Season five of The Wire has come to an end with the episode titled -30-, a ninety minute long finale, which also ends the entire ‘televisual novel’. There will be no more of The Wire other than in our memories now, so raise a glass and lament the end of one of the greatest television shows ever.
What can one say about the conclusion to a show like this? Well I think I’ll let show creator and writer of this episode David Simon gives his own take by way of Jay Landsman’s eulogy at the ‘wake’ held for Jimmy McNulty.
He was the black sheep, a permanent pariah. He asked no quarter of the bosses and none was given. He learned no lessons; he acknowledged no mistakes; he was as stubborn a Mick as ever stumbled out of the Northeast parish just to take up a patrolman’s shield. He brooked no authority. He did what he wanted to do and he said what he wanted to say, and in the end he gave me the clearances. He was natural police. And I don’t say that about many people, even when they’re here on the felt. I don’t say that often unless it happens to be true. Nat’ral po-lice. But Christ, what an asshole.
And I’m not talking about the ordinary gaping orifice that all of us possess. I mean an all-encompassing, all-consuming, out-of-proportion-to-every-other-facet-of-his-humanity chasm — if I may quote Shakespeare — “from whose bourn no traveler has ever returned.” He gave us thirteen years on the line. Not enough for a pension. But enough to know that he was, despite his negligible Irish ancestry, his defects of personality, and his inconstant sobriety and hygiene, a true murder police. Jimmy, I say this seriously. If I was laying there dead on some Baltimore street corner, I’d want it to be you standing over me catchin’ the case. Because brother, when you were good, you were the best we had.
What was initially supposed to be a police drama based upon the experiences of former Detective Ed Burns became a great deal more and ended up as a treatise on the failure of the institutions in small American cities. David Simon says the show could have been set in a number of American cities as they are all experiencing similar problems to Baltimore but The Wire is very much a Baltimore show set elsewhere it would be a very different thing.
The montages in the finales of each season depict the fates and lives of the shows characters but also of the city itself through the ordinary residents of the city. With the overwhelming number of characters in The Wire a good argument can be made that the city of Baltimore itself is the central character of the series.
Although there is a kind of upbeat ending to the series with many of the characters getting the happy ending they may or may not deserve this is undercut by the revelation that for all the efforts and noble intentions to try and fix the system that the failed institutions remain as they are.
Is the City of Baltimore, and therefore the other cities like it, beyond repair?