DVD Review: THE WIRE: Season five

Warner Home Entertainment

Release date: August 12th, 2008
MSRP: $69.98
Stars: Dominic West, Wendell Pierce, Clarke Peters, Sonja Sohn, Lance Reddick, Seth Gilliam, Andre Royo, Michael K. Williams, Delaney Williams, John Doman, Aidan Gillen, Jamie Hector, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Felicia Pearson, Chad Coleman, Tristan Wilds

Each season of The Wire focuses on something, in the past it has been unions and ports, government, police and education. This time around, David Simon and co take a closer look at the print media. Like in the past, this examination reveals more than a few warts.

Simon comes from a newspaper background and as such, has some special insight into the problems that plague reporters, editors and publishers of today. We see a once great newsroom struggling to cover everything with only a fraction of the staff. We see reporters cutting corners to deliver a killer story, with the powers that be overlooking (or simply missing) the telltale signs in hopes of drawing more readers to a possible award-winning series of stories.

It is interesting watching the older journalists, the ones that came up under a very different set of standards, struggle with the loosening of standards as well as the brutal budget cuts.

The overall feel of season five is different from the others. Over the course of four seasons, we have some to know a wide variety of characters. In the final season, the show takes on the difficult task of wrapping up many storylines and giving and overall feeling of closure.

Some characters rise into the sunset, while others have rather violent departures. I can promise you that some of the endings will surprise you and one should bring tears to your eyes.

Perhaps the most fascinating storyline of the season is the journey of Bubs from a mealy junkie informant whose only desire was to score his next high, to a man that wanting to pull himself out of the gutters. Season four saw his actions result in the death of somebody close to him.

This season, Bubs is dealing with his demons and attempting to sober up. Watching this one character struggling to stay clean is extremely compelling and will almost certainly touch anyone with a heart.

Watching this again (the first time was it’s run on HBO), I am more impressed with it. As the season rolls on, we see virtually every character forced to make tough choices that will determine their future and, in some cases, their very soul.
Of the ten season five episodes, six get commentary tracks. Listening to Simon talk about the newsroom is quite interesting. These tracks include cast and crew as well as Simon.

We also get The Wire Odyssey: this featurette looks back at the entire series, with comments from everyone. It is clear just how much the show meant to those involved. Every season is talked about and we hear where they wanted to go with each one.

It is also interesting to hear that many of the cast actually read for other roles. It goes to show that the actors were picked not simply because they read well, but because they seemed to be the right fit for the characters.

The Last Word talks about season five and the newsroom. It is pretty clear that this was important to Simon. I can’t help but wonder if it was a little too close to home for Simon. While they do a good job examining the media, I don’t think it was as good as the focal points of the previous seasons.

But The Last Word itself really does an excellent job looking at the problems of the print media today. Honestly, I got a lot out of it and recommend that even those that don’t normally watch extras take a gander at this one.

One gripe: Prior to the start of season five, three prequels were filmed. These gave us a quick look into the past of Bunk/McNulty, Omar and Prop Joe. Why weren’t these included??

Overall, I would say that season five is the weakest of the bunch, but it still stands well above the majority of the television out there.

Anyone reading this that has not already purchased The Wire really should do so. You are depriving yourself of one of the finest dramas in the history of television, and that is not simply hyperbole.