"We Own This City" Episode 6 Review: HBO Max Series FinaleJon Berthal is a great villain as Jenkins.
We own this city was not an easy series to review or watch. Apart from Jon Bernthal's incendiary performance as the dirty cop par excellence Wayne Jenkins on this episode, very few pleasures that we associate with great TV are displayed. Last week I mentioned that real characters and story lines are virtually absent. Instead, just-the facts lectures and verisimilitude have been replaced by them. Any sense of direction or momentum is lost due to the constant bounce between different time periods.
The true story that the series chronicles with such detail is among the most sad in American history. The show's final minutes are filled with titles that detail a litany of corruption and failure. One mayor quit and her successor was busted for tax fraud within a year. A deputy commissioner had to resign for training an officer following a shooting. And a true cop died the day before his scheduled testimony before the grand jury. If it wasn't so real, so grim and so real, this would make for dark comedy.
Yes, I am glad that We Owner This City is over, even if it was for my mental and physical health. It turns out, allowing this cycle of institutional and malfeasance to continue in your daily life can be very draining. It's amazing who knew. Besides the residents of the city of Baltimore, I mean; it's no mere TV show to them, or to anyone who cares about them and people like them—it's life.
The plot is simple enough to summarize. After some initial cockiness—he actually claims he's innocent, and it's remarkable that the investigators don't laugh in his face—Wayne Jenkins sees the writing on the wall as more of his coworkers and co-conspirators get busted and start talking. We are led to believe that he plead guilty to keep his relationships with sex workers out of the public domain and from ruining his marriage more than a 25 year sentence. Each member of the Gun Trace Task Force is sentenced according to how cooperative they were.
Nicole Steele leaves the Civil Rights Division out of despair and dismay rather than dancing between the drops of the drug battle, which Brian Grabler claims is the root of all policing's problems. Almost the whole Baltimore police and political hierarchy is fired or quits. Sean Suiter is shot to death in mysterious circumstances. His final days are filled with eerie anticipation, almost as though he was destined for a destiny he never imagined. Jenkins ends up in prison and reminisces about his time as the talk of the department. He is now just another convict. Roll credits.
Because the show's pro and con aspects have been constant throughout, I feel like a broken record. Jon Bernthal is Jenkins's villainous, for-the-ages performance. Jamie Hector gives Sean Suiter, a relative good cop, a sense of intensity and even sadness. Grabler reiterates the series' thesis that the War on Drugs was what made policing the cruel business it is today.
Look back through the history of the labor movement, the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, environmental protests, gay liberation, fucking Prohibition, you name it—the police have been a brutally reactionary right-wing force for decades before the War on Drugs' militaristic terminology took effect. David Simon, the writer-creator of the show, still believes in a platonic idea for Good Policing. This ideal could be revived if there is no drug war.
We're left with one star, one subdued, but powerful performance, some talking heads and a central thesis which doesn't hold up under scrutiny. It leaves you feeling as though you are watching Baltimore's political and police crisis unravel. What? What?
Sean T. Collins (@theseantcollins) writes about TV for Rolling Stone, Vulture, The New York Times, and anyplace that will have him, really. His family resides on Long Island.