Monday, 10 November 2008

The Wire


I am in mourning. I am at a loss. The future looks bleak. Last night I finished watching the final episode of the final
series of THE WIRE. Woe is me. What will I do?

For all the poor, benighted, uninitiated mopes out there The Wire is a cop show – like no other. Set in the bleak streets of Baltimore it follows the attempts of a small circle of po-lice (local pronunciation) and their attempts to build a series of cases against the city’s drug barons. And it does so with shining brilliance. It is better even than the West Wing. Yes that might be sacrilege but I truly believe it. Stone me if you want; here I stand.

What’s so good about the show? Loads of things. Here’s some of them:

The courage to go for the slow burn. The story is given time to breathe, to grow, to mature like the finest of Irish Whiskeys (it has to be Irish). I nearly gave up on series one after three episodes – sooooo glad I didn’t. Similarly I was convinced that series five was the weakest of the bunch right up until the final two episodes - now I reckon it’s the best of all.

The readiness to kill off central characters.

The ability to see humanity in the most inhuman of humans. Watch it and I promise you will find yourself sympathising with, rooting for and admiring the most immoral, brutal and despicable of people. You know, the kind that makes the characters from Reservoir Dogs look like Teletubbies. I now understand for the first time the attraction of gangsta culture.

The stonkingly good theme tune (Tom Waits’ “Down in the Hole”) covered in a variety of styles by a different band each series. My favourite take was that of THE BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA in series one.

The incredible skill of the writers, directors and actors. I can still hardly believe the scene that had me feeling nauseous at one of the most graphic beatings I have ever seen on the screen. And then, literally the next second, laughing out loud at a one-liner from the perpetrator’s accomplice. Either I’m truly sick and depraved or this is genius.

Surprising plot twist upon surprising plot twist.

The acute insight into the power of corrupt and insidiously corrupting institutions and how they thwart the good intentions of deeply flawed but well meaning idealists. It’s Niebuhr’s Moral Man and Immoral Society writ large. The dilemmas are even better drawn than those in Bartlet’s White House . The police department, the trade unions, the political establishment, the school system and the press all get the treatment.

And above all? Well, above all the ability convincingly to combine uncompromising realism and genuine but oh so fragile hope for the future.

If you’ve got the stomach, watch it. You will hurt when you get to the end, but better to have loved and lost …


Richard said...

It's a great (and gut wrenching) final episode though wasn't it! The Joy of Bubbles with the tragedy of Dukie reliving the same story, Bubbles mk II.

Geoff Colmer said...

We have four more episodes to watch of series 7 of the West Wing, having watched the series in its entirety twice already. It's got better with each viewing but now we're asking ourselves what next, and although Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip has been good, together with other series, nothing has quite done it in the same way. Maybe The Wire is what we should go for.

Jon said...

Yes! Marvellous show!

Glen Marshall said...

Geoff, Six Feet Under and the early series of The Sopranos are other options. Go for the Wire though.

Jon said...

Another recommendation: Deadwood.