The Wire began its fifth and final season picking up about 15 months from where we left it. Like past seasons, the opening was on the soft side. This year's theme is the media and its contribution to and suffering from the crumbling of the urban city of Baltimore, and creator David Simon likes to use the opening scene of any episode to set up the theme metaphorically. To open, Bunk, Crutchfield, and Landsman use a meal from McDonald's and a copy machine -- itself a revisited gag from the first season of Homicide: Life on the Streets -- to get a suspect to confess to a shooting. These funny, but unethical methods echo nicely how David Simon's Baltimore Sun may be going after their stories.
And "go after" is probably a good term to use in reference to Simon and the Sun, given his past history and admission that he holds serious grudges with his former bosses John Carroll and William Marimow. Simon even went so far last season to name the despicable lieutenant, who briefly took the reigns of Major Crimes, the name of Marimow -- of him, Landsmen said hilariously, “He doesn’t cast off talent lightly, he heaves it away with great force.” This season, they've built a set of the Sun that replicates how Simon remembers it from 1994, and it will be interesting to see if he uses it to tell the intricate story we've come to expect from The Wire, or if revenge will sour the tale. Let's just say for now that last night's The Simpsons hit this topic harder earlier in the evening.
Of the newspaper cast entering this season, most welcome is the return to the small screen of Clark Johnson (Homicide: Life on the Streets) whose turn as City Editor Gus Haynes already reads like Season 3's entry of truth teller Lt. Bunny Colvin -- as high a compliment as a character can receive. Johnson has spent most his time lately directing -- he directed the pilot and Season One finale of The Wire, along with many episodes of The Shield and Sleeper Cell -- so it's nice to see him back in action again after all this time. Almost like he never left at all.
The theme song this year is an interpretation that Steve Earle recorded over a year ago, in anticipation of this season. Earle, you may recall, plays Walon, Bubbles' gruff-but-wise NA sponsor, and this character gets a bit more airtime this season, as Bubbles tries to stay off the wagon.
Elsewhere, David Simon continues to hint at his next series with several music selections from Louisiana artists, including Ernie K-Doe, Slim Harpo and a track from New Orleans DJ/pianist Davis Rogan. Could Blondie's "The Tide is High" be a veiled New Orleans reference as well?
Playlist: The Wire - Ep501
1. "Way Down in the Hole" - Steve Earle - Theme song for season 5
2. "Eric B Is President - Eric B & Rakim - Marlo's lair, McNulty watches
3. "Not A Criminal" - Chamillionaire - Chris & Michael talk on street
4. "Blind Love" - The Nighthawks - Guy in blue car buys drugs on corner
5. "Because Of You" - Ne-Yo - Michael, Dukie and Bug at home
6. "I'm You're Breadmaker, Baby" - Slim Harpo - McNulty, Kima, Lester in bar
7. "The Tide is High" - Blondie - Herc with Carver and officers in bar
8. "Mother-In-Law" - Ernie K-Doe - McNulty drunk dialing from bar
9. "Do Me That Way" - Davis Rogan - Newspaper staff in bar
More: New York magazine's Vulture got the first punch in corrections for depiction on the series. The funny "evacuation" correction is actually correct in its initial use. Expect more corrections to come with journalists being sensitive to how their institution is covered.