The finale.

The thing about “The Wire” is, you can never say you didn’t see it coming. Disaster lurks around every corner, and is usually standing smack in front of you when you get there. But because this is TV, the land of 12-minute DNA tests and prosecutors who never lose, you keep hoping for a miracle. TV is supposed to make us feel good. “The Wire” never does that. And yet, we don’t feel bad. We — I, anyway — feel something else.

The season’s centerpiece was four middle-school boys teetering on the precipice; they could go either way. Of course the odds were overwhelmingly against them, and that’s how it went. One is now a coldblooded killer. Another is living with the first boy, earning his keep dealing drugs. A third has been thrown back into the organization we laughingly call child protective services, and the fourth is kinda-sorta safe, but probably not. Which is pretty much the way these things go. You can do everything right, and yet, when you’re this kind of kid, it’s still not enough to save you.

It’s not just the kids who are unsaved. The police, the teachers, the politicians — all bang their heads against something bigger, and all get bloody foreheads, while the immovable object remains unmoved. The overarching lesson is that it’s best not to try, except that the best characters, and the redeeming moments, come from the people who do try, and fail to move the object, but somehow find a little bit of hope. Remember McNulty last season, his career in tatters, going back to uniformed foot patrol, swinging his baton merrily and looking genuinely happy for once. Colvin tried to solve the drug problem in his own way last season, failed, but came back this year and succeeded (we hope) on a far smaller scale, by saving Namond from the corner. And Bodie, who shot Wallace in season one, found a shred of decency and tried to do the right thing, only to pay for it. He redeemed himself, however, in finding the shred. A small miracle.

So what is it we feel, then, if not good? Here’s my guess: Connection. In a TV show, connection is to feeling good what real intimacy is to just having sex. (Remember Prez’ remarks on this topic to his class?) More satisfying, deeper, sometimes painful but always worth the effort.

There is no justice in the world, so this episode, this season, will of course be ignored by the people who give the awards that make more work like this possible. That’s no reason to stop trying. I can’t wait for next season.


Posted at 11:24 am in Television |

5 responses to “The finale.”

  1. Mary O said on December 11, 2006 at 12:49 pm

    This season seems to have flown by.

    I found illuminating the bar discussion between Carcetti’s guy Norman and Royce’s former chief of staff: They always let you down. It’s something you kind of know instinctively, but you get caught up in the emotion of the movement-for-change, and you sometimes tend to forget that the system is built on a lot of compromises. “Kids don’t vote.” Harsh, but so very true.

    And though this is not exactly an original thought, what also is so fascinating about this show is that it portrays the drug culture as bureaucratic and soul-crushing as any government or business job. Bodie’s lunch-hour complaint to McNulty that he has worked hard and been loyal since he was 13, and he’s got nothing to show for it, was nothing short of genius in showing that. It’s been done before on this show, but for a soldier like Bodie to cop to it was amazing. And then he went down in a corner standoff, killed by his own former guy after facing the fake-hit by Chris and Snoop.

    Wonder if McNulty will be going back to his old ways now that he’s back on the team and out of uniform. My bet is yes.

    And my bet is that Namond gets sucked back into it too. That was so depressing. But I’m going to tune in next season to see if they resolve that at all. I just want Bunny back, I guess. He seems to be the moral center to a lot of the story.

    There’s a great article in today’s Washington Post about the view of the show from kids who’ve lived this type of life.

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  2. Dorothy said on December 12, 2006 at 10:08 am

    I feel so badly that no one else has commented I thought I’d pop in this morning with a few words. I have not seen the show til the end yet. I have seen only about the first half hour. I thank you, MaryO, for recommending that Wash Post article. I printed it out and took it with me to Mike’s doctor appointment yesterday to read.

    There was also an interesting article about the late Vince Guaraldi in the same issue. I’ve always loved the music from A Charlie Brown Christmas, so it was good to get some background on the guy who composed it.

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  3. Dorothy said on December 12, 2006 at 2:45 pm

    Good article on Andre Royo, who plays Bubbles:

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  4. Kim said on December 12, 2006 at 11:34 pm

    Wow. What a great season. I love how it shows some of the folks deep in the trenches — Donnelly, Colvin, Carver, McNulty, you know the rest if you watched — as true believers. Even portly Jay has a smidge of it. They live/work among what the worst produces: the worst parents, the worst systems (school, law-n-order, gov’t.), the worst capitalists. Yet it hasn’t killed their hope for change.

    I think that’s the thing that keeps us going: hope. It’s certainly the thing that, with a little serendipity like Colvin coming to the rescue somehow when Carver cannot, will blast one kid out of circumstances like those four comer corner boys — the thing that no sociologist or reporter or mayor ever puts a finger on. That cute little raw sewage-mouth Kenard (God, thought I was going to die when I heard them say his name, “canard”!)? Already gone. No hope. Maybe. I hope not. Bug? How the hell could he survive this? Michael just swapped bad outcomes.

    But, yeah. How can you even hope for hope when a young adult has been so culturally sheltered in his own freaking city that he doesn’t know what/where the idyllic arboretum is? That’s where Colvin should have taken the kids instead of Ruth’s Chris.

    Redemption comes in slivers for these people, even the kids. And it’s usually never enough. I wish I could be more coherent.

    I guess redemption for the show means one more season. I’ll settle for that. It’s time people found out Lou Grant has left the building.

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