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August 29, 2015

The Wire: Boys of Summer (season premiere)

by Michael Canfield, posted Sep 10th 2006 10:55PM
The Wire(S04E01) "Lambs to the slaughter here." -- Maria Donnelly.

During the opening credits the show's traditional theme song plays, but this time it's sung by a chorus of children. As in previous seasons, this is about the only soundtrack music we will hear until the final credits. The Wire doesn't use strings to tell us when to feel pathos, or synthesizers to build suspense. It trusts and depends on the drama and the truth of its characters to tell the story.

Welcome to The Wire: The Next Generation. Some old favorites are back -- though just as dispersed as we left them at the end of season three. We get to check in with some of them, but much of the focus is on new characters we meet for the first time and will be the heart of this year's story. This makes tonight's episode a pretty accessible place enter the story, even if you've never seen The Wire before.

The four new kids, all played by fine actors, are eighth-graders:

  • Randy -- A budding entrepreneur, he sell candy and chips out of his backpack on the corner. His step-mother keeps him in line, and he calls her "ma'am."
  • Namond -- A "corner boy," he works on Bodie's crew, and doesn't want to cut or braid his long hair -- even though he's warned that it makes him an easy target for police.
  • DuQuan -- A kid so impoverished that even the other kids in the neighborhood look down on him, then come to his aide when he's attacked by outsiders.
  • Michael -- A quiet and thoughtful young man. To tell the truth, I didn't get much of a sense of him in this episode yet.
The school season is about to start, and this year The Wire will focus a lot on the school system: its challenges and failures. If I had any doubt that The Wire would continue to deliver, this episode put them immediately to rest. Well really, I didn't have much doubt. It's well-written as ever: sharp, with unexpected humor (as in my favorite scene, the opener with Marlo's enforcer Snoop makes a shopping trip to Home Depot) and sudden pain, as in what one of the new young characters, Randy, learns happens from an innocent-seeming favor his does.

One former cop, Prez, is now a teacher, and though he doesn't even have credentials yet, the school administrator sit right up and take notice when they learn he used to be a cop "in the city." They don't know what a terrible cop he made, but they likely wouldn't care anyway. They are just happy to have someone around who might not be naïve about the issues they face. But by the end of a the first faculty meeting, poor Prez looks like has already had any hopes of making any more of a difference in his new job than his old one, pounded out of him.

I suspect this season may break with previous ones and not have a single police task force assembled to target one specific group of criminals. Or if it does, it looks like it'll take a while to get up to speed. Kima and Lester Freamon are working an investigative drug case but -- to the disappointment of Major Daniels -- McNulty seems happy to stay in uniform and enjoy walking a beat and his new-found family life. It would be just like The Wire to defy our expectations and keep him in uniform all season.

Other characters face challenges unfamiliar to them. Mayoral-candidate Tommy Carcetti, so driven in the past, seems for the most part to be letting himself get dragged along in a campaign that he doesn't believe has a chance. He gets a bit of his spark back by the end of the episode.

Bodie, once a mid-level dealer in the Barksdale organization, older, more worried about the future and stuck working a bad corner as an independent, has to let members of his crew of leave early some days (while complaining about the poor work ethic of the "young un's"). Marlo's organization has managed to take over most of the better drug-selling locations -- seemingly without violence, but that's not the case. Marlo, is merely going about his business methodically and intelligently, keeping the more violent aspects literally under wraps. So far it's working, Freamon fears his until will go soft investigating such a tender target as Marlo. For now anyway, Marlo has the police and his rivals right where he wants them.

All this might sound a little too depressing, or perhaps just more of the same old TV cops-and-gangbangers stuff, if you've yet to sample the series. The difference lies in the execution, the care and thought and sympathy that is applied to every character in order to portray living, breathing, human beings -- and tell some stories about what's going on in our cities. It's not all bleakness and despair. I'd argue that it is ultimately a life-affirming show, because everyone on The Wire, no matter the circumstances in which they find themselves, is looking for what anybody is looking for: a way to live. That's what gives the show, even in its heavier moments, so much heart.

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kim lassiter

I love this show. I don't car how they show it. I just want to know what is the name of the childrens choir that sing's "way down in the hole"this season.

October 13 2006 at 12:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What a great episode. Can't believe how funny they decided to make it though. From what I saw so far, I think the four kids are great.

September 12 2006 at 8:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Good posts to all!
I was worried that not many people have posted, but I am sure that will change soon...

I was very pleased with the first episode I watched it last week on demand and this Sunday night. I really don't understand how fans of this show have to scream and tell everyone that it is a great show, when it speaks for itself. Then a show like the Sopranos which has only had one good episode in the last 3-4 seasons have fans saying how great and so complex the show is...

My only explanation is something that I just can't admit..:(

September 11 2006 at 11:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Great start to the season. It is quite amazing how they are able to introduce so many all new characters each season. It just feels like we are walking through the 'corners' and witnessing what life is like for these people. Truly drama at it's finest.

Some funny lines too:
Carcetti: 'I was in there for 4 minutes.'
His aide: 'More like 6.'
Carcetti: 'I could have gotten laid.'

Bunk's expression when McNulty invites him to dinner was priceless too.

September 11 2006 at 10:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Call me crazy, but I like that this show is still shown in 4:3. Widescreen audtomatically puts things into a context. If a character is positioned off center we subconciously read into that. Having the show full-screen is almost like the creators are staying objective. They're presenting a world as-is without letting the visuals of the show cloud the meaning.

Also, I worry that the fact that this post only has four commenters doesn't speak well for the series' longevity. How can a show that has been almost universally praised by critcs as one of (if not THE) greatest television drama of all time draw so few viewers (let alone fans)?

It's frustrating as a fan who knows he's watching something special.

September 11 2006 at 5:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I agree...why no HD? I put off watching the episode on demand all week because I was waiting for HD. If 'Lucky Louie' gets the HD treatment...why not 'The Wire'? We all know its show with the widescreen in mind for the DVD's. It just doesn't feel like the same show after watching the first three seasons on DVD within the past month.

September 11 2006 at 10:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Great start of the season. Marlo is becoming an even better character than we saw in Season 3.

Very disappointed to see the show was not available in HD. Curious if anyone has any info whatsoever on why that is. Was it a choice made by Burns/Simon, or an HBO thing? You'd think with all the hype this show is getting, and the fact that shows like Tourgasm are in HD, why not The Wire?

September 11 2006 at 6:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Good first ep of the season. The difference in settings is a fresh change, actually. Reminds me more of the The Corner, the short-lived cable show. I was impressed that they managed to do a bunch of set up yet still give us a gut-churner at the end.

September 11 2006 at 12:35 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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