Last night The Wire brought its Sophoclesian narrative to a bittersweet end. It's not my intention to spoil the show for those who aren't yet caught up (so easy on the links, cowboy), but I will say this: with the final season-ending montage, the super-narrative came clearly into focus. While the show has always luxuriated in its panoply of finely wrought characters, its chief concern has never been the individual, but the insitutions that are at the heart of a broken system--and how those institutions betray the individuals they're meant to serve. The show's beloved characters--Omar, Bunk, Clay Davis, to name only three--either operate within or are crushed by the systemic institutions (the drug trade, the police department, the political machine) that define them, and as they try to game the system itself, reform it, act outside of it, ultimately, they find they can never escape its reach.
Fittingly, at the end of last night's show, we find out if honey-tongued, Obama-esque, young Mayor Carcetti wins the prize he's so long coveted--the Maryland state house--or if he gets the comeuppance he (may or may not) deserve. When we first meet Carcetti in season three, he is the embodiment of two qualities, cunning and idealism, in equal measure, but as his star rises, his cunning manages to vanquish his idealism. In a wonderful moment in this season, he comes home to watch himself on TV and announces word of his latest, foul-stenched political compromise to his pretty, passive wife. In that moment she finally comes to see him for what he has become: her face contorts into a picture of disgust, but Carcetti is oblivious. His own visage dances and speechifies before him on the television...
This post was intended merely to be a thank you to David Simon (pictured), Ed Burns, Richard Price, Dennis Lehane, and George Pelecanos, The Wire brain-trust, for that moment and all the others I will miss, but with today's news that yet another zealous, young reformer--equal parts cunning and idealism--a man who had renewed my hope in the future of American politics, has disgraced himself and his party (which, let's face it, ain't easy), has forfeited any chance for higher office, has fed us lies about virtue and the rule of law, was caught in--of all things--a federal wiretap investigation, not unlike the one that may or may not have brought down Marlo Stanfield (see, no spoilers), I know all those sad, dark Wirey moments abound. The show may be over, but the show goes on.
Thank you, David Simon, for giving me some hope, despite all the stench, all the ugliness; and fuck you, Eliot Spitzer, for making me believe you were cut from a different cloth.