Thoughts on “The Wire”

Warning: Spoilers for “The Wire”

A few months ago, I started watching “The Wire”. I had long heard that it was “the best show on TV”, so when I got HBO Nordic, I decided to catch up.

“The Wire” is not a television show in the traditional sense. We have certain characters that we follow, but they drop in and out of the show at random points. This is a show about the Baltimore slums. The slums are the constant player throughout each season.

The Baltimore slums are utterly foreign to me. I didn’t grow up rich, by any means, but we were never as badly off as 90% of the people portrayed in the show.

Frankly, given a choice between the worlds of “The Wire” and “Game of Thrones”, I think I’d be safer in Westeros.

The first season took a long time to get going, which is a polite way of saying it dragged badly at the start of the season. By the end, though, it looked like we were going to see a showdown between Barksdale and the police. Then the plug gets pulled, and the whole plot falls apart.

The second season follows the comings and goings in the port. The whole show came mightily close to losing me altogether in the second season. I read online that the show got better, that the second season was a misstep, so I kept watching.

Season three seemed to be getting back on track, with a renewed focus on the police and the drug scene. So I was engaged again and wanting to see a showdown between the drug dealers and the cops. It seems like the police win, but Marlo moves in and things go back to how they always were.

The fourth season goes careening off the rails again, following a bunch of school kids and their troubles on the streets. We also follow more of the political scene.

The fifth season is where it all gets better though because this is the season where it finally clicked for me. That we weren’t looking at a coherent story following different players. There wasn’t going to be a happy or sad ending, it was just going to keep happening. David Simon wasn’t trying to tell one story, he was trying to hold a mirror up to different parts of the city and the ills that troubled them.

If I’d known that at the start, I think I would have enjoyed the show a lot more. Either that or I wouldn’t have chosen to watch it at all. I understand what “The Wire” is trying to do and I am certainly a lot more educated about how grim things are in America. I have to think that following a set of characters through the whole show would have worked better though.

Out of the characters we do get, McNulty is an obvious favourite. He is so flawed, self-centred, but he means well. Omar is terrific too, but more because of the effect he causes in the neighbourhoods around him.

The best character, in my opinion, is Bubbles. He’s the only glimmer of light in a terribly bleak show. Cop or drug dealer, it ultimately doesn’t actually matter. All each person can do is concentrate on their own plight. Bubbles is one of the few characters to look past this, though, and see a bigger future for those around him. Not through massive cases or political manoeuvring, but through volunteering and being kind to others.


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