Since the finale of HBO’s “The Wire,” no show has been able to deliver the same level of complexity and gruesome realism. Having aired from 2002 to 2008, the show hasn’t had a contemporary audience for a few years. Although here at Hulu Saxa we tend to write about current programs that are worth your time (minus the Kardashian piece at the end of last spring), a recent revision of this Baltimore-based drama compelled me to give it some attention and praise.
Created by David Simon, “The Wire” provides a glimpse into the decaying infrastructure and society of Baltimore, Md. For over five seasons, the show managed to build on itself over year. Its blunt depiction of societal corruption and the drug trade leaves new viewers fearful of what devoted, more jaded, fans of the show prize: grim realism. Many critics regard “The Wire” as the greatest television series ever created due to its realistic portrayal of dark sociopolitical themes that plague almost every city in the United States.
So let’s spell it out. Each of the five seasons focuses on a specific realm of Baltimore: the illegal drug trade, the seaport system, the city government and bureaucracy, the school system and the print news media. I’ll focus on the first season, since it’s the darkest, and if you can get through its 13 episodes, you’ll only want to see more.
Season one depicts the root of almost all poverty and corruption in Baltimore: the cocaine trade. The Barksdale Drug Empire reigns supreme over the narcotics trade in Baltimore, with Avon (Wood Harris) at the head and Stringer Bell (Idris Elba) as his second in command. A major investigation into this cocaine dynasty is launched when Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West) notices a Barksdale interference with a key witness in a court case, allowing D’Angelo Barksdale (Larry Gilliard Jr.) to walk free after being convicted of murder.
The title of the series comes from a key part of the investigation: wiretapping. After having to deal with infuriating city bureaucracy, McNulty and his team are able to tap the phones of the Barksdale Organization in hopes of compiling a sufficient amount of evidence for a criminal case. Meanwhile, the opposite side of the investigation reveals the multiple layers and complexity of a prominent drug organization.
Perhaps the most intriguing character is Omar Little (Michael K. Williams), a renowned and shotgun-strapped stick-up man. Omar, who is openly gay, maintains a strict moral code and never deviates from his rules, foremost of which is that he never hunts people who are not involved in “the game.”
Marked by a dramatic scar that runs across his face, Omar comments on his vigilante nature: “Out there it’s play or get played.”
Without giving too much away, I can tell you that the Baltimore Police Department deals a serious blow to the Empire, but in no way does it resolve the crime and corruption that continue to curse a future Baltimore that is potentially both peaceful and prosperous.
My best advice to whoever wants to take on the challenge of watching “The Wire” is this: Try your best to get through the first season, even when it seems too complicated. There will be a certain point in the second season when everything will “click.” When you hit that point, you will enjoy every following episode. Prepare to be depressed and amazed.