“But as for me, God will redeem my life. He will snatch me from the power of the grave (Psalm 49:15).”
The HBO seried “The Wire” came to an end in its 5th season. It wasn’t until recently that I began to watch its episodes.
I hadn’t been so entranced by a story since I read Tolkien’s trilogy on the bus on the way into Washington D.C. in the 1980s to go to work. I couldn’t put the stuff down on my commute, and I couldn’t resist “The Wire”.
For one, it took place in a city with which I am all too familiar: my hometown of Baltimore. Second, it captured the city and is culture perfectly. This is not surpising, given that its creators were a former Baltimore newsman and a former police officer.
What kept me watching The Wire, though, was its characters. They were all real people, and most of them struggled with day to day decisions I can relate to.
The worst thing about Baltimore as portrayed in the series is its corruption. Decadence is expected from drug dealers, who The Wire revealed as the gangsters and thugs they are.
However, what moved me was the dirtiness of the cops, the politicians, the newspaper reporters, the longshoremen and just about every other kind of person inhabiting the city.
In the midst of it all, there were good people trying to rise above the filth and maintain their integrity. It cost them in the end.
Editor Gus Haynes learns one of the Baltimore Sun’s star reporters makes his stuff up. However, the man has the support of the paper’s bosses because he is on his way to a Pulitzer Prize. With that award, their own stars will rise in the sky and they will get out of their dead end Baltimore positions.
In the end, Haynes is slapped down and demoted, and the reporter wins the Pulitzer. A reporter who supported Haynes is sent out to the bureau of a rural county where she can’t be a bother anymore.
Colonel Cedric Daniels, the fair haired boy of the mayor, poised to become police commissioner, is equal to Haynes in his honesty. He isn’t perfect, though, and when the mayor asks him to cover up the misdeeds of a police officer who faked a scenario in which a serial killer was supposedly killing homeless men, Daniels accedes to the request. There are too many people he cares about, including his ex-wife and his current prosecutor girlfriend, who would get hurt by the revelation.
But Daniels draws the line when the mayor asks him to falsify statistics showing that the crime rate is going down to aid the politician’s gubernatorial campaign. The mayor came in promising Daniels reform in such things, and to Daniels is reneging on his promise.
Daniels decides to resign. He gives up his post as commissioner and goes into private practice as a lawyer.
What is fascinating about Haynes and Daniels is that they are shown at series end, looking satisfied and happy. Here these men have lost everything they have worked for career-wise, but they are content people because they have maintained their character.
In the end, the role I felt most drawn to was that of “Bubbles”, a heroin addict. In season 5, he successfully goes down the road to redemption.
Prior to that, Bubbles made his living as a police snitch and scounger of anything he could get his hands on to sell. He did it to feed his addiction.
However, when a young man he cared for overdosed on drugs he left laying around, Bubbles’ life fell apart. At the end of season 4, he tried to kill himself.
Through the help of a recovery group and a mentor there, Bubbles gets his life back on track. He is so successful with his recovery that he is portrayed in a front page feature in the Sun.
His sister, has allowed him to stay in her basement, but has refused to allow him access to the rest of the house because of his lifestyle. Symbollically at the end of the last show, Bubbles is seen having a family meal upstairs.
The final show ends with corrupt people victorious:
* The dirty mayor becomes governor;
* The main drug kingpin in Baltimore is set free from prison and begins to use his millions as a businessman;
* And as noted above, the Sun reporter and his bosses win the Pulitzer.
Yes, there is some justice. The main enforcer for the drug boss is sentenced to life in jail, for example. However, all in all evil wins out.
However, it is redemption such as that experienced by Bubbles that stands out. Other characters are “saved” also. Jimmy McNulty, a womanizing detective responsible for drumming up the serial killing fiction, turns back to his family and leaves the corrupting influence of the police department.
The Wire demonstrated the failures of man to a tee. If it wasn’t for the redemption, I would have gotten the same feeling I experienced going to movies in the late 60s and early 70s. They all had dark endings, until the first Rocky movie came along and it was morning in America again.
Job was a man familiar with life’s troubles, to the utmost. The Scriptures record many of his laments, including this one:
“Mortals, born of woman,
are of few days and full of trouble.
They spring up like flowers and wither away;
like fleeting shadows, they do not endure.
Do you fix your eye on them?
Will you bring them[ before you for judgment?
Who can bring what is pure from the impure?
No one! (Job 14:1-4)”
Men like Bubbles and McNulty show me that God is in the business of proving Job wrong. He is beginning to remove the dross from my own life as well with the intention of making me into something that shines like silver.
The road to redemption isn’t easy though. It’s extremely painful, like surgery.
Most of the people in The Wire don’t make it down the path. In fact, they have no desire to even go down the avenue.
But their goals in life are all about gaining men’s acclaim and obtaining trophies. God has different objectives and will lovingly care for and heal the sick who want to be made well. I am grateful for the end He has in mind, despite the pain.