The Storming Clouds of Plenty
VERY SMALL #51 SPOILERS BELOW
None of us have OnDemand this season (intractable cable problems), but I think we’ll have screeners for each episode. So same as before: A week ahead, but with warning.
Well, there it was. Months of waiting satisfied with one long establishing shot. We find out that time has passed since #50’s finale, perhaps more than it past seasons. Carcetti’s regime is in the crapper, McNulty’s back with Major Case, Herc’s with Levy, and Bubbles has already moved into the mundane part of recovery. Some of these changes are trends continued, others mini-ruptures, and, as with Bubbs, some seem like narrative shortcuts. While it’s not a new day in Baltimore, as a viewer/citizen it’s like waking up after a long, long nap. In a way, the introduction of the newsroom characters was less jarring than taking stock of what our old friends have been up to in our absence.
However, I’m already thinking to the end of this season which is, of course, the ultimate finale. Here’s where The Wire—that tightly-plotted, intricately-layered that Simon’s always referred to as a single arc—comes to an end. With the montages, the show has embraced the concept of season finales. Then again, with #50’s we saw more questions raised than answers posed, with some snippets bordering on unintelligible. And on principle, The Wire has never cared much about neat and tidy endings, or any kind of resolution. Like, how many of us are still waiting to see Rawls outted at ComStat? The overlapping and intersecting of elements is as important here as resolution is in most scripts. Actually, “it’s all connected” is Simon’s version of “happily ever after,” bringing both reassurance and crushing hopelessness.
I think fans would be disappointed if The Wire ended on a Sopranos-esque note. Critiquing dramatic finality is, for this show, a little pedestrian. But Simon has created a monster, and he has to wrestle it down in the next ten episodes. Individual characters or storylines may find little peace, and yet if Baltimore is the main character, shouldn’t its circle be completed? It’s the system, the network of structural relationships that makes the city tick, that’s forever entrenching itself. And as viewers, we’re constantly being let in on the extent of its tyranny. The newsroom is, as we saw in #51, a mirror image of the police department, city hall, and the drug market. All individuals can do is try to stay afloat, and snatch up small victories as they can. There’s no way they’ll ever achieve lasting satisfaction or stability (without selling their souls), and so we’ve got no reason to expect this of their stories.
So I’m not particularly worried about my favorite characters getting through unscathed, or figuring out whatever happened to the docks. It’s not even worth it. What I do expect, though, is for the show to get awfully crowded toward the end. The Wire isn’t about surprise—that too is a byproduct of “everything’s connected.” But if there’s no such thing as coincidence, bringing the entire picture into focus says less about the characters than it does the environment they’re governed by. As the series comes to an end, it will once and for all lay out the terms and conditions for a show about the modern American city. Like those cases the police work: The minute the bulletin board gets full, things fall apart and its time for another iteration.