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Season 1: An intelligent and rewarding drama with multiple threads and few weaknesses
bob the moo6 March 2008
Detective James McNulty is in court when mid-level drug dealer D'Angelo Barksdale walks free on a murder charge thanks to an eyewitness that changes her story. Spilling his guts to the judge about the influence and elusiveness of top drug dealer Avon Barksdale (D'Angelo's uncle), McNulty makes himself incredibly unpopular with his superiors when the judge brings political pressure to bear to form a joint homicide and narcotics investigation into him and his operation. As McNulty knocks heads with Major Rawls and narcotics supervisor Lt Daniels, Avon knocks D'Angelo down from the tower to the terraces while leaving the door open to work his way back up.

It is hard to summarise the plot of this show in season one because there is so many threads within the one story that I can't do it justice in one paragraph. I came to The Wire on the back of consistently positive noises from The Guardian in the UK and was pleased to find it more than an antidote to the type of cop show that CSI and Law & Order are examples of. For all their easy entertainment value they (specifically CSI) tend to be enclosed, glossy and superficial affairs that solve each case within 60 minutes (or maybe 120 if it is a special). Personally I've always preferred stuff like The Shield or H:LOTS because they have longer plans and a bit more depth. So with The Wire I was overjoyed that it took it a patient approach of developing a story beyond a quick bang and drafting characters that have reality in them as opposed to being nearer caricatures. This causes a slow built that allows room for the story to breathe – we are not rushed to tie everything up in 60 minutes but rather take a season to deliver a case that is often done very quickly. I can understand why some will see this as nothing happening, because it isn't bang-a-minute stuff; in fact the endings are roundly downbeat and restrained, no matter what has happened.

The direction and feel of the series is impressive. It is gritty without being overly styled, resulting in a very real feel, however it is the writing that worked best for me. The dialogue occasionally will wallow in pop-culture references in a last Tarantino fashion but this is the minority. Usually the dialogue is tough, convincing and realistic – moving the story forward, telling us things about the characters and never going for the easy cliché that some cop shows settle for as the norm. Although it was an HBO production, the use of swearing and nudity was restrained (well, by comparison with Sopranos and Oz) and it was all the better for it. The plot is simple from a height but get inside it and there are many threads (within the case and the characters) going on that are mostly interesting and engaging. The depth of plot works well and it makes it look easy whereas in reality it is difficult to develop so much with little time for each.

The cast respond well to the intelligent approach by turning in strong performances. The series has "main" characters for sure but nobody hogs the limelight or pushes their performance to the fore. West is strong in the lead and has a driven character without ever thinking he is the main character to a detrimental degree. Reddick is on good form and works well within the dealing story and the political story. Gillard Jr had a role that he could have played like a hip-hop video but he doesn't – he is convincing but also brings out a person. Harris and Elba are given less to deal with in terms of character depth but they also turn in good characters. Those that do have to present the "dealing" side do so in a way that recognises the influence of hip-hop culture but doesn't forget the reality of their situation. Sohn was a bit heavy at first and I didn't like her slow delivery but she grew on me and did really well to prevent her character being used or becoming a cliché. Peters was a slow build but a good one, while True-Frost works well with a character that develops well within the unit. Gilliam and Lombardozzi work well together with simple characters that always hint at more. Pierce, Doman, Lovejoy and others demonstrate why it is hard to talk about the cast without talking about all of them.

Overall then, season 1 was just what I had hoped The Wire would be – intelligent, patient, respectful to the audience and totally engaging. Some viewers will be frustrated by this and may want the quick pace, simplistic morals and solutions of other cop shows but this is very rewarding in the way it is downbeat and very well delivered. Understandably not showy enough for a mass audience this is nonetheless worthy of everything good you have heard said about it.
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Pretty rewarding first season...
Red_Identity16 June 2011
This finale of The Wire tied up many plot points, but it's pretty difficult to review the finale without reviewing the entire first season. so...

The Wire's first season was pretty great. I am not sure if I am in love with the show. There weren't many instances where I was in awe or amazement with it, but the season was successful. The dialogue is pretty outstanding, and it all seems raw, natural, and realistic. There are not any noticeable plot contrivances, but of course this means that the season has to be grounded in realism, which is great but it makes us know that there are certain levels that the show will not want to go through. The performances are all great, and I feel as if I do know many of the characters now (and there are a lot).

The show did hit a lot of pretty deep spots and made me try and analyze it all. The first season is great in that ability, but I wouldn't say it is highly entertaining. I wouldn't call it slow either, because the editing is pretty fast and it allows for a high-energy ride, but you really have to be in it. I'll admit, I wasn't in on the ride for every episode or for every plot, but it's enough for me to definitely watch the second season.
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"what the f*** did I do?" "You happy now, bitch?"
RainDogJr6 May 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Season finale and is a really fine one just as the rest of the Season 1 episodes! By the end of this hour well the case of course done and we have a trial that ends with the main target Avon sentenced to 7 years of prison and D'Angelo sentenced to 20 years (Wee-Bey was also arrested in Philadelphia and he ends with a life sentence with no parole).

But well, this hour marks the try of McNulty and pals to make the case federal and for a moment seems great since terrorism and even better political corruption unlike a drug case is what the FBI is looking for after the 9/11 attacks however at one point McNulty and pals will see how if they give the FBI the case pretty much Avon or any other will end having a much shorter sentence if they can give to the FBI a corrupt politician so in other words the FBI will turn the politicians in the main target. McNulty is great, "West Baltimore is dying and you empty suits…"

As I said D'Angelo is sentenced to 20 years in prison however here we can see D'Angelo ready to give anything to get opportunity to start over yet his mother will talk to him and as we know that pretty much D'Angelo was born in the business, is what he and his people do, "how can you talk abut starting over in another place when you have a son?" or something like that says Brianna (Michael Hyatt) the mother of D'Angelo, soon is Levy again and D'Angelo taking the 20 years for his people.

I just loved "The Wire", and fortunately I have already Season 2 and 3 on DVD (actually as for today I have seen the first two episodes of Season 2 and I loved them). To everyone involved in this show simply a "nicely done"! Oh and Kima Greggs, well simply she is a real police ("sometimes things gotta play hard").
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Intelligent , Subtle And Sublime But The Greatest TV Show Ever ?
Theo Robertson16 April 2009
THE WIRE must be the most anticipated thing I have ever experienced . IMDb legend Bob The Moo offered to loan me the series on DVD since he was dying to know what I would make of it . Preassures of life led to me postponing his generosity . Luckily BBC 2 decided to start broadcasting the show which meant Bob saved him and myself some money in postage and packing while anyone who hasn't subscribed to the satellite channel FX could now watch the series from the very beginning

It's a good show but it's a very acquired taste . Even people who love it have warned newbies " Please watch up to the third episode then if you're not compelled by it then don't bother " and that's very honest of them . Honest compared to the occasional article on the TV pages of broadsheet newspapers that fuel the hyperbole of " Greatest TV show ever ... breaks the boundaries of television forever etc etc " which raises expectations that can not be met

It certainly has a lot of strong points . It's astoundingly intelligent and subtle . It would have been very easy for David Simon to make a gritty , hard hitting in yer face show with explicit sex and violence and shoot outs between the cops and drug gangs three times an episode but Simon has done something entirely different - he's made a sublime show . By this I mean not a lot happens on the surface plot wise but it's not a plot driven show - it's character driven and Simon introduces the characters gradually without spelling anything out . Idris Elba is credited third on the opening credits but it's not until well in to the second half of the season that you're able to work out how his character relates to the plot

The subtlety extends to many aspects of the show . There's the old cliché of characters having a game of chess while planning their next move but it's so well done you forget it's actually a cliché . There are of course clichéd scenes of cops beating up suspects but at least they're shown to tear up photos of the suspect on their arrest and then claim they resisted arrest . Perhaps the most subtle scene is the one everyone remembers and has entered television legend where a bunch of cops investigate a shooting , you know the scene there's no dialogue apart from the F word and " mothereffer " and you have no idea what it's about until they find a bullet and the audience are left to realise what the scene is about

Despite the intelligence and thought gone in to the show I certainly wouldn't claim its the greatest show ever or even the greatest show produced by HBO . One problem is that it uses different directors . Peter Medak brought a very strong cinema verite style to his episode while a couple of episodes later Clark Johnson had a slo mo sequence with a pumping gangsta soundtrack . Every director brings their own style to an episode which can be fairly jarring sometimes . Another problem for me is that my favourite American show of all time is OZ so I can never think of the actors as not being Bricks Wrangler , Clayton Hughes etc . Perhaps the biggest problem is that it's maybe too intelligent , subtle and character driven ! Thankfully BBC 2 broadcast it every weekday night otherwise I'd have lost track of everything if THE WIRE was shown once a week

Certainly I can indeed recommend the series and will be staying with it over it's entire run , but I can't honestly say it is something that breaks television boundaries or class it the greatest show ever . In fact such comments do the THE WIRE more harm than good
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Aimless Wandering Back Towards the Status Quo
huntleyrussell-565-3581929 October 2009
Warning: Spoilers
As The Wire revealed over the course of the first season, criminal investigation requires a microscopic eye for detail and a clear understanding of personal motive. Wallace & D'Angelo's moral qualms about their involvement in the Barksdale operation provided valuable evidence to the investigative detail about who to hit and for what crimes. Without Lester Freamon's or Pryzbylewski's classic detective work, the wiretap wouldn't have been possible and the police dept. wouldn't have known about Stringer Bell's financial properties and political connections. Hell, without knowing what motivates the chain of command and Major Rawls's micromanaging, McNulty wouldn't have been able to subvert his authority to keep the wire open. All of this drove the thrilling humanistic dramas through organic storytelling by talented actors playing thoroughly driven characters, making The Wire something of a standout among the classic Law & Order-style shows. However, "Sentencing" throws the book out the window in favor of story resolution, and all of the effort thrown into the case looks all for naught in the end. Watching bureaucratic mismanagement may be realistic and marginally informative, but it does not make for dramatic and compelling television.

Take the arrest & trial of Avon Barksdale. Before the Baltimore Police Dept. decides to storm Orlando's strip club, Avon casually remarks, "Might as well not waste a good safe", opening it as he contemplates the potential damage from the police storming in. Avon and Stringer as laughing as they consider the SWAT team effort present, when their actual arrest was about as civil as a country club ejection. They quietly cuff Avon, leaving Stringer free, as they have no case against him. The dry, mechanical nature of the arrest suggests Avon is not overly concerned, and as the story unfolds, his confidence is boosted.

Meanwhile, D'Angelo is arrested and his long-desired full disclosure confession unwraps as he considers the moral ramifications of being involved in Stringer's murderous operation. He almost spilled the beans earlier in the season when confronted with photos of a dead witness from D'Angelo's murder trial. But now, they have more photos and more dead federal witnesses, including his boy, Wallace, from the pit. It sort of feels like a rerun as it unfolds, as Dee admits selling drugs and implicates Avon, but stops short of taking responsibility for a murder, desiring his witness immunity. "I just want to go somewhere anywhere where I can breathe like regular folks." Pearlman is ecstatic about the confession to the point of jumping McNulty in the headquarters garage, but McNulty seems somewhat reserved and, perhaps, pessimistic.

And I'm inclined to agree with McNulty's skepticism, after witnessing a federal wiretap (albeit, a fictional one) result to one drug kingpin and a couple of lieutenants serving a few years time in prison. Its not as if I want them to get life in prison or a public hanging, but I understand the frustration of the police officers at the bureaucratic dealings over sentencing, the relentlessly nagging of chain-of-command to think within the box and stick to dept. policy, and the lack of impact these policies have on actually changing criminal drug trafficking in the first place. Looking at the pit at the end of the episode, you would think nothing had changed. Avon continues counting his money (and putting it in the un-ruined safe), just in a different location. The higher authorities of Baltimore Police take the credit, and the rest of the detail gets dispersed to obscure and sometimes unwanted positions.

I have always respected The Wire as a crime drama because I felt it has a more realistic portrayal of the cause and effect nature of crime and law enforcement. The bureaucratic watering down of the sentences is realistic and important to see. It just doesn't make for dramatic television. That is the downfall of "Sentencing". While still giving us the intimate humanistic scenes of crime & law enforcement, the story wraps up in a very unsatisfactory and mechanical matter, almost as though we are supposed to shrug our shoulders at the end and say, "Well, that's life." While it may be true that sometimes a concerted effort fails in making a real change, watching it on TV isn't very entertaining.

Highs: Organic weave of character personalities into the story, supported by a strong ensemble cast.

Lows: Bureaucratic shuffle makes for a pointless & boring story, lacking drama and character conflict; McNulty vs. Rawls is starting to feel like cop vs. boss cliché.

The Verdict: C, Watching all the effort yield few results is frustrating and boring.
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