“The Wire” Returns for Its Final Season

HBO’s critically acclaimed The Wire will return with a bang on Jan. 6, 2008, subverting and complicating the traditional cop show for its fifth and final season. For the uninitiated, the show has always been about the complex inner workings of the city of Baltimore, with special emphasis on the drug wars on the streets. Queer characters, including Det. Shakima “Kima” Greggs (Sonja Sohn), Felicia “Snoop” Pearson (played by herself) and Omar Little (Michael K. Williams), have played key roles in the series since its beginning.

Sonja Sohn (Photo credit: Paul Schiraldi/HBO)

Sometimes described by critics as a “novel,” The Wire is famous for its gritty realism and in-depth portrayal of both sides of the law and the other structures in play, such as the mayor’s office, the schools and the Baltimore Sun newspaper. A large, multicultural cast of characters fleshes out the dramas both personal and political, making for satisfying, emotionally honest conflict and development.

[Warning: Some spoilers]

The new season emphasizes the ways in which the media interacts with and influences the other institutions and power structures in the city. While the theme of the fourth season was education and placed a great deal of the drama in Edward Tilghman Middle School, Season 5 sets much of its action in the newsroom of the Baltimore Sun.

Clark Johnson plays Gus Haynes, an idealistic editor slapped with budget concerns and a ratings-hungry management breathing down his neck, and Tom McCarthy and Michelle Parass are hungry young reporters eager to prove themselves in an increasingly competitive world.

In addition to the new story lines, all major narrative threads begun in previous seasons are carried into and resolved in the final season. Last season’s finale left the Baltimore police still going after Marlo Stanfield (Jamie Hector), a savvy young drug kingpin with a growing street empire. His work controlling the streets of West Baltimore has the homicide department busy trying to identify bodies left in empty row houses, and several detectives are hot on his trail.

Unfortunately, the department has been in turmoil over cutbacks and political jockeying for high positions, leaving important cases in the dust while individual cops strain to do their jobs. Newly elected Mayor Thomas Carcetti (Aidan Gillen) has his hands full with budgetary juggling and corruption in every department, along with the rising crime rate and chaos in the school system.

Meanwhile, Snoop Pearson is going strong as one of Marlo’s top heavies. She and Chris Partlow (Gbenga Akinnagbe) are two of the most prolific assassins on the Baltimore streets, and Snoop is certainly one of the toughest characters on the show. She is played by out lesbian Felicia Pearson, who was convicted of second-degree murder at age 14 and served six years in prison. She later met actor Michael K. Williams at a Baltimore club, and he invited her to the set to meet the show’s producers, who ultimately offered her a role in the series.

Snoop’s sexuality doesn’t come up often, but she displays a butch demeanor befitting the hyper-masculine world of the streets. As one of the most feared assassins in Marlo Stanfield’s camp, she has the respect of all of her male “colleagues.”

Felicia “Snoop” Pearson, Jamie Hector, Method Man, Robert F. Chew (Photo credit: Paul Schiraldi/HBO)

In previous seasons, the show gave unprecedented attention to the Cheryl/Kima relationship, considering the huge ensemble cast and general skew away from personal lives. Greggs began the show in the narcotics unit and quickly became one of the highest regarded cops in the unit.

After a near-fatal injury, Cheryl convinced her partner to take a desk job while she contemplated pregnancy, which resulted in disaster — Greggs became bogged down in new cases and sexual infidelity while distancing herself from Cheryl. Cheryl had a boy, Elijah, and the pair split over Kima’s cheating and indifferent attitude toward starting a family.