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October 8, 2015

The Wire: More With Less (season premiere)

by Jonathan Toomey, posted Jan 6th 2008 10:01PM

The Wire S05E01: More With Less
(S05E01) "The bigger the lie, the more they believe." - Bunk

The beginning of the end. But how do you put it into words? The Wire leaves you breathless at the end of every episode. Every season features such a slow and deliberate pacing as it starts off as well as a new focus. It's not hard to figure out why so many people never stuck with it after McNulty's fateful meeting with Judge Phelan. But the real fans, the ones who have watched each season countless times and dissected every tiny detail (there's an infinite list), truly know that it's worth it every time. This show is art. In the streets. Down at the port. In City Hall. In the schools. And now in the newsroom. Every season is a puzzle piece and we're finally lucky enough to see the last one. I'm completely ripping off HBO with this next line, but there really isn't a better way to say this: it's all connected.

At this point, there's really no need for introductions. We're dropped right into the homicide office just in time to witness Bunk, Norris, and Landsman bullshitting some "yos" into a confession. The ironic thing is that they're obviously guilty, but because of their street dedication, they won't say squat and everyone knows it. Cue a bunch of lies from the Bunk's mouth involving McDonald-Land Cookies and add in a Xerox machine "rigged" as a lie detector. If you bullshit The Almighty Jay Landsman, out spits an 8 1/2 x 11 with the verdict: FALSE. Absolutely hilarious and for those that have read Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, then you know where this type of stuff came from. It all points to one of the many themes that this show has tackled in the past and will bring front and center this season: where's the line between true and false. But more importantly, who draws the line?

It's been about a year since the end of season four, and the Marlo investigation is still going on with not much new info. The new King of the Corner along with Chris and Snoop have all abandoned phones completely. Not even burners. Thank Prop Joe for cluing Marlo in on the bread and butter of Major Crimes last season. Now it's just down to street tails and surveillance. Can't really catch anyone that way. Marlo will never be within conviction distance of any drugs and the whole unit (which now consists of Lester, Kima, Dozerman, McNulty, and Sydnor) knows that. If Lester had been able to get up on it a year ago, maybe a wire could have latched on for a month or so, but not now. It's sad really, to see them all slugging along, fully knowing that it isn't going to make a difference unless Marlo really screws up.

To compound matters, Major Crimes aren't the only police who are unhappy. Mayor Carcetti's campaign promise of a raise and over-time pay for all cops has fallen through. Can't say I didn't see that coming. We knew about the school budget deficit early on last season and now it's rearing its ugly head. Norman became a favorite character of mine last season largely because it. What was that one line he had? Something about being a devious sum-bitch when he wants to be? Priceless, loved that moment. Anyway, he pressed Tommy to take the bail-out money from the governor and Tommy "left it on the table." Here we are, a year later, and Norman still makes sure Tommy knows he was wrong. Makes you wonder why Norman has stuck around this long though. The man is smart and he clearly doesn't seem to agree with some (if not many) of the things Tommy is doing.

The lack of raises and over-time pay isn't all that's getting cut though. This, too, was just a matter of time. The whole series, the major crimes unit has been this whipping boy of sorts. It's on. It's off. Does someone need a favor? A two week detail? Re-instate major crimes. By the same token... how do you cut money? Daniels put it best when Carcetti agreed to leave it open for Lester and Sydnor to finish out the Clay Davis probe: bagging a crooked politician trumps Marlo's 22 rowhouse bodies. For someone like Carcetti and the belief system we've been led to think he has, that decision really made my mouth drop. Money, money, money. Think of how dead the trail on Chris and Snoop is going to be if they ever get back up on the case.

Which brings us to The Baltimore Sun newsroom, the show's newest locale. You know that the Sun's city editor Gus Haynes (played by Clark Johnson, Homicide alum and director of The Wire's pilot and upcoming series finale) and his team are going to hear about the police cuts. David Simon and Co. didn't re-invent the wheel with the Sun newsroom though. He's telling the exact same story arc as the police. Corporate interests are buying up papers left and right, morale is down, and many reporters only have a goal of moving on to a big name publication. It was all summed up in that one scene where those two reporters were watching a fire from the newsroom window. I mean... that's bad.

Regarding the newsroom, obviously I love it, but so far it's striking me much like season two and the port. Seasons one, three, and four all had a natural flow and connection to the streets. Season two started off and immediately threw in this new set of stevedores much as the newsroom crew was blended into this episode. Not a complaint, just a comparison. As season two rolled on, we saw the connection to the streets when Vondas' dealings with Prop Joe were unveiled. That was near the end though. Maybe it's because this season only has ten episodes, but we're already seeing how Gus and reporters like Alma Gutierrez are making their mark. They tied Tommy's city council president Naresse Campbell to Fat Face Rick (a member of the co-op). He donated money to her campaign and now she's helping him move his strip club all over the city, flipping properties on the cheap and netting Rick some hefty profit in the process. Between that and Tommy's connection to Clay (remember, he did make a "donation"), it'll be interesting to see how much of this comes back to bite the mayor.

More thoughts...

  • Why is Chris going down to police records and looking up a file on Sergei Malatov? The obvious assumption? Marlo is trying to circumvent the co-op and work directly with Vondas. That would explain Marlo's disinterest in the co-op and the way he stirred the pot with Slim and Cheese. Why bother making nice if you plan to screw them all over?
  • While I realize this is a show where you don't need to see every character in every episode, I was still surprised that there wasn't even one scene with either Namond or Randy. By the same token, maybe we won't see them at all. You could take the view that both their stories had a proper ending. Namond had the best possible outcome, Randy the worst. Same goes for Prez. Is he still toiling away at Tilghman Middle?
  • We did see Dukie and Michael though. I'm sure there's more to come, but right now, they were a bit of a snoozer. Michael's got his corner and Dukie takes care of Bug. Nothing we didn't expect.
  • I loved some of the dialogue that got bounced around in the newsroom. The rant that Gus set off about the word "evacuation" was great stuff.
  • McNulty is drinking again. Yes! With Bodie's murder in the back of his mind and now that he's back on Landsman's detail in homicide, we might see him worse than ever before. Beadie left the light on for him, but I don't think she'll have much patience for the old Jimmy. I loved how he tried to use his unpaid OT slips for payment at the bar though. Even drunk, he still isn't stupid. Notice how he almost used the pay phone to call Beadie but then thought better of it and used his own cell? Caller ID! Smart!
  • Bubbles (or should I say Reginald?) is clean and selling newspapers. As a huge fan who's seen him up and down every season, that's just a really great "feel good" moment right there.
  • Herc is working as a freelance consultant for Maurice Levy. WOW. The guy has no shame. I'm sure he realizes who Maury is, but does Herc care is the question?
  • For those that are curious, the artist behind "Down in the Hole" this season is Steve Earle, who most know better as Waylon, Bubbles' on again/off again NA sponsor.
  • Carver is now a shift sergeant and Mello (played by the real Jay Landsman) has moved back into the major's seat after Daniels' bump up. The Western is a mess -- uniforms are even getting into fist fights. Carver seems awfully timid in his new shoes and Mello is about as passive aggressive as they come... so, how are they going to get everyone under control?

The biggest moment for me (not that big really) was when Scott Templeton actually came up to Gus and asked for a story. Said he was due. Alma got her name on the Fat Face Rick piece and Scott wanted some action on the next big scoop. And there lies the difference between The Baltimore Sun and The Baltimore Police Department Homicide Division. Now that Jimmy "Prodigal Son" McNulty is back in the rotation, do you think he'll ever go up to Landsman and ask for the next whodunit simply because it's his turn? Yeah right.

Numerous sources have reported the return of many old faces this season. Of the characters not present in the premiere, who are you most excited to find out about?
Omar Little277 (54.0%)
Namond and Randy47 (9.2%)
Avon Barksdale88 (17.2%)
Prez17 (3.3%)
Bunny Colvin25 (4.9%)
Clay Davis9 (1.8%)
Vondas and The Greek31 (6.0%)
Major Valchek3 (0.6%)
Cutty16 (3.1%)

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I thought this was a great episode, as usual. So much going on right off the bat! I don't think we have to worry about Carcetti. I think he's doing what he needs to. In the tradition though of everything ending bleakly on the wire, I think there's a chance he'll "turn," but no overwhelming evidence in this episode. I thought the newsroom scenes were solid. There were a few lines that had me cracking up out of their sheer accurateness of it all. Also, I'm not a fan of the new theme song. It sounds to Law & Order-y.

I wrote up something about what its like to watch the Newsroom scenes having worked in a newspaper newsroom:

January 08 2008 at 1:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to R's comment

I have to agree with your post 100% I laughed out loud hysterically at the burnt doll comment as we had a guy on our staff who used to pull the same shit with sports (constantly had shots of hot girls in the sports shots, even when the girls where NOT the ones competing in the sports he was shooting)

The only thing that was different in my office was that it was always 4 AM when I went home, and 11 AM when I came in. I dont think I saw a lick of daylight when I was EiC for a entire year.

January 10 2008 at 10:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John Howard

Even drunk, he still isn't stupid. Notice how he almost used the pay phone to call Beadie but then thought better of it and used his own cell? Caller ID! Smart!

That wasn't smart. He was looking around in his pockets for change for the pay phone when he came across the cell phone. Didn't you notice the way he looked at it? That was one of the funniest things in the episode.

January 07 2008 at 3:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Thanks for the info, I hate strech-o-vision my self so I watched it with the black bars on the sides.

Thanks for the speedy and the very detailed review.

Now all I need to do is complete my time machine so I can go into the future to watch the rest of the issues.

January 07 2008 at 3:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Aspect Ratio!!

The previews from last year were in 16x9 but the actual episode was in 4x3 !!!

I wasn't able to watch it earlier so I watched the 11:30pm (West Coast HD Feed I think).

Did anyone see the show in 16x9??

January 07 2008 at 1:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to blindguy's comment
Jonathan Toomey

blindguy --
The Wire is shot in 4x3 standard def. Anything you see in 16x9 for promos has been edited and stretched. If you really wanted to watch it 16x9 (ad assuming you have an HDTV set) then all you need to do is push the aspect ratio button on your remote a few times. Doing that, you risk cutting out much of the picture and I dunno about you, but I don't want to miss any part of this show...

January 07 2008 at 2:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have always found McNulty's "exploits" to be funny, but now that he's involved with Beadie I don't think it's funny anymore...Beadie is sweet, I don't want to see her get hurt. McNulty you ass.

January 07 2008 at 12:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Also, I wanted to thank you for an excellent, comprehensive review. This show isn't on the same lines as reviewing "Desperate Housewives" or some other crap. Thanks a lot, keep it up!


January 07 2008 at 10:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

A few notes:

--Clark Johnson also directs THE SHIELD, including their series finale (along with Chik); the only cop show that remotely compares with THE WIRE

--Marlo getting involved with the Greeks is a pretty scary notion. We have already seen each party's dominance, together they could be nearly unstoppable.

--I bet we see Naymond and Randy. It would be strange to completely ignore them after devoting a full season to these boys.

Excellent beginning episode. I can't wait to see Cutty/Omar/Bunny/Naymond/Randy/Avon.


January 07 2008 at 10:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dtpollitt's comment

Namond and Randy's stories really were complete. One got the best possible outcome, one the worst but the stories are absolute. I don't think there's a need. Still i wouldnt be suprised if they showed up. Regardless, anyone who thinks the episode was slow clearly doesnt understand the show. You absoutely need to watch every episode from day one to have a chance at getting these characthers. This isn't law and order- in every sense possible.
I was so pumped up by the last scene, i can't wait for more.

January 09 2008 at 9:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Thank you Mr. Toomey...
I pay attention to almost all of the details, but for some reason I didn't recognize Beadie.

January 07 2008 at 10:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I know this may be a dumb question...

Is Beadie the cop that worked the docks in season 2?

January 07 2008 at 9:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Malik's comment
Jonathan Toomey

Malik --

Yes, Beadie is the port officer. She and McNulty flirted a bit in season two. He came back for a second chance at the end of season three and they were living together in season four.

January 07 2008 at 10:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I watched the very first episode of this series and was pretty bored. Does it really get that much better? It just seemed really grim and depressing.

January 07 2008 at 9:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to R-Bro's comment

I felt the same way at first. It has quite a different feel. I suggest watching at least the first season fully...I was hooked by the end.

The 2nd time I watched the 1st season was even better in some ways...there are so many details in the show you'll catch the 2nd time around.

January 07 2008 at 4:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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