The Wire, season 1, final episode: where don’t you wanna go?

, | TV reviews

I’m not sure what I expected, but it wasn’t this. I thought the first season would feel like a complete experience from A to B to Z. But just as I think it’s wrapping everything up, it instead resets everything. It goes from A to B to A-point-one. The situation has not changed substantially. Some of the characters’ lives have certainly changed, but the overall situation might as well be a reset to the beginning of the season.

I expected the season would end with the investigation going federal, and that’s where season two would pick up. That’s certainly what the final episode is teasing. But that’s not what happens. On the contrary, arrests are made, plea deals are dealt, sentences are handed out, and Barksdale’s operation gets back underway, only this time run from a funeral parlor instead of a strip club, and without the Baltimore police department on the case. And without Barksdale at the helm. Frankly, given that Idris Elba is the more famous actor, I assumed there was going to be a turnover. I’m not sure I needed Elba’s gaze directly into the camera to drive the point home.

(By the way, I’m not the least bit surprised the FBI didn’t pick up the investigation. “We have a mandate to pursue political corruption,” says a woman from the agency during one of the meetings. So unless the investigation’s objective is to establish a senator’s connection to drug money, why would the FBI bother? Did McNulty, Daniels, and Freamon expect the FBI to just pitch in to help shut down local drug dealers? McNulty seems to think he’s gotten in some sort of sick burn when he says, “West Baltimore is dying and you empty suits are running around trying to pin some politician’s pelt to the wall.” Well, yeah, McNulty, they’re doing their job. The FBI’s obligation is to the country, hence the first letter in their name. It is not their job to help you fight crime in Baltimore.)

I expected D’Angelo would be redeemed. It seemed like Wallace’s death was his breaking point. Instead, his mother brings him around? A character we only met one episode ago? I do appreciate that she’s a strong female character in a TV show lacking strong female characters who aren’t recovering from gunshot wounds in the hospital. But now D’Angelo has abetted the murders that supposedly moved him. His ultimatum about restarting his life in the witness protection program — “You give me that, and I’ll give you them” — was hollow. It was just dialogue.

However, I’m grateful for the reveal about the murder D’Angelo claimed he committed. It just didn’t feel right that he had killed someone for his uncle, or even that his uncle would have asked him to do it. It’s hard to imagine him face-to-face with a woman, on the other side of a dark window, shooting her at close range. Much less taunting her by tapping on the window to draw her attention. Waiting for her to get closer. Tap, tap, tap. Bunk’s knuckles on the table. Tap, tap, tap. D’Angelo knows exactly what it is. It’s a story he has subsumed to pretend to be less conflicted than he actually is. He was the conscience of Barksdale’s operation, Wallace was the innocence, and now they’re both gone. I guess in that regard the situation has changed.

The insinuation that Daniels is “dirty” has turned out to be a lot less sexy than I anticipated. So it’s just money. I liked to think Daniels was above something so base. Seems the more relevant detail is that Burrell has known about it all along. It was just leverage and not any statement about Daniels’ true character.

I love that Daniel’s wife knows about it. As we saw in an earlier conversation at his home, over dinner, he is entirely open with his wife. So she knows about the money. He’s not the kind of cop who partitions his professional life from his home life. Presumably, the money has afforded her a certain standard of living, and Daniels has been entirely honest with her about how he’s come by the money. That says a lot about their relationship, and about him.

I’m not sure what to make of Omar coming back. On one hand, yeah, I’d love to have him back because, hey, Michael Kenneth Williams. That guy is absolutely radiant. There’s just no other word for it. He shines. But what role does Omar have left to play? If he’s still in it for revenge, why did he agree to leave in the first place? Is his return just fan service? I’m asking for a friend.

Finally, the award for worst casting goes to Michael Kostroff, the actor playing Maury Levy. I don’t have any issue with Kostroff’s performance. But casting him in that role is so over obvious, so on the nose, so typically lawyerly, something I’d expect from a sitcom or an anodyne crime drama. He’s soft and smug and weaselly, talking openly with Barksdale and Bell about murder, drug dealing, money laundering. I get that I’m supposed to hate him, but casting Kostroff is a facile shortcut. Also, I admit I’m a bit uncomfortable with how he’s so obviously Jewish. The only Jew on the show is the evil lawyer?

On to season two…

(Wondering what’s all this stuff about an old TV show? If you support my Patreon campaign for $10 or more, once a month you’ll have to opportunity to assign me a review. The first season of The Wire won one of the recent drawings.)