Monday, March 03, 2008

Way Down in the Hole

I watched the second to the last episode of The Wire last night and I couldn't help but feel a bit bummed after watching it. Not bummed in that it was depressing, bummed as in watching Sleater-Kinney perform in one of their last shows before they disbanded.

It's so rare that there comes a show that's as fiercely intelligent, poignant and well-written and acted as The Wire. It's even more rare that a show goes out at the top of its game. Critics may say season 4 was The Wire's best season, but as a journalist, I have a soft spot for this season. And even if this isn't The Wire's best season, it's certainly the best series on television right now.

Whether you're a cop, student, politician, dock worker, teacher or copy editor, David Simon blurred the lines of good and bad in The Wire. Instead of the "good guys vs. bad guys" setup, Simon went for a "system vs. individual" approach. And no matter the person in that show, the system wound up chewing up and spitting out its victims.

**Much Delayed Spoiler Alert**
One character that exemplified The Wire was Omar Little, played flawlessly and courageously by Micahel Kenneth Williams. A fearless stickup man, Little robbed from drug dealers, adhered to a strict moral code and even took his grandmother to church once a month. However, his brutal actions resulted in the deaths of his mentor, his friends and his lover. He was gay, was not ashamed of his sexuality, but it did not define his character. In the most dangerous areas of Baltimore, Omar brazenly walked through the streets in his pajamas, carrying a shotgun - and people scattered.

On many planes, Omar's character was the direct opposite of Marlo Stanfield, also played to perfection by Jamie Hector. Marlo is as calculating and cautious as he is ruthless and unfeeling. It seemed to be a perfect "High Noon" - style showdown between Omar and Marlo (The Wire did a sort of "High Noon" style showdown between Omar and Brother Mouzone). It would have been an appropriate end to one of these characters, and even with its contrived showdown setting, I'm sure Simon could have done the scene justice with few grumbles from fans.

But like most of The Wire, there are few things that would lead up to such a definitive resolution. So in pure Simon fashion, Omar was unceremoniously shown the exit for the show by a head shot courtesy of a kid who isn't even a teenager. With this exit, Simon shows how the random violence of the streets affects even the most "untouchable" characters of the series.

Another exit was in yesterday's (March 2) episode. Snoop was dispatched in similar fashion (but she at least was able to face her killer). Snoop's character, played by Felician Pearson, seemed to be a typical "thug" character at first glance. It actually took two episodes before I found out that Snoop was female. It took almost an entire season to decipher what she was saying. But her swagger and her gallows humor won me over. And now, it's a bummer to see that she won't be part of the finale.

I'm looking forward to Sunday's finale. Mercifully, it's not on HBO On Demand, because I'm pretty sure I and every other Wire fan out there would be spending Monday night watching now it ends.

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