I’m of mixed opinions about writing about The Wire on this blog, especially since since I’m in the process of promoting my LARP blog project (full details coming up in the next day or two, but check out http://blogs.larpaweb.net for a preview). One one hand, The Wire is clearly not a LARP, but on the other it’s one of the most significant sources of inspiration I have for my writing currently, so I suppose I’m going to go ahead and let this one through.
There’s been a decent amount said about this episode in the hours since it aired (I’m personally partial to the coverage at The House Next Door), so I’m not going to try and do even a remotely decent recap. Instead I’m going to focus on a couple of key ideas that I find inspirational as a writer.
Honestly, the most significant aspect of the episode for me was the emphasis late in the episode on the cyclical nature of things. A lot of stories like to end on some sort of “up” or “down” note; that The Wire avoided this was exciting to me. I think this is what disappoints me about a lot of LARP; there’s some assumption of that “good” will triumph, which seems a bit contrived to me. I recognize that that’s a more acceptable narrative structure to many players, but I can’t avoid thinking that it’s a bit of a cop out when it comes to narrative depth and complexity.
Notably, there were a number of scenes which specifically called out to the first episode of the series, which made me wonder why a campaign needs to end with a “big victory” for the players. I’ll acknowledge that that’s what most casual LARPers are interested in, and as such I’d likely never get away with this in a mainstream campaign, but if the journey really is more important than the destination than why can’t the destination be somewhat less than 100% fulfilling?
Moving back on topic, I’ll admit that some of the “cyclical” scenes seemed a bit overwrought — Michael and Dukie’s new lives being the most prevalent examples of this. I can’t really fault it; if nothing else it can be written of as fan-service (which, despite protestations to the contrary, I’m not above), though I think it’s worth making note of. I think it’s actually noteworthy that The Wire opted for a more easily digestible ending than The Sopranos; the ending of the latter might be the sort of thing I dream of writing, but the ending of The Wire is much more likely to be the sort of thing I could reasonably get away with (though in fairness the end of Six Feet Under seems even more likely, given the attention given to character-based fan-service in it’s finale). There’s a fine line between being a bit of an auteur and just being an asshole, and I think I’d prefer to stay on the side of the former.
The other concept that was addressed quite heavily in the finale was the idea of compromise. Throughout the episode characters were forced to choose between what was best for them, what was best for society, and what was actually acceptable to do. That’s actually an important theme of the season; to what extent is it acceptable to commit ills in the name of the greater good? That’s very much the sort of ideology that we’re trying to push in Threads: Los Angeles, so seeing similar representations in other media is always quite instructive. I’m generally against the idea of there being a “magic bullet” which can resolve problems, so seeing The Wire toe that same line is heartening. Any serialized fiction that refuses to give in to easy resolutions is an exceptional example for me as a writer.
At the same time, I’ll admit that the finale was a bit anti-climatic; realistically very little happened over the the 90 mintutes of the episode that couldn’t be considered to effectively be epilogue. Most significantly of these happenings was the resolution of the McNulty/Feamon Homeless Murderer plot line — which realistically found its dramatic peak last week when their plot was revealed, and as such this week was largely spent on dénouement. Dénouement is, of course, a relaive term, as this episode represneted almost 15% of the entire season, but I think the general feeling was there, even if there were mini-arcs which existed within the episode.
Anyways, long story short, I was quite pleased with the final of The Wire. I have to agree that the episode wasn’t a tightly scripted as last week’s episode, but I think it performed admirably given the weight of expectation that was placed upon it. It’s also a much less controversial ending than The Sopranos, which seemed fairly likely. The Sopranos had, by the end, largely turned into a character study, while The Wire continued to be as concerned about institutions as it was characters. In a LARP sense, The Sopranos ending would be a neat thing on a player level, but I doubt a GM of an event of any reasonable size could get away with it, which The Wire hits a much more realistic ending.
As a final note, I’m obviously not planning on spring any sort of “post-modern” ending on the players of Threads of Damocles, although I do think it’s very likely that this will be representative of the sort of writing and social contract that I’ll be using in my future projects.
I’ll miss you, The Wire. David Simon, Ed Burns, George Pelecanos, et. al., have done a fantastic job with the series, and I honestly think it’s one of the most significant pieces of modern literature that I’ve experience. I’m extremely glad that I’ve had the opportunity to view it, and can only hope that it helps further my development as a writer. And even though I live much closer to Baltimore than most viewers of the series I’ll admit to taking a lot of my knowledge of the city from the series (for better or worse).
Requiescat in pace, The Wire.