The Wire Season 5 and Its Prequels

I am enjoying Wire Season 5, even though the plot has gone so far afield its characters don't make any sense anymore. I just want to see if McNulty gets away with it, which of course I highly doubt. But still, it's fun. And the newspaper thing, it's okay, but I don't really care about any of the characters, even old newspaper soldier Gus.

Clearly, Season 5 is a didactic rather than storytelling exercise. It's still a fun story, but Simon is pushing hard the notion that in previous seasons all attempts at cleaning up Baltimore have been exhausted/frustrated/defeated, and thus this last gambit is the only option. In doing so, however, Omar must go on a rampage, Marlo/Snoop/Chris must virtually disappear for 2 episodes (leaving a wide character void, at least where Chris is concerned), Cutty has to show up for no other reason than to feed Dukie's despair, and all story elements are driven by the "one big lie" foreshadowed in the first episode. Which is the one thing that makes me wonder if the plan will work.

Comcasts' HBO OnDemand also features 3 "prequels" introducing us to McNulty's first day in homicide, Proposition Joe as a 10 year old, and Omar's first heist. Rather than show a critical point in the character's life that forced a change, they just confirm what we already know about the characters (McNulty: brilliant, arrogant; Prop Joe: Wheeler Dealer; Omar: Thief with a code). They come across as weak attempts to draw in viewers. The dialogue is forced and expository and at 2-3 minutes long, there's not enough time for any character to be revealed through action.


dave said...

Pease, you're just baiting me, aren't you?

The first thing I have to say is that I still think The Wire is the best show that's ever been on television, and at this point it's earned a higher standard than, say, Lipstick Jungle or Cashmere Mafia or Eye Liner Ninja Kill Squad or any other show ever.

That said, I agree with you on the newspaper storyline. I think David Simon is a complete genius, but he lived through that shit and maybe something about that makes it hard to fictionalize in as convincing a manner as the rest of what happens on the show, which he lived through in the course of writing Homicide and The Corner, but in a different way, I think, than what he went through at the Sun.

I don't mind what's going on w/ McNulty. Maybe we all got lulled to sleep a little last season, with the kinder, gentler McNulty, but this downward slide seems pretty much what that character has been headed toward the entire series.

As far as characters flitting in and out, I think that's just a side effect of such a sprawling, well drawn drama. On literally any other show (with the exception, possibly, of the Sopranos), the side characters were just too wooden and sloppily drawn to make you even notice whether they stayed part of the landscape. The fact that The Wire has maybe 30 legit characters, with four or five serious plots happening at any given time, makes it just plain impossible to give our favorites as much screen time as we'd like. I've love more Kima, a little Prez, maybe a Bunny Colvin update -- hell, I'd love to spend 24 hours tagging along with Slim Charles or Cheese -- but there's no way to manage that in one hour installments. Clearly, Slim Charles needs his own show: Slim Charles in Charge.

Okay, that's a sure sign that I'm flagging. Anyway, that's a good post, Aaron, and one I've been meaning to write for awhile.

Still the best show on television, though.

TMC said...

Yeah, I'm not so into the newspaper storyline either. I just don't find it that interesting; maybe newspapers in general are boring. Or maybe simon is so close to the material that he's focused on detailing discussions about gerunds and not on creating enough drama.

But I'm more into the other stuff than most people seem to be. I think the season is pretty funny, actually; the scene with mcnulty and smug-lying-reporter guy lying to each other is great.

Some of the stuff is over the top, but I think it's by design, as Aaron suggests, rather than being a product of poorly controlled writing.

Omar's going on a rampage, but that's just setting us up, I think (haven't seen ep. 7 yet) for his death, and it's definitely a believable action on his part: everyone he's ever loved and trusted (except a conspicuously absent Reynaldo) has been killed by this game, he's sick of it, and he's not smart enough to trick Chris.

McNulty is obviously gone, but he's been a scheming asshole since day 1. I actually thought he was gonna kill the homeless guy in ep. 6 though.

I think the biggest issue with this season, actually, is the cut from 13 episodes to 10, which leaves less room for exploration of side characters and also forces the stories to be rushed a bit more. Since this is the most farcical season of the 5, it would actually require the most patience and the slowest pace. But I guess HBO needed more time to air movies like Major Payne.

TMC said...

Oh, and I agree that the prequels are kinda dumb.

Looks more like something they were forced to do than something they wanted to do.