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Review: 'Wire' junkies get one last fix

  • Story Highlights
  • Finale of "The Wire" to air Sunday night
  • This season hasn't measured up to previous ones, say CNN reviewers
  • Final show has a couple of surprises, but is too neatly tied up
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By Jo Parker and Rachel Clarke
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Editor's Note: In the following story, we promise there are no spoilers to the events of the final episode of HBO's "The Wire," which will be shown at 9 p.m. ET Sunday.

(CNN) -- Stringer is dead. Omar is dead. And soon, "The Wire" will be, too.

The Wire

Sonja Sohn, Wendell Pierce and Dominic West discuss matters on the "Wire" finale.

The show, broadcast by HBO, which -- like CNN -- is a division of Time Warner, created complex storylines weaving together the lives of Baltimore's cops, drug dealers, politicians, port workers, schoolchildren and educators and now journalists.

It also created a devoted fan base, including CNN staffers Jo Parker, who coincidentally worked at The Baltimore Sun for 13 years, and Rachel Clarke. Both are veteran watchers of previous seasons who have lapped up this year's story, where events on the street and inside the murder squad become ever more entwined with politics and news, complicating everything they touch.

Here, they talk about whether the keenly awaited finale matched expectations.

Clarke: Were you satisfied?

Parker: No. I expected "The Wire" to startle me and make me think right up until the series finale, but in the end it felt too networky. Yes, the storylines were completed and there was a resolution of sorts for each major character, but it all seemed to be too neatly tied ... red ribbon, anyone? Photo Gallery: Get to know the characters of "The Wire" »

Clarke: Yes, I'm all for schmaltz, but that's not why I watched "The Wire." In previous seasons, the show has had me sobbing (Bodie's killing), screaming blue murder (Bubbles' suicide attempt) and spiraling downward as I awaited the really bad things that had to happen (the parting of the ways between Stringer and Avon was never going to go well). This time, I had the familiar sinking feeling about some characters and plot lines as they played out, but this time, the writing didn't have the same killer instinct.

Or maybe "The Wire" has just given me a really dark view of the world, of Baltimore, of humanity, and I should lighten up.

Parker: I did experience one shocker during the finale involving a longer-term character. I'm surprised now that I didn't see it coming any more than the character did!

Clarke: I know what you're talking about. Sure, there was a moment where I gasped.

And there were other vintage "Wire" themes and moments. The questions over a moral code, how it's rarely if ever black and white and how real life and real people are just too complicated to fall into that simple "good or bad" template. "Good" people do bad things and "bad" people do good things. And circumstances and the bigger picture will often intervene to steer even the best from the path of the angels.

But that's where this season as a whole hasn't matched the other four. The newspaper characters were simply good or evil. But you worked at The Baltimore Sun, so maybe that's true to life?!

Parker: There were definitely some folks I'd consider good or evil at The Sun, but none who flat-out grew horns like Templeton, Whiting and Klebanow. (OK, maybe the Templetonesque dude.) I worked there for 13 years and left during "The Wire's" run. So I know creator David Simon peripherally and some of the situations he alludes to this season fairly well.

I expected this season to be even more compelling to me, if that was possible. Instead, I found the new characters too one-dimensional. I didn't emotionally bond with any of them -- even though some bore the names of my real former colleagues -- so I really didn't care what happened to any of them in the finale.

Clarke: Me too, but then I'm still mourning Stringer from season three when good and evil were mixed so well and you could happily cry over the comeuppance of a calculating, cold, murderous drug dealer. There are a lot of old memories from earlier seasons in the finale, but that just made me nostalgic for the earlier stuff.

Parker: No, no! Don't talk about "nostalgia"! That word is ruined for me now!

Clarke: For all the delight I got at various lines and shots, I thought some of the last episode was just trying to be too clever. Still, I'll be watching the finale all over again on Sunday. Will you?


Parker: I wanted different endings for some characters, but I'm not the one cashing HBO's check. Despite my quibbles at the last season and the finale, I'll be watching it again and mourning its passing. It was a complete treat. Although I'm still ticked off.

Clarke: True that. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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