“The Wire”: More With Less

Posted by SH

OK, first off, not a fan of Steve Earle’s version of “Way Down in the Hole.” Normally, Earle does all right, but he’s bland here. Like, Rascal Flatts bland. This is not the musical sendoff this monumental show deserves. Bring back Tom Waits, please.

Otherwise, the final season kicks off with a typically enthralling episode that shows a police force in crisis (having to go without OT pay and a bunch of other niceties, like operational cars), a neophyte mayor clumsily trying to wheel and deal his way out of the budgetary mess, a surveillance unit facing the prospect of a year’s worth of work going down the tubes and a city newspaper trying to maintain relevancy amid a punishing financial reality. The unifying theme: Everyone is being asked to do “more with less,” — a concept that would be amusing if it weren’t so frustrating to those who have to live with it.

The cops — including McNulty, Freamon, Greggs, Sydnor and Dozerman — are still hot-tailing Marlo Stanfield and his crew after the 22 bodies were found in the drug house last season, but they’re not making any significant headway. Maybe that’s because Marlo is on to them, and rarely breaks from his routine. The biggest development raises more questions than answers, when McNulty finds that one of Stanfield’s lieutenants has been doing some courthouse research on Sergi, an old adversary who played a pivotal role in the port case that dominated Season 2. Hmmm …

Could this have anything to do with Marlo’s bold performance at a meeting of Baltimore’s drug lords, during which he openly challenged Prop Joe’s authority? As the man says, “Don’t sleep on Marlo.” By the way, I love that they all met at a hotel conference room. Did they register under the old Simpsons gag line, “Legitimate Businessmen’s Social Club”?

As the promos have been touting, the media is going to play a significant role this season, and it’s thrilling to see David Simon write about his old digs, The Baltimore Sun. Everything that is so great about “The Wire” is on display in scenes like the one where the young reporter is dressed down for not knowing that you can’t “evacuate” people. No other show pays this much attention to detail, and makes it interesting.

It’s too early to tell what the paper’s role will be this season, but it’s apparent that city editor Gus Haynes will be at the forefront. He’s an old dog, still energized by the newsroom and trying to break news despite continuing corporate cutbacks and editors who are more interested in PR than in the truth. In a break from “Wire” tradition, Gus sees his efforts rewarded with a front-page story that reveals a sweetheart deal between a drug dealer/strip club owner and the city council. The councilwoman’s reaction is priceless. I guess Simon had to throw his former profession a bone before presumably dismantling it in the nine episodes to come.

Previews of next week’s show reveal that Barksdale will be back, lording something over the ever-ambitious Marlo. Can’t wait.