I’ve just finished re-watching all five season of HBO’s The Wire. It’s a show that bears multiple viewing, and I always come away from a binge with a new perspective on the series. In that spirit, here are a few things I’ve learned, but be warned, if you haven’t seen it, there are MAJOR SPOILERS below.
Omar Met His Murderer In Season Three
One of the most shocking (among dozens of them) moments in the fifth season is the moment when Omar walks into a convenience store and gets shot in the side of the head. The camera moves to reveal his killer is a young boy called Kenard. Before this, we see Omar hobble past Kenard as he prepares to set fire to a cat (we soon see the cat wander past Omar, safe and sound), and earlier still, Kenard plays a prank with a bag of shit on the police. Earlier still, in season four, Kenard rips of Naymond, bullies Dukie, and even tries to sell drugs to Mr Prezbo. But the first time we meet Kenard is in season three, where he is often seen playing in Hamsterdam … and here’s the kicker … Bunk finds him at the scene of the stash house heist, re-enacting the events he witnessed, and demanding that he get to play as Omar.
The Baltimore Sun Is A Terrible Newspaper
Much of the final season focuses on the institutional failures of The Baltimore Sun, a once proud newspaper stripped of its heritage by corporate ownership and budget cutbacks, as well as a general decline in journalistic standards and integrity. What’s more, even as a fabulist scandal unfolds (mirroring the fabulism of McNulty and Freamon), the paper did a terrible job of covering the stories that matter in Baltimore.
“Our newspaper missed every major story.”
Everything we have seen unfold in the previous seasons of the show, the paper completely failed to report. Teaching the test, duking the stats,the dropping of major criminal prosecutions of known crime bosses and political figures, assassinations, drug wars – most of it didn’t even warrant a short section deep inside the paper.
And here comes the meta:
In Baltimore, where over the last twenty years Times Mirror and the Tribune Company have combined to reduce the newsroom by forty percent, all of the above stories pretty much happened. A mayor was elected governor while his police commanders made aggravated assaults and robberies disappear. School principals in Baltimore and elsewhere in Maryland were obliged to teach test questions to pump scores at the expense of meaningful curricula. Politicians then took credit for the limited gains that were, of course, unsustainable as the students aged into middle school. Politically sensitive casework was butchered or pursued selectively by political interests and departmental indifference. Notable killings and machinations in the drug world were the talk of the streets.
And yes, in real life, there wasn’t much written about such in my city. Amid buyout after buyout, the Baltimore Sun conceded much of its institutional memory, its beat structure, its ability to penetrate municipal institutions and report qualitatively on substantive issues in a way that explains not just the symptomatic problems of the city, but the root causes of those problems.
That whole piece by the show’s creator David Simon is well worth a read.
Scott Templeton Was Based On A Real, Unreported Scandal
While Gus makes mention of other fabulist journalists like Stephen Glass, it’s never really addressed that Scott Templeton, the reporter making up his stories and quotes, is based on a real person who worked at The Baltimore Sun. Though David Simon has never confirmed his name, it is widely believed that Templeton is an avatar for Jim Haner, some of whose stories were retracted by the Sun in 2000, but who was never punished. He never won a Pulitzer, but he was nominated a number of times.
Snoop Plays Herself
Felicia ‘Snoop’ Pearson is portrayed by Felicia ‘Snoop’ Pearson. Stephen King thinks that Snoop is one of the most terrifying villains to ever appear on the small screen, and it’s hard to argue the point.
There Was Nearly A Spin Off Show
After all the political machinations of season three, David Simon thought there could be sister show set in city hall which followed Thomas Carcetti mayorship. Called The Hall, Simon even wrote a pilot script and began assembling staff for the new show, which would have run either side of new season of The Wire. Speaking to Salon in 2012, Simon said:
… if you ask me that would have been an incredible political show, watching Carcetti even more intimately than we were able to portray him within the show, watching that guy maneuver toward the governorship and maybe beyond. That would have been an incredible journey through what politics actually is. Not ‘Father Knows Best’ politics, but actual politics. I reached out to some of the better political writers, and they were like, ‘Yeah, if you can get that, I’m on.’ I was already constructing a writing staff.
Simon managed to return to city politics though with his 2015 serial Show Me A Hero.