The season finale of ''The Wire'': Taking a stand | EW.com

TV Recaps | The Wire

The season finale of ''The Wire'': Taking a stand

At the end of season 4 of ''The Wire,'' McNulty, Bodie, Carcetti, and Michael all step up to challenges

(The Wire: Paul Schiraldi)

The season finale of ”The Wire”: Taking a stand

Season 4 of The Wire ended with a super-size episode that flip-flopped between moments of crushing despair and flashes of hope and optimism. Actually, who are we kidding? It was about 85 percent depressing and 15 percent uplifting; there were just barely enough positive plot points to keep me from losing all faith in humanity. The episode provided a few scenes of closure, but many of the story lines are far from being settled. Sorry, Wire fans, it seems like a satisfying resolution is at least 12 months away.

We opened with Bubs vomiting all over Landsman (which was actually kind of amusing) and then trying to hang himself. Bubs’ tragic story actually provoked an extremely rare bit of sympathy from Landsman, who said, ”That sad motherf—er is carrying more weight than we can ever put on him.” By the end of the night, Bubs seemed like a shell of a man: Locked up in a city mental hospital, he was still wailing over his accidental poisoning of Sherrod.

With Carcetti’s stamp of approval, Freamon and Daniels sent the entire police force out hunting for those telltale nails on hundreds of vacants. By halfway through the episode, they had found 17 dead bodies. At the end, the list of red names was so long that the homicide department had to add a makeshift paper extension to the dry-erase board.

Earlier in the year, I thought that Freamon was going to be able to take down Marlo and his crew before the finale. It didn’t happen. The police made much progress in the finale — they arrested Snoop and Partlow and then took blood and hair samples from the pair; Kima found their handgun in the SUV’s secret compartment — but there wasn’t enough evidence to create a case against Marlo.

Not that they didn’t do their best to dig up some dirt on him. Bunk tried to get Lex’s mother to help out, but she didn’t have much to say. McNulty used Bodie’s frustration with Marlo to try and get him to turn. It ended fatally for Bodie, one of my favorite characters since season 1. At least he got one great scene before he was murdered. After springing Bodie from prison (seen by one of Marlo’s henchmen), McNulty took Bodie to a park, bought him lunch, and started to work him. Bodie’s pissed-off rant perfectly summed up the street soldier’s sense of general injustice and frustration. ”This game is rigged, man,” he spat. ”We like them little bitches on the chessboard.” Sure he was a street-corner drug dealer, but as McNulty said, he was a soldier. Bodie had a kind of honestly and loyalty and nobility that Marlo will never have.

Bodie’s death (Editor’s note: It turns out it wasn't Michael who shot him. My mistake!) might have taken a sardonic, hilariously smart-assed character from the show, but it had one good effect: It inspired McNulty to return to the major crimes unit. We’ll see if he can keep his self-destructive behavior in check. He was optimistic. ”I think I can do this and keep myself away from myself,” he said to Daniels.

While McNulty did a good job at not reverting to his bad habits this season, Carcetti wasn’t able to keep his own nasty pride and selfishness at bay. Even though his wife and his trusted adviser Norman urged the mayor to ”do the right thing” for Baltimore’s schools, Carcetti refused to bow to the governor’s demands. It could mean good things for Carcetti if he decides to run for the governor’s job in two years, but he let down folks like Prez, the schools, and the kids in the city, who will be suffering because of the mayor’s vanity and stubbornness.

And as for our kids, let’s briefly run down their whereabouts. Despite Carver’s attempts — and even Randy admitted that the detective tried his hardest to get him a new foster parent — Randy was sent back to a group home, where his reputation as a snitch preceded him. Michael continued his descent into the blood-splattered world of a street soldier and made his first kill. Duquan is living with Michael, and from the closing montage, we learned that he’s now working with him too. It’s bad news bears for him: If Dukie is too scared and timid to make it in a big high school, how is he going to make it on the corner? I hope Prez will intervene next year.

Ironically, Namond, the kid who began the year as a swaggering drug dealer, ended it as a middle-class student with a caring foster family and a potentially bright future. The entire back-and-forth between Cutty, Bunny, Wee-Bey and De’Londa was the episode’s high point for me. It gave the finale that tiny speck of lightness that it needed to keep it from collapsing under a suffocating cloud of despair. The countdown for the fifth, and final, season of The Wire begins now.

Some questions to discuss in the meantime: Did Carcetti do the right thing? Does Herc deserve to have his stripes taken away? How could McNulty have kept Bodie from getting murdered? And was this season finale too bleak for you?