See, I would have named this ‘through the wire’, but I felt like that would be extremely cliché, and The Wire is a series that isn’t something Kanye West-like, but rather more Pusha T (if we’re just keeping it with G.O.O.D Music) and that’s strictly for the subject matter, not the show overall, because I discovered what this show is, is that it’s a beautifully woven story that shows just about every detailed flaw that has penetrated the American society for generations. Bringing the stories of the streets to life is always what Hollywood movies and shows mess up often, but after hearing so much about it for so many years, and just never getting around to it, I had to finally watch it.
It’s funny (well, not really) how me finally watching the show finally came about. My mother and I had just finished watching Fruitvale Station (powerful movie, by the way) and a friend of mine, Michael, was in the same theatre as me and after the movie, we were talking about the significance that it had on us since we were young black men as Michael B. Jordan’s character was retelling the story of Oscar Grant’s final day before his untimely and unfortunate death by the hands of a BART transit officer. If you get the chance to go out and see it, I strongly recommend that you do. Through the conversation, Michael brought up how MBJ was also a great actor on Season 1 of The Wire, and we (me and mom) stated that we hadn’t watched it yet, so literally a day or 2 later, I went to HMV & Best Buy to buy the whole series. Through the days of Netflix and internet downloading everything, it’s still not all that uncharacteristic to go out and buy a series on DVD; I mean, I still have to buy Fresh Prince, Boy Meets World, Seinfeld, The Simpsons, etc. Now, I bought the series at the end of July/beginning of August, but it wasn’t until October that I really dug into it and watched a Season a week (or at least I tried), and now that I’ve completed the series in full, I can honestly say that it’s one of the greatest pieces of art that TV has ever produced, and the fact that they haven’t won any major awards to show for it is criminal, considering the fact that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is ready to give Denzel Washington and Monique awards for portraying (respectfully) a crooked cop and a struggling woman living in the inner-city (aka the hood), and The Wire brought out those environments (in a way –Training Day was based in California) so I don’t know who’s in charge of garnering awards for the Emmys, but they have some explaining to do.
I’m not going to give anything away (I’ll do my best), but from start to finish (although Season 2 had me drowsy beyond belief), all you got was a progressive story that witnessed the characters change, power change, and the emergence of unlikely heroes and surprising deaths. Avon Barksdale and Stringer Bell were one of the best reasons to watch this show, because their relationship started off so well, but it was Season 3 that you saw the turn of the tide as the tension between them was so tight, you felt uneasy watching it because it’s like “yo…you guys are like brothers, so what the hell? What happened to ‘Us’?” I was compelled to their story and although it was a fitting end to it, it was still shocking how it all went down. The power of a dollar runs deep, but when you’re looking at progression from polar opposite opinions, it’s hard to maintain what to cut and what to keep.
One character that I really liked was Bodie, because although he was unpolished, he still had his honor and passion in Baltimore and on the streets. He still had his moral compass although he had to abide by rules where he didn’t necessarily see fit to do so. In Season 1 where him and Poot have to check on Wallace (that was heart wrenching) and then in Season 4 where he serves as a mentor for the kids, but also a leader who knows his way in and out of the game, you could see that he was still a product of his environment, but when a shift in power took over (Marlo Stanfield), it was so hard for him to switch up his loyalty to the point where he didn’t want to be in it anymore; I felt for him.
It was the kids in Season 4 that was probably the best thing about the series, because on a personal level, of course I could relate (to a certain degree) what they were going through when I look at the group of kids I grew up with and seeing how people changed up through time, having the drug game be the only game they knew – and it all starts in school; character building, progression, and transitions. Namond, Randy, Duquan and Michael, all had stories that you could almost pinpoint one of your friends to relating to. Michael was the most surprising character because how he went from being the quiet leader to the soldier and witnessing his mental state develop while under the tutelage of Chris & Snoop. This might be a bit of an exaggeration, but when I look at Namond, I felt like it was watching Matilda (or reading, since it’s based on a classic book). You have this kid who’s the product of parents who were in the drug game and is expected to continue in the family business (I wanted to slap his mother on multiple occasions), but there’s always an influential person (that being Colvin) that sees more in you than they do, and then (well, you know the story). When he broke down in the gym with Cutty & Carver, oh man, my heart – I swear I’m incapable of crying, because I almost did there. Randy Wagstaff was the naïve one in the group and had the most ideas, but it literally took one bad situation (stupid Herc) and his life changed for the worse. Through everything that he had to go through, he still had the protection from his boys, until they all eventually split and led on different lives.
As I said, I won’t give a lot away, because this series is filled with so many characters that you analyze & watch their rise and declines over time. On the side of the law, the code of ethics and moral wasn’t always there, but they did whatever it took to get the job done. I liked Herc and Carver as a team, and even through the series as their lives split, they were necessary in still assisting each other through and through – that was cool. Jimmy McNulty was so agitating, but he was a genius in his own way because of how he went on about his cases. If he wasn’t drunk or (to quote Bunk) “nut deep in some pussy” he was really the man. Seasons 1, 4, and 5 were essential in establishing his character and showed him in both lights, but overall he was “natural police”. Bunk & Lester Freamon were my favourites for not only humour, but they also graced intellect where necessary. Freamon loved to play possum in Season 1 like he was just this old man building his miniature antique furniture, but he had the wisdom of Gandalf when it came to police work. Bunk was the guy that you could always rely on for a good laugh, especially when him and McNulty were paired together for the good times (Season 5, man…it hurt to watch their friendship turn out the way it did), and he also kept it real (his conversations with Omar were poignant).
Bunny Colvin is the man, and Season 3 & 4 were the main reasons. From what he did with ‘Hamsterdam’ and how he was able to turn a group of elementary misfits into sociable people, how could you not respect the level of integrity the man had for what he was passionate about? Granted, it sucked how he went out from the Police force to teaching, but it was a necessary event that changed a life for the better. Cedric Daniels was also the man when it came to respecting moral code, and in Season 4 & 5, you saw that come to light more, and having to sacrifice a lot for the sake of others was what he stood for until he couldn’t bend is weight anymore. “A tree that bends too far is already broken” is just one of the many quotes through so many characters that were spewed out over the course of the series.
How could I forget Omar & Marlo Stanfield? These two characters were essential in keeping the streets alive throughout the series and their codes of ethics and morals were so twisted, but understandable. Omar was the ghetto Robin Hood robbing in the hood, and Marlo was the new kid on the block that had an aggressive hand that scared the likes of anyone. The crazy thing about Marlo was that he was calm, but there was just all evil about him, though you graced an understanding as to why he asserted his dominance on the corners. He took shit from no one, but he gave everyone hell – poetic, if you would.
I could literally go on all day and this would turn into a documented essay talking about every nook and cranny about the show, and I only watched the series once, whereas many others have watched it multiple times. A few people have been asking me how I’ve liked it through my progression, and now that I’ve reached this point in conclusion, there’s so much to talk about. I listened to Pusha T’s My Name Is My Name on repeat after I finished Season 5, because I wanted to see how the album connected with the show, and when you combine the drug game to his life and how he’s been constantly on that subject, there are glimpses where he envisions himself as one of the characters. I’ve also been picking up on songs and other pop culture references tying into The Wire, and to see the generation impact that it’s had, it’s quite brilliant. I remember living in Scarborough watching a few episodes from either Season 1 or 2, but I never got around to watching the whole thing. Although it’s been 5 years since the series ended, I feel like it would be good to watch at any point in time.
“Nigga this is timeless, simply cuz it’s honest” – Pusha T (Nosetalgia)
That really is the perfect line to describe the entire show, because of the themes and how they tie into modern day American society. A part of me looks at life and truly wonders if Canada is the same way, because we’re known for being 1/10th of the population of America, and we don’t have as many problems here, but there are still themes like The Drug Game (Season 1), the emphasis of unions (Season 2), political inconsistencies and reform (Season 3), flaws in Education (Season 4), and also the true power in the media (Season 5). Everything is connected, and it’s so relevant as to what’s happening today. I can see now why this show has been heralded as one of the best drama shows ever and I definitely lay my hand down in that argument (then everyone will tell me to watch Breaking Bad). I love everything about this show and the constant puzzle piece that makes you connect everything and look at it from a broader perspective. I thank David Simon for creating this and keeping it as honest as possible. It’s important television, and I hope the same way I talk about it now is the same way I talk about it 50 years from now. It’s truly a teaching tool that can’t go unappreciated. It makes you laugh, cry, squeamish and think, and that’s the art of TV that I appreciated growing up, and it’s a major reason why I want to go further with being in this industry. The Wire will never be duplicated, just imitated. If you were like myself and you haven’t watched this series yet – do it, trust me. But, for now
That’s My Word & It STiXX