Posts Tagged ‘The Wire’

Mentors and whatnot in The Wire

December 7, 2009

“My question for you is: A) Who arrived in Philly first, Andre or Eman? And B) By how much time? And C) Who gives a rat’s ass?”

The second episode of season 4 of The Wire, ‘Soft Eyes,’ largely concerns itself with the issue of who’s teaching kids lessons and which in fact do give a rat’s ass (though the above is actually from episode 3, ‘Home Room.’ I considered using my favorite line from ‘Soft Eyes’ instead, spoken by the state senator when he’s served a subpoena: “Major crimes? Sheeeeeeee-it.”) This is especially obvious in the episode’s conclusion, which features the long-awaited mayoral debate interspersed with people’s reaction to it, but also seems to have been a motif throughout the entire episode. The Wire is rarely very heavy handed when it comes to themes and symbolism, but “Soft Eyes” more than anything is about the people that serve as leaders and mentors in the world of the show and how people react to them.

At around 19:00, Dennis is approached at the gym by Sharon Johnson, who wants to thank him for coaching her son and the other neighborhood boys by ‘throwing down in the kitchen, among other places.’ At 19:09, towards the beginning of the conversation, there’s a shot of three other women in the gym looking on at Sharon and Dennis, followed immediately by a shot of one of the boys in the gym following along while jump roping. Every time the camera pans to Sharon during the season, the three women are right over Sharon’s shoulder, out of focus but visible in every shot. This caught my eye because it seemed completely unnecessary to have them in the shot (or at all), but later on at 40:41, when Dennis has instructed Michael (the seemingly most morally complex out of the neighborhood boys) to work the heavy bag, one of the three women (Gail, the one with short hair) approaches Dennis with some peach cobbler. Gail, for the record, doesn’t even have any sons. While two of them flirt, the camera cuts back to Michael working the bag. At 41:14, even Dennis’s assistant makes a motion for Dennis to refocus his attention on Michael. When we come back to the gym at around 49:00, the camera pans across the gym and we see Dennis receiving food from another one of the girls before settling on Michael and Naymond, who note that the coach is ‘working it.’ While they’re unsupervised, two other kids try to force Michael off the heavy bag and a fight almost breaks out.

I’m also interested in the storyline with Bubbles (the guy selling crap from the shopping cart) and Sherrod (the kid who sucks at math). Over the break I accidentally watched episodes from the first season, not the fourth, so I was surprised to see that Bubbles (a crackhead in the beginning of the series) had cleaned his act up and had a protege. Then he was shooting up later in the episode and I was less surprised. Also surprising was how well he cleans up for a junkie: he has no furniture and makes his living out of a shopping cart, but somehow has a shirt and tie lying around.


“If Charles Dickens were alive today, he would watch ‘The Wire,’ unless, that is, he was already writing for it.”

December 1, 2009

The Wire is unlike any other, successful television show I have seen yet.   After all, most television shows have dominant love story arcs that keep viewers interested and engaged season to season.  However, The Wire is not like that that, for instead of planting a hook here and a twist there whilst intertwining a love story throughout, The Wire seems to capture the raw and “de-glamourized” existence of cops and drug dealers of everyday life on the Baltimore streets.

In shows like Castle for example, the bickering love saga between Richard Castle and Detective Beckett keeps viewers interested.  In The Wire when McNulty has sex with Rhoda Pearlman, no viewer would care to see more from that relationship.  After all, the relationship has not been drawn out over seasons like that of The Office’s Jim and Pam or Castle’s Castle and Beckett.  Instead, sex is closer to a transaction than a romantic engagement.  As unromantic as that scene was, the following frame mimics those sex moans when a young boy is shot in the leg and is groaning in pain.  Thus, it seems like the writers instantly bring the viewers back to the dark realities of the Baltimore streets, as if to say, “Cops don’t have time for anything semi-romantic, because they are constantly consumed by the jobs they do.”

This “unromanticized” realness separates The Wire from all other shows on television.  In fact, the intricate web of characters that make up their Baltimore, from the look out kids to the drug dealers to the flawed cops caught in the mix, make The Wire a real “slice of life” series.  As Nicholas Kulish of The New York Times stated, “if Charles Dickens were alive today, he would watch ‘The Wire,’ unless, that is, he was already writing for it” [1].  And I think Kulish is right in saying so.  After all, it’s not too hard to imagine a modern day Pip, a young and naïve orphan boy being raised by his brother-in-law and older sister, being part of The Wire’s complex web of characters.

Thus The Wire may be off-putting for those expecting a Jim and Pam story arc throughout the series; however, the realness, that has been left almost untouched by Hollywood glitz and glamour, somehow provides answers “even when it offers no solutions.”[2]



[2] Ibid.

The Wire: The Real World Baltimore

December 1, 2009

This was my first time watching The Wire, and I was really impressed.  I really got into its complexity and interlocking storylines, and I find the characters to be really compelling.  The story is slow to unfold which allows for a lot of information to be presented, which I find is a much more rewarding to the viewer.  What struck me most, however, was what I thought was a very good attempt at realism.  So many television shows feel like they have to present some perfect world where unemployed young people live in fabulous lofts and every situation gets resolved happily.  It’s refreshing that there are shows like The Wire are trying to show a more realistic view of the world.

            I’m from Baltimore, and a lot of what I’ve heard about the show is that it gives Charm City a bad reputation.  Not only has The Wire been a tremendous economic benefit to Baltimore, but I like that it tries to depict a realistic portrayal of the city.  Baltimore is rampant with murder and drugs.  The politicians are corrupt, the school system is horrendous, and bureaucracy prevents changes from being made.  I like that there is a show that presents these problems without a sugar coating.  I like that things aren’t neatly tied together at the end of each episode like a pretty bow, because that’s not how life actually is.  

            The subject matter isn’t the only factor that ads realism to this program.  I noticed that they used unknown actors that look like people you would actually see on the street, because lets be honest, cops don’t really look like Heather Locklear.  They also shot the show in Baltimore, which gives the show authenticity.  Most of the scenes took place in recognizable Baltimore locales which made it believable, for me anyway, that these events could have actually taken place.  I also noticed that the sound was strictly diegetic.  The music was always coming from the radio or some other distinct source.  There was no background music or voiceovers to interrupt the presented reality.  In real life there isn’t ominous music when someone is about to get killed, and it isn’t there in The Wire either.