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August 30, 2015

The Wire season 4 -- an early look

by Michael Canfield, posted Aug 30th 2006 10:19AM
The Wire, new castmembers season 4We've waited a long time for season four of The Wire, both with anticipation and apprehension. In anticipation, because the show has been so unbelievably good up to now. And apprehension, because most series fall off in quality eventually don't they? Maybe the wait will have been worth it, if only that it has given many new viewers the chance to discover the series on DVD. The first two seasons have been out for awhile. That's how I found it, at that is the reason I ordered HBO for the first time in my life this summer. The Wire seems positioned finally to receive the accolades it has long deserved.

In season four, as in past seasons, we follow a group of Baltimore law enforcement officials as they slowly, painstakingly, build a single case, often just as much at odds with the city legal establishment as they are with the criminal organization. However, this is not NYPD Blue or Law & Order where all is neatly tide up by the final act, and then next week we're on to the next adventure. Instead, this series seeks to show the drug war in all its complexity. We follow the lives of the criminals and become equally involved with them as we do with the police.

This takes hours to develop and resolve, something that can only be done in a novel or in long-form television, and riveting hours they are. Not that many novels, let alone the vast majority of television shows, bother to aspire to this level of complexity and authenticity. It's not merely some stunt that two of our best contemporary crime novelists, Richard Price and Dennis Lehane, have been tapped previously to write episodes, in addition to the show's regular compliment of former Baltimore police and journalist scripters. And no American television series has ever used the medium to greater effect. I can think of no other series that succeeds in showing so many characters (on either side of the law) all as fully human beings. From the addict Bubbles, to the drug lord Stringer Bell, to the incompetent police detective Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski (a relatively minor character in the past, who has a much larger part this coming season) the sum of human experience is laid out before us, from our loftiest desires to our greatest frailties. If you think I'm overselling it, then you likely have never experienced The Wire.

I mentioned apprehension before: what will the series be like without Stringer Bell? Stringer was one of the drug lords, partner to Avon Barksdale, and who aspired to move into legitimate businesses just as, say, bootlegger Joseph P. Kennedy had done in his day, but who instead met his end late in season three. His last words were: "get on with it then."

Ed Burns, one of the series creators, is an ex-cop and an ex-teacher. In a preseason documentary about season four that HBO is running, he mentions thinking of each graduating class in the Baltimore school system as being about the eight grade. By the eight grade, new players and new leaders are emerging. Stringer Bell is gone, but there are plenty of other young men left to the streets, and this new season will focus on them. The vacuum left by our society's failures demands to be filled. Marlo is more powerful now. Bodie, by virtue of his luck at being able to stay alive, if nothing else, is now much higher in the Barksdale organization.

Last season examined the failures in the nation's drug enforcement policies. Now season four of The Wire will take us inside the contemporary inner-city school system where we will meet four new middle-school-aged characters, described as the heroes of season four. We also become reacquainted with two fallen police who have entered the school system as educators: the aforementioned Prez, and also disgraced police Major "Bunny" Colvin, who took a gamble on a bold, socially-progressive, crime-control tactic last season and saw his career destroyed for it. Councilman Tommy Carcetti is back, as is his long-shot bid to elected mayor -- even though he is white -- in predominantly African-American Baltimore.

If you haven't seen The Wire yet, give it three episodes. By then you'll be hooked.

The Wire premieres on HBO On Demand September 4th, and on HBO proper, Sunday, September 10th.

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September 08 2006 at 2:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mike Davis

Wah wah wah with the spoiler warnings. Whats the statute of limitations on spoilers? Should I not mention that Bruce Willis is a ghost in The Sixth Sense-just in case someone who hasn't seen that movie that came out 8 years ago might get upset?


August 31 2006 at 1:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It happened 2 years ago, not one. The DVDs came out recently though.

Just wondering, did you guys receive the whole season from HBO? I know that most of the critics have received the complete season. Can't wait...this show is just perfect.

August 30 2006 at 2:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
harry xing

To TJ, what are you talking about?

If you read the original article, it says "Stringer Bell is gone". What does that mean?

But sorry if I messed it up for you.

August 30 2006 at 2:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

TJ... this, i am sure has been debated in the past... but how could something that occured over 1 year ago be SPOILED now... meaning, when does the SPOLIER ALERT cease to have to be sounded? i would argue... it is too late for such protests in this case...

August 30 2006 at 2:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

hey Harry - thanks for posting a huge spoiler for all of us still working our way through season 3 on DVD!! jerk.

August 30 2006 at 1:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
harry xing

Wire - The ultimate show on TV nowadays. While BSG slips once in a while, Wire is always at par.

I have watched nearly every episode twice. Recently, during the HBO re-up on demand, I was watching the episode where Stringer gets killed. Even though I knew what was going to happen, even though I knew what was going to happen, it was shocking to see it happen. Just amazing production.

Then the next episode, McNulty is in shock, sitting maybe 3-4 feet from Stringer's body. He has been chasing this guy forever, and is lost becaue his cause is no more, and more so because this happened just when he got evidence to nail Stringer. Pretty moving scene. You rarely see such depth in TV.

People say season 2 went off track. Well it did, but it was still as interesting. Looks like season 4 is again going on a different track, but I am sure it will retain its charm.

Welcome back, Wire.

August 30 2006 at 12:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Earnest Pettie

I was working at this awesome video store, Kim's Mediapolis, in New York, and when Season 2 came out, it was like the UN handing out food and water to refugees. We had so few copies that we would all amass at the store to hand the videos around during that brief period when we got to rent them for free, anxious to get them all seen before street date. And I know how Oral Roberts must have felt, because whenever we were able to turn a new customer on to the show, it was as if we had encouraged a life-altering change in another person. Man, that show is great.

August 30 2006 at 12:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I started watching it this summer through On Demand. It really is an amazing show, but much like Curb Your Enthusiasm in that if you only watch part of an episode, you'll leave wondering what the big deal about it was.

I can understand why people would be turned off by it, though. Consistently realistic cops and criminals are not as dramatic as guys like Vic Mackey and Antwon Mitchell. And since each episode is like a chapter in a larger story, the first couple episodes started out kinda slow. But if you give it one or two episodes all the way through, if you're like me, you'll experience your first "Whoa" moment. A moment that makes you want to jump up out of your seat and take a quick break to catch your breath. And once you hit that, you won't go back.

August 30 2006 at 10:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jonathan Toomey

This show is the reason you pay for HBO. Everyone should tune in or else I think this will probably be the last season. Despite the critical acclaim the first three seasons received... no one seems to watch it.

August 30 2006 at 10:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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