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Wire Thread

Well, between titling the episode "Mission Accomplished" and Slim Charles' little speech about how the war doesn't stop just because it's based on a lie, I think we can see that the producers did have Iraq on the brain putting this together. Less obviously, Councilman Carcetti's big speech put me in the mind of a liberal take on the war on terrorism -- a need to win hearts and minds, use all the weapons at our disposal and not just force, etc. All in all, though, the final ten minutes or so had an ominous air of conclusiveness about them, as if they don't think the show's going to get renewed. That would be one of the greatest shames in the history of television. Via Bruce Bartlett, here's a page where fans can let HBO know how they feel.

UPDATE: Some more thoughts under the assumption that there will, in fact, be a Season Four. I find it highly implausible that the contractor was unable to provide any further identification of Omar -- no one is such a big racist that they would miss the giant scar running down his face. One also has to wonder what will become of the "orphaned" members -- Bodie and Slim Charles -- of the Barksdale crew who seem to have gotten away clean. Does Marlo kill them off, do they become incorporated into his organization, or do they start a new crew? There's also the question of Prop Joe, who's never been a major character in the series, but who would seem to be a logical target for a major case. Thanks to alliance he formed with Stringer, it would now seem that Avon and other members of his crew have non-trivial dirt to dish on Joe in exchange for leniancy, if anyone's interested.

December 19, 2004 | Permalink

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Comments

a bit anti-climactic after last week, but then again, i was working on the computer and so not giving it my full attention. i'll have to catch a repeat during the week.

don't be so quick to pronounce its end. the writers love to set up the obvious and then do something completely different than it looked like they were going.

and i think there's probably something to the iraq metaphor, though i didn't pick up on it until it was written about here. but just as the first season was a metaphor for corporate bureaucracy in both the drug-dealing and the police department, and the second season was a metaphor for the decline of the working class in america, this show is never about what you see on the surface. there's always a deeper subtext there.

but damn, looks like jimmy mcnulty's on his way to straightening himself out. while kima falls into the pit he once occupied. and won't he be surprised when he sees who the new major in the western will be.

Posted by: achn2b | Dec 19, 2004 10:43:04 PM

I do not think it was the Iraq war was the point the writers were talking about, it was the Drug War, the whole "you fight the war based on the lie" line can fit into the Iraq war, but I really think they were talking about the war on drugs.

Mcnulty looked like he finally found some peace, to saying "the kid has a point", to going to see the lady officer from the 2nd season, to going back on the beat, he really is content, and happy being just who he is. And he's not drinking like he used to.

As for the show being over, yes and no, they left some things open just in case we can convince HBO to keep it going, but I don't think a letter writing, email campaign will be enough, buy the DVD of the first season for someone this Christmas. The Wire DVDs have become my gift of choice for my brother, my two friends I exchange gifts with, and I've demanded my video store get the DVD out for rent. Dollars speak louder then words.

Posted by: jbou | Dec 19, 2004 10:44:36 PM

I almost sent an email to the HBO site threatening to cancel my subscription if The Wire isn't renewed for a 4th season. I really like what HBO has done in changing the television landscape - creating well written and acted series with interesting and compelling story lines. So I would hate to punish them economically. Still, the idea of buying the DVD's sounds compelling - I'll definitely buy a handfull for myself (as well as for others as Christmas presents).

The last 10 minutes did have somewhat of an inevitable ending to it all. But let's hope there are enough of us to convince HBO that The Wire deserves a better fate.

Posted by: eponymous | Dec 20, 2004 12:03:52 AM

I must repeat: How would a show about the war on drugs possibly qualify as an allegory on the war on drugs? This question has nothing to do with The Wire—it's literary analysis. There's text and subtext, if you will, and the subtext shouldn't be 1:1 correspondent with the text. While I can accept that some might wish to discount the Iraq parallels ("Mission Accomplished" episode title, "Got them WMD!", "If it's a lie, we fight on that lie," Hamsterdam:the Baltimore drug war::Iraq:the war on terror) as a total allegorical system, it's preposterous at this point to say that the producers never considered the Iraq war, and it was always entirely ridiculous to suggest that this show is an allegory for the war on drugs—because the show is the war on drugs, it cannot be about the war on drugs in a capital literary sense.

Posted by: Kriston Capps | Dec 20, 2004 12:10:23 AM

As much as I like the show, it really wouldn’t be bad if this were the last episode. Most of everything has been wrapped up. Daniels made Major, McNulty has found peace, Omar has gotten revenge and seemingly is ready to move on, Stringer has died, Avon is in jail for years and his organization is pretty much done, Prez’s bad street police skills have finally caught up with him, etc… Basically all the major threads from the first season have been ended fairly conclusively. It’s a great show, but it might be best to end it on a high note. Anybody remember what happened to OZ when they decided to keep on running new seasons of it?

Posted by: Sleepy | Dec 20, 2004 12:24:14 AM

Ask yourself this question Kriston, when did they shoot this season? And when was this season written? my best guess, written in 2002, shot in 2003. You want this to be about Iraq but it is simply just about the war on drugs.

The war on drugs relies on lies that were told at the begining and they just keep fighting the war inspite of the fact that it is an unwinable war.

The war in Iraq fits into this same mold, hell, the war on "terror" does too, but David Simon had an agenda going into this series and that was the futility of the war on drugs. The title of the last episode might have been thrown in as a dig at Bush, but it could also be what it is Mcnulty's Mission Accomplished, Stringer, and Avon are out of "the Game". Maybe Matt can use his journalistic credentials to get an interview with Simon for TAP? and then we can get some answers.

Posted by: jbou | Dec 20, 2004 12:47:28 AM

"Councilman Carcetti's big speech put me in the mind of a liberal take on the war on terrorism"

Just after The Wire I played Meet the Press with Biden talking about the Iraqi police and the inadequate training we've given them. Whether the writers were explicit in war metaphor or not, Iraq is a condition of our time and permeates all people and communities.

The Barksdale gang members sure were chomping at the bit to hit Marlo. Avon caves in knowing not only that Marlo wasn't responsible, but war is probably pointless. Would Avon have survived if he hadn't agreed to the Marlo offensive?

Best acting of the episode goes to Wood Harris (Avon) who goes through a character development arc like Cutty and Carver have done over the entire season. Honorable mention to McNulty and Cutty and...Colvin, Bubbles...lets hope they renew it.

Posted by: afish | Dec 20, 2004 2:11:51 AM

At least Cutty didn't get fucked. I'm breathing a sigh of relief.

Posted by: Realish | Dec 20, 2004 2:34:27 AM

"This season, is, however, an allegory for the tragedy ongoing in Iraq, something that only a few people have picked up on."

-- David Simon, HBO's official message boards for THE WIRE

Go read the "David Simon answers your questions" thread here [boards.hbo.com], or search for posts by his handle, simon1239.

Posted by: Michael Handler | Dec 20, 2004 3:16:58 AM

A small point about the contractor: it may not be that he is *unable* to identify Omar so much as he is *unwilling* to do so. After all, the first season already established that it could easily be open season on witnesses who testified against gang members in court.

Posted by: YooHooligan | Dec 20, 2004 3:41:46 AM

Kriston notes:

"While I can accept that some might wish to discount the Iraq parallels ... as a total allegorical system, it's preposterous at this point to say that the producers never considered the Iraq war"

Of course.

"and it was always entirely ridiculous to suggest that this show is an allegory for the war on drugs..."

Since you've determined to act as the terminology police on this point, of course.

"...because the show is the war on drugs, it cannot be about the war on drugs in a capital literary sense."

Here, your logic loses me. A show about the war on drugs certainly can be about the war on drugs. Or it can be about something else. Sometimes test overshadows subtext and sometimes subtext overshadowns text.

-----

In the same way that a show about the mob like the Sopranos is naturally positioned to comment on the joys and perils of the empty consumer society, a show about the counter-insurgent war on drugs is naturally positioned to comment on the Iraqi misadventure.

-----

Also on the Iraq allegory front:

A big shout out to Michael Handler for getting the auteur's take on the matter.

And I'm surprised no one's brought up the additional layer of Vietnam allegory in the Apocalypse Now references, (heavy-handedly done, IMHO.)

Posted by: Petey | Dec 20, 2004 6:54:32 AM

Prop Joe would be a natural focus for another season--remember his great drug connect is The Greek, who got away in season 2, and, for reasons tantalizingly unexplained, has the Dept. of Homeland security protecting him. Plenty of plot possibilities there.

I have a feeling they're going to let the fate of the show hang to create some "why aren't you watching this?" buzz, then they'll pickup another season.

Posted by: thefxc | Dec 20, 2004 8:19:55 AM

What about Avon's sister keeping the family business going?

Posted by: JDS | Dec 20, 2004 9:01:56 AM

What about Avon's sister keeping the family business going?

That thought crossed my mind in the courtroom scene, too, but that's a hair too close to the Sopranos, isn't it?

I was surprised to see Carcetti development—I would've sworn he'd become the stalking horse for a Hamsterdam-oriented campaign. It's obvious that to some extent he didn't want to blow the mayor away over the point; D'Agostino had to point out the glaring opportunity. It's because I don't have the most firm reading of his character that I'd like to see what the tenets of his platform are.

Damnit, HBO. Don't take this away from me.

Posted by: Halliburton Company | Dec 20, 2004 9:47:34 AM

Ask yourself this question Kriston, when did they shoot this season? And when was this season written? my best guess, written in 2002, shot in 2003. You want this to be about Iraq but it is simply just about the war on drugs.

These were shot this spring/summer/fall- 2004. Probably written in the end of 2003 and into 2004. The parallels of the futility of war - the war on drugs, the war in Iraq, the war started by Avon - it's all there. Aggression ends in violence and death, and everyone suffers.

Posted by: fasteddie | Dec 20, 2004 11:10:45 AM

Golly, I actually enjoyed watching The Wire, and simply being carried along by the story, until all the humanities majors started nattering incessantly about what it's "about." How about it's just a stomping good TV show, with all the things that make good drama: plot, situations and characters?

Posted by: Paul | Dec 20, 2004 12:41:07 PM

I know they're two totally separate shows, but what is about HBO kind of introducing a surprising gay plot twist (I worded that in a clumsy way but hopefully you get what i mean) and then not following up on it at all?

This past season on "The Soprano's", you had one of Tony's captains blowing some security guard in a construction site parking lot, and then nothing happened.

Then, on The Wire, you had Major Rawls in a gay bar and again, nothing developed.

As far as a season four, i hope this is wrong, but from everything i've read, it seems that it's much more likey that there won't be a season four. David Simon was actually answering questions over at the Wire's website on the message boards and he doesn't sound hopeful.

I really hope there is another season. This is gonna sound corny, but i really don't watch much TV (my girlfriend got me into the Wire about five episodes into the first season), but i've never seen a show where i really felt like I knew the characters, both the good and the bad.

Posted by: jeff | Dec 20, 2004 12:52:06 PM

I this excerpt from David Simon's Q&A on The Wire's site explains why the season finale felt like it could have been a series finale:

"Lastly, we end every season in such a way that it could, if it had to, be a coda for the show. That doesn't mean that there isn't more for the writers to say with this world that would be fresh and purposeful. But each of the three seasons stands on its own as a singular story with a beginning, middle and end. Or at least we try for that."


I don't share people's pessimism about the future of the show, but who knows?!

Posted by: myg | Dec 20, 2004 6:29:29 PM


Simon's statements about Iraq and other political subjects seem to confirm the theory about the Iraq parallel, but I'd say the writers made that fairly overt earlier in the 3rd Season, when drug dealers in Hamsterdam were hawking varieties called "WMD" and "Swing State."

Posted by: myg | Dec 20, 2004 6:32:44 PM

I know they're two totally separate shows, but what is about HBO kind of introducing a surprising gay plot twist (I worded that in a clumsy way but hopefully you get what i mean) and then not following up on it at all?

This past season on "The Soprano's", you had one of Tony's captains blowing some security guard in a construction site parking lot, and then nothing happened.

Then, on The Wire, you had Major Rawls in a gay bar and again, nothing developed.

i can't be so certain re: the sopranos, but here it's because of the way that simon writes. he doesn't believe in the standard manner of tv storytelling, where everything has to be shown to the audience and explained to them, where you can watch the show while reading a magazine and talking on the phone, and still not miss anything, cause it's all telegraphed to you. the plot, scene setup, music, et al of conventional television all work to push your buttons as the viewer to draw conclusions or feel certain ways. you know this is a heavy dramatic moment cause the soundtrack swells in huge dramatic flourishes.

simon doesn't work that way. he respects his audience enough to know that they can be challenged, that they have to pay attention to understand what his shows are about. and that they don't have to be guided along by the hand for the story to unfold. they can think and come to conclusions on their own. and sometimes, where they think thinbgs are heading, based on conventional tv mores, isn't where he ends up taking them.

so it may be that having rawls there was just one of those little character revealing episodes, and nothing will ever come of it. or it might be that in season four, or five, something happens that harks back to that little chance sighting in the gay bar. who know?

put me firmly in the camp that a show about the war on drugs can't be a metaphor or allegory for the war on drugs. subtext can't be on the top, or else it's not subtext anymore, it's text. the subtext has to be something more, not the clearly denoted text. like i said above, the first season, about the drug war, explored the corporate bureaucracies in both the drug-dealing world and the police organization, and how they had much in common. the second season, with text about a union worker getting involved in corruption, explored as subtext the decline of the working man in america, and how that decline played a role in the decisions he made to break the law. sabotka wasbn't a bad man(and loved the shot of his election flyers at the end), but he did whatever he thought he needed to do to save his union, and the high-paying jobs for his workers.

Posted by: achn2b | Dec 20, 2004 8:06:25 PM

"subtext can't be on the top, or else it's not subtext anymore, it's text."

Sure it can. See a full-on allegory like Animal Farm as evidence.

What I think you mean to say is that text and subtext can't be identical.

Posted by: Petey | Dec 20, 2004 8:35:18 PM

yeah, but i'd venture that the text of animal farm is simply that-animals living in their own community. it's the subtext relating it to commmunism that keeps it from being a fairy tale like old mcdonald's farm, and instead makes it a cutting commentary on political ideology.

Posted by: achn2b | Dec 20, 2004 11:15:10 PM

"i'd venture that the text of animal farm is simply that-animals living in their own community. it's the subtext relating it to commmunism that keeps it from being a fairy tale..."

Exactly. Subtext can be on top and still be subtext.

Posted by: Petey | Dec 20, 2004 11:17:37 PM

Rawls glimpsed in the gay bar gave new subtext to his every promise to get on or in someone's ass.

This episode had two intense sex scenes. The lesbian embrace was quite graphic, and the hetero scene was climactic. In each scene a slim black person was on top, and the subtext was too.

Go Daniels! His promotion, though, was not as completely satisfying as last year's achievement: solving the twelve dead girls in a can case and getting the group constituted as ... the Major Crimes Unit!

This is or was a show about a black city and about races living and working together, with a black mayor and a black police commissioner. But it was disconcerting to see the triumph of justice: all those young black men in orange jumpsuits handcuffed in court.

Posted by: putnam | Dec 21, 2004 12:15:20 AM

>but damn, looks like jimmy mcnulty's on his way to
>straightening himself out. while kima falls into the pit
> he once occupied. and won't he be surprised when he
> sees who the new major in the western will be.

Exactly, and the Western is where Daniels' demons are buried.
I've read the next season is about public schools, and I'm betting that the Western will have a school in the crosshairs, why else would Jimmy be walking a beat but to be on the ground when some nasty sh*t goes down, and he'll be there for the parents, etc, Daniels will bring in Lester for tech and avuncular advice.

I also think Prop Joe will be the main underworld guy, maybe the Greek visible again.

Also, don't forget that Bunk has a beef with Omar, and he knows the shotgun was his.

Plus plus, Cutty working with kids, etc.

Posted by: drowsy | Dec 21, 2004 1:23:07 PM

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