As someone who has watched movies and television for a long time, I should be inclined to tell you that I probably am an expert at understanding the art and brilliance of film and to a certain extent, television as well. But, to be honest, that’s all horseshit. Because, I haven’t seen even the greatest of the greats yet. As someone who just recently watched “The Wire”, I can safely say that I have watched what is in my opinion, the single greatest television show I have seen yet.
Watching “The Wire” as a 19 year old adult, I understood a lot of things that I didn’t the first time around (I tried to watch it when I was younger but couldn’t get around to it). But beyond that, the show also taught me a lot of things about the true nature of real life problems and where they stem from. As someone who is a simple minded fellow, there are things this show exposed me to that I needed to know about, such as the nature and workings of public affairs, police work, drugs, school systems and a lot more. Now, I don’t mean to say that what the show did was explain to me how it works, rather it showed me what the truth is and that not everything can be taken at face value. It showed me that the problem doesn’t have a single root, it has multiple roots. For a change to be made, you don’t just take out one guy, you have to change the system around it. All of this was done by telling the story through the eyes of the people of Baltimore and boy, what a journey it was.
If I had to put it in a word, I don’t think any other can justify it as well as “genius”. The Wire, simply put, was genius. Looking back on my other reviews, I don’t think I have used that word often (well, I have used ingenious, but that’s beside the point) and I believe that was for a reason. With these many characters, subplots and messages I have no earthly idea how it all came together, that too with such effortless grace.
Like, seriously, how did this happen?
Okay, Okay, I’ll move on with the review.
The Wire was a television show that aired from 2002 to 2008. It takes place in the city of Baltimore and primarily deals with the inner workings of the police department and the drug cartels. As each season progresses, more of the systems’ inner workings are expanded upon (such as school, media, politics etc.), thus dealing with more issues regarding the city of Baltimore. As the creator David Simon put it, The Wire is “really about the American city, and about how we live together”.
So what are the many great things I love about this show? Well, let’s start from the basics. The writing and acting are two major standouts. When you talk about shows that have about 15-20 major characters and just as many recurring throughout each season, the writing needs to be comprehensible. It needs to move from one character to another purposefully and each scene needs to further the plot or develop a character. This is where the writing of the show really stands out. Never once did I feel that I was lost. Sure, at the beginning of each season, it takes a little time getting used to newer characters, but you completely used to soon enough. Even in great shows like ‘Game Of Thrones’, where characters are located in many different locations around the globe, each arc felt like another short story rather than one big story. When a scene shifted from one location to another, I knew that particular story had nothing to do with the scene before it, and that always took me out of it. With ‘The Wire’ though, I always knew the shift was part of the grand story of Baltimore.
When acting is brought up in a lot of shows, there is always a standout performance or performances. There is always a Walter White, a Tyrion Lannister, a Tony Soprano. The great thing about the wire is, there are so many good performances from all of its actors that it never felt like there was anyone who was trying to upstage the other. I guess the fact that a lot of relatively unknown actors that were cast did help in the matter, but that’s beside the point. Not only that, every performance is subtle, genuine and realistic. Not one actor tries to oversell their performance. In a show that is this ambitious in storytelling, I have to commend the cast members for a job well done. It’s a shame that none of them were nominated for major awards like Emmys or Golden Globes, but then again that also is a good reminder that awards mean shit to me. Just to make a few shout outs, some of my favourites were Lance Reddick, Sonja Sohn, Micheal K. Williams, Dominic West, Andre Royo, Clarke Peters and of course, Idris Elba. Also, can we just appreciate that we have a great show with a diverse cast and characters that have nothing to do with racism or slavery and are just good fictional characters. Like, I know that’s not a thing on TV, but I notice it so much in movies and sometimes TV, I just have to bring it up.
Now on to the more subtle nuances. One thing The Wire does that I haven’t seen many other shows do, is the absence of a score. Music is only played in a scene only when it takes place in an area where it can be played. For example, in a car or a bar. Even during any major dramatic moment, no background music or song of any kind is played at all, and for some reason, it works due to the standards of realism that the show has set. The only time it ever really plays music in the background is during the montages that appear at the end of each season (which are brilliant by the way due to the phenomenal song choices). Also, the show rarely ends on any cliffhanger and ends like it’s the end of a chapter. When people say that The Wire is a visual novel, I totally get what they mean and in every sense of the word, it is.
The way it treated the sexuality of the characters is worth talking about as well. In a show about cops and drug dealers, we have two well rounded lesbian/gay characters that treat their sexual orientation like it’s a normal thing. For a show to not make that its selling point was something that I really admired. In so many shows and movies now a days, we get this dumb, stupid way to attract audiences by saying, “Oh, hey we have a bland stereotypical gay character, he/she’s in it for 2 scenes, we’re progressive!!!”. Like, here we actually have well rounded characters, and their sexual preference is just another thing. It’s not like the show just brings it up once and never touches on it again, it’s a part of their character and sometimes it brings out great character moments from them because of it. Thank You.The last thing I would like to bring up is the way the show used symbolism. I really liked how they used it without ever sacrificing the story for it. If you don’t get the symbolism don’t worry, it isn’t shoved down your throat like a Zack Snyder movie. It’s done in a subtle and ingenious way, it’s almost like an Easter egg. It makes for great rewatchability and further analysis in a show that already does more than enough.
If I had to bring up any flaws, the only ones that I can think of have nothing to do with the show itself. It has more to do with the demands it asks from the viewers. From the start, the show lets you know that this isn’t a regular drama where eventful things happen every episode. You have to be patient and observant. More than that, this isn’t an instant hooker, in fact it took me 6-7 episodes to understand why this show was so great. Another thing that might be a turn off is the dialect that the characters speak in, it’s faithful to that of the people of Baltimore, so it can be a little hard to get what is being conveyed. All of these things aren’t flaws, they are more of “reasons” why people may not find The Wire engaging enough to warrant a complete viewing, and that sucks because I want more people to watch this show even though it has gained a considerable audience since its conclusion.
Sure, it takes some time getting accustomed to, but once you get past that, what you have here is true gem and a masterpiece of storytelling. This is entertainment at its highest possible form. I honestly don’t think I will ever see a show that is this good, and maybe that’s a special thing. It’s what makes shows like The Wire unique and I love it for exactly that. Guys, there is a lot I can say about The Wire. I can talk about my favourite moments, my favourite characters, how powerful it was from start to finish. But saying more would do nothing more than spoil it and I don’t want to do that, because I know there are people out there that still haven’t experienced this show. Hell, I only got around to it in 2016 and I should have seen it long ago. So if you’re someone who is still unsure about watching The Wire, go see it.
Rating: 10/10 (it’s fucking obvious at this point)