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September 4, 2015

Jane After Dark: The Wire

by Jane Boursaw, posted Jun 1st 2009 11:00AM
The Wire - Jane After Dark
I never intended to watch The Wire next in my Jane After Dark pursuits. In fact, I planned on watching Veronica Mars, as many of you suggested. But a good number of you also recommended The Wire, and I had season one sitting here, so I popped it in one night.

I'm not gonna lie to you. It's been slow going. Here's how it went down:

Episode 1: I was completely lost, so I watched it twice to see if I could grasp it the second time around. Then I read the detailed synopsis on The Wire's official HBO site. Clearly, this show is not meant to be watched while you're doing something else. You need to sit down and focus on what's going on.

As I've mentioned before, Jane After Dark chronicles my DVD adventures while I'm working on the computer at night. But that's proving to be difficult with The Wire. This show has a LOT going on, and every scene is vital to the evolution of the show. Miss something, and you almost have to backtrack because every scene is integral to something else down the line.

Episode 2-6: I'm still kind of lost, but there's something about the story and characters that keeps me coming back. I have a pretty good handle on the cops and their individual stories; it's the drug dealers I'm having trouble with. But after watching the episodes and then reading the synopsis for each, I'm starting to get it. In a nutshell, Avon Barksdale and his partner Stringer Bell are running a drug business in Baltimore and leaving a trail of bodies in their wake. Det. Jimmy McNulty and a team of cops are hot on their trail, keeping tabs on them via surveillance and wire-tapping equipment. And of course, there are lots of other people -- both good and bad -- involved on both sides of the law. Many grey areas there.

For me, the beauty of The Wire is in the characters more than the storyline. McNulty is a bit of a "loose wire" when it comes to going after the bad guys. He's not afraid to think outside the box and tell his superiors how to do their jobs. His personal life is a train wreck, but that makes for an interesting cop, right?

I also appreciate seeing some of the actors I've grown to love on other shows this past year, including Lance Reddick, who plays Agent Broyles on Fringe. If you mute the TV, his character of Lt. Daniels on The Wire looks and moves pretty much the same as Broyles. From what I gather, though, Daniels might be a dirty cop.The jury's still out on Broyles, but he seems like he's on the up and up.

Then there's John Doman, who plays Dep. Comm. for Operations William A. Rawls on The Wire. But I started watching Damages last winter, and know him better as Walter Kendrick, a guy with more than a few similarities to Tony Soprano. Idris Elba, who plays Stringer Bell on The Wire, also plays Charles Miner on The Office. Quite a different character there.

Just about every scene of The Wire is great in one way or another, but one that stands out for me is where McNulty and Bunk are reconstructing the murder of Diedre Kesson. They're laying out photos of the body on the floor of her apartment and re-enacting how the shoot might have gone down, and the only words they speak are expletives. Even though the whole thing is tragic, the way they play the scene is pretty funny.

So I'm heading into the second half of season one of The Wire, and I'll report back next week and let you know how it goes. Any pointers for me from all of you Wire fans? Any tips or intel are much appreciated!

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Seasons 3 and 4 are simply the best thing I've ever seen on TV, and running strong for the best fiction I've encountered in any medium. I found season 1 a bit slow on first run-though (but very interesting once I'd seen the other seasons, and could go back and appreciate the introduction to so many storylines and characters) and I thought season 2 was certainly good, but not great. And the final season, I'm still not sure I get it.

But seasons 3 and 4? I haven't seen anything out there in the same class of storytelling. There are other great shows which are more entertaining, if less sophisticated, and which I would watch for fun first; but nothing else as intelligent, perceptive and rewarding of a viewer's focused attention. The Wire is the first show for which I've bought every season on DVD (all at once, after watching the entire series) and I would have done it without regrets if they'd cost three times as much.

But it's not the kind of show you watch to unwind while you're relaxing after a hard day; it's something you eventually realize is worth your time to sit down and study.

June 05 2009 at 7:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Like everyone else says-stick with it. You're over the crucial point that makes or breaks an initial viewer. But every season starts very slow, with the penultimate episode serving as the climax.

While I was certainly intrigued from the start, the slow burn and long learning curve took awhile for me. It wasn't until Episode 9 of S1 where I had the epiphany of "It's pretty good" to "WOAH." And it wasn't until the last half of S3 where I felt that the show is worthy of every ridiculous hyperbole thrown at it.

June 05 2009 at 1:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Let me clarify something about the series.

The Wire's greatest aspect of storytelling is its character development, and how you see the characters evolve both into good and bad and many layers in between. And if you've seen the series finale, some characters survive and some turn up in a tragic way.

The old saying "Life is not black or white, but a series of greys" (paraphrased, of course) is SO relevant to this series or any good crime drama. This show is such a well-written series that it was a shame that it never got the rewards it was due (though it was critically praised).

The only person who can come close to writing superb character development is JJ Abrams, and he only sticks with a project for a little while.

Stick with this show.

June 03 2009 at 12:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wow, all this passionate praise makes me want to try it again. Thanks guys!

June 02 2009 at 8:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The Wire was one of the best shows on tv. Period.

Whoever is suggesting that Veronica Mars is more interesting needs to have their head examined. But I hear that the sequel to Twlight will be out soon, so "yay!"


The Wire was HBO's best series, and I'll be callous enough to say that it was better than The Sopranos. Hands down.

Now I'll get my head examined to please all the Sopranos fanatics who never saw The Wire.

June 02 2009 at 6:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Stick with it, and treasure your moments with Omar.
There's no doubt you need to finish it, and then move on to Veronica Mars. Buffy, Angel, Firefly, The Wire, & Veronica Mars - All fantastic shows, you are picking spot on!

June 02 2009 at 1:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

wow, it makes me so happy to see a show that I love given so much praise. I mean it's also hilarious how people are encouraging you along the way not to give up because the show just means that much to people. It's written so well and everything is so well thought out, I'm suprised that it's not given even more attention. Honestly, a show like the Wire should be taught in schools alongside other literary classics. It's a classic piece of literature through the television medium that will always be relevant and should stand the test of time.

June 02 2009 at 12:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

how to watch the wire: sit in a room, by yourself, with all the windows and doors closed. don't have any food, any drinks, any lights. nothing can distract you from the show. every second is crucial. don't re-watch any episodes, one episode flows beautifully into the next and re-watching will break that flow. watch one episode every day. the episodes need time to sink in. leave a month or so between seasons, they are each distinct storylines and need to be viewed that way. and you will need to re-watch the series a few times before you get everything. the pilot seems confusing at first, but after you've seen the whole series you understand just how perfect a metaphor every single scene is.

June 01 2009 at 11:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You mentioned in your review the best scene ever in television history - the no dialogue except the expletive crime scene reconstruction by McNulty & Bunk. I whole-heartedly agree, the body language and nuance in that one word conversation was the most perfect scene I've ever seen.

June 01 2009 at 4:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Jane, we forgot to mention something (in this thread at least).

When you finish season 1, and start on season 2 ... stick with it! Season 2 changes the ball game completely, and the viewer is at first saying, "Huh? Wha? Why?!?" until they "get it" and then they're happy.

June 01 2009 at 2:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to David's comment

Very true, very true.

June 01 2009 at 4:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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