Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Wire - Season 1

The Wire is the best television drama I've ever seen. It doesn't feature crazy, over the top plots. Rather, it's completely grounded in reality and thrives on that fact. It's a graphic and uncompromising look at the crime scene in modern Baltimore. In season one, Jimmy McNulty, a homicide detective who drinks too much but is great at his job, sets in to motion the slow building of a case against Avon Barksdale, the biggest drug dealer in the west side of the city. The story follows people on both sides of the back and forth battle, and while the dealers are clearly in the wrong, it's not without some nuance. A lot of the focus is on Avon's nephew D'Angelo, who is one of the bad guys, but can seem like a good person who was just brought up in the wrong environment. I think that's what's so great about The Wire, it doesn't do the judging for you I try to frame anyone as perfectly good or evil. It's all shades of gray, and they let you make your own decisions.

The show works so well because its characters are all so good. I could rattle off names of likable characters for a long time, as there are a lot of people in the city and all of them are well-defined, portrayed finely by an actor who fits the part, and entertaining to some degree. Even the biggest jerks around are usually funny in the way they act like jerks. It's a very slowly paced show, time passes quickly but the case develops at a realistic speed. There's a lot of gritty, grinding police work, and if you don't have the patience for some dead ends and disappointments, you might not like it. But I honestly can't get enough. I want to know what's going to happen next with all of these people I've come to like. The first season's resolution isn't as perfect as the cops hoped for. Some arrests get done, but not on all the charges they wanted and people they were after. But that's real life for you. And just like real life, people hurt each other, swear and have sex. It is HBO, after all. If your sensibilities aren't too delicate and you're at all interested in crime stuff, you have to watch The Wire.

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