Take a Drink: whenever somebody bitches about money
Take a Drink: whenever a story hits the papers
Take a Drink: for every witty rejoinder from Norman (Carcetti’s campaign manager)
Take a Drink: whenever McNulty is a dog (good to see you back, Jimmy!)
Take a Drink: whenever a politician is full of sheeeit
Take a Drink: whenever a character does (take two if it’s a reporter)
Take a Drink: every time McNulty crawls further down the rabbit hole
Take a Drink: every time the serial killer “strikes”
Take a Drink: every time Templeton just make some shit up
Do a Shot: whenever management cockblocks or otherwise interferes with a story
Do a Shot: this should be for every season, but when the opening quote is spoken in the episode
By: Henry J. Fromage (A Toast) –
Well, here we are- the final season of the finest television series ever committed to celluloid (or hard drive… hmm, doesn’t have the same ring to it). We’ve played out the… wire, it’s the end of the… wire, we’ve reached the finish… wire?
Fuck you, pun police, you’ll never take me alive!
Season 5 begins in a Baltimore whose institutions are all feeling the squeeze. Mayor Carcetti’s government was blindsided by a school budget shortfall that’s strangled city resources, and the police department is feeling the cutbacks particularly hard. On the street, it’s Marlo who’s putting the squeeze on everybody else, and soon something will have to give between him and Prop Joe’s drug kingpin co-op. Lastly, the Baltimore Sun is beginning to feel the death throes of print media. On all fronts, gambits are made and risks taken, and the storm clouds gather for a percussive finale.
David Simon’s journey towards The Wire began as a Baltimore newspaper reporter, and many of the events of the show are drawn from his real life experiences with a broad cross-section of its citizens (that fourth floor balcony Omar jumps off of- apparently it was the sixth floor in real life). As such, it’s somewhat surprising that it took until the last season of his show to dig into the media, and particular the newspaper business. It’s the final institution he tackles, and it’s one he clearly is knowledgeable and emotional about. Ah, I get it… Fifth Season = Fifth Estate.
Once again, he successfully introduces a whole new cast of characters, springing fully formed and three dimensional from the page. From Clark Johnson’s sarcastic, principled line editor Gus Haynes to Sam Freed’s very Bill Lumbergh-esque Executive Editor, it’s another stellar cast, but Thomas McCarthy’s (yes, that Thomas McCarthy) grasping, story-manufacturing Scott Templeton might be The Wire’s ultimate villain, a craven product and ward of bureaucracy that feels like everything that’s wrong with institutional corruption rolled into one character.
Sheeit, that’s my job.
As always, The Wire is playing both the short and long games, as four seasons of character decisions and interactions come to a head. This is no Lost– even the smallest detail is accounted for, and practically every surviving character makes at least an appearance, from Season 2’s Nick Sobotka to an orphanage-hardened Randy from Season 4, both broken and angry. Everybody seems to be circling back to the beginning, trapped by their environment and, more importantly, their natures.
Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West), almost invisible in Season 4 as the seemingly reformed family man, returns to the fore this season as do his old habits. In a show know for depicting the harsh realities of bureaucracies then finding inventive solutions to undermine them, he pulls the biggest con- inventing a “homeless serial killer” in order to shake down city government for enough resources to put Marlo’s organization behind bars for good. With his obsession with justice returns his alcoholism, philandering, and lying. When he goes to the FBI for a profile of his imaginary serial killer, he receives a startlingly accurate profile of himself- which is both hilarious and telling. Time is a flat circle, and so is McNulty, and so is Baltimore.
Yeah, they’d get along.
In the end, that is the lesson of Season 5, and of the show itself. People don’t change, and neither do institutions. Mayor Carcetti’s JFK speech patterns and lofty ideals land him in the same place as his predecessor. Omar’s escape from The Game is only temporary. Season 4’s eighth graders become Season 5’s junkies, corner boys, and enforcers and will become tomorrow’s Omars, Avons, and Marlos. Inertia is stronger than any single person, the machine prevails.
And yet… there’s Bubbles, and with his story, Hope. And that makes it all bearable.
Everything must end, but on the corners, in the backrooms of government, the schools, the news offices, in the streets… nothing ever truly does. Bravo, Mr. Simon, bravo.