FA MOUS LAST WORDS
THE WIRE (2008)
The Wire’s montage ending.
Some shows end with a bang, others with a whimper. After five compelling and often bleak seasons, The Wire’s finale got it right. As a feature-length conclusion to one of the most acclaimed TV shows of all time, the closing episode had to be something special. Creator David Simon’s masterstroke was an end sequence that felt like a separate mini-series compressed into five minutes. As disgraced cop and boozy philanderer Jimmy Mcnulty (Dominic West) contemplates the Baltimore skyline, a montage reveals the fates of characters you’ve lived with over 60 episodes.
Simon created a series that heralded a new Golden Age of television. A former newspaper reporter, his drama had the revelatory impact of rigorous long-form journalism. The grimly realistic portrayal of Baltimore was also a microcosm of the American city in the early 21st century. The Wire explored the war on drugs, politics, law enforcement and the fading power of the print news media.
In the final episode, the city institutions have become increasingly corrupt. The
“The extended montage shows who’s up and who’s down ”
ambitious Mayor Carcetti (Aidan Gillen) is colluding with the police on a cover-up over the so-called Red Ribbon Killer and demanding a set of dodgy crime statistics. Meanwhile, the city’s newspaper is descending into fake news despite the protestations of a senior journalist. Accompanied by the theme song, “Way Down In The Hole”, the extended montage shows who’s up and who’s down in the world of The Wire. It’s depressing – if realistic – viewing as the powerful prosper, while the weak invariably suffer.
Even more worrying is the sense of a new generation following the same criminal path. Drug bandit Omar (Michael K. Williams) is no longer on the scene, though young thug Michael (Tristan Wilds) looks set to follow his career of armed raids on fellow criminals. Dukie (Jermaine Crawford) is sliding into addiction, while drug dealer Marlo Stanfield (Jamie Hector) is reluctant to go legitimate. But there are signs of hope: the homeless Bubbles (Andre Royo) has kicked drugs and been welcomed into his sister’s family home.
Despite his effectiveness, Mcnulty’s out of the homicide squad as a result of his Red Ribbon Killer scam: fabricating murders involving dead homeless people in order to increase police resources. He receives the traditional send-off for detectives who leave before retirement – a boozy mock wake. This episode ends with him tracking down the vagrant he displaced while faking the serial killer case. “Let’s go home,” says Mcnulty, who you hope has finally conquered his demons.