The Wire's last season was not its best, but even subpar Wire blows the doors off 99% of TV. HBO's sprawling saga of Baltimore started off as a cop show and became a vast social-realist novel of all the systems that make, and fail, American cities. Season 5 expanded its focus to the press, examining how a newspaper (here a fictionalized version of the Sun) can become too blind and decimated to notice the tragedies that The Wire had laid out for years. At the same time, the show wrote a poetic coda to its story of cops and gangsters, honoring and mourning the detectives and street kids who kept hope alive amid hopelessness. A combination of boozy Irish wake and searing hip-hop tragedy, The Wire put its story to bed, while helping us better understand the ongoing story of America.
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