So this is how it ends -- not with a bang, but with a montage (or two).
The Wire was unbeatable when I couldn't tell exactly what would happen next; sure, after a couple seasons I could imagine where all its characters would end up (i.e. dead), but the stuff between season's start and season's end thrilled me in the ferocity of its volatility, all of which was usually uncoiled by the finale's denouement. Unfortunately, this valedictory season was governed by outcomes so fundamentally predetermined that they overshadowed and drained the vitality out of all the storylines, which is the point I was flailing towards in my previous post on The Wire.
So the fiery apocalypses that we witnessed in "Late Editions" were the exception to the inescapable gravity that pulled the rest of the season down into the hole of mediocrity, the anticlimactic finale included. The ultimate fates of some of the characters, the kids in particular, seem to repudiate the authenticity that The Wire strived for as the finale tried to jam them neatly into just-vacated roles. Instead of growing into those roles, they were starkly shoved into them, whether or not these new characterizations had been earned. Previously meek Sydnor suddenly became the new Detective Asshole; Kima became Bunk's partner in policing and repartee (and skirt-chasing?); Dukie became the new Bubbles; and most blatantly of all, Michael became the new Omar in all his charismatic glory, even though up to that point Michael had mostly been aloof with a sullen, suspicious chip on his shoulder -- a far cry from Omar's winking Robin Hood. I can buy Michael as a stickup boy, but not the way he carried himself as he knocked over Vinson's rim shop as too artificially Omaresque. I know that The Wire can't resist throwing in some symmetry to break up its verisimilitude, but they never got this contrived just to reinforce the "Individuals and individualism are crushed by institutions" philosophy.
The finale wasn't all contrivance and unearned shifts in characterization. After sending Jimmy and Lester off into The Wire version of happily ever after, it still had enough left in the tank to devastate with the most fleeting of scenes in the montage. The Wire wouldn't be The Wire if it didn't end with someone being substantially worse off -- and no, Alma being exiled to the Bumblefuck County desk doesn't count, nor does McNulty finding domestic bliss with Beadie after his forced retirement, nor Lester with his stripper better-half. So it fell to Dukie to fall farthest and hardest, and the image of him shooting up stayed with me the most out of all the tableaux the finale had to offer.
What happened to Dukie summed up once again the central argument of The Wire, that we live in a society of rules, both legal and tacit, which are primarily interested in self-preservation and self-perpetuation; try to buck the system, and the system fucks you. So I can be angry at Poot for getting out of the game but offering the obliviously ominous advice to Dukie to grind on the corner longer till he was old enough to work a tax-paying job, but Poot just underscored his powerlessness, Dukie's powerlessness, against institutional conventions (like how I put off using the I-word that long?), and if I direct my anger at an individual, then I'm playing right into the hegemonic hands of the institution.
Was it just me, or after she and Daniels came out of the meeting with the mayor, talking out about the career-threatening consequences of stabbing their bosses in the back and going public with the fabricated serial killer revelation, did Ronnie Pearlman actually look excited?
Of all the characters to bring back for a cameo, we get Commissioner Valchek? Who wouldn't have preferred instead Comissioner Mouzone? O-o-o-or better yet, Commissioner Theresa "Va-va-vavoom" D'Agostino?
Which is where this hot filly of a reporter figured into the finale.
Indie rating: Eluvium - "Requiem on Frankfort Ave."