Probably not. But seeing as I just finished watching Season 5, I’m going to write one anyway, if only to get all this angst out of my system. And I’ll start by saying I really didn’t like The Wire. I liked some of the characters in The Wire. Wallace and Duquan were my favourites, and maybe how things ended for them is why I didn’t like the show. I also liked Nick Sobotka. And Bubbles. And Michael. By Season 5, I even had soft spots for Bodie and Omar.
A lot of people that don’t like The Wire say they find it dull, boring, and slow. I’m actually okay with the pacing. It took me almost a year to get through all five seasons, but it’s not because it was slow. It’s more because it was so … intense. I’d watch a few episodes and need a break. Then I’d finish a season and need a longer break. The Wire is way too heavy to finish in one sitting.
What I don’t like about the show is that it’s so … depressing. It seems like the point of the show is, ‘don’t try to make things better because the world is totally fucked and you can’t beat the system, period.’ McNulty tries to beat alcoholism and womanising. He can’t. Ziggy tries to make a life outside the docks. He can’t. Dukie tries to escape the drug culture his parents kept him in. He can’t. Michael tries to avoid being a thug and stay in school. He can’t. Randy tries to get out of the foster system. He can’t. Daniels tries to rise honestly as a cop. He can’t. Rhonda tries to break the Baltimore Drug League with wire taps. She can’t.
In fact, the only person that succeeds is Bubbles, and he only does that after losing one best friend and accidentally killing another. Meanwhile, all the characters that lie, cheat, and corrupt the system succeed. Clay Davies. Herc. Tommy Carcetti. The Greek. Templeton. Valcheck. It’s like the point of this show is that evil wins, so there’s no point trying to be good.
I suppose that’s why people say it’s realistic. There are no happy endings and everyone gets fucked. I don’t want to think the world really is that bleak, and that’s why I don’t like the show. I think life sucks as is, and that’s why I escape into selected fiction, a world unicorns, rainbows, and smart jokes.
My problem with The Wire isn’t its construction or storytelling. I think those are actually quite good. I think the characters are deeply intense and complex – except for Marlo, who seemed a little flat to me. I think the slow pace allowed me to absorb each moment, and I love the dialogue. I didn’t understand some of it, and every once in a while, I rewound a scene and replayed it with subtitles.
One of my favourite lines came from Colvin, when he chuckles and says the school system thinks they’re educating the kids for exams, but they’re just preparing them for life on the streets. And both he and Prez are proven right because once they take class lessons and put them in street context, the kids surprise them by showing how smart they are.
So my problem isn’t with the construction or the style of The Wire. It’s with its message. For me, The Wire felt like five seasons of torturous EMO. And while I generally enjoy the occasional gothic ballad, I didn’t want its subtext dissected quite so acutely. I hated how the characters were trapped on their life paths with no way out, no matter how hard they tried. Frankly, after watching Nick stare at the empty docks, Michael hold up the rim shop, and Dukie put the needle in his arm, I wanted to go jump off a bridge. And as a depressive, wanting and doing are two dangerously close things.
Ironically, this is the point where someone will remind me it’s only a TV show, and that it would be stupid to kill yourself over a TV show. Ironic because what people love most about this show is how realistic it is. David Simon – who created The Wire – made a comment that pissed people off. Later, he explained what he meant by the comment.
So I suppose that for him, the message was the most important part of the show, far more important than which characters we did or didn’t like, or which of them was a ‘badder gangsta.’ He wants us to think about, and discuss the underlying causes of these problems. And yet … after five seasons … I came away thinking that discussing, strategising, or even resolving these crisis makes no difference because it simply can’t be done. Just ask the Prez, or Colvin, or Gus, or the major crimes unit.
The powers that be simply won’t let anything change, so there’s no point. And even the ones that want to change things, once they get into power, they don’t want things to change anymore. Basically, power trumps decent life. As someone that can’t stand soaps because of their torturous defeatism, seeing the same aspect play out in five seasons of intensely beautiful storytelling was why too much for me. It seems to dwell on the futility of life, which is pretty depressing, because futile or not, we still have to live. And THAT is why I didn’t like The Wire.
♫ Until it’s gone ♫ Linkin Park ♫
120 thoughts on “Do we really need another post about The Wire?”
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