HBO’s wildly popular “The Wire” started its fifth and final season last week. The riveting series, dedicated to the intersection of Baltimore’s gritty drug world, police intervention and political turmoil, had a slow, cautious start.
Over the years, “The Wire” became a well-respected series by fans. Clearly the network’s underdog, the series rose to unprecedented popularity, as viewers tuned in every week and insisted that the network keep the show on despite their on-off-again battle with canceling the show.
The Wire’s fourth season focused mainly on the youth and their street life, home life and education. At the height of the season, one of the key young characters, Michael Lee, joined the team of known drug lord Marlo Stanfield.
The final season’s first episode, “More With Less,” zoomed in on budget cuts in Baltimore’s police department, resulting in no paid overtime, disbanding of departments, dilapidated vehicles/equipment and plain-out disgruntled employees. The first episode shattered all progress made in the last season, particularly in the Major Crimes Unit, which was hot on the heels of notorious and mysterious druglord Marlo Stanfield. Ultimately, last season – the Major Crimes Unit was in the process of tying over 20 bodies found in vacant houses to the druglord and his cohorts Chris Partlow and Felicia “Snoop” Pearson.
The plot of the police department’s financial debacle was paralleled with the financial woes of the Baltimore Sun. Facing similar cuts and low morale, the newspaper’s staff desperately attempted to pull headline stories, while pulling long hours. They even uncovered an interesting real estate transaction between city council and a known felon and druglord.
With the bodies being put on the back burner and the members of Major Crimes disbanded and back on the regular force, the show went on in a slow, cautious way. Photos of Marlo Stanfield were taken and he was trailed, as he went to his regular meeting with other Baltimore king pins, “The Co-Op.”
As anticipated, the second episode, “Unconfirmed Reports,” picked up the pace a bit. Determined to bring closure to the city’s nearly two dozen bodies found in abandoned houses, James “Jimmy” McNulty (formerly of Major Crimes) and his partner decided to try to tap in to FBI resources to fund the investigation, which they expected to be wrapped up in just under a month’s time. McNulty and several fellow officers know that Marlo and his goons Chris and “Snoop” are behind the murders. However, they need the tangible evidence to prove it.
Also in “Unconfirmed Reports,” the disgruntled police found ways around the police department’s issues. McNulty, back to relying on a good flask of alcohol like he did in the series’ earlier seasons, unsuccessfully intertwined his work with alcoholism.
As Marlo’s crew took their young protégé Michael on the road to commit a murder, Michael started to realize how insane the crew’s actions can be. In the latest murder run, Chris and Snoop were after someone named June Bug, who “allegedly” made a sexual innuendo of Marlo Stanfield. In disbelief, Michael asked why they would kill someone just over the person calling Marlo a name. Snoop, in her thick inner-city dialect, advised Michael that’s just the way it is and she uttered “you need to stop talking so much and watch your mouth young boy.”
As Michael was asked to cover shooting anyone that flies out the back of the house, he assumed his position regretfully. When a young boy came running out, Michael didn’t have the heart to shoot him. In addition to believing that the whole hit was flat-out wrong, the teenager bears a soft spot for children – given that he is raising his brother.
Marlo is high pressed to cut out having to go through Proposition Joe and others from Baltimore’s east side to get his product. Hence, he decided that he would aim at going to the source, a Russian (with links to the Greek suppliers). Although moving swiftly, Marlo was stopped in his tracks when original hustler Avon Barksdale (who is behind e bars by the way) demanded that Stanfield must go through him to successfully reach the Russians.
Other story lines during the second episode included Bubbles fighting his addiction by receiving treatment and attending support groups. The pending indictment against State Senator Clay Davis was also a focus. Finally, the episode set the pace for McNulty’s story line, as it feature him causing post-mortem trauma to bodies to make them look like homicides. The episode insinuates that making the deaths look like homicides (particularly those of non-minority people) will capture the attention of city officials and ultimately help close the Stanfield/body case.
The Wire has one of TV’s best written scripts. Certainly, this season’s writing will be as spectacular as ever. While the first two episodes went over well, the Baltimore Sun plot got a little boring at times.
Final Grade: A
Written By: Flair Lindsey