Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Thoughts on The Wire Series Finale

SHEEEEITTTTTT...It's over. What a bummer, but what a season/series finale. A little ways into the finale, as things seemed to resolving themselves a tad too quickly, we found ourselves saying everybody wins (it didn't even appear that Herc was going to botch everything up like he usually does). After digesting the show as a whole I came up with three discernable losers:

1.) Cheese Wagstaff (Method Man)

If Slim Charles wasn't the Miles Davis of this whole operation we could have clearly seen this coming. Slim has always been an elite soldier under top players (Avon Barksdale, Prop Joe), and little has ever affected him.

In Season Four when he breaks the news to Bodie that one of his top lieutenants (Little Kevin) was taken out by Marlo's crew - the news that would be Bodie's mental undoing - Slim stays as cool, calm and collected as can be. And the scene of him rolling up his window with a glazed look in his eyes is a perfect characterization of how detached the game can make you from reality.

So when Marlo conveniently annoints Cheese after his kin Prop Joe is disposed of, Slim's discontent shows us that he has been shaken for once.

Frankly, I think Cheese is really just the victim of when keeping it real goes wrong. I more or less agree with his whole loyalty is nothing diatribe before he gets it. In hindsight, Prop Joe should have been the one to ignore their family ties, and put him out to pasture a while ago. However, this was more about Slim Charles' ascent to realizing his potential in the game than Cheese's decline.

2.) Dukie

The scene from the penultimate ep with Dukie walking back into the alley to go live with the Arabers is one of the most tear-jerking of the entire series. I thought David Simon did a brilliant job of working parallel paths with the vagrant/addict story lines. You saw characters like Bubbles and Waylon proving that it is possible to dig out of drug abuse and homelessness if a small glimmer of hope exists. And Yet, at the same time, someone like Dukie can fall into the addiction trap at a point where there is no conceivable way they'll ever get out. He mortgages his one chance for future rescue for a $200 donation from Prezbo, who makes it clear that he never wants to see Dukie again after this. In my opinion, the Dukie tragedy is Simon's way of reaffirming the volatility of the drug trade through the hopelessness of the people who fall into addiction.

3.) McNulty

Stop saying he is going to be OK. They romanticize McNulty's demise in the final episode so beautifully, that I almost can believe his new lifestyle will suit him. An unlikely culprit, Rawls even delivers the line of episode if not the season (You're not killing them yourself, assure me of that?) as McNulty and Lester's scheme becomes unraveled. And the faux wake in the bar...let's just say this: I don't know if I'm inventing the concept of the video will right here, but as soon as I can get my hands on a clip of that scene, I'm going to get the ball rolling on one. I've already had a few hard commits from friends who said they'll definitely attend if they outlive me. It's been a morbid couple of days.

In the final episode, a few people make sacrifices for other characters (e.g. Daniels for Ronnie). Several others cook up schemes of compromise to save each others ass (Ronnie, Levy). McNulty falls on his sword, and accomplishes almost nothing.

Much of this opinion has to do with what I believe is next for Marlo Stanfield. His vision of his role in the game is made clear to us very quickly. He was meant to wear the crown, regardless of where that leads him. And Marlo's self awareness is enough to make me believe that a threat of further legal action is not going to keep him from continuing to be who he believes he was destined to be.

McNulty's inability to put away Marlo proves his investigation, and the subterfuge that ends his career, is a tragic failure. Probably better than anybody else, he knows that putting a few of Marlo's top guys in (Monk, Cheese) is going to affect the game very little. Ultimately, all we've done is take Baltimore's top detective out of play; all Baltimore has left is the Bunk.

I was almost buying the classic storyline concept of a character making a transition to create viable closure. When McNulty appears to show that he is OK with Kima ratting him out to Daniels and the department, I almost believe that he has converted. That he now feels that it is not the job that defines him, but the people in his life that he cares about (Kima, Bede, Lester). In reality, what made McNulty a good dectective is his obsession with the work, just like Marlo being a full blown sociopath made him a good drug dealer. One of the things The Wire harps on is how difficult it is to shake your flaws. Drinking and womanizing are not McNulty's real flaws, they are merely extensions of his inability to do anything but obsess over his job. And I think his thwarting from what he defines himself as is, in this particular case, unrecoverable. Welcome to exile, Jimmy.

Obviously, the montage of where do we go from here for each character had me thinking about what could conceivably happen next. Simon goes to great lengths to establish a new beginning (or at least a next step) for almost every major character in the show. Parts of this border on too romantic - Michael as the new Omar and the new Robin Hood of the West Side. Parts are full-on despicable - Templeton winning the Pulitzer. Conspicuously absent from the final rundown is Marlo. His final scene where he takes on two corner boys and is elated (if not, rejuvenated) by the site of his own blood from a wound on his arm is as open ended as conclusions come. This is Simon's Sopranos fade to black moment.

I've said my piece about Marlo inevitably getting back in the game, and I realize the logistics of this happening leave something to be desired. All his muscle is either locked up or dead. Plus, he's sold off the connect to Slim Charles and Fat Face Rick for $10 million. Not to mention, Michael is kind of on a shoot first ask questions later kick, and if Marlo were to reenter the drug racket he'd come to find out very quickly that he was on his short list.

Marlo has every reason in the World to just come along for the ride with Levy and his white collar brand business dealings; inevitably, he'll find a healthy amount of corruption to keep himself up. But keep in mind that being out of jail means that Marlo is thrust back into a despicable society that thrives because little is ever done to affect the flaws of its inhabitants. Do you really think that Marlo is the exception? Thus, for me, it's not where does he go from here? it's how does he get back to where he came from? I'ma think on it; I figure I've got five years until they bring this show back for the good of mankind (at least I keep telling myself that).

In conclusion, I urge everyone to buy the seasons on DVD and start rewatching the entire series immediately. If you're as simple minded as me, you'll without question have many moments where details that you initially perceived as minuscule reveal their true importance and a subtle awesomeness that you might have missed the first time around. For instance, the scene from Season Four after Michael turns down $200 for school clothes from Monk and Marlo goes up to him and asked if he's too good for his money. After everything we've seen transpire since then, the look that Michael gives Marlo is captivating.

Additionally, I've pumped The Wire to people more than any show I was ever into. A lot of times someone will say that they can't feasibly get into another show (I already follow 18 shows and am am trying to get caught up on Lost; my DVR is ruining my life). Easy solution: drop something; Dirt is not that good, Lipstick Jungle, not good at all, Rome - eww, gross. Two months from now, when you're contemplating a career in drug-dealer robbery or money laundering you can thank me.

A couple good Wire links:

Alan Sepinwall's Review of the Finale
Baltimore Sun tells us how to find the bars from the show (I could take tomorrow off from work)
NPR Interview w/Michael K. Williams (Omar)....apparently, he discovered Snoop and got her cast on show
The NYT Review
milk was a bad choice Finale Recap

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