The Wire discussion

Season Five

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message 1: by Edan (new)

Edan | 39 comments I just read the piece Cory posted on the other thread from Slate:

I have to say I agree. The second episode of the new season was better than the first, and I think the season will end up being as incredible as the others, but still the scenes with the reporters felt pretty thesis-heavy to me, too didactic. For example, in the Sun's meeting room, when the reporter says he longs for, and I paraphrase here from memory, "a series that shows Baltimore life in all its complexity"...hmmm, I wonder what we're supposed to be reminded of.

What do you all think?

message 2: by Tina (new)

Tina In the Slate article the question is asked:
One question I'm always left with after an episode of The Wire is this: Where will these brilliant African-Americans actors go when The Wire is finished? Maybe this is why David Simon is so pissed—he knows that Hollywood hasn't figured out how to showcase large quantities of black talent and fears for the careers of his cast.

Simon actually addresses this in a recent Newsweek article, where, yes, Simon sounds hella pissed.

Royo, like nearly every other actor on "The Wire," had no high-profile credits before he joined the show—and hardly any since. Only the rakishly handsome Dominic West has been able to cross over into major movie work, playing supporting roles in a few "trashy films," as he calls them, such as "300" and "Mona Lisa Smile." Lance Reddick, a regular on "The Wire," can now be seen doing Cadillac ads and bit parts on "Numb3ers" and "CSI: Miami." After every season, Clarke Peters, who plays Freamon, gets back on a plane for London, where he lives and works as a stage actor. "Let me indict Hollywood as much as I can on this one," says Simon. "We have more working black actors in key roles than pretty much all the other shows on the air. And yet you still hear people claim they can't find good African-American actors. That's why race-neutral shows and movies turn out lily-white."

The article is online, but I caution, it contains spoilers for season 5.

message 3: by Dmitry (new)

Dmitry | 3 comments Before we dive into The Atlantic to psychoanalyze David Simon: Reporters make a living writing short, punchy, get-to-the-point prose: it makes sense that they would talk that way to each other. Also, the directness of the set-up may be a consequence of the shortened ten episode season.

message 4: by Jason (last edited Jan 20, 2008 08:14PM) (new)

Jason | 18 comments I'm finally up to speed--without HBO, I'm finding my way to the episodes through (ahem) alternate channels.

Quickly zipping through the first 3 episodes, it struck me that they seemed far more schematic in their plotting. For instance, ep. 2, someone is having a conversation about Marlo, next scene we cut to Marlo. On top of that, there seems to be some heavy weather being mapped in the various storylines -- 'big' stories dependent on plot in ways that seemed a break from the patterns of previous seasons. (We got a lying-ass reporter, McNulty faking murders, etc.) It's not to say that we're not still watching a story centered on 'the game,' the City, the systems which trap ALL of the characters. But it seemed surprisingly ... well, generic. Well-written, but a shift...?

It hit me though, in episode 3, that two of the central storylines have a neat slant rhyme to them. The reporter Scott is cooking stories, at the cost of substantive reporting on "context," while McNulty is cooking stories on dead homeless guys to produce some upstairs attention to shit that really matters. Storytelling. (And this series, for all of its cult status and critical acclaim, has yet to be nominated for an emmy, has yet to win big ratings, hasn't caught fire..... its stories too convoluted, too demanding, too contextual.) Are they playing a game on us, "giv[ing] the people what they want"?

What if this season is not just adding newspapers to the systemic critique at which the show excels; what if this season is also getting a bit meta-, getting at how we (Americans?) seek something from our stories/narratives which undermines our ability to engage substantively with the world? What if this season is about the uses and abuses of (too-simple) stories?

Is "The Wire" season 5 riffing on the problem of narrative in American culture?

[And--sure--I'm pleased to see Omar on deck. I still choke watching Bubbles, as the excellent Andre Royo continues to hit me emotionally. I love the pleasures of these plots and these characters. But "The Wire" is most astounding, for me, in the way it has for 4 seasons been a show where individual characters of necessity--as in real life--do not drive the narrative. It is a show about social structures and systems, and people trapped in them. The show has resisted giving us the story we want, the 'human interest' of the kid in the wheelchair trying to find money for the game, the too-simple reduction of our multiple failures into one bad-luck or bad-ass protagonist. The show's fucking heroic ambition is to tell a story of society. So, I'm rambling--but this gets at why I think there's some kind of signal difference to this season, that isn't merely Simon getting pissy.]

message 5: by Edan (new)

Edan | 39 comments Mike, a smart analysis for sure, and I agree that the differences in Season 5 can't simply be attributed to Simon's beef with the Sun. I plan to watch the next episode with an eye toward how it's structured. After that, I'll be marooned in Oberlin, sans HBO, or even a TV. Do you know any profs there who throw viewing parties?

Although I like this idea:

"What if this season is not just adding newspapers to the systemic critique at which the show excels; what if this season is also getting a bit meta-, getting at how we (Americans?) seek something from our stories/narratives which undermines our ability to engage substantively with the world? What if this season is about the uses and abuses of (too-simple) stories?"

I'm having a hard time buying it. The narrative isn't functioning on a meta level for me, and if it were, I think the pleasurable-yet-simple-and-thus-inaccurate-and-superficial plotlines would have to be pleasurable first and foremost, in order for the show to play with our relationships with them--and right now, they're not. I'm bored with the reporter who's making up stories, perhaps because I'm not invested in his helplessness within the system. And I don't believe MacNulty would be fucking with bodies as he is, and because I don't believe this, I'm detaching myself (my interest, I guess) from his actions.

I am still loving Bubbs--he has my heart forever and ever, and of course I want to see what happens to Michael and Dukie, who seem very much in danger to me. And Marlo is emerging as a far more fascinating character than he was (to me) in previous seasons. I can't wait to see Omar in the next episodes, but the final scene of him in that straw hat and capris had me dying with laughter/horror.

Anyone else watching the new season?

message 6: by Jason (last edited Jan 22, 2008 08:33AM) (new)

Jason | 18 comments Here's why I buy McNulty's evidence-tampering: his line that "they don't get to win, we win." What has always made McNulty very good police is his drive to control and know. He's never been all that ethically focused, as was almost always clear in his life outside the job. In other words, he's not a good guy--he's good police. They're not equivalent sets; what makes him want to win is what makes him good.

In Simon's Baltimore, the game (whichever one you pick, they're all the game) can a) force a corrupt or just apathetic submission or b) destroy you. There's no winning. McNulty needs to win, it's maybe ye olde tragic flaw, and it was there in season one as he bucked the chain of command (and ended up on a shit harbor detail). So there's a collision set up--it makes dramatic sense to me that McNulty (even Lester) would seek a way to win, and feel justified. (It also makes sense that Bunk, always better protected, Bunk-ered, would stand aside and resist the play.)

I miss Bunny and Prez. And I worry about Michael, Dukie, and absent Randy.

message 7: by KC (new)

KC I read an article last summer where Simon outlined his intent for the entire series. I wish I could find it now. I think it was in the Baltimore Sun...small bit of irony there...but I remember thinking at the time that the novelist/storyteller in Simon was evident. And I find that he's bringing all the elements together in Act 5 (which is how I think of the show) Even bringing back the Greek from Season 2...I look forward to how he'll bring the story to a close. American tragedy to be sure.

message 8: by Edan (new)

Edan | 39 comments Mike, I think I'd buy McNulty's actions if they didn't happen so quickly into the season. The fewer episodes means faster development--maybe too fast? KC, I too am happy to see the Greek storyline back!

message 9: by Jason (new)

Jason | 18 comments I just saw Episode 4, and will spoil NOTHING--but I look forward to our discussion after that. It's the best episode of the season by far, written by Ed Burns, and while it blows my meta-story theory up by being far more subtle and complicated in its structure, it's STILL full of event and surprise.

message 10: by Edan (new)

Edan | 39 comments Can't wait!

message 11: by Dmitry (new)

Dmitry | 3 comments David Simon talked in a "Fresh Air" interview about the individual contributions of writers to the show. Structurally, the story line of the entire season is plotted out in advance, and its major beats assigned to particular episodes. This part of the process is far more structured and regimented than that of a typical TV show, where the shape of later episodes is kept deliberately inchoate and is finalized "in the room" as the earlier episodes are completed (to fix what's problematic and emphasize what is discovered to work.) Thus on "The Wire" the staff writers have much less say in the overall shape of the show. The trade-off is that within the already established framework of the individual episode, they are given much greater freedom of expression, invention and structuring of scenes.

This season, the first episodes carry a disproportionately heavy load. All the returning characters and conflicts from the previous four seasons have to be re-introduced, and all the new characters and conflicts have to be established. Plus, the entire season is only ten episodes: so what was previously done over the first five, now has to be done in three. The writers of the first three episodes had twice as much to do, which necessarily left them fewer opportunities to improvise and experiment. Now that Omar has shown up, and all the pieces seem to be in place, the show can in more ways that one return to form.

message 12: by Cory (new)

Cory | 12 comments Episode 4 definitely opened things out a bit more - even the newspaper thread is falling into the Simon mold: well-connected, grounded workers (Twigg, Prop Joe) get the buyouts, while opportunistic earth scorchers (Templeton, Marlo) rise through the system despite their eroding of that very system from the inside.

Also, I had just assumed that Bubbs would be our Virgil to the underworld of the homeless, but it seems to be McNulty?

(and one last thing concerning above posts: I believe his name is (or should be) spelled "Dookie," as he was nicknamed by the other kids for the way he smelled when he was still living in his foster home)

message 13: by Tina (new)

Tina The first couple of eps of the season seemed a bit off to me, but by ep 4 and 5 things are back on track and even, dare I say it, brilliant? I just finished watching ep 5 and it is absolutely wonderful how they are managing to bring all the disparate threads of the previous seasons together and intertwine them while simultaneously adding the piece about the press, quite seamlessly. It seems by ep 4 they've hit their stride and ep 5 we've got a rhythm.

In the first few minutes of the very first ep of this season Bunk makes an observation. "The bigger the lie the more they believe." As I am watching this most recent ep, I can't help but feel that that is a theme of this whole season thus far. I can't wait to see what else plays out.

Also, I am having a great time of seeing the characters of past seasons make their reappearances and can't help but wonder who else will appear after seemingly having had their stories told? Will we see Namond and Randy? How about Brother Mouzone? Avon's sister?

message 14: by Edan (new)

Edan | 39 comments Cory, I actually looked up Dukie's name on the HBO cast list, as I was curious how to spell it. It is indeed Dukie, though of course, it signifies Dookie!

I can't wait for the fifth episode.

message 15: by Jason (last edited Jan 28, 2008 07:54PM) (new)

Jason | 18 comments Marshall gets the Carnac prize regarding Marlo's devious plotting.

Couple quick thoughts:
--to what degree are McNulty's attempts to step outside the rules of the game less realistic than Bunny's previous attempts (whether to set up a no-drug-war zone in season 3 or a counter-educational situation for the seriously-at-risk kids in season 4)? All are wish-fulfillment fantasies, used by the show to orchestrate (manipulate?, stage-manage) a particular dramatic and thematic thesis. That thesis is: there is no beating the system.

--Why are we mourning Prop Joe, and denigrating Marlo, again? (It's not just us; the Slate guys went on and on about Marlo as the face of the new capitalism blah di blah, being all nostalgic about the good old Prop Joe days even as they scorned Simon's nostalgia about the old newspaper days.) Don't get me wrong: I love the character, and I mourn his passing. But I'm not sure the show is pushing a moral equation where there are "good" drug dealers (or politicians) and "bad" drug dealers. I may prefer Joe and Stringer to Marlo and Avon, but they're all making change on others' misery.

And, again (last point), it strikes me that "The Wire" has been pretty ruthlessly unsentimental about viewer identifications and our desires for a clearer, morally-cathartic narrative. We may want our Prop Joes to civilize the Marlos. We may long for Bunny to beat the system, for Pres to change the kids, for Michael to side with his better angels, for McNulty, Carcetti, Daniels to make a difference. But I don't think we're gonna get it.

(In fact, I'll go on a limb, make my own prediction: I think the Carver/Herc dualism will be dismantled, deconstructed; Carver, that poor moral sap, is going to get eaten up, or will sell his soul. I think we'll see Daniels dirtied, too. I'm not sure about Omar, as he's the one wild card who consistently steps outside the system and my thesis, but I'm worried for the man.)

message 16: by Jeff (new)

Jeff (jeffschneider) Kima watching the kid through the glass is episode four.

message 17: by Jason (last edited Jan 29, 2008 11:24AM) (new)

Jason | 18 comments Nice reading of Joe/Marlo. (But does David Simon believe in any kind of "good" capitalism? I'm not sure I do, so--the distinction may be too fine to matter, in the system.)

And I hope you're right about Herc, but I fear I'm right about Carver.

You can complain about Chase's Soprano fadeout, but Chase was ruthlessly invested in his characters NOT changing. I vaguely recall an older interview where he railed against tv's half-assed attempt, in every episode, to teach you something, to make a moral point. The ending of the show resists both the tragic--if well-deserved--downfall *and* the redemptive change for the better. Tony was in limbo from episode 1. I think the show *had* to end that way. And I think Simon may be equally determined with his own critique of narrative. (E.g., the heavy-handed but still-dead-on satire of the "Dickensian" news story desired by the dimwit editor...)

message 18: by Edan (new)

Edan | 39 comments Hey, no talking about the Sopranos in this group!

message 19: by Edan (new)

Edan | 39 comments I agree with you, Mike, about being careful of making a moral distinction between Prop Joe and Marlo. I, for one, really enjoy watching Marlo, and his murdering Prop Joe felt like the next logical step in his character; he's obviously more ruthless than his predecessors, but Prop Joe was willing to work with him, to make money with him. I thought Prop Joe was annoying, anyway. I also think Landsman is annoying. They're both fat--maybe I have a prejudice against the obese. Nobody bothers me as much as that lawyer Levy. Ugh!

Anyway. I will say that I think the McNulty plotline is picking up, and feels less forced than it did initially. I didn't pick up on the parallels between his actions and Bunny's, but I see what you mean, Mike. Bunny's plan developed over a few episodes, though, and the viewer experienced his frustration for some time before the decision came about, as crazy at it was.
Whereas McNulty seems convinced that his scheme will change things, I feel like Bunny knew his plan was only temporary, that it wouldn't work.
It's interesting that Bunny was McNulty's mentor of sorts. Same with Carver, who learned from Bunny to listen to what was going on in the neighborhood, to start caring, to create connections. Hmmm...

I can't wait for Cutty to return next episode. Damn, boy is fine!

message 20: by Tina (new)

Tina I don't necessarily agree that what McNulty is doing is out of character or even unrealistic.

When we first meet McNulty his marriage had already imploded, possibly because he was engaging in the sort of behaviors he is engaging in now. Only we never got to see the worst of it. One gets the feeling that there are nadirs and zeniths with McNulty and we caught him on an upswing in season one. Now we're getting a look at the downslope.

However, he was always able to work cases and do the job. When he zeroed in on Avon and Stringer, we saw a glimpse of the tunnel vision that he gets when he's on a mission. He went behind Rawls and Burrell to get his detail on Avon. But then the force had money, he had some suction with a judge and he got himself a detail. When they got the wire and were actually doing police work, his drinking and self destructive behavior started to diminish. After Avon was put away and Stringer was gone, McNulty was briefly happy. He'd accomplished what he'd set out to do. He wasn't drinking and whoring. And he'd gone back to the street as a beat cop of all things.

And then here comes Marlo. He wants to do to Marlo what he did to Avon. His tunnel vision kicks in again. Doing things in an unorthodox manner got him Avon. Can't he do the same with Marlo? Only things are a lot different now. He has no resources. The dept. is broke. He has no suction. He can't even get a decent car and has to take a bus to a crime scene. His drinking and self destructive behavior are escalating in proportion to his frustration level.

I can see why this McNulty we are seeing now, this boozing, out-of-control, McNulty can lend himself to what he is doing.

I agree with Edan, Bunny's scheme was a little more paced out, it seemed more organic. You could watch the frustration build. And with Bunny we didn't have the deep history we have with McNulty, his character was essentially being defined and built during that season.

I think there has always been this dark core to McNulty and we're now just getting a real good look at it.

My fear that it is going to destroy him in more ways than one. My Husband and I are taking bets on who'll make it to the end, Omar vs. McNulty. My money is Omar. Sadly, I do not think McNulty will make it.

message 21: by Jason (new)

Jason | 18 comments Great reading of McNulty, Tina!

message 22: by Edan (new)

Edan | 39 comments I agree, good reading of McNulty, Tina. But...I just watched the 5th episode last night and I still stand by my opinion that this plotline is trouble for the season. Even if McNulty's actions make sense for his character, the storyline feels out of tone with the rest of the show.

message 23: by Edan (new)

Edan | 39 comments Oh, and my newest crush? State's Attourney Rupert Bond. And don't you guys think the City Council president looks kind of like Pedro Martinez in drag?

message 24: by Dmitry (new)

Dmitry | 3 comments Re: Marlo, Prop Joe and ethics.

Marshall, I don't think Marlo is motivated by greed. I think he actually enjoys killing. Episode 4 ended on a big close-up of his face as he watched Joe being shot, and it was plain to me that he was getting an erotic "300"-style kick out of it.

I think capitalism in "The Wire" is a fragile thing, with temporary free-market idylls like Hamsterdam, or Prop Joe's cartel, or the copy shop, being disrupted and then destroyed both from within by human nature and from without by social institutions.

"The Wire" combines traditional Christian with a traditional Marxist critiques of liberal capitalism.

message 25: by Edan (new)

Edan | 39 comments She might be hot, but her eyes are like a foot away from each other. She is totally Pedro's (attractive?) twin.

message 26: by Jason (new)

Jason | 18 comments The dialogue up at the NYTimes, both in the post and in the comments below it, makes Slate's look like amateur hour.

message 27: by Edan (last edited Feb 01, 2008 01:33PM) (new)

Edan | 39 comments Check out Patrick's blog at Vroman's Bookstore for more about Venkatesh:

message 28: by Cory (new)

Cory | 12 comments Forget Venkatesh - how cool is it that I made it into Patrick's blog? I got suction at Vroman's, yo.

Speaking of Venkatesh, I think it's fascinating that the real drug gangsters that he's watching the show with all seem to know what's going to happen between Marlo and Omar.

message 29: by Julia (last edited Feb 10, 2008 10:36AM) (new)

Julia | 1 comments I had that same moment when I saw Daniels on Lost, though mine wasn't quite so creative. My Wire-loving friend got a quick text along the lines of...

'Shit! Daniels is on Lost!'.

Not even as good as the one I sent him a few weeks ago...

'Shit! Daniels love him some Cadillac'.

And if Omar ended up on Lost, I'd be one happy girl! He would own the place!

message 30: by Patrick (new)

Patrick Brown | 10 comments The past two episodes have confirmed that this is the will go down as the worst season of the show. Everything about this last episode was disappointing. Every single minute of it. (I'm striving here not give anything away to anyone who hasn't had a chance to watch it yet.) It's gotten so bad that even the moments that used to redeem the show are lost in the morass of suck that is the homeless murders plot. I can't stand to watch the McNulty-Freemon scenes anymore. Even Omar's lines in this most recent episode seem pat and hackneyed. Everything about this season is too on the nose, too trite. What an epic disappointment. Anybody see any hope for this season?

message 31: by Cory (new)

Cory | 12 comments Marshall, I had the same thought about McNulty! And, when you think about it, his going that route wouldn't be much more preposterous than what he actually does (SPOILERS abound: as the Slate guys point out, he's the lead detective on a nationally press-covered case, with a picture of the guy he just shuffled over the border about to hit the news (one would assume) and a pretty with-it shelter worker who's seen both of them).

Also, why doesn't anybody question the "maturation" of this fake serial killer, who's biting homeless people. My first thought, and this may be incredibly un-PC, was "That's not very sanitary - could someone get Hep-C from that?"

message 32: by Patrick (new)


The problem with the homeless murders plot is that, in a similar way to the plot on the docks, it simply doesn't tie into the rest of the show enough. They had an opportunity, with Bubs, to make it more integrated, but they didn't do it. Everything feels like a satellite in this season, so what we're left with are snippets. We see Chris and Snoop holed up some place, Chris angry at missing Omar when they had the chance, but we don't really get into the scene. It's there in a pro forma sort of way, because it ought to be there, not to actually advance it.

A big problem with the show, at least in my opinion, is that Marlo, Chris, and Snoop haven't been humanized in the same way DeAngelo, Avon, and Stringer were. We knew so much more about them, saw them from so many different angles, that they came alive. As much as I love Snoop and Chris for their sheer bad-assadry, they're pretty flat at times. Who knew that Chris had "people" and that Marlo liked them? We see a little bit of Marlo's personality, his absurd arrogance, his subtle humor (When Chris asks him how Spiros took the news of Prop Joe's passing, Marlo's response is golden -- "The man overcame his grief."), but for the most part, he's an impenetrable character. The result is that Marlo and his crew look like pure evil. The Hitler-esque way in which he dissolve the Reichstags of drug dealers, while enjoyable to watch, just doesn't have the same pop. Could you imagine Marlo being in a scene that has anything near the intensity of the Stringer and Avon showdown, the "There go a life that had to be snatched" scene? I can't, because I don't have any access to Marlo in the way that I did those guys. Maybe this is a statement on Simon's part, something about old-school capitalism versus new hyper-capitalism, but it doesn't play for me. I don't believe in pure evil, or if I do, I find it to be intellectually boring.

As much as I love the Omar Little as Anton Shigur plot line, it doesn't fit with his character. He spends all that time staking out the apartment with that Smokey Robinson fan only to find that there must've been another way in? I don't buy it. Why didn't they split up, one watch the front, one watch the back? Omar used to get over on the dealers because he was so much smarter. He was careful, he was patient. Maybe his rage has blinded him, but it's not playing for me. And his "Marlo doesn't have the heart to come at me" lines just seem dull compared to his usual linguistic flourishes ("Boy, you got me confused with the man who repeats hisself.").

And don't get me started on the ridiculousness that is the Baltimore Sun storyline. As the Slate guys have pointed out, Simon has trotted out pretty much every cliche about newspaper reporting ("Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel." "If it bleeds, it leads."), you would never guess that he worked at an actual newspaper. Having never set foot in a newsroom (except the one over on Robertson, where they serve the muffins), I'm fairly confident I could've written those scenes. Painful.

I agree that Bunk is stealing the season, but in part it's because he's in our shoes. He sees how far gone McNulty and Freamon are, he's trying to do the work we wish they were doing. Bunk's always been my favorite character, and I'm happy to see him get his day, but it's a shame it's come in such a way.

message 33: by Jessica (last edited Feb 12, 2008 02:02PM) (new)

Jessica (jessica_swan) I moved to London from California just a couple months ago... and when people ask me if i'm homesick I lie and say I miss the sunny weather...but really I just miss watching the Wire. I hate that i'm not able to catch season 5, but it does comfort me (however bittersweetly) to know that folks think 5 isn't the best. But i still wish i could watch!

So for now i'll just have to get by on watching season 1-4 for the gazillion time and take comfort in the fact that there are still so many little things i missed the time before.

message 34: by Tina (new)

Tina For me, nothing will match the perfection that was Season 1 and Season 4. To some extent I agree with Patrick that there is a sense of unfamiliarity about this season that struck me the same as season 2.

After living with D, String, Avon, Wee-Bay, Poot, Bodie, Wallace and all those guys for a whole season, to come to season 2 and get thrown into the Dock workers storyline had the effect of throwing me off my stride a bit. But I still had the whole gang mentioned above to ground me back to season 1. Even in Season 3 (and to a lesser extent season 4) Stringer, Avon, Bodie and Poot were still around.

In this season really only Omar is left of what I call the Original Gangstas. Marlo, Chris and Snoop, while fascinating in their own right, seem like unwelcome usurpers to me.

I think the biggest problem with this season, for me, is that I don't have anyone I want to root for. Except maybe Bunk and Omar. But they aren't enough. In all the previous seasons you couldn't help but kinda like Avon and his whole crew. Avon, String, Bodie all of them had a charm that is completely missing in Marlo and his crew. And so even though you were kinda rooting for the cops to get them, you are also rooting for them to triumph over the cops, while also rooting for Omar to triumph over everybody. It was a win-win all the way around.

That kinda tormented loyalty is missing here. I just want Omar and Bunk to come out ok, but there is an underlying sense of nihilism in this season that makes you figure that nobody will be okay.

But having said all that, the Wire continues to utterly fascinate. Even being a disappointment after the soaring perfection of last season, it is still the best show on tv.

message 35: by Patrick (new)

Patrick Brown | 10 comments Tina mentioning Season 2 reminded me of something else that bothered me from the most recent episode (I know, I know, you get it, I didn't like the episode. I promise this will be my last missive on the subject):

How is it that Nicky Sabotka, who crossed the Greek and went to the cops, presumably helping put Etan and Sergei away, is still breathing clean Maryland air? And with enough impunity that he can show up at the port to heckle Kraichek? Wouldn't he be on the run for his life? Am I suppose to believe that Spiros would look the other way because he liked Nicky so much? Doesn't seem to fit to me. It seems like the show wanted to make another nod to Season 2 (like having that other dock worker pop up as one of the homeless guys) without actually getting into it. Anybody else think that was strange?

message 36: by Chris (new)

Chris | 2 comments Nicky didn't really give the cops anything, or at least not that Spiros and the Greek would know about. He gave Freamon and Bunk enough to catch Sergei on the security camera, and Sergei then gave up the Greek. Nicky headed back to the docks, safe except for the ports jobs all being gone. More strange is why Spiros and the Greek are now back in that little cafe talking to Marlo. They were heading out of town at the end of season 2, and you'd think they would not risk being seen in Baltimore again.

I'd put in a word for season 2 being one of the best. I came to The Wire during season 2 and then watched season 1, so I didn't experience the letdown of seeing less of the street. But not only were some of the dock characters among the most finely drawn in the whole series (especially Frank), Simon has showed some attention to the loss of blue collar jobs, and I kinda like the way season 5 has circled back to mindless urban "redevelopment" and reminded us that people once worked where the waterfront development is going to be.

message 37: by Rick (new)

Rick | 1 comments SPOILERS AHEAD...
Some very good points, don't get me wrong, but I feel that long lists of fan complaints can give the effect of punishing the writers for raising the television bar so high in the first place. None of the stuff we've seen so far has been a dealbreaker, especially in the context of the greatest TV show ever made.

After four seasons, everyone seems to have their pet storylines and characters and vision for the series. The criticism so far has taken two tacks. Some say the show is rushing (and letting some cliches stand in for realism) because of this 10-episode short season... I don't see it, but I can understand why people do. Then again, the creators are taking great care to balance any unusual events with beautifully realistic, exquisitely drawn scenes fore and aft, and to slow things down when necessary. To me, it makes little sense to pick it all apart until the full story arc finds resolution, and we all know The Wire works a season at a time. It's not like other shows.

Another point that folks are grumbling about are the new central plot fulcrums which they feel are too way out and Hollywood-corny (serial killer hoax, Jason Blairish reporter, Omar's wacky escape). Again, nothing that has seriously set off my bullshit detector yet. The worst reactions I've personally had are to this episode's gratuitous appearance of Richard Belzer (wha?), and some of Steve Earle's non-acting. And his crappy theme song. Other than that, this season's stories have kept me glued to the screen. The best show on TV. Did I say that already?

Sometimes I think y'all is some ungrateful muhfuckas.

message 38: by Jason (last edited Feb 14, 2008 07:31AM) (new)

Jason | 18 comments I'm sort of with Rick here--he makes a good case for the show still being better than not bad, or--as Marshall said--still pizza. Compared to season 4, or the best episodes throughout its arc, yeah, season 5 pales. Compared to the CSI or Law-and-Order franchises and their piping hot delivery of crime and justice in 42 minutes (or your money back), "The Wire" is still a very satisfying meal.

Couple thoughts to add to the discussion
--WHY THE NEWSPAPER STUFF ISN'T WORKING: In the wee hours of this morning, after my 4-year-old woke me unexpectedly (happy Valentine's! I got you sleep deprivation!), I pondered the show. And it struck me that we really have not seen any of the work that reporters/editors do. Compare to every other season and it's a marked shift; we have seen the particulars of various professional endeavors (slinging, building a wire case, tracking a homicide, union organizing, mayoral campaigns, running the drug war in a local district, teaching math). We've seen them from the inside, we've seen concrete little details of how a given character struggles to do her/his work, we're witness to the crush of systemic details which complicate and distort that work. But everything under The Sun seems to be handed to us, after the fact, as a premise. Gus is a "good editor", but all we've seen beside some angry resistance to corporate control is yelling at staff about deadline, assigning reporters to stories, the occasional and vague fussing with grammar. The focus and attention we've come to expect is missing, and I think that's one of the reasons it feels flat, shrill, cliched... it feels more like television, and less like The Wire. (I.e., reliant on exposition and convention, rather than precise observation.)

--MARLO: okay, he's stone cold in some scenes, but I am still intrigued by the ego that creeps in (with last season's security guard and pretty frequently in this season), and by Joe's (failed?) efforts to "civilize" the kid -- the scene at the bank in the Caribbean seemed crucial to understanding Marlo. A little scared, lost... not so different from the kids we saw last season. (And compare Randy's recent return, the sincere kid now a buffed blank bully ... given his business acumen, will he return, rise with or against Marlo?) So I see some there there, and in fact prefer this character to the too-recognizable rooster Avon, even as I mourn the loss of complicated fuckers like Stringer and Bodie.

--THE SERIAL-KILLER STORY (cop and reporter variants): I think, and we've argued this before, these plotlines are thematically consistent, that they continue a through-line on Simon et al.'s thesis about systems and individuals. Even in terms of narrative structure, I think the stories work well, work cleanly to make the argument. Unlike previous seasons, I think they are dramatically less interesting; this show's always been masterful at complementing its journalistic argument with the best kind of focused, character-driven observation. The serial-killer plot line tilts the balance, emphasizing the former.

Buy any of that?

message 39: by Tina (new)

Tina I, too, think Season 2 was great.

I totally loved the incorporation of the dock storyline, the bat-shit crazy vendetta Valcheck had against Frank, and the surveillance truck revenge photos. It took me a while to settle into it though because my expectation was that it was simply going to be a continuing saga of the Barksdales. I am glad it didn't become that because it would have been too easy and it wouldn't be The Wire as we know it.

It took me a while to get used to Tom Waits' version of "Down in the Hole' after humming the Blind Boys of Alabama version for so long. (now I actually prefer the Tom Waits' version best of all).

The only season I have never been able to re-watch is season 3. I think it was because I still mourn Stringer and I just remember being so uncomfortable watching Hamsterdam unfold.

I think after S5 is all over and done with, I may need to re-watch it with some distance to actually form a more reason, less emotional, opinion. Right now I am all emotion because I know it is the last season.

message 40: by Edan (new)

Edan | 39 comments I liked Season 2 when I watched it a second time, after having seen all 4 seasons. I agree that the writing is strong, and if you can let go of the plots favored in season 1, it's great television. Also, I'm Polish, so I felt happy to get some Polish criminals, stupidity, and desire in the mix.

I like the Steve Earl song, and I like Steve Earl--what a voice, and I'm just talking his speaking voice. I'm sad that Bubs isn't in this season more, and as Patrick pointed out, there was an opportunity to tie him into the homeless thread, and he wasn't.

Mike, I think you're right about why The Sun workplace narrative doesn't play as well as the others. A problem of telling, versus showing. Also, I have a problem with how much of a buffoon the boss is ("Dickensian, yes!"). He isn't treated with any humanity.

I still dig Marlo, especially them cat eyes.

message 41: by brian (new)

brian   i sat in front of the television yesterday and watched the first five episodes in a row. pausing one to eat pizza and two bathroom breaks. whew. intense. my head was a jumble of ideas and opinions and i rushed over to the computer and read your guys' postings over the past month...

thanks. y'all are one articulate, analytical bunch. you helped me clarify and make sense of it all.

and yeah, this is clearly a disappointment, definitely the weakest season...

look forward to more of your postings after tonight's episode.

message 42: by [deleted user] (new)

I can't believe we're down to two hours left in the whole series...

Having seen all the other seasons on DVD, this is the first time I've actually had to wait to keep up with the story...intense!

message 43: by Tina (new)

Tina Episode 8 was intense and fabulous. Only two eps left and I feel as if we've only just settled down into the long middle act. Now the stuff is getting good, the threads are starting to both unravel and come together.

This episode was comedy (Clay Davis and his hilarious mangling on the English language), pathos (McNulty) and tragedy.

My husband made two predictions early on, one came true this week (he's in the denial stage of grief right now) and the other is a very strong possibility given Beadie's ominously foreboding description of a policeman's wake.

message 44: by [deleted user] (new)

Prometheus Bound...I can not tell you how much consolation I find in these slim pages!

message 45: by brian (new)

brian   has there every been a show in which just watching the characters do anything at all is so damn enjoyable? after omar and stringer, i'd say clay davis is my favorite. sheeeee-it

message 46: by Edan (new)

Edan | 39 comments R.I.P., _____________

message 47: by Chris (new)

Chris | 2 comments Indeed. The man had a code. He is missed.

message 48: by Patrick (new)

Patrick Brown | 10 comments How my hair look?

message 49: by Jason (new)

Jason | 18 comments The last two episodes--and Nine in particular--have been pretty stunning. Aside from the Big moments, two scenes stuck out (AND DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN):

--Michael and Dukie and Bug in the car outside the Aunt's house, Bug quiet in the back seat, tears streaming down his face. As crushing to me as Randy last season, shoulders slumped, going into his new room at the orphanage. I don't think there's ever been an American show--and it ranks up there with some of the best of American lit, too--depicting hopelessness and loss so fully and forcefully.

--Marlo in lock-up, realizing that Omar'd been calling him out, with a pointless but intense fury yelling about his name.

I'm going to nod again at my thoughts on meta-narrative: what we want, what *I* want, to see is the bluster of big showdowns and violent conflict. But The Wire (like The Sopranos, like the masterful final third of No Country for Old Men) disrupts. Omar gets popped by a shortie, buying cigarettes, and Marlo's anger ('though the man may yet walk back out and reassume his mantle) misses both the boat and the point. The Wire doesn't just resist, it reconsiders our desires for certain kinds of stories, and forces us to care about stories that normally don't get told. That's great, great art.

message 50: by Edan (new)

Edan | 39 comments Agreed, Mike.

When Marlo went off I realized I'd never heard him say that much at one time. His face took on a frightening quality.

I've been wondering this for a couple episodes now: Cheese and Randy have the same last name: Wagstaff. Any link there?

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