit up, can I?" And Jay had a great one at Jimmy's wake when he said if his body was ever on a corner, he'd want Jimmy to work it. A true compliment. When Rawls and Daniels both confronted Jimmy in the interrogation room, I was really expecting Rawls to whip up both his middle fingers and say "these are for you McNulty," just like in the pilot episode. Do you think Levy realized that it was Herc that leaked Marlo's number? I'm thinking yes. By doing that, it really did earn Levy some serious street credit. He got Marlo off because of what Herc started and Levy must have put two and two together since his Rolodex was the only place Marlo's number was written down. Anyone else catch David Simon's quick cameo in The Sun newsroom? I'm glad Kima came clean with Lester and McNulty. I was surprised Lester forgave her so easily though. If she had kept quiet, he and Jimmy would still have jobs and they could be working to fight Levy and keep Marlo in jail. That's worth being a little bitter about I'd say. Then again, Lester was drunk. And he did accomplish a lot. No sense in holding a grudge.
What a great show.
I think my only real complaint (if that's what it is) was the writer's apparent need to have redeeming gay characters. Omar, one of the heroes of the show and a fabulous character, was a weird Robin Hood from the streets. Snoop was another fabulous character -- has any woman ever played a role like that on television? And she played herself, kinda sorta? Damn! And dear ole Kima the cop; another lesbian character graced with something of a good, positive role. Even their lovers were portrayed sympathetically. That was just a bit too much for the kid.
But that's a small quibble, it seems to me, when discussing a Hollywood production. To David Simon and crew, job well done. For the record, I think my favorite characters were Stringer Bell, Bubbles, Brother Mouzone, Proposition Joe, Omar, Butchie, Snoop, Bunk, Lester Freamon -- hell, I loved them all. Not the least, Clay "Shee-eet" Davis. I'll never forget the Monday after the second-to-last episode aired. There I was, settling down in my chair, clicking on my On Demand menu, scrolling to HBO, and making my way to The Wire -- all excited about watching the final episode one week in advance. As I had practically the entire last season of shows.
I click on the activation and just what the hell do you think greeted me?
That damn Clay Davis, delivering his famous "shee-eet" to the fool who was silly enought to think he was actually going to be allowed to watch the finale early. I laughed my ass off. At myself, and at the creators of the show.
I'm gonna really miss y'all. Executive producer, creator and writer David Simon prominently dispalyed this quote from H.L. Mencken in the lobby of the Baltimore Sun (a paper for which he previously worked):
"...As I look back over a misspent life, I find myself more and more convinced I had more fun doing news reporting than in any other enterprise. It is really the life of kings."
Nice sentiment, but it belongs to the 20th century. It certainly appears to be archaic for any conceivable application in the 21st century.