‘The Wire’: Start the presses

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The final season of “The Wire” got underway last night, and really, isn’t it a relief after enduring all those advertisements for the last few months? It’s been easy to get sick of all the bus ads, the moody black-and-white photos of Omar and McNulty draped over office buildings on Sunset, the omnipresent “Listen” billboards all over town -- oh wait, none of that actually happened. Sorry. Well, at least Lt. Daniels (Lance Reddick) showed up in a Cadillac ad. That counts, right?

Regardless of the stark contrast between the promotional push behind ‘The Wire’s’ final season and that of its network cousin ‘The Sopranos’ last year, David Simon’s crime- and corruption-stricken B-More was back in full force last night. A year has passed in the show’s timeline, and the beleaguered Western District is more beleaguered than ever thanks to a money crunch stemming from the significantly less idealistic Mayor Carcetti’s office, which has its eyes trained too intently on the governor’s chair to help. Patrol cars are falling apart, overtime pay is a distant memory and morale is deeper in the toilet than ever. It isn’t long before the Marlo-chasing Major Crimes Unit is dissolved, with the exception of Lester and Sydnor who are shifted to the corruption case against profanity stylist Clay Davis from the State Senate. A furious McNulty is shipped back to homicide, and with piles of hours still unpaid and Marlo still walking the street, its little wonder Our Hero is back to spending quality time with his friend Jameson while his girlfriend waits at home. (Sorry Beadie, you should’ve stayed on the docks.)

Out on the streets there are a few bright spots. Junkie-with-a-heart-of-gold Bubs is fighting the fight to stay clean and crashing in his sister’s basement, and Dukie -- the ill-equipped-for-the-streets star student from last season -- is off the corner and babysitting for his friend Michael, who is moving up the ranks in Marlo’s crew. The dead-eyed Marlo is still as bloodlessly ambitious as ever, subtly undermining Prop Joe’s drug co-op board meetings and, curiously, sending his lieutenant Chris to the courthouse to look up the Russian henchman tied to the dock murders from Season Two. Something ugly is in the works. Maybe they want to compare notes on stashing bodies in unlikely places? After all, a hastily boarded-up vacant is only a few steps removed from an airtight shipping container.

Meanwhile, the much-discussed centerpiece of this season’s arc -- the media -- is in no better shape than the department, right down to one of the reporters sharing a line with McNulty (‘Someday I want to find out what it’s like to work at a real newspaper/police department’). The fictionalized Baltimore Sun’s Chicago-based owners want cutbacks, buyouts and in general a whole lot of ‘more with less’ in the paper’s coverage (which, um, must be rough), but the all-seeing and all-knowing Metro editor Gus Haynes is bravely fighting the good fight. From pulling a front-page piece out of some City Council minutes to deflecting credit to one of his reporters to questioning his out-of-touch (and thinly veiled reality-based) superiors, Haynes and his grizzled ink-in-the-veins comrades are clearly ex-Sun reporter David Simon’s champions. We’ll see how that works out -- just ask McNulty, Daniels and the rest of Major Crimes how well ‘The Wire’ treats its champions.


-- Chris Barton