hazelk: (wallace)
[personal profile] hazelk
I think it was around February this year the box set of The Wire was on special offer and I bought it as a bribe to myself. Write the motherfucking paper then you can watch the motherfucking show (K’s name for it based on trying to watch the late night BBC2 showings without subtitles). Still haven’t written the paper. I swear that dataset has an inbuilt uncertainty principle, it changes every time I look at it. But I did other good things. Then there was a week of karmic frustration when I couldn’t remember where I’d hidden the box set from myself. Then a week of mainlining season one.


Box sets are kind of essential because this show has bicycle physics, I couldn’t take it in single episode portions. It’s either building so incrementally it takes two or three for sufficient momentum to maintain balance or hurtling along so fast that you’ll go flying over the handlebars if you brake.

The first two episodes are a sea of strange places, unnamed faces and faceless names. Motherfucker, maverick cop guy, putting a team together, dealers and junkies, funny drunks, Idris Elba in a suit. Through the haze of images the lead-in conversation ending "this is America” stands out. Also things never being quite what they seem. Like D’Angelo, the gangster unsure of the game or Daniels reaming out Prez for blinding a boy but his condemnation all in body language and tone, the words he says are the script to that will get them past the IRS. By episodes three and four faces coalesce into focus, things make sense, it stops feeling like the first day at a new school. The series recognizes this and subtly lets its fourth wall slip in moments like D’Angelo’s chess based summary of the characters so far and the Bunk/McNulty crime scene fuckversation. This show knows what it is and what it’s about.

It’s not afraid to bring on the stereotypes, the maverick cop, the company man’s redemption. But it messes with them, muddies them up, makes them real. McNulty initiates the action, he’s central in the sense of always being there but it’s not his show, he has no show, at the end he’s the same half-man/half-asshole he was at the beginning. He loves his kids enough to do the IKEA thing but sends them to “front and follow” Stringer without even thinking (the fuck McNulty). He feels the manpain of Kima getting shot but the show refuses to linger on a single sparkly tear, instead lets Cheryl grieve ugly for her lover, no white man to carry her burden. Daniels has a real arc, finding a job that means more than promotions. But a standard redemption arc, instead of merely hinting at the possibility, would have told us he was corrupt at the beginning to make his transformation more stark. As it is, the confirmation that he took dirty money comes in the very moment of his rebirth thorough the cause.

If there’s a standard story that's played straight maybe it’s the one about the gang of misfits coming together to make a team. Only connect but connections are fragile things. Bubbles hangs his rehabilitation on Kima and a bullet blows it away. That image of him sitting on the bench at the tipping point between heaven and here, right on the fine line between the children playing and the drug world applies to several of the characters. D’Angelo and Wallace both get drawn back into the game because heaven is a strange cold place and all their connections are "here." Wallace dies for it, D’Angelo lives on in limbo freer in prison than anywhere else he can be. Shardene escapes and Kima survives but there’s no winning, nobody wins. When the game ends Stringer’s queen is still free even with the castle taken and the King temporarily incarcerated. Pawns were sacrificed, Wallace, Gant Lyles, Little Man, Orlando but nothing touches the main players, victory is pyrrhic at best. So it’s not about winning but how the game is played, a conclusion that sounds more native to the playing fields of Eton than the towers of West Baltimore but is no less fitting. Good work was done.
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hazelk

May 2012

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