Tuesday, April 28, 2009

In the Hole

The Wire is amazing.

Best television series ever?  Hrm... that's a hard one.  I'll probably grant it the "best drama" award.

The comments in my earlier post still stand.  Through all five seasons, I was regularly amazed at the phenomenal quality of the acting, the incredible density of the plot, the Shakespearean drama, the attention to detail.  Every season built on what came before, and the show just got more and more powerful.


Favorite character (hero): Probably Lester Freeman.  I smile every time I remember when I thought he was just a slacking goof.
Favorite character (villain): Still Stringer Bell.  Marlow is more menacing and evil, but Stringer is still my favorite.
Favorite character (other): Maybe Carcetti?  He's a really complex character, which I dig.  Oh, wait: not Carcetti, but his chief adviser.  I really like that guy.
Runner-up: Bubbles.  Hands-down the most sympathetic character of the whole series.
Favorite location: Hampsterdam
Favorite version of "Walk in the Garden": Season Four!  Season Four!  All versions were good, but I LOVED this version of it.  Every other season, I would eventually start fast-forwarding through the opening song to get to the plot, but I could never bring myself to skip this.
Favorite season: Gosh, that's really hard.  Maybe the third one?  I can see why people were disappointed in the fifth season, but personally I really enjoyed it, just not quite as much as those two.
Another Favorite Character: Omar.  The high point for me was in the second season (I think) when he testified in the murder case against Wee-Bay, but every time he was on the screen, it was magic.
Favorite Murder: See above.  Omar's death was the most shocking and unexpected moment in the whole series.
Runner-up: Stringer Bell's assassination.
Favorite Crime Plot Arc: Following the money.  It's supremely frustrating that we never follow it all the way, but I didn't expect that we would.  It's like real life: the most powerful and wealthy people can play by a different set of rules than the rest of us.
Favorite Personal Plot Arc: Daniels' love life.  I also enjoyed the McNulty's Sobriety arc, but Daniels' story was great, both for what happened and the way it was portrayed.  In some ways, it's the epitome of the phenomenal storytelling power of The Wire.  Any other show would have spent ten times as long on this, and stuffed it with dramatic confrontations and passionate speeches.  Instead, we get a handful of short scenes, scattered across several seasons, and the writers trust us to absorb what's happening and induce the situation.  It's really remarkable.
Favorite Catchphrase: Senator Davis.  "Sheeeeeeeeeeeit."
Most Disturbing Social Point: The young hoppers.  It's frightening and depressing to see how young the children turn to crime, and makes you think about how society has failed them.  They, in turn, fail society.  The most amazing disconnect in season 4 is that the children knew from the very first episode that there were dead bodies hidden in the vacants, but it doesn't even occur to them to tell the police about it, and it takes the police months (and the eventual cooperation of one child) to find out.
Worst Cop: Herc.  That was another great arc: seeing Herc and Carver start out like Tweedledee and Tweedledum in the first season, then watch how their careers diverge.  Runner-up: That white guy with the crew cut.
Most Personally Discomforting: The schoolroom scenes from Season Four.  I was never in any place that bad, but it did bring back some painful memories about unpleasant experiences in elementary school.
Weirdest Character Changes: I forget his name, but the friendly, obese, white homicide cop who becomes head of homicide.  He seems to become radically meaner in season two, then mellows out quite a bit afterwards.  Other characters change too, of course, but I generally felt like I understood why.  With him, it was just kind of odd.

Final, random thought: Kima actually did everyone a favor by reporting McNulty and Freeman.  It took me a while to forgive her, but as I thought through it, even if she hadn't done so, Levi would have figured it out - he was on the scent regardless.  If the prosecution hadn't known that the warrants were bogus, then the whole case would have blown up in their face, either during discovery or the trial.  It was frustrating to see Marlow walk, but by putting everyone on the same page, Kima really helped break the back of Marlow's empire.

OK, I lied.  Final-final thought: What's up with Marlow at the end?  It seems like he's going to follow the same path as Stringer Bell (which Davis has previously gleefully described to Freeman), but the shooting at the end leaves me unsure.  Are we meant to think that Marlow is renouncing "respectability" and returning to the street (which obviously means a great deal to him)?  Or does this merely remind us of his ruthlessness, and lead us to expect that he will carry these same traits into his future dealings?  Either way.  It's hard to imagine him remaining a free man forever.


Excellent, excellent show.  Anyone who can stomach the mature content in it and likes dramatic shows should pick up the DVDs.

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