TVGA Roundtable: TV Series Finales IV – deeper into The Wire, and the great finale defined

This TV Geek Army Roundtable features a discussion of television series finales. Check out Part I here, Part II here, and Part III here.

I think that The Wire ended on strong notes all round but can understand that some people saw a falling off. I greatly enjoyed the examination of journalism and the media as an institution that fails in many ways to address the tragic problems that plague America's inner cities (and Baltimore in particular, of course). Unlike any show I've ever seen, The Wire had the ability to pull back its storytelling camera, shift, and focus on a new subculture and new set of characters within Baltimore, all while keeping the plot threads and lives we've been shown prior in mind.

Now, granted, McNulty's (and, later, Lester's) manufactured serial killer storyline was a somewhat significant shift tonally from what we had seen during the prior seasons of the show. However, I was both entertained by it (McNulty, Bunk, and Lester throughout are alternatively engaging and hilarious and always spectacular in interacting with each other) and impressed in the sense that I "bought" that McNulty could be pushed over the edge by budget cuts and lack of priority to do "real" police work to attempt that level of insane stunt.

All of that being said, it wasn't the best season of The Wire. If forced I'd have to place that honor over the umbrella of the first two seasons or so (I'm cheating a bit, but then again, I'm making up the rules!) with the intensity of the investigation into the Barksdale crew and the initial revelations and learning process the audience goes through with regard to the culture and characters and process of the drug trade (and attempts to combat it) in Baltimore.

But because I did greatly enjoy Season Five, I was able to deeply appreciate the craftsmanship of the series finale, which I feel did quite a job of wrapping up a huge number of storylines in a realistic and satisfying way, while also completing the framework of the many questions (political, societal, and so on) that the series expertly poses (check out more on this topic here).

Even though RevViews doesn't think that The Wire produced one of the best series finales of all time, we agree that a great finale is one that is in tune with the aesthetic of the series, wraps up the overarching story in a satisfactory way (or better), and leaves things on a note that enhances the overall quality of the show.

A new area to explore in this regard are shows that "tack" on a movie or more (made for TV or theatrical release) after its initial run. I'd say for starters here that once a show gets made into a movie, the initial series finale changes greatly in terms of its contribution to the series as a whole. That is, it is no longer "the end."

Let’s take Firefly for example, one of the best short-lived shows in the history of television, I'd wager. If Firefly had not been translated into a film (the good but not great Serenity), we'd have to go in and figure out what actually constituted the show's series finale (the episode that was last aired on television during its initial run was not the last episode that was produced – all episodes are available on DVD, and they all rock as a side note). Because we have Serenity though, we have a good sense that this is the final word on the universe introduced to us by Firefly. Unless… of course, a new film is made or the series is brought back to television, but that doesn't look likely at this point.

I'll leave Firefly there for the moment, and we can easily include a bevy of shows in this category such as Extras, Sex and the City, Dead Like Me, and a bunch of crappy shows from the '80s that are being made into crappy film versions today. 

By Eric - TV Geek Army "Revered Leader"

About the author

Eric is the publisher and revered leader of TV Geek Army… at least in his own mind. TV Geek Army is a place for serious TV reviews and news for serious fans of great television. Contact: eric-[at]-tvgeekarmy.com 

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