Friday, March 4, 2011

The Wire

Joker and I just watched finished watching the five-season HBO series The Wire.  It is fantastic.  It might be the best show ever created, and it earned constant critical praise during its run.  The series is a gritty, realistic portrait of inner-city Baltimore, with a large ensemble cast that includes the police, drug gangs, the dock workers, lawyers, politicians and the press.  Each season focuses on a specific area of Baltimore crime, with several storylines continuing through two or more seasons.  I cannot strongly enough suggest you watch it, if you haven't already.  Here are a few reflections on the series:

...There are two single characters with incredible arcs over the five seasons: Bubbles and Omar Little.  We meet Bubbles as a homeless heroin addict and police informant, see him truly hit rock bottom a couple of years later, and after a few bumps in the road he finishes the series having inspired a journalist to do his best reporting, and is on a clean path that'll allow for reconciliation with his sister.  Omar is a homosexual street vigilante who metes his own brand of justice with a sawed-off shotgun.  I can't say his story ends particularly optimistically, but his character is probably the most memorable of the series.

...Every character is seriously flawed (with the arguable exception of Prezbo).  The heroes are not clear-cut heroes; many of the villains have sympathetic qualities, and have endured such shitty circumstances you understand where they're coming from.  Cops cross the line.  Teamsters cross the line.  Politicians cross the line.  Jimmy McNulty, a cop who's essentially the main character, is a total scumbag... but somehow, despite that, I rooted for him through the end.  These characters are not my friends the way the Scooby Gang is, but they make for rich and compelling television.

...Baltimore sure looks like a shit hole.

...Drugs are bad.  Real bad.  And drug dealers?  The lowest of the low.

...The kids break my heart.  Season 4 focuses on four young friends: "corner kids" who are on the precipice of being dragged into the gangster life.  They waver between trying to stay in school and getting involved in dealing, while saddled with crappy, abusive and sometimes homeless families.  They are all good kids, they each end up drawing a different lot, and there's frankly not a lot of hope to go around.  In other seasons, kids commit murder, they beat up homeless guys, they do bad stuff.  And the circumstances that drive these kids to do what they do make my heart ache.

Without putting any more spoilers out there, I can only say that if you have never watched this series, you should.  It's as good as TV - or as any entertainment I've seen - gets.

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