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A Couple of Brief Thoughts on the Wire Finale

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Like Scott, I thought that the Wire finale was fantastic. Three of the four great HBO dramas have had great final episodes; Deadwood is the tragic exception. A couple of very random thoughts…

It had occurred to me before I read this interview with David Simon that a film on the Dreyfus Affair might be an interesting project for him, and the fact that he reveres Kubrick’s Paths of Glory only reinforces that impression. On the surface it is kind of odd to think that Simon, whose work is so deeply focused on Baltimore, might participate in the making of a film about an unjustly accused French military officer. But to me the strength of the Wire has, from the very first, been in its portrayal of the internal dynamics of bureaucratic organizations, and in particular of how those dynamics can create serious deficiencies in policymaking. The Dreyfus Affair, of course, is about nothing so much as the unwillingness of the French Army and of those in whose interest it was to protect the French Army to accept that an innocent man had been railroaded. I’m not sure that Dominic West would really be appropriate for the role of Dreyfus, but such a project would represent a further exploration of the themes that Simon dealt with in the Wire.

I’ve seen in a couple of places the complaint that the finale focused too much on McNulty at the expense of the other storylines. There’s a certain fairness to this line of critique, but I think it misses the point of McNulty’s role in the series. The point of this exercise was in part, as Martin Wisse noted, to use the blogosphere as pointlessly as possible, but was also motivated by an interest in placing Wire characters within the larger cinematic universe. Jim McNulty and Han Solo strike me as almost the same character; if Han Solo had grown up in 1970s Baltimore, he might well have ended up living McNulty’s life, and vice versa. They play a similar narrative role, in that both are, in a sense, first moving free agents. Star Wars isn’t “about” Han Solo; it’s about the fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker, but the intervention of Han Solo at a critical moment (preventing Anakin from killing Luke) allows destiny to play out. Similarly, McNulty pulls the lever that gets all of the bureaucracies, from the street to the courthouse to the police to City Hall, moving towards the more or less inevitable collisions that play out across the five seasons. And so in that sense I think it was appropriate to end on McNulty, especially as he finally returned to the outsider status after everything had played out.

Also, Marlo may be street, but he looks a lot better in a suit than in a white t-shirt. Kind of interesting following Marlo’s wardrobe since he’s been introduced; pretty much steady improvement until the orange jumpsuit.

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