Wednesday, December 12, 2012

BUT YOU GON' LET GO OF THAT BOY. BET THAT:  I try to write about the season four finale to The Wire, "Final Grades," and I'm just too overwhelmed to say anything. Alan, as you'd expect, has a comprehensive summary of where all the characters are at the end, but even that only begins to cover how utterly defeated one feels at the end of the season. Heroic efforts by well-meaning men (and they're all men, it seems) -- Prezbo, Bunny, Cutty, Carver, and to some extent Carcetti -- often backfire, and rarely succeed, and when they do succeed seem to do so for the kid who seemed the least deserving, non-Donut division.  [And we love Donut here.]

Crime, boy, I don't know. Locking up the Barksdale Organization didn't make a difference, because Marlo's right there to take over, and even more brutally. Lock up Parton Partlow and Snoop, and Michael's already ready to take over. Take out Marlo himself, and, well, look at how many other people were there at the latest New Day Co-Op meeting, with the Greeks always needing distributors. Hamsterdam may not have been the answer, but the status quo does not work.

Which leads to the season's true villain: statistics. Whether it's in terms of police clearance rates or students' educational achievement, what Simon and Burns want us to absorb is how much chasing the numbers can distract from, and often work against, the actual goals which the statistics are meant to measure.

Finally, Bubbs. Oh, god, it did get worse.  Damnit.


  1. "Crime, boy, I don't know." -- Nice reference. :)

  2. I knew this episode was going to hurt even before the credits sequence rolled. Poor, poor Bubs.

    Started crying when Dukie handed Prez the present. Started sobbing - I mean choked up can't breath sobbing - when Randy comforted Carver with a pat on the arm. (I assumed the present was a precursor to Dukie killing himself. Even though I didn't like where he ended up, obviously, it was a relief he didn't commit suicide.)

    Of all those kids to get a happy ending, I wouldn't have predicted Namond. (I jotted this down before I read Sepinwall saying the same thing.) But in a way, it makes sense. Namond kind of strikes me as one of those lucky assholes that's always going to wind up surviving.

    Quick last note on Namond - little touch I really liked: When he was at Bunny's at the end he had his poufy ponytail back. Doesn't have to care if the popo can ID him anymore.

    I also was somewhat surprised that it was 3 out of the 4 boys who got unhappy endings. I had thought we'd get two "winners" and two "losers." Dammit.

    A note on testing:
    When I was in high school, long before No Child Left Behind, in TN everybody had to pass an exit exam to get a high school diploma. You took it first in 9th grade so that if you failed you had the maximum number of chances to retake it. And, since they knew some kids might not be all the way up to 9th grade level, if I remember correctly it was pitched at the 6th grade level. So, yeah, to graduate high school in Tennessee in the early 90s, you only had to really have a 6th grade education. USA USA USA.

  3. isaac_spaceman1:35 PM

    It's Partlow, not Parton, but I'm getting a kick out of imagining Dolly Parton in that role. It would be a whole different vibe. Not worse, just different.

  4. isaac_spaceman1:41 PM

    Incidentally, it's worth mentioning how great a job Maestro Harrell did over this season, letting Randy's optimism bleed out of him episode by episode, so that the Randy of the last two episodes is barely recognizable as the Randy of the first episode, yet you didn't notice the change as it was happening. The difference between those two states of Randy (and their differerence from Malik on Suburgatory) is pretty amazing. That's a lot of range for a young actor (and yet not unprecedented even on this show, e.g. the difference between Michael B. Jordan on this show, on FNL, and on Parenthood).

  5. There are two moments in all of The Wire that made me cry, and one of them was at the end of this episode. Not anything that happened to the kids, as I think I was steeled for that. But from the first sight of Walon in the car with Kima, all the way through to Bubbles collapsing in his arms, I just wept. Yes, I have a soft spot for Bubs, and that was just heartbreaking.

    Speaking of stats: I always love the end scene of Landsman looking bemusedly at the Board, with a list of homicides so long they have to add paper to the end of it. It's the end of the year, and boy are they screwed, clearance-wise.

  6. By the way, I hear Best Buy will have all seasons of The Wire for $14.99 each next week. (Also Deadwood and a few other HBO series, but sadly not Game of Thrones.)

  7. Jenn.8:18 AM

    I always predicted 3/4 unhappy endings, but never predicted Namond getting the happy ending. Maybe it came down to the fact that he had a father who was actually capable of aiming for what was best for his kid.

    Poor Bubbs. Poor, poor Bubbs.

  8. This was the season that most broke my heart, had me the most engaged, and finally made me give The Wire its due as one of the great dramas of all time. I just find it amazing how The Wire starts with looking at the dealers and the cops, then widens its scope to show how the drugs get into the city and the politicians /cops allow it or can't stop it, and then opens it up even bigger to show how these kids get involved in the drug trade in the first place - and how inevitable it is that they will, when so few choices are open to them. Amazing that Namond gets out, with so much stacked against him - but it's the tiniest shred of hope, that one adult taking a chance on one kid can make a difference.

    I also love how the kids' fates are reflected in the struggles of the adults - Bubs to get clean, Cutty to get out of the game, Carver to do some good for once. It doesn't get easier for the adults - it's always a struggle.

    Just brilliant television. Out of all four seasons, it's Michael, Namond, Randy and Dukie who stay with me from that show the most.

  9. This is where I essentially stopped watching. I was glued to Seasons 1-4 but this finale killed me. I couldn't handle much more and trust that I would still get out of bed in the morning. By episode 2 of season 5, I was done.

  10. Saray5:13 PM

    I finally caught up...and now I'm depressed. I was so excited about Bubbles in the beginning of the season and now I just want to punch Herc in the face. If I saw the actor, I probably would.

  11. Marsha11:40 PM

    I've been trying to think of something to say, but between the comments here and Sepinwall's post, that about covers it. I bawled. I can't stop thinking about it. But I don't really have anything to say.

    I think starting season 5 is going to feel even more jarring than usual.