The Wire is probably one of the most dense shows I’ve ever watched. I managed to get through season 1 over break and watched the first four episodes of season 4. My brother and I marathoned the first season together and I remember after the first three episodes, him saying something like, “The show ends so abruptly, it never feels like it’s about to be over when it is, it’s like they just shot a long movie and spliced in end credits where ever they wanted.” This feeling is unusual, but not necessarily bad. It seems like a tactic to assure the viewer that the story isn’t over, that it’s a long story that will be told over time. Moreover the episodes are much longer than any other show I’ve seen, always coming close to filling an entire 60 minutes.
I think this show is harder to get “into” than most, not only is the narrative in and of itself complicated, the large cast doesn’t help, but the themes and issues it discusses are difficult alone and it’s a lot to take on all at once.
Furthermore, a part of what is off-putting and appealing about the show is the amount of distance we have with the characters. The viewer is only that– a viewer, watching life as it happens– a third party with only bits and pieces of back-story for each of the many characters. The “main” characters are constantly thrown about, separated and reunited, written out for episodes, how close can the viewer get to them? And for the most part, what drives a show and what separates television from film, is character development. But in The Wire, the real character is the environment, it’s Baltimore and that seems to be the connective tissue that runs throughout the show. Which is odd– but nonetheless interesting. Every character is in constant struggle with what politics and circumstance surrounds them, whether that be, “the corner,” the office or the school.