What’s it about?
The Wire charts different aspects of the ongoing altercations between law enforcement and criminal elements in the city of Baltimore. Both sides are shown equally giving insight into the characters’ flaws, motivations and ultimate paths.
Dominic West, Idris Elba, Wendell Pierce, Lance Reddick, Clarke Peters, Wood Harris, Sonja Sohn, Michael K. Williams
An Introduction to The Wire
The Wire is set in the city of Baltimore, or “Bodymore” as it is less-than-affectionately known by the drug dealers and street kids, owing to the high mortality rate. The huge pay-offs earned by the dealers are countered by their very short lifespans as guns are plentiful and territories are hotly contested.
Two of the main protagonists are introduced in the first few scenes: Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West) is a smart and street-savvy detective, but not without his flaws. Whilst very good at his job, McNulty’s private life is a car-crash of alcoholism, erratic behaviour and cheating on his wife.
On the other side of the divide, Stringer Bell (Idris Elba) is a smart and charismatic criminal. He’s very good at his job and keeps his cards close to his chest. Stringer is second-in-command to the top drug dealer in West Baltimore, the elusive Avon Barksdale (Wood Harris).
After what should be an open-and-shut court case involving Barksdale’s nephew collapses owing to a witness changing her testimony, the judge asks McNulty for an insight into how this could happen. McNulty explains how powerful and seemingly untouchable Barksdale’s organization is; the judge is appalled and instigates the creation of a team assigned to investigating Barksdale, much to the annoyance of McNulty’s commanding officer.
The Wire regularly tops lists of the greatest TV shows ever made (see also: The Sopranos, Breaking Bad), and not without good reason. The intelligence of the writing coupled with the expertly-paced storytelling makes for a highly compelling show that’s very difficult to stop watching once you invest in it.
Each season of The Wire focuses on a different area of life in Baltimore. Season one covers the street drug trade, while season two covers the city’s port and docks; Season three moves into the city’s government buildings to chart the besuited wheelings and dealings therein, and season four deals with the education system, specifically teachers and schools. Rounding off with season five, we get an insight into the city’s journalists and newspapers.
There is a sense of acknowledged inevitability of fate amongst the players in the world of The Wire. No-one is fooling themselves that things will magically change for the better any time soon, if ever. The criminals live entirely in the present, and the level of world-weary cynicism in the police department is palpable, summed up in the following exchange between detectives:
“Fighting the war on drugs, one brutality case at a time.”
“You can’t even call this s*** a war.”
Owing to its themes, environments and level of realism, The Wire is unavoidably dark and grim in tone at times – this has been known to put some people off (generally those only dutifully watching it after a friend or colleague’s insistent badgering), but the majority of viewers are drawn in to this complex and powerful show to become avid watchers. If it’s not for you, that’s fine – don’t watch it only because you feel you “should”. To everyone else, welcome to ‘Wire-istas Anonymous’, and a binge-watcher classic.
Check out the Season 1 Trailer here: