8. "Final Grades," The Wire
Air Date: 12/10/06
Many consider The Wire's fourth season to be unquestionably the series' best, in most part due to the heartbreaking way it weaves the coming-of-age of four Baltimore boys into the tapestry of the city's corruption and moral decay. Though some of their stories continue in the fifth and final season, "Final Grades" is a conclusion in its own right, as Michael (Tristan Wilds) effectively sells his soul to Marlo Stanfield and his crew, Randy faces a particularly gut-wrenching life in the system, and the bratty yet sympathetic Namond is the only one to achieve an honest-to-goodness happy ending. (Dukie's equally gut-wrenching woes are extended into season five.)
Meanwhile, the series bids goodbye to a fan favorite as the Stanfield crew achieves total domination even in the face of a murder investigation into their Vacant House Tombs, Jimmy (Dominic West) prepares to go back into Homicide, a move that will almost certainly cost him his personal happiness, and Mayor Carcetti's (Aiden Gillen) pride compromises his politics. On a series that specialized in harsh realities, "Final Grades" represents a very high (or low) point of that theme.