Why Ed Burns Wishes They'd Taken Season 5 Of The Wire In A Different Direction

When David Simon made it clear that season 5 of "The Wire" would be its last, viewers' expectations exploded through the roof. Though the show was valued primarily for its textured, non-sensationalized portrayal of Baltimore politics, policing, crime and so on, fans couldn't help but get worked up for some kind of big finish. Would the ascendant drug kingpin Marlo Stanfield go down like Stringer Bell before him? Would Detective Jimmy McNulty finally drink himself out of his job? Most importantly, after that heart-rending fourth season, could any of Prez's promising middle-school students break the criminal/addict cycle they were born into?

There were always going to be loose ends, and, in retrospect, most people feel season 5 was a worthy conclusion. But for those who feel the show's final act fell short of the greatness that preceded it, know that "The Wire" producer Ed Burns shares your dissatisfaction ... to an extent.

Perhaps all the news wasn't fit to print

In an interview with The New York Times, Burns confessed that he wasn't entirely happy with the angle they took on the last season:

"I wish that Season 5 took a different direction, as far as the newsroom was concerned, and didn't debase the idea of investigation. But it's fine. What we tried to get across is that the kids that we saw in [Season 4] were becoming, as they approached adulthood, the guys that we saw in [Seasons] 1, 2, 3 and 4. It was continuous. This is just the next generation."

The newspaper element was obviously close to Simon's heart, given that he'd spent 13 years as a police reporter for The Baltimore Sun. As such, it's probably the bleakest dramatization of a failing publication we've yet to see — which, in light of our current media situation, makes it incredibly vital. But whereas season 4 deftly integrated the middle school arc into the series' sprawling narrative, the in-depth doings at a budget-slashing newspaper don't always mesh well with the story we've been following up to this point. And McNulty's scheme to divert budget resources feels a tad contrived.

Simon and his writers eventually get the pieces to fit, allowing the series to end on an appropriately melancholy note. We're shattered by Dukie's slide into addiction, and heartened that Freamon is happily retired. It was the show's m.o. to tackle a new failing institution each season, so focusing on a newspaper made sense thematically. As for tarnishing investigative work, it's hard to look at the state of policing in this country and not feel like this story arc was warranted.