The Wire was the best crime show ever made on TV. OK, that’s probably not true. Rewatching the series there are a lot of half-truths we tell ourselves about the show.
So for the jump off let’s say the show is amazing. Overall it’s a show with a lot of depth, a lot of payoffs in later seasons to what people say or do early on. But you don’t get that in the first season.
The first season seems like the writers took a bit to feel out the show and the production took a bit to get the look of the show down. Once we hit episode 6 or so the show is running at full steam, but there’s not as much for it to carry. When the show is running on all cylinders in, say, season 3 every episode is powerful. But the first season is just a drug case.
Rewatching the show there’s a decent amount of absurd things that happen, lots of coincidences. The coincidences are one thing but when the writers decide the investigation unit is going to explain legal issues to Daniels, who has a law degree, you wish they would of spent a few more minutes figuring someone else to carry the story pipe.
Gripes aside the show is a mix of political messages. These don’t always square, and the show’s generally hopeless feeling didn’t seem to keep people from electing the same idiots they always do. But it goes back to power, part of what’s so weird about the show is every character seems to rubber band back to their original state when it suits the story.
But season 1 is a simple story about chasing down a drug gang. The Barksdales are a group that will be a major story element and the show will constantly find avenues to look at these characters later on down the road. On the other side of the stage the cops are not just the criminal investigation unit but also the bureaucracy causing so many problems as well.
Though a lot of things in the show will make sense eventually, as far as motivation for choices, some of the stories at the police station will never really make sense. The criminal side of the show seems to have had a much more defined backstory that they just leave out. The cops sometimes seem to just exist. Like seriously why is Landsman such a fuck?
The big takeaway from this season is that the drug war is unwinnable. Not because there’s some lack of money or energy, but because it literally can’t end. One person is taken down and a new person steps up tomorrow. The police can put serious effort into trying to halt organizations in some manner, but doing so doesn’t really fit with how police are mandated to act.
In the end they finish the drug case but they don’t get the band of brothers moment. They have to stop chasing the money a bit too early, before it gets too real.
The heart of this season was D’Angelo Barksdale. Technically McNulty is the main character of the entire show, but each season someone is the one who looks at the entire scene and has the complete experience. His story is very rough, but we aren’t done with his character yet so mums the word.
This season is rough. Some sad and horrible things happen, and there’s some amazing acting as we get into the meat of the season. Next season though, that’s where you have to keep some tissues on hand. Next time season 2: the season people say is skippable. It’s literally my favorite season. But I guess I’ll wait on the end of this rewatch to really see what holds up. Also the whole series is ten years old at this point. Just remember where you were ten years ago, where the world was. It’s kind of hard to get back to that space, but as we look more at the series keep that in mind.