By the end of season three of The Wire -- aka HBO's best excuse for staying on the air -- one could sense that the show had, in some sense of the word, come to an end. It was certainly clear for a time that HBO executives thought so, having come close to canceling the multifaceted, frighteningly addictive urban drama yet again, as it never pulled anywhere near the kind of ratings that their warhorses like The Sopranos and Sex and the City had. Although plenty of strings were left dangling at the conclusion of episode 37, "Mission Accomplished," a chapter had been definitively closed, with Avon Barksdale back in jail, and his brainy partner Stringer Belle gunned down. Since the two of them had been the impressive foils to the strung-out cops in the Baltimore Major Crimes Unit, their departure seemed to leave a vacuum. With nobody of real consequence running the West Baltimore drug trade (the Barksdales' chief rival and replacement, Marlo Stanfield, seems at first nothing more than some punk kid), what would be left that was worth watching?
More than enough, it turns out.
Continue reading: The Wire: Season Four Review