Sunday, September 28, 2008


"He was thinking, if this really was one of that guy's movies, this scene wouldn't be here, it would be in that restaurant on top of the Tower, the 360. [He] would look out over the lights of Toronto stretching off in three directions as far as he could see. He'd look south to New York state, right there, and he'd say something like, "I own this town.""

That passage comes late in John McFetridge's Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere and it is the most important passage in the whole novel. I picked up this book because I had heard favorable comparisons made to Elmore Leonard (also, it didn't hurt that the title comes from one of my favorite songs from my all-time favorite artist). I can see where such comparisons come from. Everybody Knows is driven by sharp dialogue delivered by solid characters involved in a large scam. Classic Leonard, right? But this book is so much more complex, so much more ambitious in its scope, it is more like an episode of The Wire than Killshot (which is not to take a shot at Killshot, a great book in itself).

In fact, I would argue that Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere should be the basis of an HBO series. McFetridge's Toronto is just as interesting as Simon's Baltimore and shit, everything's shot in Toronto anyway so why the fuck not?

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The passage above spells out what this strange and wonderful book is about: the reality of cops and criminals in a constantly changing urban environment named Toronto. The story begins with a man falling onto the hood of a car from twenty-five storeys above. This brings detectives Armstrong and Bergeron on the scene, only for them to find that investigating the players surrounding the crime interferes with a narco investigation of a grow room operation within the building the deceased jumped from. Or is it that narcotics is trying to cover up their knowledge of the grow room?

Also thrown into the mix is Richard, a motorcycle club member from Quebec looking to expand his already vast operations even further in Toronto. Then there's one of his underlings, Sharon McDonald, who runs the grow room in the building, who is visited by a strange man named Ray who has a plan to rip off Richard and the club big time.

But all of this is revealed extremely gradually and in a very subtle manner. This novel takes its time introducing the many, many players and then slowly revealing their place in this vast world. Also, don't expect big action scenes and violence. Almost all the violence and "action" happens off camera, so to speak. This can be frustrating, but you learn quickly that McFetridge is not interested in telling the same story you've heard a million times before the same way you've heard it. He's trying something new and damn, is it exciting. There is no hand-holding in Everybody Knows, just a steady stream of events (and great dialogue on every page) that you trust will cohere into a bigger story (Don't worry, it pays off, just not always in the way you think).

Along the way, we get seemingly authentic dirt about marijuana grow rooms, Toronto real estate, the movie business, the rising influence of motorcycle clubs in organized crime (something that Sons of Anarchy has failed to illustrate in its cliche-ridden storyline), and much more. This guy knows Toronto and its cops and robbers (and those in-between) inside and out. There is a scene late in the book where a group of cops are discussing the elephant in the room without ever actually saying the elephant's name that should be handed out to creative writing students everywhere.

I think that for paperback run, the publishers should try to appeal to fans of Pelecanos and Price instead of the new noir writers. Yeah, it sort of fits on the shelf alongside The White Trilogy or Pistol Poets , but Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere would be much more snug between The Sweet Forever and Samaritan.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


What continues to amaze me about Goodis is that he gets away with so much despite the highly censored times he was writing in. In Black Friday not only is the violence as nasty as anything you could read today, but the sexual discussion within (impotency, the female sex drive, closing your eyes and making a go of fucking someone who disgusts you - all discussed at great length) is close to what you'd find in a Philip Roth novel. Aside from an overall lack of the word "fuck," Black Friday almost reads like it was written in the present.

The extremely tight plot follows Hart, a desperate man stranded in Philadelphia with not even a buck to his name and no winter jacket. He rips off an overcoat from a retail store and is pursued by the police around town for a while before he stumbles across a man dying in the street. The man offers him eleven grand in thousand dollar bills and Hart takes it, only to then be pursued by the dying man's killers.

A scuffle ensues and Hart ends up killing one the men and earning the respect of the other, Charley. Charley is apparently the head of a gang, a gang that once included the man Hart took the money from before said man betrayed the gang. Naturally, the gang also included the man who Hart killed, Paul, whose sister Myrna is none too happy to see Hart accepted with open arms by Charley after Hart gives the eleven grand back to its rightful owners. The gang now consists of Charley, Mattone, Riccio, Myrna, Hart and Frieda, all of whom live under the same roof. Charley only allows Hart to join them on their next job - a mansion robbery that will go down on Friday the thirteenth (hence the title) - after Hart explains that he is on the lam since murdering his brother back in New Orleans for control of the family fortune. It is Charley's belief that to kill for practical reasons like money makes you a professional, and he'll have nothing but pros in his outfit.

Thing is, Hart's reasons for offing his brother are a little more complicated than that...

This leads to a sort of hyper-intense play of sorts, with most of the action taking place within the gang's hideout. Mattone is an ex-boxer moron whose insecurity makes him challenge Hart at every turn. Myrna seethes with hate for Hart since he killed her brother. Frieda is sexually attracted to him but belongs to Charley who is impotent. She also can tell that Hart isn't a professional. Hart knows that Charley will kill him if he doubts Hart's professionalism in any way. All of this keeps the tension up around eleven.

Then, of course, there's the ill-fated Black Friday heist on the near horizon.

In other words, Black Friday never lets up. It has that perfect mix that we occasionally find in crime fiction where the plot is both extremely simple and agonizingly complicated at the same time. Every character is clearly defined and made vivid in the imagination. The dialogue is both witty and cleverly profound, like it's out of a Ben Hecht-Howard Hawks screenplay.

In other words, it's pure Goodis. Also, if you read the Serpent's Tail edition of the novel, you get a bunch of Goodis short stories as well, most of which kick some solid ass as well.

As I close this review, let me say that things have been rather black in the literary world as of late. We've lost Fletch creator Gregory McDonald, literary wunderkind David Foster Wallace, and now Sughrue/Milo creator James Crumley. Crumley's Bordersnakes was a major part of my noir self-education when I was in junior high, a book that sparked and warped my fragile imagination, and for that I'll never forgive or forget him. May Mr. Crumley, Mr. McDonald, and Mr. Wallace all rest in peace.

Monday, September 15, 2008


Nightfall could easily have been adapted for Hitchcock.

The 1947 novel by David Goodis follows Jim Vanning as he hides out in New York City working as a commercial artist. Three hoods think he has $300,000, their stolen $300,000. Thing is, Vanning doesn't have it. Yeah, he did have it. But he lost it. How do you lose that kind of money?'s complicated.

Detective Fraser is onto Vanning. He's been following the suspect for weeks now. He feels like he knows Vanning. And something tells him that this man, this working artist, could not have killed a man and absconded with three-hundred K. But now those three hoods are following Vanning as well...

Things go on from there like one would expect from a good suspense novel. Vanning has to keep ahead of the hoods and the cops while also trying to decide if the lovely Martha is with the crooks or merely being used by them. So you have your wrong man scenario, a follow-that-cab scene, some fight scenes, a hair-raising escape, a romance - the whole Hitchcock package. There's even a groaner explanation in the denouement (I'm a douche) like the one in Psycho!

In other words, Nightfall is kind of a disappointment. The book was written while he was in Hollywood (right after he wrote Dark Passage, which would be adapted into a Bogie/Bacall film), which might explain why it's more conventional than the work he did in the early fifties. For a suspense novel, it's pretty damned good.

But when you're expecting a DAVID GOODIS NOIR NOVEL it feels fairly tame.

The good dialogue, the bitter prose, the solid action - that's all here, no complaints. It's just that, well, the story isn't as dark, the protagonist not as tortured, the ending not as achingly sad. It just doesn't blow you away like his fifties stuff does.

Speaking of his fifties stuff, I've already started reading Black Friday and ho-lee shee-it does it rock so far. But I have to say, what was Goodis' deal with thousand dollar bills? I can't think of ANY crime novel featuring the thousand dollar bill off the top of my head and then I read Nightfall and Black Friday back-to-back and they both prominently feature thousand-dollar bills. Yeah, it makes copious amounts of cash easier to stow (or, in the case of Nightfall, lose), but come on.

Expect a Black Friday review soon...

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Okay, fine. Make fun of me because I've never read one of the gold standards of my favorite genre. Have a good laugh. But it's better late than never, I say. That's what my "Catching Up" series is all about, after all. Even a full-time nerd like . myself hasn't read or seen everything. Like a lot of noir junkies, some of the original authors get left on my TBR pile so that I can keep abreast (heh) of all the great new shit that comes out every week.

But yeah: I should have read Street of No Return ages ago.

Millipede Press reprinted the book last year with a nice little introduction by Robert Polito (which should be more of an afterword, in my opinion). It looks like a book your poetry professor assigned for the class just to keep his buddy the author in booze money, but don't let the cover fool you - this book is balls-out great.

Prior to this book I had only read Hardcase Crime's reprinting of Goodis' The Wounded and the Slain, the finest book yet offered from the publisher (which is a bold-ass statement, considering how many great books they've pumped out in just a few short years). Considering how much I loved that book at the time, I honestly can't explain why it took me over a year to get back to reading a Goodis novel.

Well I finally have and now I'm hooked. I burned through Street of No Return and have since picked up another regrettable-looking Millipede reprint called Nightfall and a great-looking copy of Black Friday put out by Serpent's Tail.

Like The Wounded and the Slain, Goodis starts out with a loser with seemingly nothing-to-lose and then puts them through the noir-wringer until they either give up or go down swinging. Whitey is a bum with a sad past who comes out of his stupor upon recognizing a passerby, someone from his former life as an up-and-coming crooner. Whitey follows the man a ways only to get sidetracked by a dying policeman left in an alley following a race riot. As he attempts to help the policeman, some other cops come up on the scene and take him in as the suspect.

Then things really start to suck for poor old Whitey.

The whole novel is basically a series of out-of-the-frying-pan-and-into-the-fire episodes that all turn out to be related in the end. Yeah, there are quite a bit of coincidences, but the storytelling is so sharp that you'll be more impressed than skeptical when everything starts to come together. Besides, with Goodis it's more about the atmosphere and the mindscapes of his tortured protagonists. And the dialogue and juicy pulp prose (my favorite line being the one that describes the face of Bertha, the powerful thug woman of enormous girth, where he talks of her "tiny eyes pushed into the fat meat of her face like tiny pins in a cushion."). And the violence. There are a few action scenes in this book that rock with the best of our modern noir writers.

Also of interest in this book is the frankness within when discussing race and sex (the sex is much more shockingly frank in The Wounded and the Slain). There is no off-hand racism in the book though if there had been it would most likely have been excused as a product of its day. There much discussion of black and Puerto Rican characters and never did the P.C. police need to make an arrest or recieve a complaint. There is even a character with a rather interesting sexual kink - and he's not a villain! But then again, Goodis always seems to be on the side of the underdog, so why wouldn't he have respected minorities and "sexual deviants" as well?

I have heard from a few people that this book was their favorite Goodis. I thought it was great, but still found The Wounded and the Slain to be just slightly better, mainly because there weren't as many coincidences. But I still have a few books to go before I could even begin to say what my favorite Goodis is, so why even try to stack them up at this point?

I guarantee reviews of Black Friday and Nightfall shortly...

Monday, September 8, 2008


Brad Anderson is quickly establishing himself as a noir director to watch. He has directed episodes of The Wire and The Shield and his last two features, The Machinist and Transsiberian, have been dripping with black Hitchcockian humor and a fine feel for noir, mainly of the James M. Cain variety (where-did-I-leave-my-glasses-type of stuff, covering up the crime suspense). But I don't really want to discuss his latest, Transsiberian, too heavily because, honestly, not much happens for the first half or so.

It's not a bad thing, though. We are introduced to Woody Harrelson and Emily Mortimer's characters, an Iowa couple coming off a church service project in Beijing who want to take the Trans-Siberian railroad from Beijing to Moscow before heading back the Midwest, a huge journey that takes eight days to complete. Harrelson is extremely earnest and naive as Roy, the train-obsessed hardware store owner who married reformed "bad girl" Jessie despite their obvious differences. Their train ride was actually Roy's idea, an attempt to show his wife that he was more adventurous than she might have thought. Along the way they meet a young couple who speaks English, fellow American Abbie and handsome Spaniard Carlos. They all share a cramped car together (the claustraphobia in this movie is intense) and it quickly becomes noticeable that Carlos and Abbie are not who they claim to be and that Carlos and Jessie are attracted to one another.

Then shit starts to go down.

The pleasures of this movie are in the surprises along the way so don't watch trailers or read more descriptive reviews if you can help it. Just know that after the long first act things really get intense and exciting and blackly hilarious. And not like "Oh isn't that a clever line" hilarious, but like Torn-Curtain-Paul-Newman-taking-ten-minutes-to-kill-some-dude sort of hilarious. It's good, dark stuff.

And I hate it when first-half-of-the-movie twists are revealed, anyway. Terminator 2, The Truman Show, The Crying Game - all those movies would have been even greater than they already are if trailers and reviewers hadn't given away the awesome twists that happen before the hour mark. This movie is the same way - go in blind. You'll thank me for it.

I hope that this becomes a sleeper. It's only in limited release right now in the Twin Cities. It seems accessible enough to play at the multiplexes. It is sort of ridiculous to me when crime movies are playing at the art house theaters. Don't crime movies have mass appeal anymore? My favorite movie of the year thus far, In Bruges, initially played only in Uptown but eventually broke wide, becoming hit. Back in Uptown it played for something like five months at The Lagoon! Transsiberian isn't nearly as good as In Bruges, but I think if you liked In Bruges you'll have a good time at Transsiberian.


The first time out with Jackson Donne, When One Man Dies, author Dave White switched between Donne's first person perspective and a third-person perspective that followed close on "antagonist" detective Bill Martin. With his latest, The Evil That Men Do, White blows up his scope even larger. Now every major character is followed at some point or another with the third person. Shit, there's even a separate storyline moving forward throughout the novel (it is italicized) that takes place sixty-nine years before the main storyline. It should also be noted that The Evil That Men Do is more of a crime thriller than a mystery novel, with only one major surprise going down late in the story and the real mystery being the "why" rather than the "who." Like I said, we're following damn near everyone in this book, even some poor kid who finds a gun and, sadly, does the right thing.

I mention the slight genre switch and change of narrative style not just to impress you with my knowledge of literary terms that everyone knows, but because I have noticed that it is a trend with many crime novelists. I'm one of those assholes who insists on - when possible - reading an author's work from the beginning. Naturally, this is especially important to me when reading books in a series. Many of my favorite novelists have started out in the first-person before tackling third-person later on (Jason Starr, Charlie Huston for damn sure apply). Some even started out in first-person P.I. mysteries before going third-person in more ambitious crime thrillers. Dennis Lehane had his Kenzie/Gennaro books with Patrick narrating for five novels before he busted us in the balls with Mystic River. George Pelecanos was rocking the Nick Stefanos P.I. mysteries before Shoedog and The Big Blowdown changed the game for him forever. More recently, Michael Koryta pumped out three great first-person P.I. novels about Linc Perry before blowing away anything he'd done previously with Envy The Night.

But my point is this: it took those guys - stellar motherfuckers all - at least a couple/few books before they went after the third-person crime thriller. Dave White has managed to do a damn fine third-person crime thriller only his second time out the gate. I say bra-fucking-vo.

White is flexing his muscles in this book - his deft way with dialogue, his knowledge of every character's motivations, his mastery of the cliff-hanger chapter ending - and he's looking fucking ripped. It is a tight story about a blackmail scam that hangs over the head of Donne's estranged sister and her husband Carter. Some ghosts from the past have come back to haunt the two of them (the past catching up with you seems to be White's favorite noir-ish theme) and soon Donne finds himself wrapped up in a kidnapping plot with twenty hours to go before they off the hostage. Along the way we get a bunch of murders, some explosions and constant reminder of the event that happened nearly seventy years ago that started this whole present situation.

But with all the goings-on and the ticking of the clock, I felt a little miffed about one thing: we don't get nearly enough face time with the tortured Jackson Donne. His and Bill Martin's humanity is what set When One Man Dies apart from the pack, and here we get lots of insight across the board, just not enough of Donne's for my taste. But then how much soul-searching can one man do when he's trying to track down a kidnapper and his hostage? Shit, the poor guy can barely sit and have one of his beloved beers this time out, much less sit and stew on his many flaws. That said, I suppose it's a good thing that you want more insight into a character. It's like saying a movie wasn't long enough - you wanted to hang out in the world for even longer.

The Evil That Men Do is an ambitious book and from the looks of it, so is its author. I hope to see more of Donne in the future (and, if possible, more of Bill Martin) but also know that White is for sure one of the good ones. It is clear that he will not drive Donne into the ground with the same story repeated over and over. No, I am positive he will soon be mentioned alongside the authors I talked about above. Shit, this counts as a mention right here, doesn't it?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

David Mamet's REDBELT

David Mamet may no longer be the same guy who gave us Glengarry Glen Ross, but he certainly does swing for the fences in his film work. Now if only he could hit the ball once in a while...

Redbelt is possibly the best example of the typically ambitious Mamet misfire in his extremely varied filmography.

The story is actually as simple as this line I will now type: Jiu Jitsu instructor Mike Terry (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is forced by financial hardships and the scheming of show-biz types to compete on pay-per-view television despite his own rigid principles. That's it. That is essentially the story that we are told in ninety minutes. Roll fucking credits.

Somehow, David Mamet has managed to take something that simple and make it the most complicated (and stupidly convoluted) film noir in years. And yeah, it's a film noir. It's not a good noir flick, but somehow it counts. It has a big, crazy, fucking twisted con artist plot for the absolutely lowest stakes of all time:

Will Mike fight despite his rigid principles? Oh Heavens! Please fight, Mike! Fight for the good of...why do I give a fuck now?

But the real bitch is that you don't really get a chance to realize any of this until it's all over. Only when they fade to black do you really get to sit there and say think about how little sense the "twists" made and how if the twists do make sense, why should you care? Ultimately, the real con job is the one that Mamet pulls on his audience. He has made a big complicated noir-ish mess out of a sports movie trifle.

Sounds pretty stupid, right?

Well, it is.

But it's also a pretty neat trick. By being so weird and varied and generally fucked, you forgive enough things to make it through to the lackluster end.

Along the way, I forgave a lot of things in this movie. I forgave some pretty terrible performances (Ricky Jay being the worst of the bunch, sadly) because of Ejiofor's solid work at the center of the movie. I forgave the fight scenes being poorly shot because it soon became clear that this was more of a twisty plot movie than a fight movie (until the last reel where it turns out that yes, this is apparently a fight movie and yes, the remaining fights will also look like shit). I forgave the plot holes and scenes that made no sense (the Emily Mortimer accidentally firing the gun sequence is maddeningly retarded) were so glaring and ridiculous that I thought they would make sense later in the film (they didn't). I forgave forced dialogue because I expected some flashes of Glengarry Glen Ross to appear (never happened).

But what it all comes down to is forgiving this movie for it's main flaw: the fact that it is a dopey film noir about a principled jiu jitsu instructor who is schemed into fighting on pay-per-view. You must forgive the film for this flaw because it is also what makes it almost worth reccomending. I didn't know much about the film before I netflixed it, but if I'd read a review where the gist of it was, An ill-conceived mix of laughably low-stakes film noir and poorly shot sports drama, I'd have snatched it up for sure. And I'm not one of those people who likes things ironically, no sir, I'll leave that to certain Gen-Xers (you know who you are). The thing is, it just sounds so ridiculous that I'd have to know, have to experience such a miscalculation for myself.

And if you are at all intrigued I honestly can't completely advise against Redbelt. It is pretty entertaining and super short at just a bit over an hour and a half. There are things that will make you groan, performances that suck and afterward you are guaranteed to feel completely bewildered as to why such a bizarre, stupid film was ever made...but there is no denying it was made by someone who has big ideas and a desire to do something original and exciting.

There's also no way of getting around the fact that in the end, Redbelt doesn't really work.

Monday, September 1, 2008


I've never really given SHOWTIME's lineup a fair shake. I've seen a few episodes of The L Word and Queer as Folk and found them to be fairly lame, erotica laced with BIG ISSUES that forced the drama upon the viewer instead of allowing the characters dictate where the story went. Dexter and Weeds seemed from what little I had seen of the shows to be the same sort of thing, shows that relished the language, nudity, sex and violence that was allowed on the pay network without giving us a believable story and characters. From what I saw it seemed that SHO was like a kid in his first college creative writing class: You mean I can say fuck and have sex and kill people indiscriminately? Fuck yes! The network seemed to have the freedom of HBO without the talent, without the willingness to be more than merely controversial.

But Brotherhood, a show I picked up on a whim from my local library, has changed my perceptions. Based on the quality of Brotherhood, I might actually revisit some of those shows mentioned and give them a fair shake. Then again, Brotherhood might just be a fluke in their programming schedule, but what a fluke.

Clearly Brotherhood is Showtime's answer to The Sopranos, a comparison that isn't really fair. Yes, it is about gangsters on the Right Coast and it has shocking violence and sex and language, but that is pretty much where the comparisons end. But naturally, being called a poor man's Sopranos isn't a bad thing. I mean, what sane person would ask for something to surpass The Sopranos? NOTE: Hipsters who are now decidedly too cool for The Sopranos can go fuck themselves. Saying the show was anything less than brilliant merely shows how ignorant you truly are.

Brotherhood is about the Caffey brothers, two thirty-ish men from "The Hill" in Providence, Rhode Island, a fictional Irish working-class neighborhood. Tommy Caffey has a wife and three daughters and supplements his meager income as a state representative by dealing in real estate. Michael Caffey has recently returned home after a seven year self-imposed exile, living with his mother in his childhood home while working with his old buddy Pete to reestablish his formerly high-standing in the local crime racket, the current crimelord being the well-hung Freddie Cork. These two brothers butt heads as Tommy tries to stay on the straight-and-narrow in the most corrupt state government in the union while Michael murders and schemes his way back into prominence. Along the way we also follow their childhood friend Declan, a narc investigating Cork's racket while still retaining some allegiances to the brothers, Tommy's wife Eileen whose depression has lead her to cheating and drug use, and many nefarious gangsters and politicians whose differences are unsurprisingly not so great.

The thin line between the brothers is the main theme of the show. Despite their professions and actions, they are shown time and time again to be "not so different, you and I." It makes for some great storytelling and some sticky, sick situations. Yeah, it isn't as subtle or as funny as The Sopranos, but it still delivers on the gangster and family drama front much like that show did.

For me, what really makes the show special is the location shooting. Much like The Wire, Brotherhood is shot on location and it pays off. Every set and every street scene looks great, often reminding me of the great Irish gangster movies of the recent past like The Departed, Gone Baby Gone, and Mystic River. Everything looks really gritty and authentic, but not in the ham-fisted way The Shield approaches setting. There is never a moment where the scene looks heightened for effect, no shaky cam or any of the other tired bullshit marring other "gritty dramas" we've seen lately.

Brotherhood isn't quite at the level of the unimpeachable shows of recent history (The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood), but it is certainly on par with some of the rock-solid-near-great shows of late like Mad Men, Six Feet Under and Rome. It's a shame that Brotherhood isn't more well-known. Despite the fact that it will soon be going into its third season, the show has yet to really find the audience it sorely deserves. The second season will be coming out on DVD in October and you better believe it's going on my Netflix cue. Kudos to Showtime for keeping the show around despite it barely registering on the Nielsen's. Hopefully it won't go the way of Deadwood, Freaks and Geeks and Arrested Development if season three doesn't get enough viewers because I desperately want to see where the Caffey boys end up.


I just finished watching the final season of what I am contractually obligated to say is the greatest show of all time on DVD, The Wire. Now, I hate to play the hipster card, but I was totally into this show before everyone else was (okay, so I kind of like to play the hipster card) been a fan since the early days. Lately it seems that calling the show the "greatest, most important, smartest, most socially responsible, authentic, high-minded show of all time" is a cliche, something to be skewered by that dude from Stuff White People Like. But despite the public FINALLY embracing the show, it most likely IS the greatest show of all time (if The Sopranos didn't exist, that is) and deserved all the praise that is heaped upon it. The Wire is great, plain and simple.

BUT, comparatively, the final season is not as great as what has preceded it.

I am aware that many are of the belief that nothing anyone ever creates will ever be as good as season four, where the middle school kids stole the show. Now, harp at me all you want about "no one has ever told the school system story quite like this before" or whatever else you want to do, but while "the message" is what sort of sets this show apart, I am still more interested in the storytelling. As far as storytelling goes, nothing will ever beat season three, where the Stringer Bell storyline and the Hamsterdam debacle played out. For me, for someone who, despite all the high-mindedness of the show, still responds most passionately to the "gangsta shit" of the show, season three was the most entertainment one could ask for. Second only to season five of The Sopranos, I should say.

It is important that I make this distinction up front because it goes far to explain what sort of viewer I am of the show. I am fascinated by all the aspects of The Wire - the petty squabbles of the cop brass, the dirty-dealings of the city council, the failure of the school system, the selling out of the media - but what mainly gets my nerd boner raging is the gangsta shit. Stringer Bell, Omar Little, Poot, Bodie, Avon, Cheese, Prop Joe, Chris Partlow, Slim Charles, Snoop, Marlowe, Bird, Wee-Bay, and the rest are what really get me going, mainly because we haven't seen them in any medium before. All of those mentioned are redeemable bad guys, people that we are allowed to love and empathize with. They are not bad guys but people, flawed people who have been let down by every institution available to them. The Wire never romanticized their situations, but let us into a perceived reality of their lives. They are drug dealers and murderers because that is what is available to them. Where The Sopranos essentially said that its characters were bad people because they fed into the easy, consumerist lifestyle, The Wire said that there were no bad people, just people playing out the hands dealt to them according to their own code. Shit, to the end Omar was the respectable person on the show and he committed enough crimes to be locked up for a million consecutive lifetimes.

So, after you know that I am the crime obssessed viewer, you would think that I out-and-out loved the final season. I mean, it had the crazy storyline of McNulty inventing the homeless murders, getting over-time by making a series of deaths look like a serial killer was terrorizing the city. Well, it was a lot of fun. McNulty got to be pushed past his own wide limits, we got to Lester eating up the over-time and straight up rocking the wiretap on Marlowe's crew. Plus, we got to see the douchebag ambitious reporter take the fake case and run with it, even telling his editors at the paper that the killer called him personally to threaten him.

But while it was a very fun season, it was seriously all a little too much. And I LIKE too much on The Wire. Far as I'm concerned, the moment where Omar and Brother Muzone kill Stringer Bell is the best part of the whole show, and that scene is inarguably too perfect, too writerly and awesome. But even for me, the whole serial killer thing was just a little too much, stretched a bit too far. And then how they finally resolved with the overlong final episode, it was a bit too pat. Yeah, certain things actually turned out okay in the end, but ultimately it was a little too much information. I much preferred The Sopranos crazy ambiguous/symbolic ending to the montage-fest that was the final episode of The Wire. And though people it seems to be the same complaint across the board, Simon's potshots at newspapers have been seen before way too many times. I mean, I know my expectations may have been skewed for the show based on its past greatness, but as good as the newsroom stuff was, it never really let me into a world I hadn't already seen, not in the way the previous scenes had done so when covering the drug war, the ports, reform, and the school system. The previous four seasons all felt extremely fresh in their perspective while Simon's take on the media seemed a bit more old hat. Well done old hat, but still.

But ultimately these complaints are sort of silly. It's like chiding your child for getting an A instead of an A+. The Wire's final season was still top tier entertainment that raises the bar on what TV can do. I surely hope that some day another show will be able to rock me as hard as The Wire, that HBO can be as good as when it had The Sopranos, Deadwood, and The Wire all on its schedule. Right now the only thing close to any of those shows is AMC's Mad Men, but even that is pales somewhat in comparison. Yes, there is a brand new TV season upon us and who knows what will come out of the fall lineup. Personally, I think that the FX show Sons of Anarchy looks pretty sweet in its trailers, but we'll see. But even if that show fucking rocks, it will have some mighty gigantic shoes to fill if it hopes to reach the heights that The Wire has shown us.