Having finally finished ‘The Wire’ after starting my crusade with it almost a year ago, I’d thought I’d write a bit about it. And for the first time I’m actually going to label it as a review, but only in the sense that I’m going to break down every season and ‘review’ my thoughts on them.
I’m starting here because obviously it’s the one I’ve watched the most recently, so it’s freshest in my mind, but also because it’s my least favourite. And it’s a shame that it’s my least favourite, because that seems to be the popular consensus, which I’m trying to shy away from. However this season for me felt more like a chore, just to get to end so I could write this. Due to this, it’s probably the season I’ve watched the quickest, though it is only ten episodes long (first problem). The problem I have with the season is that I stopped caring about the events and the characters. All the character building of the youth in West Baltimore felt lost and the plot lost all its momentum. What seemed like an incredible rising climax at the end of season 4, had suddenly been replaced by a really strange turn of events. Now I didn’t hate this season, mostly because of my already existing admiration of the major characters, but none of it really interested me. The serial killing plot line felt sloppy, being an excuse to throw McNulty in the fire and the Sun newspaper narrative was half cut to say the least. Effectively what had been a very rich piece of writing ended on a poor ten episodes, with the amount of cringey lines and uncharacteristic events rising. Despite this, the season wrapped up okay, and overall, thanks to the other seasons I felt satisfied with the closing moments, even though it was a little disappointing.
Now, this is the season that grew the most on me, as at first I wasn’t too keen on the sudden change of pace from season 1. Then I began to build an affection for the characters, with the world around them becoming thicker. Immediately Bunk was more involved, who in honesty is a mystery of the whole series, being seriously gripping but also a lot of the times a foil for the rest of the cast. The new addition to the team in Beadie Russell was nice, with her vital role growing as the season went on. And on the other side of the coin Nick Sobotka was a complex new arrival to the game, tragically endearing, and his appearance in season 5 was probably the highlight of that season. Most of all, the partnership between Prez and Lester emulated around the core team, and Prez’s rise of esteem was incredibly satisfying. Consequently you have this mix of great core characters, not the mention the advance of Stringer Bell, with a meaningful story-line. And by meaningful I mean that everything in the narrative happened for a reason, and tied up to a thrilling climax. For example, I hated Ziggy Sobotka’s character, a lot of his nature felt forced, but the shootout scene when he goes back and forth from the car made it all worth it. This season was a slow burner for me, though a very enthralling one.
For the most part this season is a blur for me, and the one I remember the least about. This doesn’t mean I didn’t like it though, quite the opposite, I loved this season. It boils down to one major reason and that’s Stringer Bell. Throughout the whole of The Wire he was my favourite character (even though he’s absent from the last two seasons). His attitude and demeanour create this wonderful villain, and in some ways anti-hero. Idris Elba plays him so that it’s impossible to hate him, and allows his demise to be as heartbreaking as any of the deaths in the rest of series. He’s only a small piece in a diverse 12 episodes and alongside his power surge you have the rest of the cast struggling with their own issues. The most intriguing being the introduction of Lieutenant Colvin and his attempt to legalise drugs, which starts of bizarre then grows to be a plot line that asks many curious questions. There wasn’t a step this season took that felt off or strange, and each character had their own time in the spotlight. Even the repeat fall of Prez was paid off in the next season to great extents. Overall this season changed the game for the whole series, it felt like a stopping point for the original narrative, and left an effective feeling of completion to the original battle the wire team was facing.
Looking back at this season is more of a nostalgia trip more than anything else. It’s where it all began, and where the characters were introduced. If you compare this season to the last one, you can see how far everything has come. All of the characters are sat in a different position to how they started and the Baltimore setting has completely shifted. This season was also simpler times, a team of police using a wire tap to crack down on Avon Barksdale. An enigmatic king-pin who’s really just in it for the game. The highlights of the season again are a blur, but I have great admiration to what the show used to be. McNulty and Bunk analysing a crime scene, Prez and Lester cracking codes, Herc and Carver fooling around, and Daniels begrudgingly steering the ship. You also have D’Angelo Barksdale playing a major role, and his death in season 2 is amongst the most tragic, with him being probably the deepest character, with the largest arc in the whole series. However the most important thing this season brings is the character of Wallace, played wonderfully by a young Michael B. Jordan. His heart-wrenching end (dealt by two equally loved characters) is arguably the highest point of the whole show, as well as the most harrowing. To talk about this season is just about talking about the wire, which quintessentially this season is, and a great introduction to the epic series.
I’m ending with my personal favourite, and I think the most critically acclaimed season of the show. And it’s weird, because this is the season that goes away from the classic wire format. It sets up more of a look into Baltimore life, or even just slum life, by going through the struggles of young teenage males in the area. Despite this, it still has the original cast with their own battles. The beloved Bubbles is hit hard during this season, making a lot of his scenes uncomfortable to watch, but it feels right with the tone of the season. Prez returns triumphantly as a teacher trying to make a difference, being the eyes and ears of the audience for a lot of the series. McNulty is absent in the most brilliant way, leaving Bunk to buddy cop by himself and Kima is suddenly given plenty of weight to carry too. Omar is still relevant and I’ve noticed I haven’t really talked about him yet, and that’s not purposeful because he is a fascinating character, it’s just he’s always there and more of a constant of the wire, rather than a piece to pick out. The same slightly goes for Marlo Stansfield, who takes the pedestal of Stringer Bell well, bringing a new sadistic side to the drug trade of Baltimore. Also Tom Carcetti, who is played fantastically by Aidan Gillen, became a favourite of mine as he attempts to a make a real change to the city. It’s hard to write about this season because it is so full of depth and I have a great affection for it. There’s a reason it’s considered the best season of television of all time, and I don’t have to describe it.
Sidenote: From this, you’ll be able to tell I’m a massive fan of The Wire. Yet, I’ve barely scratched the surface and left a lot of stuff out that I wanted to talk about. I’d recommend to binge the show and find out for yourself.