In the projects. On the docks. In City Hall. In the schools. And now, in the media. The places and faces change, but the game remains the same. In the fifth — and final — season, the series expands its focus into the media — specifically the role of newspapers in big-city bureaucracy — as it follows a newspaper staff as they struggle to maintain integrity and meet deadlines in the face of budget cuts and staff reductions.
"The bigger the lie, the more they believe." - Bunk Moreland As McNulty and the detail continue to stake out Marlo's crew, recently promoted Sgt. Carver is welcomed by a cauldron of discontent from officers coping with unpaid overtime; Though he wants to keep his campaign promise to lower crime, Mayor Carcetti is strapped by his commitment to schools, and faces some tough choices; Col. Daniels is forced to reallocate his resources, retaining Freamon and Sydnor for the Clay Davis probe; Meanwhile, city editor Augustus "Gus" Haynes and the staff of The Baltimore Sun are reeling from corporate cutbacks, losing key personnel from both the metro and international divisions; Still, with the help of reporters Alma Gutierrez, Jeff Price and Scott Templeton, Haynes is able to break a front-page story that links a politician to a co-op drug dealer; Proposition Joe, Marlo, Fatface Rick and other new day co-op members meet in a hotel conference room to discuss divvying up drug frontiers across East Baltimore's county line.
"This ain't Aruba, bitch." - Bunk Moreland Although he tells Sydnor that the Davis investigation could be a "career case," Freamon keeps a wary eye out for Marlo, who takes care of some unfinished business and strikes a business deal with Avon Barksdale; Carcetti throws the police a bone by removing the cap on secondary employment, which sends the detectives into fantasy-job reveries; With an eye on the state house, Mayor Carcetti's chief of staff, Michael Steintorf, tries to find good news for the mayor whilst blaming the Royce administration for the Campbell revelation; Davis turns to Burrell for help with his problem, but the commissioner's hands are tied; At the newspaper, executive editor James Whiting outlines a Pulitzer-worthy series in broad strokes, trumping Haynes while liberating the ambitious Templeton; Fed up with broken-down cars and unsolved serial murders, McNulty decides to take matters into his own hands.
"They're dead where it doesn't count." - Fletcher Mayor Carcetti's master plan for the police department is leaked to the press, sending the brass into a panic; Marlo turns to Proposition Joe for help with an enviable problem; executive editor Whiting and managing editor Thomas Klebanow drop a bombshell on the newspaper staff; Michael finds temporary respite from his life on the corner by taking Dukie and Bug on a trip; McNulty shares some inside info with Gutierrez, but her subsequent story doesn't cause the splash either envisioned; McNulty, undaunted, looks for a new ally in Freamon.
"Buyer's market out there." - Templeton Campbell tries to smooth out the transitions in the police department; The Baltimore Sun scrambles to confirm surprising news from City Hall, but lose out to the TV media in scooping a high-profile grand jury appearance; Marlo tries to win favor with the Greeks, whilst Proposition Joe pays his last respects to a fallen colleague and prepares to make himself scarce in anticipation of a showdown; Freamon enlists the help of a past partner to help with the investigation.
"Just because they're in the street doesn't mean they lack opinions." - Haynes Marlo forges an alliance with a drug connect, who shows him a new communications trick; McNulty's case gets increased attention from the newspaper, in large part thanks to the addition of Templeton to the reporting team; Dukie turns to Dennis "Cutty" Wise and Michael to hone his pitiful self-defense skills; Clay Davis finds a new ally; State's Attorney Rupert Bond raises his public profile; Maurice Levy and Herc prepare for litigation; Elena confronts her ex-husband about his behavior; Bubbles has fears about new opportunities; Greggs gets some overtime work; Omar shows patience as Marlo throws out his bait.
"If you have a problem with this. I understand completely." - Freamon Mystified by Omar's disappearance, Marlo and Chris ramp up their efforts to locate their nemesis; After attending a sparsely attended waterfront ceremony, Carcetti fires away at a larger press event, and recasts himself as a champion for the homeless; Bunk revisits some old leads in the rowhouse cases, but is frustrated in his attempts to get bloodwork from the crime lab; Templeton looks for a perfect follow-up to his latest, nationally covered story, which has replaced the city's educational crisis on the paper's priority list; After the detail gets more manpower, Freamon presses McNulty to get new surveillance equipment, but the resources aren't as deep as both hoped; Pearlman discovers new clues pointing to corruption in City Hall; Marlo makes new appointments at the latest Co-Op meeting; McNulty takes a peculiar interest in a homeless man.
"They don't teach it in law school." - Pearlman After cooking up another scheme for the homeless case, McNulty and Lester become popular figures. Davis is set for his day in court by collecting the best legal assistance money can buy. Plus, Michael has brushes with the wrong side of the law, while Gus seeks help for an old story by going outside the Sun.
"A lie ain't a side of a story. It's just a lie." - Terry Hanning A shift in the police department sends Carver to a new location. Meanwhile, Carcetti is forced to put his political future in jeopardy, Haynes digs deeper into Templeton's work, and an important case has a breakthrough by Sydnor, while Fletcher continues working with Bubbles.
"Deserve got nuthin' to do with it." - Snoop With Carcetti's Chief of Staff Michael Steintorf ordering Rawls to initiate "creative" remedies for the rising crime rate, Freamon's vigilance pays off with a promising lead, sending Sydnor and the department into overdrive; although Daniels is originally delighted, a further probe with Pearlman reveals some troubling source information; McNulty, feeling betrayed, doesn't feel like sharing in Freamon's celebration; Michael is suspicious about his latest assignment; Haynes gets fresh eyes to help with fact-checking; Namond's debating skills make Colvin proud; Davis points a finger at Levy and the courts; and Bubbles recounts a recent temptation overcome.
"...the life of kings." - H.L. Mencken Carcetti maps out a damage-control scenario with the police brass in the wake of a startling revelation from Pearlman and Daniels, their choices are either to clean up the mess, or hide the dirt; McNulty, with his leads predictably drying up, asks Landsman to pull police off the homeless case, until a fresh homicide ramps up the investigation; a frustrated Haynes finds his concerns about Templeton falling on increasingly deaf ears; Levy, convinced he has the upper hand, but caught in a legal quandary, plays a cat-and-mouse game with Pearlman; Bubbles debates whether to greenlight a newspaper story about his life; Dukie seeks out an old mentor for a loan; Marlo oversees a new Co-Op order as he maps out his next move; as the officers stage an Irish wake for another dearly departed officer, the seeds of the future are sown throughout Baltimore.