-30- (The Wire)

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The Wire episode
Episode no.Season 5
Episode 10
Directed byClark Johnson
Story byDavid Simon
Ed Burns
Teleplay byDavid Simon
Featured music"Way Down in the Hole" by The Blind Boys of Alabama
Original air dateMarch 9, 2008 (2008-03-09)
Running time93 minutes
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
← Previous
"Late Editions"
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List of The Wire episodes

"-30-" is the series finale of the HBO original series The Wire. With a running time of 93 minutes, this tenth and final episode of the fifth season is the longest episode of the series. The episode was written by series creator/executive producer David Simon (teleplay/story) and co-executive producer Ed Burns (story). It was directed by Clark Johnson, who also directed the pilot episode and stars on the show.[1] It aired on March 9, 2008.[2] The episode's writers were nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series.[3]


Tommy Carcetti and his staff learn that the "serial killer" was a hoax. McNulty and Freamon, unaware that their scheme has been exposed, discover that Gary DiPasquale has leaked courthouse documents to Levy. When Freamon gives Pearlman the identity of the mole, she reveals her knowledge of the detectives' duplicity.

Templeton calls 911, and claims an inebriated homeless man is being kidnapped. When the police arrive, the man is too drunk to confirm or deny the claims. Marlo and his crew learn of Snoop's death and agree that Michael must be eliminated. Cheese posts bail and Marlo instructs him to hunt down Michael. Freamon informs McNulty that Daniels and Pearlman know about the hoax and the illegal wiretap.

Levy goes through the Stanfield arrest warrants and realizes that the police used an illegal wiretap to decipher the code beforehand. McNulty, Bunk, and Greggs arrive at the scene of another homeless murder, and are distraught that McNulty's fictitious serial killer has inspired a copycat.

Pearlman and Bond are told by Steintorf to quietly settle the Stanfield case out of court to keep the illegal wiretaps from being brought to light. Pearlman meets with Levy and uses a taped conversation given to her by Freamon to force him to settle. McNulty is confronted by Daniels and Rawls, who order him to quickly catch the copycat so that the press will assume he's the original killer.

McNulty identifies a mentally ill homeless man as the killer and the Baltimore Police Department charge him with two of the six "murders". Carcetti holds a press conference taking credit for both the "serial killer's" capture and the Stanfield arrests, then promotes Daniels to Police Commissioner. Cheese is killed by Slim Charles for his role in Proposition Joe's murder.

In the closing montage, Carcetti is elected governor while Campbell becomes mayor; Valchek replaces Daniels as Commissioner; Pearlman, now a judge, recuses herself from a case Daniels is arguing; Marlo becomes a "legitimate businessman" and realizes he has lost his street cred; Spider runs his own crew on Bodie Broadus's former corner; Michael and a partner stick up Vinson, deliberately emulating Omar; the remaining Co-Op members meet with Vondas and The Greek; Templeton wins a Pulitzer Prize while Gus and Alma are demoted; Kenard is arrested; and McNulty locates Larry and drives him back to Baltimore.


Title reference[edit]

-30- is a journalistic term that has been used to signify the end of a story.[4]


This is seen in the lobby of the Baltimore Sun, as an excerpt from a longer Mencken quote displayed on the wall when Alma talks with Gus after she has been demoted to the Carroll County bureau. The full quote reads "...as I look back over a misspent life, I find myself more and more convinced that I had more fun doing news reporting than in any other enterprise. It is really the life of kings."

Non-fiction elements[edit]

Steintorf mentions "U.C.R.s" (uniform crime reports)[5] statistics to Daniels and Rawls when worrying about a 10% decline over the quarter.

A "one-party consent call" is a call where only one party gave agreement for recording (as opposed to two-party consent call). In Maryland, it is illegal to record such a call,[6] and may explain why Pearlman could not better leverage her tape with Levy.

Joe Mitchell, to whose style Gus likens the piece written for Bubbles, was an American writer known for his portraits of outcasts.

Gus alludes somewhat sarcastically to Tom Wolfe, a writer who is associated with New Journalism, when copyediting a story. Gus has been seen throughout the series as a proponent of a "dry" form of journalism.[7]

Gus mentions other cases of reporters who made up stories: Jayson Blair, Stephen Glass and Jack Kelley.

Pearlman alludes to two other cases where "lying cops don't automatically kill a case". She is trying to convince Levy, but to be more precise, those cases really concern the legality of the evidence obtained.[8] In the second case mentioned, Ceccolini – 435 US 268 (1978),[9] the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals ruling that the illegal search performed by an officer during one of his breaks when entering a shop (that had been under previous surveillance for illegal gambling), examining an envelope containing policy slips on the cash register and asking the clerk whose envelope it was, that led to the conviction of the shop owner based on the testimony of the clerk, had to have its findings suppressed along with the guilty verdict. In the first case however, Everhart – 274 Maryland 459 (1975),[10] the Court of Appeals reversed the Court of Special Appeals ruling that an initial illegal search, which was deemed to be the basis for probable cause for the issue of a search and seizure warrant, did not make the latter illegal, and thus, in this case the final ruling does not support Pearlman's point.

Pearlman puts Marlo's case on "stet docket" (stet meaning "let it be" in Latin), a specificity of Maryland law, defined by Md. Rule 4-248.[11]


The Blind Boys of Alabama's version of Tom Waits' "Way Down in the Hole" plays over the episode's closing montage. This version of the song had previously been used as the theme music for the show's first season.

During the scene where McNulty plays Trouble with Beadie Russell's children, the song that can be heard playing in the background is "Rich Woman" by Alison Krauss and Robert Plant from their 2007 album Raising Sand.

"Body of an American" by The Pogues is heard during McNulty's staged "detective's wake", making it the third time the song was used in the course of the show's run. Also, "The Broad Majestic Shannon" can be heard echoing out of the bar in the scene after the "wake".


Starring cast[edit]

Although credited, Michael K. Williams and Isiah Whitlock, Jr. do not appear in this episode.

Guest stars[edit]

Uncredited appearances[edit]

  • David Simon as Baltimore Sun staff member
  • Rebecca Corbett as Baltimore Sun staff member


Writers Ed Burns and David Simon were nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award in the category Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series for their work on the finale.[3]


  1. ^ "Season 5 crew". HBO. 2007. Retrieved December 12, 2007.
  2. ^ "HBO Schedule: THE WIRE 60: –30–". HBO. 2008. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  3. ^ a b "60th Primetime Emmy Awards". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved March 31, 2009.
  4. ^ Kogan, Hadass (October 1, 2007). "So Why Not 29? | Why did reporters for years end their stories by writing "-30-"?". American Journalism Review Archives. Retrieved December 12, 2017.
  5. ^ "Crime Statistics". Governor's Office of Crime Control & Prevention. Maryland.gov. Retrieved March 26, 2016.
  6. ^ "Is it legal to record my customer service calls?". Consumerist. November 29, 2007. Retrieved March 26, 2016.
  7. ^ In episode 7 for example, he says of Templeton's work about the homeless: "He's writing more as an essayist."; and then he contrasts it with Olesker's: "We've got a column from Olesker [...]. It's pretty powerful without being purple.
  8. ^ Maryland residents' protection against unreasonable searches and seizures derives from two primary sources: the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights. Leonetti, Carrie. "Independent and adequate: Maryland's state exclusionary rule for illegally obtained evidence". scholarworks.law.ubalt.edu. University of Baltimore, School of Law. Retrieved March 27, 2016.
  9. ^ "United States v. Ceccolini, 435 U.S. 268 (1978)". courtlistener.com. Retrieved March 27, 2016.
  10. ^ "Everhart v. State of Maryland". supreme.justia.com. Retrieved March 27, 2016.
  11. ^ "Rule 4-248, Stet - West's Annotated Code of Maryland". govt.westlaw.com. Thomson Reuters. Retrieved March 28, 2016.

External links[edit]