New on DVD
'The Wire: The Complete Fifth Season'
All-time great series bows out with understated collection
The final chapters of the complex, tragic and utterly compelling tale arrive on DVD Tuesday (Aug. 12), and if the goal is to leave 'em wanting more, mission accomplished. Unfortunately, that also extends to the DVD set's bonus features -- what's there is pretty darn good, but it's not enough.
In addition to bringing the stories of its Baltimore cops and drug slingers to a rewarding ("satisfying" probably isn't the right word, given the bleak futures a number of characters face at the close of the series) conclusion, season five of "The Wire" examines another civic institution that's a shadow of what it once was: the big-city daily newspaper. The lies that a desperate Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West) whips up to squeeze more funding from the police brass dovetail with those of a reporter at the Baltimore Sun (Tom McCarthy) whose stories are a little too perfect, and meanwhile all the real news we're watching play out goes unnoticed in the buyout-gutted newsroom.
It all leads to a 90-minute finale that offers up resolution for a number of characters, along with the sense that for better and worse, life will continue on its winding way. It's hard to ask for more than that.
DVD Bonus Features:
The Good: The DVD set offers commentary tracks on six of the 10 episodes, with a mix-and-match crew of cast, directors, writers and producers, including Simon and exec producer Nina Kostroff Noble on the finale. My favorite is probably the track with cast member Wendell Pierce (Detective Bunk Moreland) and director Joe Chappelle, who essentially interview each other about their respective jobs and provide some strong insights into how the cast and crew worked together both on and off the set. The retrospective featurette "The Wire Odyssey" looks back at the show's previous seasons, with cast members, crew and outside observers offering up a slew of favorite moments and characters (unsurprisingly, Michael K. Williams' Omar is a favorite among those who worked on the show as well as fans).
The Bad: The set's other featurette, "The Wire: The Last Word," takes a hard look at the struggles in the traditional news media; it's clearly a point of passion for ex-reporter Simon, but it's also a little depressing. As I mentioned above, though, my only real complaint is that I wished there were more to the collection. In particular, it would have been nice to see the trio of "prequel" videos featuring younger versions of McNulty, Omar and Prop Joe that popped up online before the season started.
The Price: $69.98