“The Wire”: A Rookie’s Perspective

POSTED BY JON WEISMAN (Brian Lowry’s comments follow)

This is my first season watching "The Wire."  I know that no apology can atone for that sin, so I won’t even try.  I have forever been trying to carve out time to watch the series from the beginning, but 50-odd hours are hard to find. Finally, I decided, it was time to get on board — better late than never.

So I don’t come here as any kind of authority figure on the series, and I offer my opinions only as a perspective on the fifth season from someone who didn’t watch the first four.  I know "Wire" fans are always looking to increase the series’ profile, so I thought you might be interested in how it’s playing to a newbie.

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  3. paranoidandroid says:

    Jon, you simply have to give the show more time. The past seasons have been very, very powerful and intricate. It would difficult to jump into the midst of the show and pick up the same vested interest others have had.
    I honestly believe that it ranks among the top shows in television history. It is a gritty and compelling series.
    Hamsterdam and that season really took us to places that challenged what society does and does not do to deal with real life dilemmas. The media, the politics, the Access Hollywood culture, all fuel simplistic sound-bite answers to very complicated problems.
    I think that if you were to watch an entire season of the Wire, you’d come back to what you wrote here and you’d rethink your position. I often say that I could be wrong about many things. However, in this particular situation, I know and trust that your intellect will leave you with a very, very positive view of The Wire. I am as confident in that statement as in any statement I’ve ever posted online. Truly.

  4. paranoidandroid says:

    I agree with Enders. The Michael scene was left a lump in my throat. He was a kid smart enough to be above this lifestyle, determined to pull himself and his brother through the ghetto situation his parents (and society) put him in. When given the task to take down anyone coming out the back door, he simply couldn’t harm another child. If that child ends up a witness, he will be dealt with. He was willing to put himself in harm’s way rather than hurt a child. I suspect he might try to find a way out of working for Marlo, Chris, and Snoop.

  5. Jon says:

    I undertand. I realize that I’m coming in during chapter 51 of a long, riveting novel – and I love TV series that are long, riveting novels.
    But there is a point where you have to acknowledge that TV and a book are two different formats. No book is expected to have readers starting at chapter 51, but an IDEAL TV series would have power both for new and old viewers. I think Hill Street, Homicide and a few other shows pull that off.
    It may well be that Wire is the best TV novel ever, but I’m not sure it is the best TV series ever.

  6. paranoidandroid says:

    The show is very strong, very well written, and an aquired taste.
    It will take some time before it takes off as a new season, it is laying the foundation for a few developing story lines.
    The season with the docks and the entire Avon Barksdale/Stringer Bell storyline were very compelling and very emotional.
    Give the show a few more weeks to get it’s land legs under it, you won’t be disappointed.
    My favorite shows in this vain were/are: Homicide, The Shield, Hill Street. I watched Damages first season and liked it as well.

  7. K says:

    (Spoiler Alert)
    I do not think Episode 2 was an episode that lacked an emotional punch. Im not saying that The Wire does not have such episodes, I just think that this episode in particular was definitely not one.
    If you do not know from previos episodes, Michael, even though a kid, is a serious, cold-blooded killer. He is, because he thinks he has to be (you can watch Season 4 to find out why). That is a very strong feeling to escape. The choice he made when he saw the kid running out the house was I think, very unexpected, and therefore created a strong emotional reaction for me.

  8. Eric Enders says:

    Jon, I’m glad you’re on board, and that you were able to jump in midstream, but I do hope you’ll go back and watch the other seasons. I think of The Wire as great literature, and like a powerful novel, you won’t get the full emotional and intellectual impact by reading only the last one-fifth of it.
    I agree with your analysis of the newsroom scenes, and I do think this subplot looks primed to become the worst of the many hundreds of subplots the show has explored in the last five seasons. (Although I too am a big fan of Homicide and Clark Johnson — who, as I suspect you know, also directed the pilot of The Wire.)
    (Spoiler alert)
    I think the “rearrangement” of the crime scene in episode 2 would have been the scene that really affected you emotionally if you’d been watching the show from the beginning, because that character is one whom viewers have fallen in love with over the years as he tries to obey the better angels of his nature. It was really a heartbreaking scene.
    In the end, it’s the breadth and the scope of the show that’s really most amazing. In the most recent episode there were plotlines that tie all the way back to the first and second seasons, and in ways that seem not at all forced. The Wire actually has more emotional resonance than any show I’ve ever seen, and those moments are more well-earned than those on other shows because they have been set up so meticulously and perfectly over time. I agree that the first two episodes have been somewhat lacking in those moments, but I also think there were such moments in the first two episodes that you may have missed due to lack of backstory.

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