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Peter Rogers's Blog
Artist-in-Residence at Chez Firth

Monday (12/15/08) 10:42am - ... wherein Peter posts a Weekly Media Update.

Movies:  <none>
TV:  The Wire [5x07-5x09] [spoilers]
Books:  <none>



The Wire [5x07-5x09] [spoilers]
This disc contains the episodes "Took", "Clarifications", and "Late Editions".

We're almost at the end of everything.  After this, one more episode and the entire show is over.

What impresses me most about this disc is how... well, let me frame it like this:  sure, act three is *always* a story's most desperate hour.  It's where the plot moves quickest, it's where the stakes are highest, it's where all the characters put in their hardest efforts.  *Any* well-written act three is going to show us that.

But it has been a long, *long* time since I've seen an act three where things feel so *out of control*.  The central storyline -- the fake serial killer and everything after -- has been a kind of katamari, rolling through Baltimore and adhering larger and larger chunks of the city.  Act three of this fifth season is where McNulty's one audacious bit of subterfuge started picking up the equivalent of bridges and skyscrapers.  Carcetti is throwing all the city resources at this redball.  The Sun is putting the story on the front page.  It's *insane*.

Act threes usually aren't like this.  Usually act three of anything is more like, "In this competition between two guys, the evil guy is about to win."  It's about straining to come out ahead of somebody and win some prize.  "Oh, no, the Nazis have the Ark!  And Indy's been captured!  How will he ever win?!"  What I love about *this* act three is that there's no bad guy.  All the stakes, all the danger, all the desperation -- it all comes from the big, messy, complicated world.  McNulty did something astoundingly stupid, and now *everybody's* running from the boulder.

And everything's at stake.  Lester is right on the edge of cracking Marlo's phone code.  McNulty is right on the edge of being found out.  (Perhaps Templeton is, too.)  And the people in danger of being crushed by the Giant Ball of Lies -- those people have no idea how to put the brakes on it or escape from it.  It amazes me that even the end of The Wire's third season, with the Hamsterdam storyline, didn't create this intense feeling that the machine, that Baltimore, was going utterly haywire.

As far as I can tell, they time things out perfectly w/r/t the plot.  I remember hearing that their episode order was cut down from thirteen to ten at the last minute, but they've made the necessary corrections.  They keep pushing Lester closer and closer to busting Marlo.  They keep pushing McNulty closer to exposure.

Of *course* episode eight is where they break Marlo's cell-phone communication codes.[1]  Of *course* episode eight is where Kima finds out about and is disgusted with the whole setup.  You don't know what's going to happen; you just know something has to happen, and something big.

And oh my does it start paying off in episode nine.  I didn't realize going into it just how many payoffs the writers had built into the season:  Bubbles confessing about Sherrod's death, Templeton and McNulty being found out, Beadie finally having it out with McNulty, Marlo getting jailed, and on and on.

And I love how things keep being chaotic.  None of the characters could possibly suss out the convoluted plot of season five -- nobody except the audience has the whole picture -- so everybody's stumbling in the dark.  Marlo orders the hit on a bad guess.  Perlman and Daniels only slowly realize the full horror of the fake serial killer.  And so on.

It's been some time since I've seen a season of *anything* that was this well-laid-out.  This was also the first time in a while that I've just sat and watched a show without eating or exercising or running some kind of errands.  I just could not walk away from episode nine.

And now there's one more episode, and the whole thing is done forever.

*sniff*


For next time:  finishing The Wire, watching Police Squad!, and maybe *this* time I'll finish that audiocourse about the Bill of Rights and that Henry Jenkins book.

Still listening to Mendelssohn at work.  Nothing new, podcast-wise, although I just added "Intelligence Squared", NPR's Oxford-style-debate program.
[1] Side note:  I wish they'd used the decryption subplot as an excuse to bring in Pryzbylewski one last time.  Yeah, I know, it would have strained credibility.  But on the other hand, hey, there's this old friend of Lester's that was an utter genius at code-breaking....

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Mood: [mood icon] contemplative · Music: none
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