The Wire 5.9-5.10

5.9 Late Editions

McNulty and Lester get close enough to Marlo that Lester thinks it is time to make a move. He tells Daniels and the timing seems opportune as the Mayor has given the police an ultimatum to drop crime by 10 percent. It’s interesting to see how the very thing Carcetti was against going into his campaign now becomes a major agenda for his office. He’s bringing the police right back to the stat-juking that was the initial problem.

A recurring scene in the show is drinking at the train tracks. In a lot of ways, these moments have been quiet turning points for the McNulty character. This time with Lester he’s once again unable to celebrate. But instead of the quiet peace of an earlier scene in the show, this time he’s frustrated and unsatisfied, upset with the case he’s dug himself into.

After a season built around many lies, the truth begins to emerge. Gus goes fact checking and discovers many of the lies Scott wrote. Greggs discovers the truth about McNulty’s case. After struggling a long time, Bubbles is finally able to talk about what happened. Instead of ending with wool being pulled over everyone’s eyes, the show allows truth to shine through.

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Once the truth about the homeless killer hit’s the mayor’s office, echoes of season three reverberate. This time it’s an even bigger sham, something an entire city has bought into. Even worse is when a copycat killer emerges; the lie that becomes a truth. This episode seeks to resolve this murder and I honestly think it’s a lazy and rushed case that didn’t need to be resolved. I’d have much rather this be left a dangling thread at the end of the show.

While The Wire isn’t McNulty’s show, the show can often be greatly shaped by his superior, know-it-all attitude and how it affects those around him. After he’s reached the zenith of that, he realized he has to do something. So he holds a wake for himself. Jimmy McNulty dies a symbolic death, a beautiful gesture that suggest that he’s put to rest a part of himself as he decides to leave the police force.

Later in the episode, McNultygives a homeless man a dollar. After a season that delves with the homelessness, it’s worth contemplating if the season actually bothered to change how we see and think about homelessness. While it certainly gives an awareness to the problem, I’d argue that one of the great failings of the season is that The Wire fails to do anything meaningful with the issue with homelessness. It’s not that the show should have proposed a solution, but that it failed to look at the intricacies of their circumstances like it does with many of the other systems in the show.

However, the show does tell a magnificent story with the homeless Bubbles and this episode does give him a great resolution. A reporter is interested in his story and ends up publishing the whole tale. After Bubbles has spent so long trying to pay back for the bad things he’s done, releasing his story has given him some freedom. It also helps him get some reconciliation with his sister. While his character arc is probably my favorite of the entire show, it doesn’t contextualize itself within the issues of homelessness, at least not to the extent that other character arcs explore the roots of the social issues facing that character.

And while Bubbles is able to get some reconciliation by coming clean, other characters end up taking a hit through their honesty. Gus gets enough evidence against Scott for a confrontation, but it doesn’t prove anything, it only ends up getting one of his good reporters fired when the higher-ups side with Scott in pursuit of the Pulitzer Prize his fabricated story has been nominated for.

Daniels says he won’t juke the stats for Carcetti and he finally gets hit with the blackmail that has loomed over him for the entire show. While Carcetti is serious about reducing crime, he thinks he needs the stats so he can get higher up the chain where he can make more meaningful changes. Daniels decides that he’d rather leave the department that ruin it.

The ending of this season reminds me a lot of season two where there are some threads that aren’t as strong as they could be, but I end up impressed by how well they shape up and are resolved by the end of the season. The show ends up reaching a strong end even though this season as a whole is the most uneven of all the seasons.

Leander Sydonr (Corey Parker Robinson), one of the detectives who has been in the background most of the shows, ends up talking to one of the judges, jumping up the chain of command, which is how McNulty got his wiretap back in season one. The show ends up right where it started.

And the moment where McNulty looks over the city is a great way to end the show, a moment where the show takes in a big picture view, which might be the best way to think of the show as a holistic work. It’s always been interested in taking a step back and look at big, sprawling problems as complex issues with nuanced and deep roots. The Wire doesn’t always presume to know the answers, but it asks the audience to take the first and most critical step: understanding.

© 2014 James Blake Ewing