It’s been over a year since I pledged to watch The Wire and I’ve finally accomplished it. People have gone to great lengths to define the greatest television drama of all time, with The Wire more than often reaching the finals if not being the victor. That’s what truly inspired me to get in on this in the first place. I mean, regardless of content, personal taste, or opinion, if this many people are praising it or even talking about it as much as they are, I figured it would definitely be worth the shot.
So 5 seasons later, which equivocates to over 40 hours, [5 seasons with about 10 episodes each episode having 50 minutes] here I stand, finally having an opinion on what is regarded as one of the greatest shows on television. And shit, boy did it not disappoint. We’ll keep this discussion spoiler free as I’ll tread lightly on some of the high points of the series. Read on below to either learn about the Wire or simply relive some memories.
The Wire was a television series from HBO that ran from 2002 to 2008. The series was primarily set in Baltimore around the various crime rings and local law enforcement. Although it’s already starting to sound like it, “Cop drama” doesn’t even come close to describing The Wire. Instead of cliché start and finish cases with likable leads and clear cut good guys and bad guys, The Wire goes completely gritty, flushing out the nasty, dirty, and f*cked up aspects of local law enforcement in a drug filled town. On both ends of the spectrum, there are likable cops and likable drug dealers and there are asshole cops and asshole drug dealers. That’s the first thing that should derail you from the normal cop drama. Think of The Wire as a hardcore documentary that follows both sides of what’s called “The Game”.
The Game refers to surviving the lifestyle of being involved with the drug rings. Whether that be keeping your own in line, eluding the cops, fighting off competition, etc. Everyone is involved in the Game, from the cops to the dealers to the users in the streets. And that is your leading cast in the Wire. Homicide detectives, narcotics ‘narco’ cops, higher up drug dealers, street slingers, and addicted users all show their story and how they play the Game. Some win, some lose, and if you’ve seen any HBO show, people die. A lot. Some who deserve to, others who don’t, no one is safe when you play the Game.
The Wire is also more than just arrests and shoot-outs. The political follow up of convicting and jailing are covered as well as the corruption of city hall are also covered. Politicians and lawyers are more than significant in this show, expanding those in the Game and consequently the cast. It takes a while to get to know everyone’s name, but reoccurring characters constantly make appearances, slowly solidifying everyone’s role in the series.
What’s also really cool about the Wire is that it’s not 5 seasons of just slinging dope and banging heads. Each season covers a different political organization or social structure. Season 1 focuses on the streets and dope slinging. Season 2 focuses on harbor security. Season 3 focuses on crime reduction and legalizing drugs. Season 4 focuses on the school systems. Season 5 focuses on the news industry. Each season introduces new characters as well as the old ones to show how each function operates and exposes some of the grittier ways things get done in the name of ‘the greater good’.
Each season brings up the fallacies of our local government, police departments, news companies, port harbors, and the corruption that so easily takes control of real people. Bureaucracy is so omnipresent that the characters we like get held up for morally stupid reasons that may allow the bad guy to get away [in which some many cases they do].
Tone is important in the Wire, especially because The Wire primarily focuses on a lot of a bad things that happen in the street. If a child gets a shot and the bad man goes to jail, despite justice being served, downers like this don’t leave audiences easily. What keeps some of the tone in the positive direction is the connection and chemistry of its characters, even on both sides. Over the seasons, you’re given a good luck at the dynamic of inter office cop banter as well as stash house lingo between characters. There are playful moments that give brief moments of happiness…at least until a mass murder or a stash house robbery occurs [sometimes linked] and then you’re in hardcore mode again. But like I said, the many characters truly give a workplace interplay that’s fairly pleasant amongst the chaos and crime.
Character redemption is a humungous part of The Wire and why we love the show and characters so much. There are good cops trying to make up for bad pasts. Bad cops who have downward spiraled from being good cops. There are gangsters with codes that are pushed to their limits. Drug dealers who have killed in cold blood and others who have killed in self defense. These human stories are developed so well and we love rooting for and against certain characters as they make tough decisions. It’s amazing how you’ll hate a character in season 1 and find yourself deeply moved that he’s gone in season 5. Most if not all characters on this show are dynamic, being changed by each event in life, and watching them grow or fall in five seasons made for one of the most interactive and attaching shows out there.
That’s probably the most I can say about the Wire without spoiling it too much. One of the cons is that it can be a little slow and overwhelming at first, or you might even get angry and storm off in a rage with some of the things you’ve seen. But still, I would recommend that you at least give it a shot. It’s not called one of the greatest television dramas for nothing.