They keep getting more spoilery. So don’t read this one if you are fearing the spoilers.
After finishing season 2 of The Wire I went hunting for reviews so that I could better understand what it was that people didn’t like since I enjoyed season 2. It turns out that most gripes were centered on the fact that so many of the characters from season 1 (Avon, D’Angelo, Stringer) all became secondary for a dozen episodes. Big picture-wise I continue to think this was genius. It made it a lot easier to keep Avon and D’Angelo around when they were in jail without rushing story lines or making things too unbelievable. As I have said many times already, this show is paced incredibly well.
After understanding season 2’s purported deficiencies, I didn’t go into season 3 with quite as much excitement since it didn’t seem that people thought season 3 was so much better than season 2, it was just about the “detour”, which I enjoyed.
Season 3 didn’t introduce as many recognizable faces as season 2, but the one who did was significant. Mayoral hopeful Tommy Carcetti is played by Aiden Gillen, known to me as Little Finger from Game of Thrones. He is very good, and you can see why fans of The Wire were excited to see him show up on Game of Thrones. There are some other new characters, including rising drug kingpin Marlo Stanfield, and Snoop, a tomboy solider of Marlo’s. Season three follows Marlo’s rise, Stringer’s attempts to become a legit businessman, Avon’s attempt to regain full control of the drug market, Omar’s quest for revenge, and Major Colvin’s attempt to decrease crime by “legalizing” drugs in specified locations around his district.
Everyone warned me that there was a “focus area” for each season. Season 1 was the projects and drug dealing, season 2 the docks and organized crime, and season 3 was the free zone and politics. The politics side of things, like everything else in this show, was just spectacularly done. And that incredible diversity is what is really making this show shine for me. The Sopranos was always focused almost exclusively on Tony. It was either his family life, or his job, or the combination of which he complained to Dr. Melfi about. It shouldn’t be undersold how difficult it is to take one character and carry them through 80+ episodes without the quality really suffering (see, Don Draper on the current season of Mad Men), but David Chase1 managed to do that. The way that Simon is able to just forge together so many great characters and stories though is just amazing at times.
The best story lines of the season for me included Carcetti and Omar (more on him in a minute). I won’t lie, I was confused during the middle episodes about who was who and who was on whose side. I actually thought Marlo was a different person for a few episodes. The “free zone” was an interesting idea, but dragged on for too long. I am not 100% sure how much time has passed since the first episode of the series, it seems like 3 years or so, but I am disappointed with McNulty’s lack of evolution. Maybe I am missing something, but he seems like the same guy when all this started despite everything he has been a part of. Maybe part of the message is that people don’t change.
The decision to have Stringer die is so ballsy that Simon was robbed of the Emmy he was nominated for, but ultimately lost. Idris Elba was great in this season. But he ran second to the spectacular Michael K. Williams as Omar. Williams’ Chalky White is my favorite character on Boardwalk Empire and I will appreciate him even more in future episodes. I can’t for the life of me understand how he was never nominated for an Emmy, but I guess this show was notorious for being passed over by the Emmy people.
Season 3 was incredibly satisfying. The fact that season 4 is thought by so many to be the single greatest season of television has me in such a spectacular state of excitement that I am worried I won’t be able to stop watching once I start it. Even though I am not really sure (and likely won’t be until at least one repeat viewing) if this season was appreciably better or different than season 2, the fact that this show is just so amazingly consistent speaks volumes to how good it is. The Sopranos is infinitely re-watchable for me because Tony and Carmela were just so good, and it’s great to watch how that story evolved. Outside of Omar, I don’t think anyone on The Wire is even in the conversation with those two. Breaking Bad’s slow burn is spectacular, and Bryan Cranston is amazing, but the last couple of seasons of that show have been a wild ride that might not feel as good when you know what’s coming (i.e., watching it a second time). Mad Men is like most shows in the sense that their first couple of seasons were amazing, but it’s been downhill lately.
The Wire has been like Jeff Bagwell so far. Consistent and good, right on the cusp of greatness, but never the best player and a borderline Hall of Famer (at least in some people’s minds). If season 4 is even half as good as people have led me to believe, it could push this show over the top. Stay tuned…
- Have you noticed how all these great show runners are named David? Chase (The Sopranos), Simon (The Wire), Milch (NYPD Blue and Deadwood), Benioff (one of the Game of Thrones guys [↩]