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.