“…and all the pieces matter.” – The glory and majesty that is The Wire – out now

Every so often a film or television series manages that most rare of feats, it becomes more than its medium and it is ranked alongside the pillars of culture that prop up our conversions and language for years to come.  The Wire is one of those works of art.

To dismiss it as a mere cop show does not do it justice but the show is set in Baltimore and chronicles the struggle of a detail of cops trying to trap a high end drug target, whilst dealing with the vagaries of bureaucracy that are present in all areas of public service.  The cops and the dealers are treated as part of the same puzzle and equal weight is given to both in the program.  The Wire has a high level of characterisation not seen in any other TV show going at the moment.  You will feel for the dealers and hate some of the cops as the line between what’s good and bad becomes increasingly greyed and dependant on context.  There is comic relief combined with searing tragedy and a majestic charm arises from even the most hopeless of situations.

David Simon, creator of The Wire, has been quite open about the fact that the show is a sprawling Greek tragedy.  Instead of people’s fate being decided by the whims of capricious gods, the fate of the individual is dictated by giant bureaucratic institutions that elevate and crush people in a seemingly random manner.  Even the drug ‘game’ has its own savage bureaucracy and moral code, where transgression is not punished with a demotion, but with a bullet.

One of the greatest things about the show is how it does not spoon feed the viewer.  You are thrown into a world with an entirely new language of ‘re-ups’ and ‘dunkers’ and you only learn the meanings of these terms by paying attention to the characters and the varying contexts in which they find themselves.  The jargon and colloquialisms used by the Police are often just as complex and beautiful as the language used by those in the street and you will learn more about police work in ten minutes of watching than you would with ten years worth of Law and Order or CSI. 

The frustration experienced by Jimmy McNulty will remind many people of any frustration they might have in their working life.  In short the characters have all the good and bad traits that real people have, and you will hate them and love them for it.

You will cheer for Omar as he wages his one man war against the Barksdale crime syndicate and you will jeer the utterly ruthless machinations of Bill Rawls. You will be terrified by Snoop and her nailgun. You will feel empathy with Stringer Bell and his desire to break out of the ‘gangster’ life and you will respect the methodical intelligence of Lester Freamon. You will be given hope only for it to turn to despair but ultimately The Wire will give you something that no other TV programme will give you. New ideas.

Seasons 1 – 4 are currently available on DVD here in the UK, with Season 5 due for release this September – ordering Season 1 now should give you ample time to get up to speed in time for the box set release.

One Response to ““…and all the pieces matter.” – The glory and majesty that is The Wire – out now”

  1. wireaholic anonymous (sarah) says:

    I bloody love The Wire! It’s amazing! I’m on Series 2 at the moment, and love how they’ve contineud the story from the first series, yet shifted emphasis away from the porjects, focusing on a different area of the city.

    I can’t speak for all of it yet, cos I’m only about halfway thru series two, but I get the impression based on other reveiws on the internet that it slowly builds up a picture of Baltimore.

    I also have a little crush on Dominic West – Detective Jimmy McNulty could come round my roadside diner for a couple of fried eggs any time he wants!

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