Reviews Too Late: The Wire
Calling The Wire a cop show is like describing Oedipus Rex as a family drama. It's an exploration of institutions and the people who live in and struggle with them. In the first season, we saw the Baltimore cops being screwed by the cop system, the lawyers being screwed by the legal system, and the drug dealers being screwed by the criminal system. Building on the first season, the second season explored the failing culture of the docks, the third the failed political culture, the fourth the failed schools, and lastly the failure of the media to note truth from tabloid.
There are no big-name actors, only character actors working in ensemble. (Some of the actors were brand-new, including convicted murderer Felicia "Snoop" Pearson in the role of Felicia "Snoop" Pearson, a character that Stephen King considers the most frightening female character ever.) The writing is brilliant, mainly by creators David Simon and Ed Burns, but also by novelists Richard Price, George Pelicanos, and Dennis Lehane. A lot of local Baltimore reporters also wrote for the series.
The series never lost the ability to surprise. The story and characters were always taking unexpected turns, and the writers were never afraid to kill off characters even if the audience had grown fond of them. (RIP Omar, sigh.)
The only failure is in the series was in the character of its ostensible lead, Jimmy McNulty. How often have we seen the alcoholic, self-destructive cop obsessed with his work and hopeless in his relationships? The writers and the actor did their best, but McNulty never quite rose above the stereotype. Alone of the characters, I always found his series arc completely predictable--- at least until the final episode.
In that last episode, the writers at last allowed themselves a bit of sentimentality. The long, drawn-out farewell--- accompanied here and there by the Pogue's "Body of an American"--- framed all the characters in the place which fate, and time, and their own desperate inclinations had sent them. We had time to say goodbye to all of them.
David Simons' next series will supposedly be set in the New Orleans music culture, post-Katrina. Hey. He found a subject even more depressing than the drug culture in Baltimore!
I'll be glued to the set.
Labels: the wire