Connect with us

TV

15 Years Later: The Wire is Still Essential Viewing

Published

on

The Wire Review

When you even begin to talk about a show like The Wire, you can’t help but open up about ten separate cans of worms. As a basic function of its evolving premise, The Wire morphed over its 5 year run to cover everything from how the drug trade permeates just about every facet of society, whether we like it or not, to the way that journalists are, in some ways, the only ambassadors of truth that some of us will ever meet in the public arena, regardless of their credibility.

If the above run-on sentence is already making you dizzy, then you’re getting the idea: The Wire is not the kind of show that many of us may be used to watching in a slightly more modern world. This is not a show where you can carry on conversations with your significant other, text with friends, or do a bit of cleaning while you watch. I urge you to try though, just so you can see how lost you feel after about 5 minutes have passed, and you literally have no idea what’s going on.

The Wire is the kind of frustrating show that requires every ounce of your attention. It does not spoon-feed you plot threads, it does not set up its twists with elaborate musical cues, and it does not go out of its way to explain what’s going on to the viewer, at all. Though these features can make The Wire a very daunting, even intimidating, series to sit down and watch, you will ultimately find yourself rewarded with a sprawling, all-encompassing, one-of-a-kind, story of stories, should you accept its challenge.

Wall-to-wall, the ever-growing cast of The Wire is filled with increasingly nuanced and carefully developed characters.

Should you accept this lofty quest, you’ll find yourself at the beginning of this journey, as so many have before you. To look at the genesis of a show like this is a very strange prospect, as the early tale of Baltimore’s best and brightest in law enforcement teaming up to take down a drug kingpin is but a microcosm of what The Wire ends up being about. However, it’s certainly as good a place to start as any, with characters like the wise and calculating detective, Lester Freamon, the suavely intimidating drug trade adviser, Stringer Bell, the coldly competent copper, Kima Greggs, and the surprisingly charismatic stick-up man, Omar Little, as your company.

These characters, and a host of others will become your throughlines for this dense and complex city and will remain as lighthouses to focus on, even as the oceans of this series ebb and flow in other directions. Here, at the start, the titular “wire” is of utmost importance, as much of the focus of the drama centers on the Baltimore PD’s attempts to shut down a major player in the drug trade, Avon Barksdale, via a wiretapping operation.

Now, as unexciting as a bunch of people sitting around listening to conversations might sound, The Wire does have a lot to offer, even early on. Much like its similarly challenging HBO brother, DeadwoodThe Wire is the kind of show where there are about 6 different things going on at any given time, even when it seems like no one is doing anything.

This is of particular note in its second, and possibly weakest, season. Taking its characters and refocusing them on a shipping container full of dead, human-trafficked, sex workers might sound intriguing in principle but the hoops that The Wire jumps through to make this happen, and it’s laundry list of hard-ass, blue-collar stereotypes, make this storyline a bit of a slog, even if it does pay off in occasional dividends.

Though the second season of The Wire starts off with a compelling mystery, the central story fizzles out long before the season concludes.

Either way, this is The Wire at its most confusing and forgettable, with key characters and plot beats only being referenced sparsely in the remainder of the series.

On the plus side, we’re on to the third season after this, and, with it, a beautifully crafted story of one man trying to fix the problems of an entire city. Major Bunny Colvin finds himself lambasted with one problem after another, all stemming from the drug trade, and in a moment of desperation, concocts a brilliant plan to legalize drugs in a sort of safe zone, where their effects would be focused, thereby minimizing their toxic effects on the rest of the city.

It’s one of the best seasons that David Simon’s seminal HBO drama ever produced, and an awe-inspiring challenge to the ongoing farce that the so-called “War on Drugs” has become. With real-world precedents as its guide, The Wire explores, in painstaking detail, how the very criminalization of drugs creates a host of other problems, and how a certain level of decriminalization could alleviate these symptoms.

The coldly detached Marlo Stanfield and his chillingly effective lieutenants, Chris and Snoop, are a force to be reckoned with in the final seasons of The Wire.

The season that follows, the fourth, is almost certainly its best. If you ever found yourself wondering how a sweet young kid with a passion for learning can get pulled down the rabbit hole of the drug trade, this set of stories breaks it down in almost stomach-churning detail. As the Baltimore school system is introduced to the fabric of the city, we see how “corner boys” get pulled into the criminal world at ages as young as 7 or 8, and how drug-addicted parents destroy their children without even trying. Synonymous with these plot threads, season 4 also focuses on a new player in the drug trade, Marlo Stanfield, who will use utter ruthlessness to murder his way to the top.

This is the show at its most heart-wrenching, with plot developments like a sensitive young boy embracing the drug trade to avoid being picked on for his intellectualism, or a kid talking to the cops about a murder he witnessed, only to be sent to a foster home, and beaten by his fellow charges for being a rat.

The hugely divisive 5th season closes the show out but its level of success is still hotly debated today. The main plot threads focus on a Baltimore newspaper, and its ethics of journalism, and series central character Jimmy McNulty’s attempts to create a serial killer by tampering with evidence at crime scenes. Regardless of how you feel about the final season’s main focus, there’s still a lot to love, as achingly long plot threads like the rise of Marlo Stanfield and the political aspirations of Tommy Carcetti are paid off at last. while characters like Omar Little and Jimmy McNulty get appropriate send-offs.

The final season of The Wire remains hotly debated even today, with some fans even encouraging folks to quit after season 4.

As a vivid picture of how a city lives, operates and dies, The Wire is unprecedented television, and it still holds up remarkably well, even to this day. If you’ve already watched through the series, you’ll know I’ve barely scratched the surface of what this show is, and how it moves with such fluidity through the lifeblood of one of America’s murder capitals (St. Louis has pushed the city to second place as of 2016.)

If, on the other hand, you’re reading this spoiler-free outline of the series as a newbie, and find yourself even remotely intrigued, I would encourage you to sit down with an HBO GO subscription and see what all the fuss is about.

15 years later, it’s still worth the challenge.

Mike Worby is a human who spends way too much of his free time playing, writing and podcasting about pop culture. Through some miracle he's still able to function in society as if he were a regular person, and if there's hope for him, there's hope for everyone.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

TV

The Boys Season 2 Episode 3 Review: “Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men”

The Boys’ marks an improvement and pays big dividends in an explosive, violently revealing hour.

Published

on

The Boys Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men

Half bottle episode and half coming out party, “Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men” is a sneaky little showcase for The Boys, and just how big its world’s suddenly gotten in season two. Though ostensibly an episode designed around two events – the boys getting stuck on the boat, and Stormfront revealing her inner racist sociopath – “Over the Hill” navigates a number of brewing conflicts in fascinating ways, building and building until the violent explosion at the episode’s conclusion. With a nimble script and a game group of performers, The Boys‘ second season is turning out to be a distinct pleasure – albeit one heading down a gruesome, dark path I sure hope it’s capable of navigating.

“Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men” navigates a number of brewing conflicts in fascinating ways, building and building until the violent explosion at the episode’s conclusion.

It does take a little while for “Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men” to get going; beginning three miles offshore with The Boys and the reunited super-siblings, the first quarter feels like it’s simply restating the stakes. It’s a nimble trick, though; led by Kimiko and Kenji, The Boys begins to feel like it is approaching a true moral quandary for the group. Which door descending into hell will they choose?

The Boys Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men

While The Boys often likes to posture its presenting characters with complex dilemmas, the show’s unnerving nihilism often upends any sort of nuance it looks for in its debates around “necessary” violence. Here, Kimiko’s presence throws a fascinating wrench into the proceedings; with most of the group’s members clinging to whatever mirage of family they have left (save for Hughie, who has… forgotten his dad exists?), even Butcher can’t deny having conflicting feelings about what to do with Kenji, and the deal that’s been offered to him if he turns him in.

Elsewhere, “Over the Hill” throws the brazen personalities of The Seven into their own little blenders, as Stormfront begins to sow discord through Vought, and abuse her powers to casually murder a lot of people – nearly all of them minorities, in a way that feels like an explosion of character, rather than an unpeeling of some complicated identity. Stormfront simply doesn’t give a fuck; and with her supernatural ability to manipulate feminist views (her speech to the reporters is magnificent, both in how it develops Stormfront’s character and nods to the simplistic ways in which the evilest people in society disguise themselves among the “good”).

While she’s kicking up tornadoes and electrocuting everyone that gets in her way, characters like The Deep and Homelander continue to benefit from the much-improved writing of season two. The show is still struggling to make Becca something more than the Ultimate Mother Protector trope, but Homelander’s warped sense of responsibility to his son is interesting, surely a bad sign for the upbringing of this world’s Superboy (will he also don a cool leather jacket and weird cyberpunk sunglasses? Who knows!). It’s clearly not going well; even he seems to recognize the danger in bringing his son’s powers to the surface, as its the first time in his life he’s facing a challenge as the world’s strongest hero (that is, until Stormfront doubles that total later in the episode, further frustrating Homelander’s attempts to hold domain over everything in his grasp).

The Boys Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men

It’s not going well for The Deep, either, as his slow descent into cult life is bringing his desperation for acceptance further to the surface. Like with Homelander’s stories, I wish The Deep’s story was a little tighter and more thoughtful (some of the body image stuff seems to be treated trivially, in a way that borders on insensitive and uninformed for the sake of easy jokes), but there’s no denying his character is infinitely more interesting this season, a test case for what a superhero trying to learn their own limits would struggle with. The Deep works best as a pathetic character, but not when it’s a pathetic character The Boys just kick around with bad punchlines; when he’s treated as a byproduct of a deeply flawed human being trying to find a path to good intentions, his fumbles and weak-minded rhetoric is much more amusing – and at times, the tiniest bit empathic (his sadness over Billy’s, well, butchering of his whale buddy was such an earnest, raw and twistedly funny moment).

The Boys has needed to accelerate its internal stakes for a while; the introduction of “super terrorists” to the world by Homelander, and Compound V’s reveal to the public might make the show’s world feel a bit smaller than intended – I think a lot about the “big” fight scenes at the end of Arrow‘s third season, where the ‘entire city’ is fighting, but there’s never more than six people around – The Boys does that on a narrative level sometimes. But as the stories of the show dig a little deeper into its characters – Maeve’s disillusionment, Homelander’s failure to emulate paternal behavior, A-Train’s desperation, it’s beginning to feel like the writers have a deeper understanding of its characters and world, and how to wield its inherent sadistic cynicism to more interesting ends. “Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men” benefits massively from that, setting up a number of intriguing dominoes for the back half of season two to knock over (in bloody fashion).

Other thoughts/observations:

  • Look, I’m bummed how the Kenji character played out; he was such an interesting character, an examination of everything horrible about what power and war can do to a human being. It’s sad to see The Boys dispose of such an intriguing presence, especially as its a death of a minority character in service of mostly white-related stories – however, with such a hateful, nasty character like Stormfront waiting in the wings, it is easy to see how the writers found their way down that path. (like, she could’ve killed Black Noir and this show would’ve literally lost nothing… just sayin’).
  • Can A-Train just collapse or whatever, so we can get this storyline moving? We’ve been doing this since the second episode!
  • Why haven’t we seen any reaction to Becca seeing Butcher in person at the end of season one? She hasn’t mentioned it or even had a longing look off-screen to violin music.
  • Man, I’m so glad they cast Aya Cash as Stormfront.
Continue Reading

TV

The Best Golden Girl is Sophia Petrillo

Sophia Petrillo was a legend in her own mind who always had her way and like Mighty Mouse, always won.

Published

on

By

Sophia Petrillo The Golden Girls

A seemingly harmless little old lady with curly white hair, oversized glasses, and an innate ability to tell a great story shows up on her daughter’s doorstep when the retirement home she was put in by said daughter burns down. With a simple, “Hi there,” the world meets Sophia Petrillo. For seven years on NBC’s The Golden Girlsa show about the senior set—Sophia lived with her intelligent and extremely sarcastic divorced daughter Dorothy Zbornak and her two roommates, sexy, eternally horny southern belle Blanche Devereaux and sweet but dim-witted Minnesotan Rose Nylund. Each is memorable in their own way, but it’s Sophia, “feisty, zesty, and full of old-world charm,” that stands out the most.

When TV was full of generic, sweet grandma types, Sophia was anything but. Sure, she looked the part with her bifocals, pearls, and now iconic straw and bamboo-beaded handbag, but Sophia was always trying to make a quick buck. She conned Rose into going into a sandwich-making business that pit them against the mob, faked being paralyzed to try and collect insurance, and constantly “borrowed” money from Dorothy’s purse. Instead of helping Dorothy, Blanche and Rose get out of jail when they are mistaken for hookers (don’t ask, just Youtube it). She stole their tickets to go to a party and meet Burt Reynolds. She also stole Rose’s car, worked at a fast-food restaurant, and won a marathon. Not bad for a woman in her eighties. Sophia had a sharp wit and an acerbic tongue, blaming her stroke for leaving her without the ability to self-censor. She was always ready with a zinger or a comeback, some of which she saved for her very own daughter.

Sophia Petrillo The Golden Girls

Sophia Petrillo is the Secret Star of The Golden Girls

That’s not to say she’s all schemes and insults. Beneath her tough exterior is a kind woman with a big heart who loves her family and friends. Viewers don’t often get to see her softer side, which makes the moments they do seem that much more special. One of the best Sophia episodes showed her reaction to the death of her son, Phil. She put up a wall of anger which Rose was finally able to break down in the final moments of the episode, revealing Sophia’s true feelings of guilt over Phil’s cross-dressing as she bursts into tears. Another favourite was when Dorothy expressed concern about her mother not doing enough with her days. We then get to see exactly what she gets up to sticking up for her friend and causing a scene at the grocery store while claiming to represent a fictional senior citizens union, volunteering at a sick kids hospital and later, conducting a senior citizens jazz band. Meanwhile, Dorothy, Rose, and Blanche do next to nothing except sit around and eat. When she’s asked what she did all day upon her return, she simply says she bought a nectarine, and Dorothy, Rose, and Blanche are none the wiser.

But if Sophia has one claim to fame, it is her colorful old-world tales about Sicily, which often as not, contain a pearl of wisdom or embellishment of some kind. We would have loved to have known her during her “picatta period (a wedge of lemon and a smart answer for everything),” when she was the most beautiful girl at a resort and all the men fought over her (so beautiful, in fact, that she had “a butt you could bounce a quarter off of”). She was also once painted by Picasso and was best friends with Mama Celeste. But I digress. Sophia Petrillo was a legend in her own mind who always had her way and like Mighty Mouse, always won. Her hunches were never wrong, and rarely, if ever did she meet her match. Sophia was, in short, a one-woman show. And thanks to re-runs and fan appreciation, that show will never be gone.

  • Dasilva

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published under our old brand, Sound On Sight.

Continue Reading

TV

30 Years Later: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Published

on

By

30 Years Later: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Continue Reading

We update daily. Support our site by simply following us on Twitter and Facebook

Facebook

Trending