So This Is How It Ends

Well, there it was. I’m kind of drawing a blank at the moment. . . we learned that Michael was the next Omar, Dukie the next Bubbles. Almost all the loose ends got tied up, with some wonted cynicism and a few happy endings. And like at Jimmy’s wake, we all realized that, uneven as this season has been, this show rules and there’s a lot we’ll miss about it.

If that sounds empty, it’s because it is. Finales are hard to discuss like that; on an emotional level, all your cumulative for the show and its characters comes rushing back. And it’s hard to be technical or critic-minded about an undertaking that, ultimately, belongs to the creators. They ended it how they wanted, and we have to deal with that. There’s no uncertainty as to what they’re thinking, second-guessing their instincts, wondering where the show is headed, or squinting at how everything will fit together.

What did and didn’t make it into that last episode is, in a lot of ways, Simon and co.’s definitive statement on what this program stood for. Or, more modestly, why this season had to be the way it was. The finale is a tautology that consumes everything that came before and will come after it.

I might say more later, and someone else will probably pipe up. But for now, consider this an open thread.

Actually, one thing: My two favorite scenes had to be Cheese’s murder and Marlo’s trip out into the night. I don’t know if Cheese’s speech about the game was one of the more definitive the show’s ever put forth, or the ultimate in dime store Wire-isms. I also don’t know which way it was supposed to be perceived by the characters. But that it was immediately followed by a murder that contradicted everything it contained—one that went against a lot of what’s been both depressing and demoralizing about the show—was kind of awesome. It’s cool that Bubbles got to eat upstairs, but Slim’s “that was for Joe” found hope in the most unlikely place. And not just hope for honor returning to crime, but that, in the larger context of the American city, there could be decency and standards for large-scale enterprises.

Yes, I recognize the irony of Slim Charles leaving that mark on the plot, and not Daniels, who wanted so badly to do so on the right side of the law. WHAT THE FUCK IS IN THAT FILE?!?!!? Exactly, I mean.

And then Marlo. I know that people have had some issues with his character’s one-dimensional nature, and how blank he can seem at times. But Jamie Hector might be the best actor on that show, since the few times Marlo does show any kind of anything do so much to shape our perception of him. I will probably watch the finale again just to see that expression on his face when he bleeds through his suit. At first glance, it seemed equal parts nostalgia, disdain, indifference, fear, resolve, and realization. And that’s with a bunch of shadows on him and no chance for me to press rewind.

Anyway, have at it. More later.

. . . it’s now half an hour later, and I just finished reading THE BEST DAVID SIMON INTERVIEW EVER.

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45 Comments on “So This Is How It Ends”

  1. Jimmy Jazz Says:

    The Marlo scene was freaking brilliant. He’s a man without a country — the developers will bleed him dry if he stays in the business world (which he clearly isn’t cut out for anyway, just as he “wasn’t made to play the son role”), and the streets have already forgotten him. He got to walk, but ultimately, he loses, and Omar wins.

  2. ml Says:

    correct me if I’m wrong, but was marlo in a white tee on the corner in the first scene of the montage??

  3. Aaron Says:

    nah, that wasn’t marlo on the corner

  4. doje Says:

    Wow, what an absolute gem of a 95 minutes. I need to gather my thoughts before I really begin discussing this episode…

    But quickly, how awesome was it to have the first season’s theme song as the track for the closing montage? Just a fantastic final touch by Simon and co.

    Oh, and was also cool briefly seeing Simon in the Sun newsroom wiggling the blue pen around in his mouth. Just another reporter hard at work…

  5. Allday Says:

    What Stringer Bell had hoped to become, Marlo ends up forced into. I took the scene to mean that Marlo had walked off into the night looking for one more taste of the street. I thought the look on his face was excitement more than anything, maybe tinged with regret at the realization that his presence didn’t scare people the way it should.

  6. Boston Matt Says:

    Another glimmer of hope that was missed by many:

    Carver’s promotion. He’s learned from Daniels and Bunny, and now maybe he’ll be able to reach as high as Daniels did, but unlike DAniels, there’s no file on his transgression, it stayed between Daniels and him.

    Daniels had a snake like Burrell as his CO, Carver had Daniels. Carver won’t have that skeleton in his closet if he continues to move up.


  7. Wade Says:

    “That’s just ya knee.”

  8. Joe Crawford Says:

    Dukie and Mr. Prezbo was heartbreaking. Seeing Prezbo do his job was awesome. And the look in his eyes as Dukie’s telling his story – that made me cry.

    And man, the scene with Freamon and the Grand Jury guy – priceless. Freamon’s basically just doing that freelance, awesome.

    And the scene with Freamon telling the DA what’s up and she’s just incredulous that he has the stones to keep a straight face when he’s been deceiving her, wow.

    Oh, and McNulty and Daniels. That was some silence speaking volumes!

    Loved Marlo taking that corner, just taking that thing, being proud of it, and it ultimately being completely empty. He’s got the skills to take a corner, and hard. How the heck will he stay away from the Game? Can he?

    Liked seeing the Chess pieces in the closing too.

    I was filled with emotion and happiness and stunned at the intricate lines everyone had on everyone. Like one of those scenes in a Tarantino where everyone has their guns on each other. Only instead of everyone dying, in this one, everyone cuts a different deal. And those that can’t take a deal, they’re just out.

    “To be continued.”

  9. […] further reading: Heaven and Here: So Thiis Is How It Ends; The Wire: David Simon Q & A (long and really excellent); Undercover Black Man: The End of the […]

  10. Free Born Man in Southern CA Says:

    What was in that file? Ever seen “Serpico?” Come on, dude.

  11. Odds Bodkins Says:

    So what exactly happened with Levy and Herc? Two potential theories:

    A) Herc was playing both sides. He still has loyalty to Carver and the team, ergo giving up the number. Then, told Levy about how wire taps work, convincing Levy to see that there’s no way the cops could be up on those phones so soon.

    B) Levy knew all along Herc was going to steal that number and allowed him to do so because of the money it would bring.

    I think A is more likely, since Herc was invited to dinner and bragged about his detective skills.

  12. Mike Says:

    I can’t buy that Levy set things up that far in advance. I think that’s the viewers manufacturing something. I believe Herc told him that the cops couldn’t figure it out that fast. Herc doesn’t know Lester had a tap – but he can “smell” him all over it.

    That said, Herc is definitely playing both sides … but he’s not smart enough to know that he is. Maybe it’s another jibe at “the way things work”. The ones who calculate maniacally (Rawls, Davis) or don’t (Herc) win. The ones who are smart enough, but can’t (Daniels) don’t.

  13. morewire Says:

    @Odds: I think A. is correct, but is being a little generous. Herc is kind of a dipshit; I got the impression he was doing what he was doing not out of a grand scheme, but because he was motivated by his whims. He ratted out Marlo to Carver because he was looking for some spiteful revenge. He told Levy about the wire taps because he was getting paid by the man.

    Don’t think there was too much thought behind what he did. Herc is motivated by his whims.

    I’ve gone back to the first season now that the whole deal is over, and of the first things that struck me is how similar Herc and Carver are at the beginning of the show. Carver grew up – Herc is still the dude looking to knock some heads.

  14. morewire Says:

    Did I mention that Herc is motivated by his whims? Because he is. Motivated by his whims, that is.

  15. jammq Says:

    How can anyone say that wasn’t Marlo in the white tee on the corner who Spyder(walking like the new Chris Partlow) gave a pound to? I’ve looked at the scene a bunch of times and at best it’s inconclusive.

    Hopefully, we get some clarification on that. Completely changes things if it’s just another corner boy, or if it’s actually Marlo resurrecting his corner from the ground up.

  16. Sad Says:


    I’ve never been so moved by a Tv series before.

    I can’t believe it’s over.

    I can’t….

  17. Epsilon Says:

    I actually think (B) is more likely than it seems at first with regard to Levy and Herc. There are a few reasons to support this.

    1) Levy initially chuckled and commented rather obliquely to Herc that he saw a financial windfall coming because of the fact that Marlo Stanfield was using a cell phone. Herc had just been hired, presumably in large part BECAUSE of his police background (and more importantly, insider status.) Levy clearly was pleased at the fact that his new client was being so “careless” and confided this to his neophyte investigator…why, exactly?

    2) Herc, the new guy, made it clear that he had bad blood with Marlo from the first time Marlo entered Levy’s office, flat out saying that Marlo’s theft of the surveillance camera cost him his job. He made no bones about this. The combination of Levy’s excitement at the prospect of billable trial work at Marlo’s expense and the bad blood that already existed between Marlo and his new investigator was probably not lost on him.

    3) In the lockup, when Levy asked Marlo who else knew the clock code, Marlo explicitly said that Levy was the only one outside the core group who even had his cell phone number. Levy almost looked a bit defensive at this point. It was almost as if he was trying to determine if Marlo could blame anyone else for the leak of the information because he already knew what had really happened. It’s possible that he just made the connection at that moment, however.

    4) Levy’s congratulation of Herc made it seem to me like he knew what he had done. Once Levy determined that wiretaps had to have been up well before the arrests were made, and the fact that the only way the cell phone number could have been accessed by the police was through a leak in his own office (which Marlo fortunately didn’t seem to realize even though he was insistent that his own people were clean,) he had to have known that Herc was responsible.

  18. Allday Says:

    Here’s a great big symbolism question: Did anyone else think that the copycat killer was meant as a personification of Baltimore? One of the lines in his rant: “I’ve killed millions, and they killed me…” is precisely what is happening in the finale with the broken Baltimore institutions. Everyone knows things are fucked, but in the end nothing changes because everyone looks after themselves first: Carcetti needs his stats, Rhonda has to protect herself from being disbarred, Daniels protects his ex-wife and Rhonda, Prez listens to the advice he was given not to care too much. And we end up with Nareese as mayor, Valcheck as comissioner, and Dukie as a junkie. Maybe I’m looking too deep here, but someone had to write the copycat killer’s rant.

  19. jay Says:


    It it looks like I’ll have to admit defeat on the Micheal as Omar point. For me it was the lowpoint of the episode and really dulled the impact of the statement that Omar’s death made in the previous episdode. But your were correct in predicting it nonetheless. Mr. Curtis, HATS OFF TO YOU SIR.

  20. Curtis Says:

    I think that’s a very good take Allday.

    My lawyer wife pointed out that Marlo didn’t have to take the deal Levy and Pearlman cooked up. He could have fired his lawyer (who was the one being blackmailed), watched the whole case against him crumble and stayed in the game. Levy could have told him, but chose instead to fuck him hard.

  21. Curtis Says:

    Hey, thanks jay…ain’t no thing.

  22. Boy Howdy Says:

    While I agree that Dukie ended up a lot like Bubbles, and maybe over time will move into that role, I think what we saw at the end of the series wasn’t him stepping into the Bubbles role, it was him stepping into the Johnny role (or another junkie taken under Bubs’ wing). There’s a horse and cart now, to haul the junk, rather than just a shopping cart, but it looks like there’s still that sort of mentor relationship, where he’s learning where to get testers.

  23. Ethan Says:

    I also thought it was Marlo at first on the corner, but I just find it impossible to believe that Marlo would go to the corners and wear a white T. I mean, shit, the number one thing he cares about is his street rep and he is willing to be a corner boy again? And do you really think he could stand on the corner with no muscle after the way he ran the westside?

  24. HF Says:

    I’m gonna have to look back on that scene to see if that was really Marlo. They could still lock him up, but maybe he doesn’t care.

    A lot of good stuff in the finale; I was so proud and at the same time disappointed that Daniels resigned. Proud because he realized that it was all bullshit and that they were going to fuck him. Disappointed because after all that promise for reform and a new day, it was all a bunch of lies. Speaking of which, all hail Commissioner Valchek! That was hilarious seeing him ‘christened.’

    Hopefully I wasn’t the only one but I seriously thought that McNulty was dead at the beginning of the wake. I remember coming across a spoiler a while ago where it mentioned that on the last day of filming they had shot a detective’s wake. Thank god it wasn’t true. Though I wonder what McNulty is gonna do know? Be a stay at home dad while Beadie brings home the bacon? Personally my dream would be a McNulty-Freamon private investigation team, but of course Lester has Shardene and his miniatures so he’s done.

    I wish we could have at least seen a scene during the montage of Cutty and/or Clay Davis. Would have been cool to see Avon in the prison yard with Wee-Bey and Chris but maybe that’s just too perfect.

  25. ao Says:

    i DEFINITELY second the need for a glimpse at cutty or avon in the montage. i know the avon-in-prison story’s been done, it’s not like it’s where i wanna see dude, but i was really shocked he wasn’t in season four at all and obviously had a minor role this season. cutty of course wasn’t in this season much, but damn!, it’s the final montage, man! or a shot of randy’s life in the bleak group home. or a li’l glimpse of melvin williams as the deacon, even. i supppose brother mouzone doin’ his thing in nyc would’ve been a stretch. i’m glad they used all those shots of actual folk in baltimore – the show’s been a gushing love letter to baltimore from david simon – bleakness, cynicism, and all.
    really minor points, obviously; otherwise, the finale was pretty dope and didn’t disappoint like i feared it might’ve. i haven’t been one of the season five-haters like a lot of others, but i just didn’t see any way they could legitimately wrap it up (in a mere fucking ten episodes) without it being too saccharine or too tidy. but they brought it, for the most part. it WAS a relatively happy ending for The Wire, despite the cops pinning all the murders on that crazy motherfucker, and despite templeton’s wack fucking ass excelling. i mean, dukie’s fuckin’ tragic, it’s a shame alma had to fall for standing up for gus, but mcnulty got off waaaay the fuck easier than i thought he would(including with beatrice, damn!), lester wasn’t demolished in tandem, rhonda moved up, kima resolved things readily with mcnulty & lester, etc etc.
    i also second the scene with cheese’s murder and its immediate aftermath (“that sentimental motherfucker just cost us money”) being amongst the dopest. and when norman was straight-up laughing at carcetti in the opening scene had our whole room roaring last night.
    fuck, i can’t believe it’s over. i’m immensely grateful it lasted as long as it did. started reading george pelecanos’ ‘drama city’ when i got home to try and keep the torch burning. sonja sohn was right in ‘the wire: odyssey’ or one of those hbo promos that preceded season five insofar as The Wire truly transcended television and is something much bigger. what it ends up being remains to be seen ..

  26. Drew Says:

    @HF: Seconding the disappointment of no Cutty/Clay followups. And I feel like McNulty should start his own car dealership or something. Or get a job as a rakish Italian professor at a Seven Sisters school.

    I knew from the second I saw it that “Michael as Omar” would incite some “too easy!” reactions, but I think it really works as far as the logic of the show goes. Intelligence, charisma, the natural foresight to stay one step ahead (Snoop) and a hell of a ruthless streak — but humanity abides. Omar taking granny to church = Michael tying Bug’s shoes. It just makes sense to me, however gift-wrapped it may be.

    Maybe the reason I was so glad to see it was my season-long fear that Michael would die a violent, senseless death to quantify the “smart, talented black youth perishing way before his time” idea that movies and shows dealing with inner-city subject matter often overexplore. I now realize that would be far too hamhanded of a conclusion for DS. Dukie’s path is heartwrenching enough.

    Also: Anyone catch the brief Michael K. Williams profile on the nightly news (ABC I think?) before the finale? Dude looks way taller on the show.

  27. The Great Man Mannie Fresh Says:

    a couple lingering questions/answers from the last hour of the greatest show of all time:
    1. A: why would marlo be back on a corner, at the ground level, in a white tee? that makes no sense, even if marlo’s dna is engineered for the corner. also, for that matter, i think the spider-walk is not the same as the chris zombie shuffle. two completely separate things. chris is about silent strength, spider is more in-your-face uppityness.
    2. Q: do we know the stick-up boy with michael from anywhere? he looked vaguely familiar, but i can’t place him.
    3. statement: i always liked slim charles, but the cheese deed made it even more official.
    4. Q: did anyone else think the mini-montage in the middle of the episode, right before daniels makes a stand on the stats, was completely arbitrary and kind of out of place?

    na-tural po-lice.

  28. HF Says:

    I’m pretty sure they put the first montage in there to show that some time has passed since the case getting closed and Daniels making his stand. A good description I read somewhere described it as bridging the ending of the episode with the epilogue for the series, or something like that.

    Always thought Slim Charles was the man, good to see him popping Cheese. “That was for Joe.”

  29. Drew Says:

    @MannieFresh: I don’t think it’s him, but I felt like Michael’s sidekick slightly resembled kid from Bunny’s class in S4…forget a name, but the one who asked to go to McDonald’s after Bunny took them all out to the nice dinner because he didn’t like the fish. Might be why he looks familiar?

  30. jkldslkj Says:

    darnell? the kid with the drinking problem

  31. jammq Says:

    I don’t it’s a stretch to see Marlo going back to running a corner and reassembling things from the bottom up.

    After all, it was his hunger for the streets that made him leave the social with all the business developers, and despite avoiding jail and keeping his money, run up on a random corner and take it.

    You could see the pleasure he got from taking that corner, like he finally felt alive again.

    I agree with whomever said it. People always assumed Marlo was weak or soft because he was protected by Chris, et. al.

    But if you think about it Marlo came to power somehow(presumably during Season 2 when Stringer and Avon were serving weak product on the Westside), and it wasn’t by laying back in the cut.

    Wearing the crown was more important to him than money, or CEO status. If getting it back required him to start out by running Michael’s old corner, it shouldn’t be discounted that he wouldn’t do it.

  32. Curtis Says:

    I’m telling you Levy chumped Marlo. He set him up to be messed around with by developers when he should have told him “Look, I’m getting blackmailed by the DA, but if you fire me you will walk on these charges and still wear the crown.”

    Marlo was weak just like Stringer was weak.

    Avon and Levy? Still in the game.

  33. josh Says:

    I liked the parallels between Rawls and Slim Charles. Both of them were good company men who did whatever their bosses told them. They both never actively lobbied for the top spot but took it when everyone else went down.

    I think Carver could always be linked to this serial killer fakery. That could be the Daniels like file that follows his career. He did not get away clean.

  34. Stumbleweed Says:

    Well, as far as Carver knew, the serial killer was real. So I don’t really think that anything beyond him letting McNutty complete the OT slips could ever come back on him specifically. Whatever they had in that file on Daniels is clearly far worse than that. I think Carv’s probably good — he’s gotta have less random dirt on him than Valchek at the least.. hah..

    Anyway, echoing what everyone has said, I don’t think they could’ve done this much better. Aside from the heavy-handed Michael-as-Omar and Sidnor-as-McNutty scenes, the final montage was fantastic. “Let’s go home” was basically the “Love, David Simon” in the love note to Baltimore that The Wire was.

    I’m going to go home tonight and watch the first bit of that montage to clear up that Marlo thing. While I agree that it isn’t exactly far-fetched for Marlo to get back into the game, I do think that it is a bit ridiculous that he’d end up back as a white T corner boy with his reputation what it is (going back to handing out money in S4). Yeah, he’s no Omar in that sense, but clearly most of the players and dealers would know Marlo, even a year or so afterwards (since the final scenes seemed to be about that far removed from the rest of it). Especially now that the Co-Op controls everything again… just too implausible. so yeah, I’m hoping that I go back and see clearly that it isn’t Marlo, because I’d be pretty disappointed if that’s his coda.

    That last Marlo scene was one of my favorites in this whole series though. Just holding that corner. Brilliant.

    And I think we all cheered a little bit when Cheese got it, especially coming from Slim, who is the sole holdout of the Barksdale era still playing the game. For those of us who wanted more Avon, that’s about as much as we could’ve asked for.

  35. Janet Says:

    Marlo – Barksdale parallel? Stringer tried to get Avon out of the game with him and be a business man. Marlo gave it a try albeit not quite the the length of one cocktail party. But, just like Avon, deep down inside Marlo’s just a “gangsta I suppose.”

  36. The Great Man Mannie Fresh Says:

    Well in all fairness, I think the Barksdale-Stanfield parallels have always been there, and that’s why it was impossible for them to ever coexist in the game at the same time.

    I hear what everyone says about it being Marlo on the corner, but I still highly, highly doubt it. It just sounds too implausible – plus, if you think about it, if you’re David Simon and you’re thinking about what the parting image of Marlo has to be, then I would think that he’d leave it at the “man without a country” metaphor of Marlo standing tall on a corner but nevertheless forced off of it by his leaving the game.

    Thinking back on it, the one gratuitous cameo that I wish was made at one point during season 5 was by the carjacking kid from s4 – that kid was great.

  37. The Great Man Mannie Fresh Says:

    ps. thanks to HF and drew for addressing my questions

  38. rimrat Says:

    “Let’s go home” … one “homeless” man to another

  39. rimrat Says:

    I’ve been in the newspaper business for over 30 years, and this was the by far the most accurate depiction of an actual newsroom, including all the politics and manipulation, I’ve ever seen. That said, the characterizations were paper-thin compared to the cops, politicians, drug dealers, etc.

    Shipping troublemakers and screwups off to the bureaus or to the copy desk or to rewrite is a time-honored tradition. Some things don’t change. And such an assignment is about the best an old dinosaur like Gus could hope for.

  40. […] So This Is How It Ends [image] Well, there it was. I’m kind of drawing a blank at the moment. . . we learned that Michael was the next […] […]

  41. C+C Says:

    That’s definitely not Marlo on the corner. It looks almost nothing like him.

  42. Dan Says:

    Mannie Fresh- I agree, I wanted Donut to show up in this episode so bad. I would have loved an appearance by horseface too.

  43. croatoan Says:

    It’s not Marlo in the white T on the corner. David Simon says so in an interview at Salon.

  44. rimrat Says:

    The subtext of Simon’s complaint seems to be that these institutions are broken, and if they were only fixed, then all would be well. Based on just the work alone, I would say it builds a strong case that institutions are inherently self-preserving and prone to corrupt whatever ideals they may profess and any “reforms” will be similarly self-protective. Carcetti is a prime example. While he is a relentless climber and manipulator, he seems to have sincere ideals that he constantly betrays in service to his career. Of course, in most ways, he’s simply at the mercy of larger forces, much as a putatively idealistic Obama would be if he ever actually takes the White House. Often the “reforms” make the problems worse and inevitably bring on unintended consequences. Just look at the legacy of urban renewal and the effect of the interstate system on housing patterns. The “reforms” destroyed community as it was once understood. How was Carcetti supposed to “save” the docks? Given his budgetary and other constraints, how was he supposed to improve the schools and the police department and, we must assume, code enforcement and garbage pickup and the many other functions of a city government that we didn’t see? He managed as best he could … while always keeping his own interest at center. That self-interest probably made him a better mayor.

    And Simon seems to assume that newspaper once fulfilled their watchdog function but now journalistic standards are in decline. His own experience as a reporter in Baltimore was an exceptional case of managerial largesse. How many other newspapers gave full rein to such projects? And isn’t Baltimore more than just the police and the drug dealers and the dock workers and the schools? Aren’t there whole worlds in the local sphere that the Baltimore Sun is not writing about? While there are stories on “The Corner,” aren’t there stories in those white neighborhoods and suburbs we visited so briefly on “The Wire”? Are they any less important or any better covered?

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