Monday, March 10, 2008

The Wire Series Finale

Okay, I originally posted this last night when I was in the midst of watching the series finale of what I personally believe to have been the greatest television series I've ever watched. I removed the article quickly for two reasons:

1) I wanted the post on John Carrigan to be at the top of the page, because his story was much more important than any TV series could ever hope to be; and
2) I had made the statement that I thought the show got "everything" right, including it's portrayals of cops, crooks, prosecutors, and defense attorneys. About five minutes later, the show portrayed a defense attorney as extremely unethical, sleazy, and criminal. I didn't want my post to be misconstrued as me saying that I thought that particular behavior was the show getting "defense attorneys right".

So, let me start over this evening :-)

I don't want to give away any plot points or spoilers on the show, but I would like to say that I do think that The Wire got so many things right about the so-called "drug war" that it should be a must see for anyone who wants to truly understand the criminal justice system.

There were no black and white issues in The Wire. The viewer was just as likely to find compassion for the drug dealer as the police officer. The one character who truly got unmitigated pity and admiration was "Bubbles" who fought horrible drug addiction throughout the show's five seasons.

Mark Bennett and I have been debating on the overall message of The Wire on our e-mails today. I thought that the message was that the drug war could never be won, but that it was worth fighting. He argued that I was a nimwit.

He cited the Season Three premise were a "renegade" police captain moved all the addicts into an abandoned apartment projects where the police would just let them be. It was a social experiment that they called "New Hamsterdam" (based on a dealer's mispronunciation of Amsterdam). Mark's argument was that the story-line illustrated that if drugs were de facto legalized, life would be easier for everyone.

He makes a valid point.

I cited a gut-wrenching scene from this season of an infant crying over the body of his mother who had clearly overdosed on heroin. I thought the message was that the illegal drugs destroyed lives, taking its toll on the littlest of victims.

In the end, I think Mark and I may both be right. I think that was the point of the show.

The answer is that there is no answer.

Let me know your thoughts.

(NOTE: I didn't list any spoilers in my post, but I make no such promises on the comments. Read at your own risk.)

P.S. Omar rocks!


Mark Bennett said...

When we were looking for a house in the Heights three and a half years ago, I wanted to live on Omar Street because of the Wire character. I hated to see him go.

Anonymous said...

Omar Little was by far my favorite character on what I like to refer to as the best police show ever, The Wire. I thought that the series finale and especially the ending, showed us that although the drug trade and those areas and people most affected by it, has a high turnover rate, it also has a new generation ready and willing to keep supporting it and making money off of it. Having worked in the criminal justice system and previously at the DA's office, I felt like when I watched that show, I knew most of those police, that I had met every single one of those homicide detectives and beat officers. At times, I didn't think I was watching fiction at all.

P.S. The character Snoops, actually came from the streets of Baltimore. The guy who played Omar met her on the streets of Baltimore while they were filming and that's how she got the part.

Long Live Omar.

Murray Newman said...

Anon 4:46 PM,
At last! Somebody is joining Mark and my discussion!
Omar was my favorite character too. I don't think Hollywood has ever created a character as original as him. The acting was so good in the show that it was sometimes difficult to remember that these were actors playing characters. Snoop, Chris and Michael were probably my three next favorite characters.
I agree with your take on the show. It just keeps going on and on.
Man, I'm going to miss that show, but I think that they ended it with such integrity. I love it that Michael assumed the role of the "new Omar". I didn't see that coming, and I loved it.

Mark Bennett said...

Snoop's (actress Felicia Pearson's) memoir.

Anonymous said...

And is it bad that I actually started to like Snoops and Chris? They were so evil. So was Marlo. I was disappointed to see Michael turn to a life that he was smart enough to avoid, but ultimately went against his common sense.

I loved the finale. I too, thought the show remained true to its integrity.

I would have liked to see them go full circle with a reference or showing of Barksdale. It would have been sweet to see Avon Barksdale walk out of prison.

Mark Bennett said...

I thought that was Avon in the prison yard with Chris.

Anonymous said...

That was Wee-Bay in the prison yard with Chris. Avon and Marlo's main lieutenants -- Wee-Bay (who is also Namond's father) for Avon and Chris for Marlo -- and seemed to be nature allies and getting along well.

The cyclical nature of the show was great. Dukie is the new Bubbles, Michael is the new Omar, Sydnor is the new McNulty. Same as it ever was.

Notice that Omar and Marlo, even in their names, were two-sides of the same coin? (and it was unclear which way Michael would go until the end?). Marlo is Omar L. (Little is is last name) by just moving the "O" to the front.

One little bit that they were not able to bring out this season, but is clear from the bios of the characters on HBO's website and from interviews with David Simon, is that Cheese was Randy's father.

For the greatest reviews, insight, et al. on the greatest show ever on TV, check out Alan Sepinwall's weblog and articles (he's the TV critic for the Newark StarLedger). Here are the reviews for the finale and an interview with David Simon. They are both long, but very, very good:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the references. I love that show and reading insight into it just makes it that much harder to say goodbye. Sniffle. Sniffle. All I'm left with now is The Shield. Go Vic.

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