By Andrew Williams
March 5, 2013
Television Revision is a weekly feature in which our tuned in TV critic trawls through the best the box has to offer, giving you a primer on some of history’s finest shows (and warning you away from the specific episodes – or even seasons! – that might have ruined their reputation).
Now, this is a story all about how… Baltimore police are locked in a fierce battle with the king of the city’s drug trade, Marlo Stanfield (Jamie Hector). Mayor Carcetti (Aidan Gillen) is trying to parlay his electoral success into a possible run for governor, stick-up man Omar (Michael K. Williams) is looking for happiness away from the street, and the Baltimore Sun enters the fray as The Wire turns its focus to the media.
Happy days? As a series, The Wire is pure genius. But even a genius sometimes needs an edit. The problem with its fifth season is that it falls into the same trap as hundreds of storytelling endeavours: it overreaches. Creator David Simon had only ten episodes with which to end the show’s run, and his decision to include a look at the newspaper business detracts from the rest of the storylines he spent four seasons building. If this thread was engaging, he could be forgiven. However, it lacks compelling characters and is pretty one-sided.
Luckily, all the characters you’ve come to know and love are still here and still as brilliant and compelling as ever. The depiction of the intertwining worlds of drug dealers, police officers, lawyers, and government officials continues to be fascinating, accurate, and cynical. The acting remains stellar. Each story is resolved; sometimes tragically, sometimes happily. Just like life.
The final frontier: Season Five might be the worst season of The Wire, but it’s still a great season of television. A fitting end to an essential series.
Top three episodes: 8) Clarifications. 9) Late Editions. 10) -30-. A great series deserved a great ending, and despite some missteps early on, the last three episodes are among the best of the lot. It’s perhaps not until the final, completely appropriate shot that we can fully appreciate the scale of what we have just seen.
Worst episode: 2) Unconfirmed Reports. It’s surprising that in a show primarily about drug dealers and policemen, the journalists are the ones without shades of grey (especially coming from former journo Simon). The trouble starts here, in which we’re presented with a conflict in which one of the two protagonists has no moral high ground whatsoever. The irony is that the ‘hero’ of this story thread is a newspaper editor (played by show director Clark Johnson), yet the thread lacks both balance and editing.
Season MVP: A tie between creator and leading man. David Simon is responsible for an influential, innovative, and incisive series. Crucial to its success was Dominic West as the lead of a show that never really had a ‘lead’. His performance as Jimmy McNulty got better and better, and only once his tale came to an end could we truly appreciate its depth and breadth.
Check out Andrew Williams’ previous instalments:
The Wire – Season 5 is available on DVD. It can also be streamed instantly on Quickflix PLAY.