For all its greatness, The Wire has never been an uplifting show. Policemen and politicians, educators and ex-cons all try to do good work, but drugs and corruption run too deep in the city of Baltimore. In the fourth season, a character said, “No one wins. One side just loses more slowly,” and though he was talking about football, the same could be said for the war on drugs.

Your Take

LOSTHEROES2324 said: i love THE WIRE. groundbreaking & true. sad that this is the final season.

BuddyDebbie said: Good show! Being new to the Wire, I found it a tad confusing because I was trying to figure out who is who…

Tonight HBO premiered the fifth and final season of The Wire, and things are bleaker than ever. In the fourth season characters tried to change things, as Mayor Thomas Carcetti (Aiden Gillen) took over, promising a sweeping reform for the police department. Unfortunately, a huge deficit in the school system has left his promises of pay raises for cops a fantasy.

As season 5 begins, we are reintroduced to the large tapestry of characters. Carver (Seth Gilliam) is now second in command of the Western, but the cops working for him are disgruntled. City hall isn’t paying their overtime. Things are even worse in the Major Crimes Unit, as the investigation of drug kingpin Marlo Stanfield is being shut down due to budgetary restraints. McNulty (Dominic West) and Greggs are shipped over to homicide while Freamon is assigned to the indictment of State Senator Clay Davis. As Col. Daniels (Lance Reddick) put it, one corrupt politician is more important than 22 dead bodies.

The greatness of The Wire has always laid in its complexity. This first episode showed the whole landscape of the police department, but also clued us in to the drug world. Marlo is getting smarter, possibly plotting against Proposition Joe, leader of the co-op which brings together all of Baltimore’s top drug dealers. Job security isn’t just an issue for the good guys, but the bad guys as well.

The final season is all adding another level to the series: the media. The Baltimore Sun becomes a major player, and we see that cutbacks are happening all around. When the paper misses out on a story, the City Desk editor explains it’s because they don’t have a transportation reporter. The boss instructs him to do “more with less,” also the title of the episode. That’s an apt phrase for this season: a completely illogical paradox that requires people to do the good work without the necessary tools to accomplish it. The mayor wants crime stats to drops without paying cops overtime.

Like last season, The Wire sets a clear mission statement in its first episode, making a subtle but unmistakable comparison between two different stories. Early in the first episode, a bunch of newspaper editors are standing outside, questioning the cutbacks, and one man wonders what it would be like to work for a real newspaper. By the end of the episode, once Daniels announces the end of the Major Crimes Unit, McNulty wonders what it would be like to work for a real police department.

The answer to both these questions will likely be examined throughout the season, but I suspect I already know the unsettling answer. The truth is that the “real” newspaper or police department is a myth. In an ideal world, a newspaper would have the resources to cover all the stories that needed to be told, and the police would have enough to arrest all the bad guys. But that is never the case, and so a cop is only left with what he thinks a “real” department should look like. But there is no such thing. The cops will never be able to put all the bad guys behind bars. A reporter will never be able to tell the whole story. A mayor will never be able to please all the people. And Baltimore will continue. Same as it ever was.

Depressing? Yes, but creator David Simon is daring to tell the story, show the world the truth. The Wire isn’t just great television, it’s socially relevant and important. If you’re wondering what it’s like to watch a real television show, The Wire is the only game around.

-John Kubicek, BuddyTV Senior Writer
(Image courtesy of HBO)

John Kubicek

Senior Writer, BuddyTV

John watches nearly every show on TV, but he specializes in sci-fi/fantasy like The Vampire DiariesSupernatural and True Blood. However, he can also be found writing about everything from Survivor and Glee to One Tree Hill and Smallville.