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 departmen... more »ts 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.DVD Features:
Lisa D. from SAINT JOSEPH, MI Reviewed on 10/22/2010...
Riveting story, superbly acted. With the Shield, the Wire is among the best television programming ever.
"The bigger the lie, the more they believe"
N. Durham | Philadelphia, PA | 04/06/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"That quote by Bunk (Wendell Pierce) in the opening episode of the final season of David Simon's brilliant The Wire sets the stage for the events that unfold in these final ten episodes of the beloved HBO series.
Picking up from the fourth season, Mayor Carcetti (Aidan Gillen) is pouring money into the Baltimore school system, which prompts the police force to work without paid overtime, and also finds the ever self-destructive Jimmy McNulty's (Dominic West) wiretap on murderous drug dealer Marlo Stanfield (Jamie Hector) put to a premature end. Things begin to change however, when McNulty, along with Freamon's (Clarke Peters) help, manipulate and orchestrate an imaginary, homeless preying, serial killer that garners national attention, all in an effort to put Marlo away once and for all.
Also, much like the previous season focused on the broken education system, the fifth season focuses on the impact of the media in the form of the Baltimore Sun; as editor Gus Haynes (longtime series director Clark Johnson) deals with the downsizing of his staff, and the rise of a reporter (Thomas McCarthy) who may be making up his stories. In the meantime (proving that The Wire is indeed the most multilayered television drama ever created), other subplots abound, including a revenge driven Omar (Michael K. Williams) returning with Marlo in his sights; young Michael (Tristan Wilds) and Dukie (Jermaine Crawford) learn just how dire their situation is; Bubbles (Andre Royo) finds light at the end of the tunnel; and Daniels (Lance Reddick) prepares to take on the role of Commissioner. Most notably however is the impact of the actions of McNulty and Freamon; an impact that ends up effecting everyone in striking distance and beyond, and sets the stage for the final episode of the series, which is one of the most brilliant pieces of television to ever materialize. Not everyone walks away clean (or walks away at all) and rides into the sunset, but it is a perfect way to end a perfect series, and with appearances from familiar faces aplenty along the way, things couldn't have been wrapped up better.
All in all, the final season of The Wire further proves the frequently mentioned point of just how unbelievably good this show was, and how much of a shame it is that it never achieved the kind of uber-popularity that it deserved compared to many of HBO's other shows. Either way, longtime fan or late newcomer, there is nearly nothing better than The Wire, even to its bittersweet end.
"...you gotta keep the devil way down in the hole...""
One of the best series on TV? More like one of the greatest
Adam | 04/28/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'll begin this review as a review of the series, then move on to Season 5 in particular:
I have long thought that some of the best stuff on TV can be found among HBO's Original Series. I'm a big fan of some of HBO's better known dramas including Rome and The Sopranos, as well as of some lighter fare such as The Ali G Show and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Strangely, I'd barely even heard of The Wire until about a year ago, when a friend of mine (who generally has very good taste) was raving about it. At his suggestion, I purchased Season One on DVD. I was hooked about half way into the series, and I eagerly devoured Seasons 1-4 on DVD just in time to catch Season 5 as it aired on HBO. I can't pay this series high enough praise - to me, it transcends the TV medium, and rather than compare it to other TV series, I'd rank it up there as one of the greatest stories ever told (or rather the greatest stories I've had the good fortune of reading, hearing, or viewing). Many reviews rave about The Wire as an excellent TV Series, though in my opinion this excellent work would more appropriately be compared to an epic novel than to anything on the small screen.
The Wire has rightfully been praised for, among other things, 1) it's realism and 2) it's excellent character development, but what really sets The Wire apart is its tackling of complex, timeless themes such as poverty, suffering, lawlessness, and the underlying forces (such as beuracracy, corruption, and greed) that lead to the ultimate failure of the system to correct these issues. The Wire takes a close, and very critical view of how our political, educational, media, and law enforcement institutions fail to eliminate the poverty and drug problems that plague Baltimore. As in most great epics, the lines between good and evil aren't clear as there are drug dealers we sympathize with and even respect, and police officers we despise (and vice versa). There are cold-hearted killers who live by strict, even admirable ethical codes (Omar) and those on the other side of the law with such a disregard for any such ethical code (Mayor Carcetti) it makes the viewer sick, especially given the parallels with too many real world figures.
As I touched on before, The Wire's realism is another attribute worth noting, as this series pulls off "realism" better than any fictional TV series I can recall. Granted, I'm an upper middle class nerd who's lived a coddled life, so I may not be the best qualified reviewer to comment on the realism of a show about drug dealers in the West Baltimore projects, but to me it achieves realism in a way that many if not most television (as well as big screen) dramas fail. It isn't over dramatized. It doesn't have that polished, studio feel of most TV but rather the gritty feeling of the streets of Baltimore. The cops look and generally act like cops (they don't look like models; they live in crummy apartments and work in filthy cubicles; some battle alcohol problems or deal with boring, tired relationships). The "bad guys", similarly, look and act like rational participants in "the game" would be expected to in real life. This point ties in with the excellent character development - and in fact a few of the roles are played not by career actors but by real world products of the Baltimore drug game (The Deacon and Snoop stand out as notable examples).
Ultimately, The Wire succeeds to such a degree as a Series because, as the creators put it in one of the bonus features that came with Season 4: The Wire isn't made by people with careers in the TV business. As a result, it doesn't feel like television, but rather, like great storytelling.
I won't say much about Season 5, as I don't think it's useful to spoil the plot. I will say that Season 5 is every bit as good as the Seasons that lead up to. McNulty's character makes some pretty bold choices early in the season, and it's unclear whether he's a desperate man on a downward spiral or the only man willing to do what needs to be done, potentially sacrificing himself in the process.
The "side plot" in Season 5 focuses on the newspaper (The Baltimore Sun), much as Season 2 focused on the stevedores and Season 4 explored the school system. Not surprisingly, the newspaper is as disfunctional as the schools or the political system - an under-staffed local rag that desperately tries to put together any "story" they can sell while missing the real story right in front of their eyes (that is, the story that we as viewers have been enjoying for the past 5 seasons).
A handful of new characters are introduced, and a battle of ethics takes place at the newspaper much like that we've seen unfold at the PD for four seasons now, with the Baltimore Sun's version of Jim McNulty (Gus) sticking to his old school ideals of telling the truth while glory seeking newcomer Templeton makes up his own truth, with few visible consequences. The hunt for Marlo continues and, the highlight of the story, the clash between Marlo and Omar Little (the best character in the series, in my opinion) really heats up. As far as action and suspense are concerned, Season 5 doesn't disappoint.
By ending the series with Season 5, the producers wrap up the story quite well. In too many cases, otherwise good TV Series go on too long, driven by greed or perhaps the egos of the producers instead of by the story, and fade into mediocrity (the Sopranoes) or into convoluted, meandering storylines (Lost). By having Season 5 wrap up the series, while the producers do leave us wanting for more, they ultimately leave us with the feeling of finishing up and closing a long, satisfying book. No, not all the threads are tied up, some are left loose, and the Baltimore we leave behind at the end of Season 5 isn't much different than we found it in Season 1. But we are left with the satiated feeling of finishing a complete story, well told and well concluded."
For Better Or Worse "It's All Connected"
R.A. McKenzie | New York | 04/04/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"***EDIT NOTE (August 7th, 2008)*** I have learned from IGN that by the end of this year - early 2009 at the latest - all 5 seasons of THE WIRE will be released in a box set. I will write a review once Amazon puts up an item for purchase.
If you want to go in fresh, then I suggest not reading any Season Five reviews. But if you've already started, then read on. I've done everything possible to avoid spoilers, yet critique from my own point of view.
***ORIGINAL REVIEW*** Typing reviews on TV seasons can be problematic. If you're a newcomer to the series who just wants to know whether THE WIRE held up through all 60 episodes, the short answer is a resounding "Yes!" This series took big chances with each season, and each episode was carefully constructed and executed. They don't call this show a "visual novel" for nothing. THE WIRE is easily the most realistic TV series ever produced, and mastered the art of slow build-up.
But for those who missed out on Season Five, I'll keep this as spoiler-free as possible. If you're looking for a debate, go to IMDB --- you'll find plenty to fight about.
Trying to discuss plot threads and outlines of this Season would take an entire website, so let's split this up into the key players:
THE POLICE ---Season Five lets the Major Case Squad return to its roots as they track Marlo Stanfield, but the twist is that the entire police force is underpaid with morale at an all-time low. Whatever happened to Baltimore's economy since last year has crippled the cops from doing good policework, let alone keep the stats at an acceptable level. The few individuals who're motivated to work the cases, however, choose a shockingly unethcial approach. This approach (which I don't want to give away) opens up the classic question: "Do the ends justify the means?" Some fans thought this scenario was unbelieveable, but I say there've been more elaborate methods of deceit in this country's history. The police department's ethics and morals are really put through the ringer, this time. You might have to take a grain of salt, but I think most viewers will grow to love the cops' creativity by the series' end. Also, we finally get some closure on the past between Daniels & Burell, but in true WIRE fashion, we don't learn everything. Overall, the threads involving Baltimore law enforcement worked very well, in my opinion.
THE POLITICS ---There is some sweet material here, even though it's basically two stories. The first is Clay Davis's fate. I couldn't have predicted any of the twists that followed, and still can't believe them after I think about it. I'm very impressed that a minor colorful character really evolved into one of the Season's most memorable figures --- just when you think you've witnessed the climax, Davis's tale comes back with another layer. Also in THE WIRE's political focus is Tommy Carcetti's ongoing struggle to balance his ambition and his civic duties. These scenes were well-acted, but I was disappointed that nothing really changed within the offices. I know that's the point of the story, but it only works for so many consecutive episodes. However, I still think that Season Five portrays a good examination of general politics, warts and all.
THE STREETS ---Both my favorite and least favorite aspect of Season Five. Marlo Stanfield and his crew lay low, and kinda toy with the cops a bit in the first episode. "The Game" of the drug trade no longer has room for the idealists from seasons' past; this generation's players are more eager to violence and swift resolutions. I'm glad THE WIRE never becomes a bloodbath, but I'm disappointed that such cold violence failed to grip me. My problems with this part of the story were mainly because I didn't care enough about the dealers. Marlo, Snoop, Partlow, Slim Charles, Cheese, and Prop Joe...the actors are all up to the task, but the story wasn't as brilliant as its predecesors. Even the arcs involving teens Michael and Duquan didn't move me a lot, which surprising because they're such tragic characters; it's scary to think the real world is even harder on America's lower-class youth. However, keep in my mind I'm disappointed by THE WIRE's standards --- these tough scenes surpass any other TV urban drama. Where Season Five is at its best is with our everyman Bubbles. Andre Royo's performance treads delicately between subtle and dramatic, and he's never been better in the role. Bubbles represents every person in the world: if you give your attention to even the smallest person, a compelling story is waiting to come out. Speaking of stories...
THE NEWSROOM ---Each season, THE WIRE reveals a new side of Baltimore. For Season Five, we meet the press from inside the Baltimore Sun. The editing room vibe is just as important as the characters who inhabit them. Everyone from the greedy management to disillusioned veterans, and from ambitious journalists to a stoic editor jump on a hot story --- the only catch is that some of Baltimore's finest may not be so fine after all. Clearly, David Simon (creator/writer) knows this field like the back of his hand. Even if you didn't know he used to be a Baltimore Sun reporter, you'd swear Simon lived within this arena. I think most of Season Five's detractors focused on this story arc. My only real gripe is that the Sun's management isn't given enough depth: we've seen these bosses a million times before (they'll do anything for the greatest profit, or coverage, regardless of quality). Like the Streets angle, the actors are pitch-perfect, but the story had a few more yards to go. Still, conflicted journalism is always an interesting subject, and THE WIRE did an excellent job with it.
CLOSING THOUGHTS ---THE WIRE is a show we'll never get again. The acting is flawless; what I mean is that no character dominates the show. From start to finish, everyone on THE WIRE shares an equal prescence. The writing is also superb, especially when watching on DVD. How did we ever survive the week-by-week schedule? THE WIRE is much stronger when you take it all in one sitting.
Sadly, Season Five is easily my least favorite for two reasons. AND PLEASE STOP READING IF YOU WANT NOTHING SPOILED!
* Each episode features a brief cameo from previous seasons' cast. Cameos and guest appearances are fine, but very few of them contributed anything unique. For example: Cutty gets a few brief scenes with Duquan. Cutty basically tells the confused teen that he doesn't know what the world holds for us. It's nice to see them interact, but the ideas are a bit recycled. THE WIRE has always been able to give us little details without distracting from the big picture. In Season Five, these cameos took me out of the moment.
* But here is my biggest problem with Season Five: First off, some fans didn't like how THE WIRE jumped from the streets to the docks, or how one year suddenly became about school children and not the police. However, no one can deny THE WIRE was always tried to expand its horizons. This is a fact. Where Season Five slips up is that David Simon tries to resolve just about everything. I always thought this show was stronger when some issues remained ambiguous, and when not every question was answered. There was a sense of irony in each season's resolution. But in THE WIRE's final act, Simon apparently couldn't let some questions go. The Series Finale is superb, no doubt. But Simon's attempt to connect everything together makes the world of Baltimore feel much smaller.
Maybe THE WIRE is about an interconnected world after all.
However, don't let my little nitpicks prevent any of you from watching this outstanding series' conclusion. If you're a fan, you're gonna pick up Season Five anyway. If you're a skeptic, have faith and spend the money. If you're a newcomer to the series, I envy you. Your first trip "Way Down In The Hole" is one you'll never forget."
Movie Buff | New York, New York | 04/03/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In all my years of watching TV, I can say without reservation that The Wire is the finest production ever brought to the small screen. The measure of a good movie, play or TV show is rooted in the story telling and therefore the writing. The Wire with its complex drawn characters has elevated the art of story telling to a level that surpasses what I thought to be the most important work ever produced on TV, Hill Street Blues. I imagine that if Hill Street Blues had the advantages of The Wire (cable vs. network TV), it too would have provided the core realisim so evident in The Wire.
Kudos to HBO for bringing such a brilliant production to the screen. This is a cable network that knows what it is doing (The Sapranos, Sex in the City, Six Feet Under, the list goes on and on).
The assembly of actors (none of which I had ever seen before, save for a few) was, in itself, casting at its zenith. The direction, cinematography, second to none. What was most impressive was the way in which characters were drawn. Street dealers with a rudimentary code of honor (i.e., Sunday as the peace day among the gangs) and smarts normally not associated with this element. Politicians who start out with the "I want to do good and change the world" idealisim and end up in the same space as all other politicians they started out dispising. The story of the docks and that of the schools and school kids we got to follow the last 2 seasons was as compelling a story as I have ever seen portrayed. What was most impressive was the way in which the show ended its run. No feel good endings (for the most part) where everything turns out right. What you got was the truth; the cycle of the streets, the cycle of the docks, the cycle of the schools and school kids, the cycle of the politicians, the cycle of life which is just that; an unending cylcle of some good but mostly the same.
The Wire is the kind of TV that comes along once in a life time. The critics got it, the award shows never did. I suggest the subject matter was a little too gritty for their taste. I implore anyone who reads this review and appreciates the finer elements of movie making to purchase all 5 seasons of The Wire as I have. I guarantee you will not be disappointed."
A Come Down from Season 4, but it Was Still Fantastic. 4.5
billy | 08/05/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"After the dizzying heights of season 4, in my mind the greatest single television season ever created, was their anyway that the fifth season of The Wire couldn't disappoint at least a little bit?
A lot about the final season seemed hurried. Be it McNulty's descent back in to self destruction, the surprisingly surface level characterizations of the news reporters, the thoroughly half backed and unrealistic plot that all of the action hinged on, really took a lot of the punch out of The Wire. Still, a lot was good about season five as well. The street drama was very strong, with Marlo's growing ruthlessness, Cheese's characterization, Michael and Dukie's touching relationship, Omar's legendary status taking a very surprising hit, and one absolutely chilling scene that I won't spoil. The political aspect was just as cynical as ever, with Carcetti going from idealistic reformer to political opportunist in the span of three seasons. It's quite a fall from grace.
The main problem was that David Simon didn't have enough time to tell his story. There was way more plot than ten episodes could hold, and as a result some things got rushed. 3 more hours would have given Simon and company enough time to explore some of the themes and characters, particularly the newsroom stuff. Everyone felt like such broad characters in the newsroom. Gus, the idealistic city editor, Scott Templeton, swarmy and scarily ambitious young reporter who does whatever it takes to get ahead, and Alma, the naïve young reporter who's struggling to maintain her integrity in this environment. And I can't forget about the editor James Whiting, who wants everything to be Dickensian, a nod to what critics frequently call The Wire. I never really felt that the term fit, because The Wire's social critiques actually had bite, where Dickens' work never felt like it was all that harsh or critical. This season though, it felt like typical ineffective and toothless Dickens.
Another problem was McNulty. I actually hoped he wouldn't come back. I felt that The Wire had moved past McNulty, to a more emotionally resonant place. They achieved something miraculous last season, and part of it was phasing out the main character, a high functioning alcoholic who can't help but self destruct and break the rules. I was done with McNulty, and to see him back and worse than ever just felt like a rehash. The Wire never really looks back, it always looks forward, but this felt like McNulty from season 2. Plus his fall again seemed very quick, although we're suppose to keep in mind that the season is taking place a year after season 4. Though we don't see McNulty getting worse over time, it just seems to happen.
I won't even get in to the whole main plotline that grabs every aspect of the story. All I will say is that my jaw dropped when I saw it first, and then it just kept getting more and more ridiculous, building in to some huge edifice that never seemed real. You could argue that The Wire isn't suppose to be realistic, but this is the first time I've felt they've gone to the level of parody to make their critiques about Baltimore institutions. Plus the Clay Davis plotline went by way to quick and ended in a rather goofy way.
Still, the street aspect was uniformly good throughout. Marlo is a genuinely scary character. He's so much more ruthless and efficient than Avon and Stringer. He's never caught up in the trappings of wealth; it's all about the crown for him. Michael came in to his own this year, as a character struggling against the pull of the violent drug life while still maintaining some of his humanity. Dukie's story was very touching as well. The Omar plot felt a bit odd to me, but it also felt realistic. Cheese, played well by Method Man, came in to his own this season. He makes you hate him by the end of the season. Chris and Snoop continue to scare me as well. There is no one as cold blooded as these two on television. And I can't forget about Kenard, who has one of the most memorable moments of the season.
The politics were pretty strong as well. Carcetti is just painful to watch. He's gone from the idealistic reformer to the political opportunist in about three seasons. Simon doesn't have a lot of nice things to say about politics, and this is a pretty bleak view. Narese Campbell comes in to her own here as well. Perhaps the biggest surprise is Michael Steintorf, played by Neil Huff. He turned in to a political hit man here, and I almost started to sweat every time he's on screen. Watch his conversation with Bill Rawls in the last episode to see what I mean.
And I can't forget about Bubbles, who put in a genuinely touching performance this season. I wish he had more to do, but what we got was amazing.
Despite the problems with this season, it is still very good, and it was still better than most of what was on television, and I still tuned in to watch religiously every Sunday. For a first time viewer, there is a ton of continuity and it would be best to watch the first four seasons before purchasing season 5. All the pieces matter, so it's important to absorb every episode. If you're a fan already, you're probably going to pick this up anyway. There is more good than bad here, but it's more of a victory lap than a tour de force like the rest of the series is. The show lives on in my mind. The names change, but the game remains the same.