I was a little astounded and somewhat ashamed when I looked at the page of contents and realised a glaring omission in the W section. One which I intend to correct today by looking at the boxed set for the fifth and final season of The Wire.
I've written a lot about The Wire elsewhere on this site and later (probably next year) I shall go into the fifth season in more detail. But here I'll go with a simple and mostly spoiler free rendition of the shows final season. A season which looks at the final piece in the puzzle - the last part in David Simon's portrait "Death of the American city" - a season which examines the role of the media in reporting and influencing events while also looking at the decline in journalism due at least in part to the advent of the Internet.
Still, be warned this must contain spoilers about events from the previous four seasons and they start below...
In the city of Baltimore Marlo Stanfeld's star continues to rise; over the fourth season he cemented his position as the top dog in West Baltimore, filling the void left by the Barksdales - who more or less tore each other apart in the show's third season. With the help of Snoop and Chris he's placed a firm grip on the drug trade and with the despicable (and untouchable) Maurice Levy he's set in a powerful position.
In this world the young lads we first met in the fourth season; Dukie, Michael, Randy and Namond have moved at least partially their own ways. Namond has done the best, the interest in him placed by Howard "Bunny" Colvin has seen him moved away from the streets, Michael and Dukie are working in the Stanfeld Organisation as low level dealers and Randy has been put into a foster home.
McNulty has returned to homicide (partnered again with Bunk) after spending the fourth season sidelined but content as a foot patrolman. Bodies murder at the end of the previous season brought him back, determined to do something - this drive fuels a lot of his actions over the season and those actions affect the others around him profoundly. Omar Little has retired from the business and is no longer living in Baltimore.
The big block of characters introduced in this season are the journalists from the Baltimore Sun; the most one being Clark Johnson as "Gus" Haynes, but the others have their parts to play.
Meanwhile, on the streets Bubbles struggles with his long search for redemption.
I'll get this out of the way first, the fifth season is not The Wire's finest season; that spot remains in the hands of the fourth season with a nod to the third which in my opinion is pretty close behind. While the fourth season managed to bring in the four young lads, introduce us to them and immediately draw us into their situation, the fifth season mostly fails to do that with the newspaper cast. Personally, while I get why they're introduced and what the "point" to their presence in the season is. I feel the season would have been better served if the media had been introduced earlier in the shows run as a more dominant plot force.
A lot of the scenes set in the newspaper offices drag - they're not all bad times; Clark's performance as Gus is superb, Jimmy's interactions with Scott Templeton and Mike Fletcher's report on Bubbles's struggle are good. But the rest of them remain very undeveloped, especially when you consider the amount of screen time they receive.
But it's not all negative; the rest of the show remains strongly on message and delivers some truly fantastic moments, finally culminating in a superb finale which manages to rank itself as the third best show finale I've ever seen (behind Six Feet Under and in first place The Shield). The show ends well and the journey getting there was well worth the effort. It's just a shame this season isn't the shows finest one (it's possibly the weakest) - but it still stands far ahead of just about anything else on television and as such it is a must have work.
"The Wire: The Last Word" - A documentary looking at the role of the media
"The Wire Odussey" - A retrospective look back at the first four seasons
Audio Commentaries on six episodes.
Aspect Ratio: 5.1 and 2.0
Languages: English, French
Run time: 10 Hours 22 Mins approx
Subtitles: English, French, Dutch, Danish, Finniish, Greek, Hungarian, Norwegian, Portugese, Swedish