This review contains spoilers.
The Baltimore drug scene as seen through the eyes of the dealers and the law enforcement that have to deal with them.
The story starts when local mid-level drug-dealer D’Angelo Barksdale (Lawrence Gillard Jr.) is acquitted of murder. After a conversation with a judge, Det. James McNulty (Dominic West) is assigned to lead a joint homicide and narcotics team to bring down D’Angelo’s boss and uncle, Avon Barksdale (Wood Harris), who is one of the big kingpins in the area. He, accompanied by right-hand man Stringer Bell (Idris Elba) and a number of lieutenants, has to deal with law enforcement whilst also trying to keep local competition in the form of Omar Little (Michael Kenneth Williams) off his back. The case to’s and fro’s with various squads threatening to overthrow the Barksdale crew, playing out against the backdrop of the lives of every part of the food chain, from junkies to dealers, and cops to politicians.
When I came to realise the selection of brilliant shows on offer by Sky Atlantic, one I told my parents to keep an eye out for was The Wire. A few months ago, whilst channel flicking one Friday night, I noticed that the long awaited series was being re-run, and as luck would have it, I found it right at the beginning. Probably six months after that Friday night, we finally finished all five seasons of The Wire this weekend. What an awesome series! I am so glad to have watched it, and despite the tutting he did when I told him I was recording yet another thing, I think my dad did as well.
There were so many knock-out performances throughout the entire series that if I were to sit here and run through every single one, I’d be doing well to be finished by Christmas. Instead, I shall spin off a couple of my favourite characters.
Wendell Pierce played homicide detective William “Bunk” Moreland, and he delivered some of the more comical aspects of the show. He never failed to make us laugh at some points where perhaps tensions were beginning to rise, especially with some of his wonderful one-liners.
Pierce is very quickly becoming one of my favourite TV actors after having also seen him do stints in Ray Donovan and catching a brief glimpse of him in Treme. In certain ways, he is very much like Samuel L. Jackson – very charismatic and never short of a clever word or two.
And then we get onto Michael Kenneth Williams who played my absolute favourite character, Omar Little. He was so good that I’d probably put him up there as one of my favourite characters of all time, and most definitely one of the best villains – if you could justify calling him that. I think the point at which we all fell in love with him was when he was a key witness in a big court case and after being told to dress smartly, or words to that effect, Omar rocked up to give evidence in full Baltimore ghetto attire with a tie wrapped around his neck like a scarf. It was certainly from that point onwards that I decided he was one of the best characters on offer. Williams did a wonderful job of making Omar likeable and got it across that, deep down, he was a good man. In fact, he did such a brilliant job that when Omar met his end, I was actually beyond gutted. I’d had visions of Omar becoming the King of Baltimore, and when he was shot in the back of the head (by a child!), I wanted his killer hunted down and murdered myself – he deserved better than that.
So, after the performances, we move onto the storyline. The Wire was very much the same as Breaking Bad – an odd thing to say, I know, but give me a second to explain it to you. Those of you who have read my review for Breaking Bad after I made it my conquest last year will know that I was very impressed with it up to a point, and then I felt that it went down quite quickly after that. Well, I hate to say it, but the same happened here. A number of characters who you’d have put money on to stick around to the bitter end either got killed or were arrested, and then the show had to more or less start from scratch for season four. This meant that the storyline, if it could be said there was one, ended up being rushed, and also meant that any major characters that got brought into the show at this point had to be gotten rid of one way or another, resulting in season five being full of senseless killings (Omar) and a somewhat ludicrous attempt by McNulty to invent a pretend serial killer to secure funds for another team to go after the latest kingpin in Baltimore. Season four also saw politics get brought into the mix which, again, I felt there was no need for. For me, it brought an air of pretentiousness that didn’t suit The Wire, which was more about good, hard, gritty storytelling from all perspectives on a subject. To cut a long story short had I been in charge, I’d have called it a day after the shock ending to season three, because that was when the show was at its best.
The music for the series was something that I was very pleased with. I’ll give it to the Americans, they do know how to pick title music, especially for their pilot seasons. This was the case with True Detective, and it was the very same for The Wire. The music for season one was terrific, and if I had to pick one thing that I liked about season five, it would be that right at the end of the very last episode, they played the full original version of “Way Down In The Hole”. What a banger! *mini fist-pump*
All in all, The Wire is most definitely a show that will for a long time be one of the greats, and it is a shame to think that if it wasn’t for seasons four and five it might have been the greatest TV show of all time, and Omar would have reigned supreme forever. Alas, that’s not how it played out, but do you know something? I could see myself watching it again someday.
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