The Wire: Season 1<< Adam, February 26th, 2010 >>

Finished up watching the first season of The Wire last night. Personally, I’m kind of torn on the series. Not torn enough to not give the second season a chance, but I wasn’t exactly blown away by the first season. Maybe it was because I felt like people had really hyped up the show, and my expectations were off.

This post is minorly spoilery, in terms of themes; I’m going to avoid talking about blatant plot points.

My difficulty stems from one pretty simple fact. When I get invested in some form of entertainment, whether it is TV, movies, books, or video games, I have certain expectations of what I tend to expect out of the protagonists. Mainly, I’m drawn to your stereotypical hero versus villain kind of set up. Consequently, I have certain, shall we say, requirements for my “heroes.”

If you’ve watched The Wire, you already know why I would struggle.

On one side of the story, you have the drug dealers. I’ll give The Wire credit here; it doesn’t try and make many of these characters sympathetic. They do sometimes, and they succeed or fail to greater or lesser extents with them (i.e. D’Angelo doesn’t win my sympathy, but Wallace kind of does). The show doesn’t really try to make excuses for these people; certainly not the people in charge. For that, I appreciate the writing. The whole, “only life I know” angle which often gets played out in these scenarios doesn’t resonate with me (you could probably analyze the reasons for that ad naseum), and luckily The Wire mostly avoids it.

On the other side of the story, you have the police. This is where my trouble starts. I immediately need/want these characters to be heroic, to some extent. After all, they’re police, right? The Wire makes it very clear from the start though, that none of these police are clean. They’ve all got something in the closet. This makes it very hard for me to become invested in any of them; it makes me struggle to keep watching the show as I don’t feel any reason to hope that they succeed.  I’m happy I didn’t give up on the series though, because over the course of the season I was admittedly very impressed with the arc that each police officer has the chance to go through.  Frankly, the unit as a whole goes through pretty much the same plot arc that a comic which creates a new super hero team goes through.  Getting the team together, the internal conflict, the understanding-of-each-other phase through to the you-make-me-better-by-being-around phase.  This, luckily, kept me interested, even as I was on-and-off disgusted with the actions that the officers sometimes took.

I can’t pretend that The Wire doesn’t simply remind me why I often tend towards fantasy/sci-fi fiction.  These genres don’t as often delve into the gray areas of the world; there is good and there is evil.  It’s usually pretty obvious what is good, and what is evil.  When I’m looking for entertainment from fiction, I don’t always enjoy being reminded who gray most of the world really is.  I know how rare the black and white decisions are, that’s why it’s nice to be able to escape to places where heroes are free to be heroic.

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One Response to “The Wire: Season 1”

  1. MFJ says:

    The Wire is a show you watch not to empathize with the characters as much as to yell at them. It’s one of those “I can’t believe they just did that” kind of shows. Also, the seasons get better as you go along with season 4 being both the best and most depressing.

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