This evening we finished the fifth and final season of The Wire. What will we do with ourselves now? It has been a brilliant piece of sustained writing. It has also been a bleak and depressing portrayal of the human condition. People come and go, but the systems remain. The various actors are locked into their places. A very few escape. Those born in the Baltimore housing projects are condemned to a Hobbesian fate in which cheap lives are easily lost. The newspapermen, like the police, the dockers, the property developers and the teachers (the other systems portrayed) fight futile territorial battles and console themselves with petty victories and vengeances, sex, drugs and alcohol. Those who rise to the top are not necessarily the most able but always the luckiest – at least for a while. The implicit question posed throughout the five series is what, if anything, can be done about the situation? There is no answer, of course, but it is clear that the rise of reformists to positions where effective reforms might be driven through is a rare product of luck and a capacity to actually deliver something lasting is the result of yet more serendipity – and serendipity is in very short supply, at least in the Baltimore of the Wire.