The best show on TV signed off tonight as HBO’s The Wire aired its series finale. The panoramic look at the city of Baltimore and the war on drugs went out with an impressive episode that wrapped up many loose ends, provided closure to the characters, and still showed us that the real story isn’t even close to being done.
The epitaph was the end of a quote by H.L. Mencken, “…the life of kings.” The full quote appeared on the wall of The Baltimore Sun, and it serves as a mission statement for The Wire and its creator, David Simon: “I had more fun doing news reporting than in any other enterprise. It is really the life of kings.”
That’s what the entire show was about, news reporting. David Simon and his talented staff of writer, directors and actors just told a story, unfettered by publishers trying to win awards or politicians trying to juke the stats. The Wire told the story of Baltimore, the story of drugs, the stories of the police and the dealers, the politicians and educators, the reformed and the reporters. On all counts, it succeeded not just as a television series, but as a 60-episode news report about the state of our society.
The ending gave as much closure as it could. In the words of the song played during another famous HBO series finale, “Some will win, some will lose.” After a season of manufacturing a serial killer to get funds for a real investigation the Mayor was unwilling to pay for, Detective Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West) was finally revealed, but thankfully, the lie was so expansive and devastating to all parties, they had no choice but to go with it.
The drug dealers were arrested, the vacant murders were closed, and Marlo Stanfield was temporarily taken off the street. Of course, Jimmy and his partner in crime, Lester Freamon (Clarke Peters) were forced out, but their futures seem happy. Police work for them was never about the game, it was about doing what was right and stopping the bad guys. To the extent that they could, they accomplished their mission.
Will their actions have any real effects on society? Probably not. The drug trade continues, just under new management, and as Lester pointed out, they didn’t follow the money. The Greek is still supplying drugs to Baltimore, and there’s no sign that he’s even on the radar. Cedric Daniels (Lance Reddick) was finally promoted to commissioner, but his unwillingness to play the game forced him out earl, leaving spineless Stan Valchek in charge. And the icing on the disturbing cake, lying reporter Scott Templeton won his Pulitzer while the honorable newspaperman Gus (Clark Johnson, who also directed the episode) toiled away as a desk editor.
The good guys continue to serve, however. We saw Daniels adopting a new career as a lawyer, while his wife Ronnie (Deirdre Lovejoy) became a judge. Sydnor has learned the best from Freamon and McNulty, going behind the commissioner’s back to a judge regarding drugs, the exact same thing McNulty did in the series pilot.
Now that it’s over, there’s a hole left on television. When people look back on the totality of The Wire as a piece of art, they will recognize it as a brilliant depiction on society, a show that captured, as Gus was fond of putting it, “the Dickensian aspect” of life.
All this is due to the determination of David Simon, a former news reporter who created a TV series that did exactly what any good news article would do. He told the story, free of bias or filters. He refused to show just one side of the story, refused to cater to the popular mantra of the day that says news must be entertaining. The Wire is a work immense in scale and scope, a series that told the stories of all those involved and left viewers to absorb the information and think about it. Thanks to him, perhaps it was the viewers of this fine program that got to live the life of kings.
-John Kubicek, BuddyTV Senior Writer
(Image courtesy of HBO)