It's really coming down to 'The Wire'

Times Staff Writer

Let the record show that the true beginning of the end is underway in Baltimore.

No doubt, there are plenty of unhappy Omar fans out there after Sunday's episode. While talking over the final season, one "Wire"-watcher I know said, "Whatever happens, as long as they don't kill Omar." Well, all right then. But that, for better and for worse, is not how this show works.

Omar's end played like the opposite of Prop Joe's shooting a few weeks back. But where Joe's end was excruciatingly and almost lovingly slow under Marlo's watchful eye, Omar was gone in a flash, with an almost insulting level of anonymity from a person who at first just seemed a random kid in a liquor store (but after a quick rewind became Kenard, the wee bundle of undiluted hate from Michael's corner). Apart from the ominous buildup of Omar furiously prowling Baltimore's vacants in the unforgiving midday sun, there was little indication something like this was coming -- other than the unsettling memento mori of Kenard trying to light a cat on fire as Omar passed by. Wow.

Still, those who have been with "The Wire" from the beginning can't be surprised for long. Everyone in David Simon's Baltimore is a potential casualty, regardless of how many leaps from tall buildings in a single bound Omar pulled off. Just ask Stringer Bell.

Still, for one of the few times in this troubled season, an episode's impact has lingered well past the closing credits. Given all "The Wire" has established up to now, would it really have been more satisfying to watch Omar mow through Marlo's crew one by one before a final, high noon showdown? Maybe it all could've wrapped up with Omar enjoying a victory Newport backed by some "Don't Stop Believing" while the closing credits roll -- would that have been preferable?

Of course not. As good as the above might have felt for everyone who loved West Baltimore's most fascinating export, this ending feels right.

So that raises the question: If Omar can't get Marlo, who will? Does anyone truly believe the law is the fastest horse in this race? Baltimore's finest are closing in, however, with Bunk in the lead thanks to new DNA evidence against Chris for his killing of Michael's stepdad. But, thanks to Lester's understated secret weapon, Leander Sydnor, the Greeks' code seems to have been cracked. And it's, um, the Baltimore Thomas Guide? Really? If indeed Lester and his rapidly swelling ranks of his "shadow" Major Crimes unit (thanks, McNulty!) are on the right track, it will be interesting to see where we go from here. But it's hard to picture Marlo's end coming with something as simple as a pair of handcuffs. Justice, for all its tantalizing appeal, is not "The Wire's" way.

Speaking of McNulty, things aren't looking good for our "hero." He spent much of the episode crumbling under the strain of his false empire, confessing his sins to everyone from Kima -- who might blow the whistle on the whole weird scheme -- to the long-suffering Beadie, who finally got his attention by bailing out for a night. Maybe hearing Quantico's psychological profile of his "killer" hit a little too close to home, but McNulty finally seems to be recovering his senses, which at this point just seems horribly sad. As great as it is to see McNulty's character regaining its nuance, redemption seems about as common as a Passenger Pigeon in Baltimore -- unless your name's Clay Davis, of course.

Have to say, if this episode is any indication, there's reason for optimism for how the series is going to wrap up. The pacing this week seemed far more natural, and even the troublesome newspaper storyline seemed less over-the-top than usual with Gus' brusque stand against Templeton. But is it all too little too late? Have we been set up for the ending we've been waiting for? Or have we just been set up?


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