The Wire - no spoilers!

Discussion in 'TV & Media' started by Yassim, Jun 29, 2010.

  1. Yassim

    Yassim Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I was about to thank everyone for all the spoiler tags in here - I hadn't been spoiled once until this.

    Thanks, everyone else!
     
  2. Goliath

    Goliath Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^Oops.

    I just want you all to know--you've forced me to start watching this show again. Bastards.

    It's like being a smoker, and trying to watch some old movie where everyone smokes all the time. Sooner or later, you have to light up yourself.

    Except in a good way.
     
  3. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    Fuck. That's my bad.

    Apologies. I thought you had already made it to that point in season one.
     
  4. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Just finished the show, and I'd like to say I agree with TheGodBen: Season five is rather unfairly maligned; and I'd still say season two was the weakest stretch of the show. If the fifth season isn't a picture perfect finish, well, it's sure close; and how the final episode wrapped up definitely upped my appreciation of the series a notch or two. The ephemeral Chinatown of Roman Polanski's film has nothing on David Simon's Baltimore.

    The Wire is one of those shows that's better in the long view; taken as a whole it's the rare example of a TV series that is far more then sum of its parts.
     
  5. Alidar Jarok

    Alidar Jarok Everything in moderation but moderation Moderator

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    I feel I should speak in defense of the second season.

    If the show were just about cops and drug dealers, yes, it would seem out of place. But, at the same time, the show was about so much more than that. When you consider the politics, schools, and newspapers getting involved, the dockworkers make sense (plus it ties into the political corruption that gets built on later and the renovating and building projects that get politicians elected without considering the needs of the city of Baltimore). Plus, I've known people similar to the blue collar workers of the docks, so it was easy to relate. Honestly, the weakest part of the season was Barksdale's crew, but that set up a lot of season 3 and showed that there were consequences besides jail for the people who were targeted by the police investigation
     
  6. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Got nothing to do with it being out of place (I have gone to bat for the fourth season and its schools plot; also, loved the Baltimore Sun stuff in season five); and everything to do with failing dismally as drama as its attempts to get us to emotionally invest in any of the Sobotkas - some of these glaringly unsubtle (Nick's breakdown after Ziggy is arrested) simply don't work. While Ziggy is someone I can only feel schadenfreude towards, Chris Bauer plays Frank as mostly annoyed and petulant; an angry, unpleasant man always screwed up about this or that. In a show that can wring such humanity from drug dealers and stickup boys; Sobotka strikes a very discordant note and is completely unsympathetic. Nick, likewise, is just a trifle damn too smarmy. Neither are as contemptible as Ziggy but they don't exactly tug on the heart strings or anything.

    Look, there's stuff in the second season that works. Omar gets one of his best scenes, if not his very best, in the courthouse. The end of D'Angelo Barksdale is tragic, and brutal. Brother Mouzone is a fantastic side character. I think this is the year Stringer Bell really comes into his own. But hey, notice a pattern here? The stuff that works isn't the stuff that's got to do with the dockworkers.

    I'm not against dockworking drama per se (granted I don't have any familial connection to it like you do, but I don't have ties to the drug trade either) but the obnoxious brat son, the fuming father and the nephew never really click as characters. Ziggy is, of course, the biggest flaw here, but he's symptomatic. This isn't no On the Waterfront, and while it has a valid point to make as a work of social criticism, it fumbles and fails as an actual drama. The Wire got better at broadening its horizons as the seasons went on; but this initial stumbling foray into a plot outside the drug trade just doesn't have any weight or legs to it.

    ...that said I liked the callbacks to season two, such as they were, in the subsequent seasons. It kept the series feeling like it was part of one big interconnected messy world. And I wouldn't consider the dockworker stuff that tangential; where and how the drugs get into Baltimore is actually pretty essential for understanding the balance of power in the show's drug trade.
     
  7. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    My only beef with the fifth season is that it was condensed into ten and a half episodes, relegating Cutty and Colvinto cameo appearances in an episode each. That was a financial decision by HBO due to the series' low ratings.

    Season two is just oddly structured, at least as I recall it. The investigation goes at an awfully slow pace, and then there are only a couple of episodes left, requiring Prezbo and a Johnny Cash montage to bring the cops up to speed. I'm also not big on so much of the Sobotka family being off-screen, or mostly off-screen. There are plenty of references to women in the family (including three sisters), but not many appearances.

    I'd rank the seasons...

    4
    3
    1
    5
    2
     
  8. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    That makes me curious as to what they would have done with Colvin if he could have been a regular for this season as well. Cutty's importance I get since he's still running a gym and fifth season continues the stories of some of the youths from the fourth; but what would Colvin be up to now?

    That said some further praise for the fifth season: Shakima Greggs and Elijah saying good night to the city of Baltimore is one of the sweetest damn things in the entire show and also very touching. 'Good night, hopper.' And while the final montage with various characters becoming a new generation of the same old problem might be a little on the nose, I loved the sense of utter futility and cyclism it gave. The only thing that really changes in David Simon's Baltimore are the names; the rules of the game are immutable and heaven forbid anyone like Colvin tries to move the goalposts a little.

    Anyway, honestly, it's no surprise The Wire suffers from low ratings. Had I watched the pilot episode randomly I would have passed; and the show's strengths aren't always immediately evident - worse still, the series does rely on occasion with visual storytelling and not spelling some stuff out.

    That's true. It's odd since season two is a good year for the Barksdale women; Donette and Brianna. They appeared frankly almost as afterthoughts in the show's first year, but are nicely tied into the D'Angelo plot of season 2. Of the onscreen Sobotka family, we could probably have seen more of Frank's brother; the principled honest guy. Maybe a bit of contrast could have moved that drama along, I don't know.

    I'd probably rank them a little like that as well; at any rate 4 on top and 2 on the bottom.
     
  9. Yassim

    Yassim Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Agreed on both counts. After watching the first disc of season one, I wondered why I'd bought the whole show without checking it out first. Now, I'm hooked. It's more like a 14-hour show, shown in 1-hour pieces.

    It's strange that visual storytelling is so rare - it's kind of a treat to watch this show, and realize you're being asked to figure out what the characters are doing.

    Another strike against the ratings - you can't jump in halfway. Many times, I've tried to explain something cool I've just seen, but every moment requires so much backstory, you can't tell stories about moments from the show. Even the jokes aren't funny unless you explain the characters, the politics, the history...
     
  10. TheGodBen

    TheGodBen Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I agree, I feel that season 2 was the weakest.
    As for season 5, the biggest complaints I've seen were that the Baltimore Sun characters weren't that interesting and took up too much time while McNulty's plot was over the top and unrealistic. Perhaps it was, but I liked it because it was the most morally ambiguous part of the show. I've got a bit of a libertarian streak in me, so I had no objections to the concept of hamsterdam, but using the bodies of dead people as part of a strategy to get more money really made me feel uncomfortable. I didn't want to root for McNulty and Lester, I just wanted them to finish their scheme quickly without them being caught because I didn't want them going to prison. The weird thing was that when Kima ratted them out I was pissed at her for doing the right thing. It was a really weird yet enjoyable ride, even if it wasn't realistic.

    As for the characters working at the newspaper, they weren't all that interesting but the points the show was making were worthy of my time. I have noticed many news reports since then with information from unnamed sources, and I have to wonder if there's any truth to them or if it's all made up. I fear that it's often the latter.

    I agree about the pacing of season 2 being weird, out of 12 episodes it takes 8 just for McNulty to join the detail, and by that point they were almost out of time to finish the story. And that montage was disappointing. Season 1 was meticulous in depicting every stage in the investigation...
    Sorry, I got sidetracked for about an hour with my own mini version of The Wire. I heard an odd sound and when I looked out the window I saw an overturned car and a cloud of dust from the wall it smashed into. The two guys that were in it got out and ran away. Quite an usual sight around these parts, especially at 3 in the morning. Anyway, as I was saying:

    Season 1 showed every stage in the investigation, but season 2 had a big jump where all the gaps were filled in over the course of a montage. I felt like I was cheated out of important developments, which is odd as I normally don't like cop shows.

    I'd rank them:

    3
    5 or 1
    4
    2
     
  11. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I actually thought Templeton and Gus Haines were fine enough characters; and the bosses were wonderfully contemptible. 'The Dickensian Aspect', indeed. It definitely fits the Wire's cynicism that the whistle blower gets demoted and the liar gets a Pulitzer for his efforts. Another aspect of that I liked is that the show seemed almost as offended at Templeton's purple prose as much as the fact he's lying - when he invents homeless, it's got to be the family of four with the recently unemployed man and his golden haired girl.

    As far as McNulty's insane plot goes, well, it's McNulty. Does it make sense in reality? Maybe not, damned if I'd know either way. But can I buy McNulty doing it? Absolutely, and I think anyone who couldn't perhaps didn't get the character all that well - his obsessive desire to solve the Avon Barksdale case ultimately suggested he was a little unhinged more then anything else.

    And yeah, it was similar to Hamsterdam in that it was an idea that seemed so destined to fail I'm surprised the characters even did it. The big surprise, really, was Lester; who might have been dedicated as McNulty was to the bigger picture but was usually portrayed as, well, a far more emotionally stable. Not that he ever seens unstable here, but it's just a shock to see one of the show's most consistent foundations of ethical conduct go along with this scheme. That said I agree with you I wasn't comfortable with supporting it but still wanted McNulty and Freamon to escape from it, but then, that's how drama works; it can make you identify with characters even if you'd object to what they're doing.
     
  12. Yassim

    Yassim Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Tv.com tells me that the best episodes of the show are from seasons 3 and 5.

    Do people agree? Could people pick favourite episodes? (I'm not sure how anyone picks a favourite - I'm only 10 ep's in, and I can't remember where one starts and the next stops.)
     
  13. Star Wolf

    Star Wolf Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    It depends upon which character you become drawn to. sometimes there is a closure for a specific character. I see it more like favorite scenes, when Omar did this, Marlo did that...
     
  14. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I'd have no idea offhand what I'd single out as the best episode of The Wire. Best characters; sure, best scenes; best seasons, but epsiodes? Ehh...

    Ask me to pick a favourite episode and I'd say, I dunno, "Middle Ground" maybe. I had to look up the title of that, though, but I feel fairly confident I could call that one of my favourite episodes of the series.
    That final Avon/Stringer scene with both having betrayed each other already but still acting friendly (also never to meet again); and the death of Stringer Bell at the hands of Brother Mouzone and Omar Little - the latter is one of the best climaxes of the series, and I love me some climaxes.
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2010
  15. Yassim

    Yassim Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Can I spoiler my own thread?





    I've just watched the gunfight that I think was spoiled upthread. In talking about the show, I've mentioned that all the violence took place off-screen, even when the effects were clearly onscreen. It seemed to me to be a deliberate choice, to take the traditional, "sexy", candy-coating off the police procedural.

    On one hand, it was a great scene. On the other, it feels a bit like the writers are giving up on their ethic, going for thrills and scares. I guess after 10 episodes, you could say they've earned the "cops and robbers" moment. Plus, in the same episode, we had guys tracing the ownings of holding corporations, so I guess it balances out.
     
  16. Goliath

    Goliath Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^Well, shootouts do happen. And from what I've read and seen, the shootouts in The Wire are more like the real thing than the usual Hollywood action fare.

    There's a hilarious scene in another David Simon production, The Corner, in which...

    ...drug dealers shoot up a street, thinking they're the victims of a drive-by, only to discover that they had frightened themselves into shooting at nothing. :lol:

    What I liked about that specific shootout in Season One was the way each combatant stayed true to character.

    The thing I remember most about that scene, and others, was the cold-blooded way Omar traded shots with his opponents, the way William Munny did in the final scene of Unforgiven.

    In my opinion, Michael K Williams' performance in scenes like that one really underlined just how dangerous Omar was, and thereby helped make his character believeable--at least, to me.

    Wee-Bey and Avon Barksdale may have been hardened killers--but it's one thing to shoot defenceless people, and quite another to exchange fire at close range like that.

    I've been watching Season 2, and while I would have to agree that it's the weakest season of the five, even a below-average season of The Wire is better than most of the TV shows I've seen.

    One of my favourite lines in the whole series comes in "Storm Warnings":

    When Bunk and FitzHugh eagerly take their first look at the Greek Lieutenant's text-messages, and discover that they're in... Greek.

    "Fuck me," Bunk says. And then: "Nothing's easy." I just love how much weary disgust Wendell Pierce squeezes into those two words.:lol:
     
  17. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    While Camelopard is quite right shootouts actually happen (and this one seemed realistic enough to me, a man who has never so much as touched a gun in the real world), I think it's also fair to say Omar is one of the more, well, oversized characters in the Wire. The series likes to have its narrativistic flourishes just as much as it likes its low-key realism; and Omar sometimes feels like one long extended flourish.
     
  18. Star Wolf

    Star Wolf Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    While Omar went into fights in body armor and normally a shotgun against handguns you have to admit he still pulled some superhuman stuff
     
  19. Goliath

    Goliath Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^Well, that too is realistic, I would argue.

    There are oversized characters in real life. Not as many as in fiction, true, but they do exist.

    Omar isn't some superhuman action-movie killing machine. He's just clever, and intelligent, and patient, and cold-blooded. Had he not grown up in West Baltimore, he might have made an excellent soldier--a sniper or Special Forces operator.

    In fact, he reminds me of Mark Twain's old anecdote about how the greatest general in history was a pork butcher from St. Louis, Missouri who never had a chance to serve in the military, after he cut off part of his thumb with a cleaver. Now that he's in Heaven, Twain said, all the great captains love to sit at his feet and listen to him discuss strategy and tactics.

    True, Omar did grow a little larger as the series progressed. But the only point where I thought he grew too large to be believable was the "Spider-Man shit" in Season 5. (I think that's vague enough not to require a spoiler tag)
     
  20. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Well. It's more of a general comment that goes just beyond his hitman prowess.
    I'm thinking here, again, of the death of Stringer Bell. Would they really waste time giving Stringer a chance to, well, talk? There's nothing he can say to them at this point. And, well, I dunno, but would his 'I got the gun, you got the briefcase' line really work on a jury? And Omar over the years has a rather excellent ability to, well, not die; until he dies in the most fittingly poetic way possible - an anticlimactic shot from a child he'd scarcely noticed.

    They keep Omar more grounded then a comic book antihero or indeed other antiheroes on TV - like, say, Dexter Morgan - but he does sort of skirt the boundaries. The Wire likes being realistic but it also likes interesting characters who have poetic moments - which, incidentally, I'd consider a strength.

    I've been told that one of the real people Omar was based on actually pulled that Spider-Man shit,
    And did it from a greater height.

    Damned if I know that's true, though.