The Wire: Season 5
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Wire, The: The Complete Fifth Season (DVD)
In the projects. On the docks. In City Hall. In the schools. And now, in the media. The places and faces have changed, but the game remains the same. Times are tough for the detail. Mayor Carcetti has slashed the departments budget to the bone. Police are operating without overtime some without cars and radios. Angered, McNulty is off the rails again and headed down a dangerous path of deception and lies that will ally him with an unscrupulous reporter. The drug trade still rules the corners, all you have to do is read between the lines.]]>
A barroom toast to Det. Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West), a one-man good cop/bad cop, offered in The Wire's final episode could very well serve as this series' epitaph: "When you were good, you were the best we had." Season five bears witness to this. The 10 riveting, wrenching episodes focus on yet another beleaguered Baltimore institution, The Baltimore Sun daily newspaper, whose staff, much like the police, is forced to do more with less. One editor (Clark Johnson) struggles to maintain the paper's journalistic standards in the face of declining ad revenues, employee buyouts and bureau closures. An ambitious reporter (Tom McCarthy) undermines him by taking a page out of the Stephen Glass/Jayson Blair playbook, manufacturing sensational quotes, and eventually, whole stories, while bean-counter management encourages its rising star and keeps its eye on the (Pulitzer) prize. Meanwhile, on the streets, the year-long investigation of rising drug lord Marlo Sansfield (Jamie Hector) and the 22 bodies found in "the vacants" has been discontinued and police morale is at an all-time low (the money promised to the department has been diverted to the schools). McNulty manufactures a serial killer case that will have far-reaching repercussions in the mayor's office, where Tommy Carcetti (Aidan Gillen) is mounting a run for governor a mere two years into his term. "I wonder what it would be like to work at a real police station," McNulty rages at one point. The Wire, as ever, is all about real. It's a gritty and unflinching look at life in one of roughest districts of a "broke-ass city." There is street justice for some characters, and street injustice for others. Some meet sad, sudden, or shocking ends that defy TV convention. Referring to Marlo, McNulty declares early on, "He does not get to win; we get to win." The hard-earned victories are mostly small, or come with a price. Not that The Wire does not offer glimmers of hope. Bubbles (Andre Royo) struggles to maintain his sobriety (Steve Earle portrays the leader of his 12-step program and also does the theme song honors this season), and the final episode features a cameo by Jim True-Frost as the once overwhelmed teacher, "Prez," who now seems to have the hang of the job. The ratings-strapped and criminally Emmy-snubbed The Wire has always been a critic's darling with a passionate fan base. To the show's credit, it did not make itself more accessible in its final season (consequently, its send-off did not receive near the fanfare of The Sopranos or Sex and the City). That should not dissuade newcomers to the show. It is heavy lifting, and if you're just joining The Wire, a visit to the show's official website for orientation is recommended. But buy it, watch it, and be patient. It's so worth it. From the masterful storytelling to the peerless ensemble, it just doesn't get any better than The Wire. But that's not exactly news. --Donald Liebenson
The Wire Odyssey: A retrospective of the first four seasons
Six audio commentaries by creator David Simon, cast, and crew
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Over the past five seasons we've had the Barksdale's and Stringer Bell, Omar and Butchie, Prop Joe and the quoram, the Greek, the Russians, the containers and the unions. We've had Tommy Carcetti, Clay Davis, and many others. Cedric Daniels has risen from a dime a dozen Lieutenant to the Deputy Chief of Operations. We've had fantastic writing from writers who seem truly proud of their work.
The Wire is a whirlwind of great television. The characters are still week written it's as though we are introduced to a living family.
The Wire is not to be taken lightly. This is absolutely great stuff. Here are characters and situations we can believe in. Here lies the best of the best.
I will give it a 98%. For Season 5, for the entire 5 season Series. It wiggles between a 92% and 100% episode to episode, but the overall average is stellar. Why? Because the show is consistently top shelf; consistently lacking in cliches, consistently dealing with moral ambiguity, heroic endeavoring, the counterpoint of local politics, local business, local police procedural, local education, local News reporting and writing, the poor, the rich,the lazy, the ambitious, the honest, the deceitful, the straightforward and the deceptive. The disciplined, the addicted, the gentle and the violent, the powerless and the powerful and the competitions between members of all these existing groups, and between rival groups, and between various aforementioned civic interests. Its about the law, the laws, the judges, organized crime, wiretapping, information gathering, and in fighting and backstabbing, and love,lust and murder, and money. Sounds like a far reaching show? Hell yeah, it is all over the place, but it rings true because it all seems to be about the same thing, everything is the same thing-temptation, greed, ego, honor, protection, teaming up, going rogue. Accountability, and betrayal.
Like a Shakespearean play, it ties together the many sides of the Human Condition in an ironic and artful expose on Human frailties, shortcomings and Heroic stands leading to the saving of people that are loved. I couldn't stop watching it, it moved me viscerally and intellectually and artistically,over and over, scene by scene. For me, it was a tremendous experience and an unforgettable 5 year show, all consumed in 30 days, wow. 98% is perhaps an unfairly low score, but I don't wish to seem blindly exuberant, and so I will leave it that. All performances were tremendous, there isn't a bad actor among the cast. The leading ensemble was superb. Bravo, Bravo, Bravo.