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Author Topic: Sam Watches The Wire  (Read 10000 times)

Sam the Cinema Snob

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Re: Re: Review the Last TV Episode/Season/Series You Watched
« Reply #10 on: December 10, 2013, 08:28:25 AM »
Yea, the episode. Keep catching myself doing this as I write.

Alan Smithee

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Re: Re: Review the Last TV Episode/Season/Series You Watched
« Reply #11 on: December 10, 2013, 08:29:36 AM »
Yea, the episode. Keep catching myself doing this as I write.

Ha, no worries.

Sam the Cinema Snob

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Re: Re: Review the Last TV Episode/Season/Series You Watched
« Reply #12 on: December 11, 2013, 09:45:56 AM »
The Wire

1.9 Game Day

Can people change? The show has sprinkled hints so far: Bubbles at the NA meeting and Wallace dropping work now lead to a new turn in both of the characters this episode. Bubbles seems to start realizing how bad his life is, Iím not sure heís seen that bottom yet, but after a close call and a bad swipe, he realizes he wants to get clean. Meanwhile, D and Wallace talk and Wallace says heís thinking about going back to school. But Wallace is also starting to snort coke. Does he really want to change? Can any of them change?

Iím not crazy about the basketball game in this episode. I get that itís supposed to show another dimension of this world, but I feel like we already get to see these kinds of things in other ways and the basketball game feels a bit out of place. I get that it shows how the East and West sides can come together, but how it doesnít actually do much beyond spurn competition. It feels a bit too on the nose for the show.

Once again, the devil is in the details. Thereís a great scene where Lester walks through how they have to go about tracing the properties Avon owns. Itís interesting seeing how they piece it together and demonstrates the real-world grunt work that has to happen for this kind of case. Iíve heard people talk about this show as educational as well as entertaining and I think scenes like this do a good job at demonstrating how the show informs audiences about the American criminal justice system.

This show hasnít been one for cliffhanger endings. Unlike other shows, The Wire never feels like it has to hold its audience hostage and usually ends in a way thatís open, but not abrupt. In this episode, that changes a bit. Omarís been gunning for Avon and the two get into a close scrape. Instead of being a big shootout, it seems to blow over fast and weíre left hanging. The showmakers even know this as the final image of the episode is a dangling phone. Itís a great ending, but I hope this type of ending doesnít become a habit because Iím digging the laid back endings more.

1.10 The Cost

This episode got me thinking about narrative structure. Part of what separates The Wire as a show is not only the detail and complexity of the narrative, but the way the show structures and presents that narrative. For instance, in this episode. Wallace is brought in for questioning. Instead of showing the the moment where the cops get him, The Wire shows us the scene where McNulty stations two cops outside the house and then the next bit of information we get is a scene where McNulty is asleep outside the interrogation room where Wallace is in.

Thereís a lot of information the show doesnít give us, but it assumes the audience can fill in the blanks, infer everything that happens inbetween the two moments. Doing this requires trust in the audience and the faith that theyíll be able to piece it together. It might seem like a little thing to most people, but the reason I often find crime dramas so tedious is theyíre peppered with scenes that fill out information the audience can figure out on their own.

Continuing with the idea of what the show leaves offscreen, the last sequence of this show basically keeps the audience in suspense by leaving Kima undercover offscreen after a shooting goes down. Instead, weíre in the perspective of all the cops trying to figure out where she is. The result is a much more intense sequence where the powerlessness of the moment is felt. In another show, this would be an intense action scene, but The Wire once again goes for an artful approach.

Once again, Iím not crazy about how this episode leaves us hanging. It doesnít feel right for this show. I realized that the main reason is the ending of other episodes feel like theyíre ending on notes that are more about characters and themes while endings like these are almost purely plot hooks for the next episode. Theyíre still fantastic, but they feel a bit too consumeristic. Tune in next week and see the fate of Kima!

1.11 The Hunt

I love the opening chapter of this episode. Youíve got the lingering disorientation of the last episode and you start seeing how everyone reacts, who can keep their cool and who breaks under the overwhelming surge of emotions. McNulty is shell shocked, the young guys are pissed. Lester is quick to see the opportunity of the situation. Bunk (Wendell Pierce) and Jay (Delaney Williams) go hunting like hound-dogs. As they pick up clues, we get to see them piece together what happened bit by bit and to see the meticulous search at work is a great bit of detective work.

With emotions high, thinking begins to get skewed, even among the weathered cops. They want an immediate response, they want to get even, they want to send a message, let those criminals know that you donít mess with cops. It sounds vaguely familiar to the street logic of Avon whenever he gets crossed. When the cops finally take a hit from the game, theyíre ready to get down and respond in kind. The result is a raid ordered out of anger that threatens to sink the case and is extremely short-sighted.

We also get a bit more about the Judge. Heís been able to help in moments of crisis, but in the process heís crossed some people and has to lay off in order to get himself back on the ballot. In the end, the bigger game of politics begins to rear its ugly head more and more as the case seems to be building to the point of breaking wide open.

This episode and the last one have been a bit heavy on the cop side of the story. I get that as they crack down, the criminals begin to clam up and thereís less of a story to tell there, but Iíd have liked to see a bit more of that world. We do get the criminals reacting to realizing theyíve hit a cop, which leads to some crazy stuff going down, but I think it was a bit underdeveloped.

Melvil

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Re: Re: Review the Last TV Episode/Season/Series You Watched
« Reply #13 on: December 11, 2013, 08:14:13 PM »
Good stuff, Sam! The only response that I'd like to make is that in regards to the more "cliffhanger-y" episodes, they're still done in a style that is in keeping with the tone and style of the storytelling. I don't see them as being cliffhangers for the sake of making people want to keep watching, but as logical structural breaks so that they can spend the next episode properly exploring the aftermath of these events.


Sam the Cinema Snob

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Re: Re: Review the Last TV Episode/Season/Series You Watched
« Reply #14 on: December 11, 2013, 08:49:34 PM »
Yea, I think I overstated those because they are still in the style of the show, I just really dig the more ambivalent, low-note endings because most TV shows don't do them.

Melvil

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Re: Re: Review the Last TV Episode/Season/Series You Watched
« Reply #15 on: December 12, 2013, 12:35:47 AM »
Yeah, I've always loved how most (all?) of the episodes end on a very low-key shot, like the dangling phone that you mentioned. I can't think of a time where there's anything like a gun being pointed at someone that cuts to black.

Alan Smithee

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Re: Re: Review the Last TV Episode/Season/Series You Watched
« Reply #16 on: December 12, 2013, 11:03:46 AM »
The Wire

1.9 Game Day

Can people change? The show has sprinkled hints so far: Bubbles at the NA meeting and Wallace dropping work now lead to a new turn in both of the characters this episode. Bubbles seems to start realizing how bad his life is, Iím not sure heís seen that bottom yet, but after a close call and a bad swipe, he realizes he wants to get clean. Meanwhile, D and Wallace talk and Wallace says heís thinking about going back to school. But Wallace is also starting to snort coke. Does he really want to change? Can any of them change?

Iím not crazy about the basketball game in this episode. I get that itís supposed to show another dimension of this world, but I feel like we already get to see these kinds of things in other ways and the basketball game feels a bit out of place. I get that it shows how the East and West sides can come together, but how it doesnít actually do much beyond spurn competition. It feels a bit too on the nose for the show.

Once again, the devil is in the details. Thereís a great scene where Lester walks through how they have to go about tracing the properties Avon owns. Itís interesting seeing how they piece it together and demonstrates the real-world grunt work that has to happen for this kind of case. Iíve heard people talk about this show as educational as well as entertaining and I think scenes like this do a good job at demonstrating how the show informs audiences about the American criminal justice system.

This show hasnít been one for cliffhanger endings. Unlike other shows, The Wire never feels like it has to hold its audience hostage and usually ends in a way thatís open, but not abrupt. In this episode, that changes a bit. Omarís been gunning for Avon and the two get into a close scrape. Instead of being a big shootout, it seems to blow over fast and weíre left hanging. The showmakers even know this as the final image of the episode is a dangling phone. Itís a great ending, but I hope this type of ending doesnít become a habit because Iím digging the laid back endings more.

1.10 The Cost

This episode got me thinking about narrative structure. Part of what separates The Wire as a show is not only the detail and complexity of the narrative, but the way the show structures and presents that narrative. For instance, in this episode. Wallace is brought in for questioning. Instead of showing the the moment where the cops get him, The Wire shows us the scene where McNulty stations two cops outside the house and then the next bit of information we get is a scene where McNulty is asleep outside the interrogation room where Wallace is in.

Thereís a lot of information the show doesnít give us, but it assumes the audience can fill in the blanks, infer everything that happens inbetween the two moments. Doing this requires trust in the audience and the faith that theyíll be able to piece it together. It might seem like a little thing to most people, but the reason I often find crime dramas so tedious is theyíre peppered with scenes that fill out information the audience can figure out on their own.

Continuing with the idea of what the show leaves offscreen, the last sequence of this show basically keeps the audience in suspense by leaving Kima undercover offscreen after a shooting goes down. Instead, weíre in the perspective of all the cops trying to figure out where she is. The result is a much more intense sequence where the powerlessness of the moment is felt. In another show, this would be an intense action scene, but The Wire once again goes for an artful approach.

Once again, Iím not crazy about how this episode leaves us hanging. It doesnít feel right for this show. I realized that the main reason is the ending of other episodes feel like theyíre ending on notes that are more about characters and themes while endings like these are almost purely plot hooks for the next episode. Theyíre still fantastic, but they feel a bit too consumeristic. Tune in next week and see the fate of Kima!

1.11 The Hunt

I love the opening chapter of this episode. Youíve got the lingering disorientation of the last episode and you start seeing how everyone reacts, who can keep their cool and who breaks under the overwhelming surge of emotions. McNulty is shell shocked, the young guys are pissed. Lester is quick to see the opportunity of the situation. Bunk (Wendell Pierce) and Jay (Delaney Williams) go hunting like hound-dogs. As they pick up clues, we get to see them piece together what happened bit by bit and to see the meticulous search at work is a great bit of detective work.

With emotions high, thinking begins to get skewed, even among the weathered cops. They want an immediate response, they want to get even, they want to send a message, let those criminals know that you donít mess with cops. It sounds vaguely familiar to the street logic of Avon whenever he gets crossed. When the cops finally take a hit from the game, theyíre ready to get down and respond in kind. The result is a raid ordered out of anger that threatens to sink the case and is extremely short-sighted.

We also get a bit more about the Judge. Heís been able to help in moments of crisis, but in the process heís crossed some people and has to lay off in order to get himself back on the ballot. In the end, the bigger game of politics begins to rear its ugly head more and more as the case seems to be building to the point of breaking wide open.

This episode and the last one have been a bit heavy on the cop side of the story. I get that as they crack down, the criminals begin to clam up and thereís less of a story to tell there, but Iíd have liked to see a bit more of that world. We do get the criminals reacting to realizing theyíve hit a cop, which leads to some crazy stuff going down, but I think it was a bit underdeveloped.


The sequence when Kima gets shot is one of the most felt scenes of the whole series. I  also love the way they portrayed the Avon and Omar shoot out, with the fear wrote all over everyone's face.

Sam the Cinema Snob

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Re: Re: Review the Last TV Episode/Season/Series You Watched
« Reply #17 on: December 12, 2013, 01:55:51 PM »
The Wire

1.12 Cleaning Up

Avon and the boys are packing house and it looks like the case is falling apart before the detectiveís eyes. The pay phones go dead and the crew switches over to cell phones to setup face-to-face meets for all conversations. The game has changed, the pieces are all the same, but the board is completely different.

And speaking of game changers, turns out Lesterís a player. Once again, I think The Wire does a good job of leaving a lot of things implied for the viewer to infer. Itís been clear that Lesterís affections for Shardene (Wendy Grantham), one of the women who works at Orlandoís gentlemenís club, are a little more than fatherly. Instead of playing up that story, it runs in the background and you can glean what is going on in scenes that are directly related to the case and itís more about how they behave in those scenes that tells the story.

The team starts chasing political contribution monies, which once again shifts the game. All of a sudden, big political figures start getting defensive, claiming they arenít guilting of things they havenít been accused of doing. Itís clear thereís something bigger at work and I think this is a great tease for where the show could go from here. Itís crazy to see a politician refusing campaign contribution money.

Back on the streets, Wallace returns home. The scene where D and Wallace talk suggests that this is where Wallace is supposed to be. D encourages him to commit. Heís either in the game for life, or out of it. We also have Dís mom, Brianna Barksdale (Michael Hyatt), drive by and give him some food. Itís a scene that doesnít seem too important, but it comes into play in a major way in the next episode.

And then Wallace has to be done. So far, The Wire hasnít been gut-wrenching, but this episode sure goes for the jugular. The situation itself, the killing of a kid, is brutal enough, but the fact itís his close friends and the way the scene builds to the moment and then finally displays the act is heavy stuff. But the moment that might even be worse is when D confronts Stringer about the murder. ďWhereís the boy, String?Ē

While the game on the streets is bloody and brutal, the cops are playing their own game that might prove even more vicious. Daniels and Burrell (Frankie Faison) finally have it out. Instead of a game of brute force, they play a game of blackmail. Who has the most dirt, which one is willing to make it dirty? Itís a game thatís sinister, filled with fronts, deceit and lies. At least on the streets a gun to the head is brutally honest.

The episode caps off after a series of major arrests. Several of the detectives mull over the cork boards, looking at all the arrests, but the more of the web they snatch, the bigger the conspiracy gets. One mulls that it should be enough that they got Avon and his crew, but it isnít. Seeing how it all comes together, the game is too big. This could have been the last scene of the season, it feels like a great way to close things off while keeping them open, but The Wire is a different kind of show and marches to the beat of its own drum.

1.13 Sentencing

After seeing cops play dirty so long to get what they need, cutting corners and busting heads, this episode opens with a reminder that there are some straight-shooters. Kima wakes up and when asked to ID the two shooters, she plays it straight. She gives them the one she saw, but wonít give them the other one because she isnít sure, even if it will end up making it easier to convict him when he ends up in court.

After Avon gets out on bail, he has a chat with Bell and his lawyer about how they have to play the courts. Itís fascinating to see how they plan to take the hits they can take, play it so as not to rise suspicion and funnel moneys in such a way to bail their boys without incriminating themselves. The last episode felt like checkmate, but an arrest is far from convicting a man for his crimes and seeing him to justice. Once again, The Wire proves its interest in being a drama as much about the system and the game as the story it wants to tell. Theyíre deeply intertwined.

After finding out about Wallace, D decides to testify against Avon and his crew. The whole sequence is astounding. Itís mostly D monologuing, but the way the writing is paced, Lawrence Gillard Jr.ís delivery and the dark lighting makes it an amazingly simple, but effective scene. We find out the real events of the girl murdered in the kitchen that D bragged about doing. And we hear D lament about how this is the world he lives in, its what he does, itís a generational cycle.

The idea of the generational cycle is the major theme of this episode. On the streets we see the boys left to run The Pit imparting the lessons D gave them about how to run sells safe and smart. We hear Herc (Domenika Lombardozzi) lecture the new recruits about how cases arenít made busting heads, but by using your head. In some ways, there is hope that the wisdom of elders will move down. But the systems are still the same, will the system ever change? Will the game ever change?

Dís momma, Brianna, steps up in this episode, and whoa, sheís got a bit to her. Iím hoping this is a tease of something we can expect seeing going forward in the next season. First, we have the great scene where Brianna has to talk down Avon from stepping back into the game too soon, then we get the scene where she talks to D in prison. She plays the stereotypical ďfamilyĒ card, but does it with strong conviction.

While everyone else seems ready to wrap up the case, the team wants to keep it going, give it some legs. They decide to try to take it federal. The FBI seems the obvious starting point, especially with McNultyís friend in the bureau, but they quickly learn that this is a different game. Avon is little fish to the FBI. They want big, public targets, political corruption that they can take down, not men like Avon. Of course, Avon is the one on the streets setting up all the bad things that happen, but heíd be a pawn in the federal game. Thereís a wider world out there and I guess weíll have to see if the show takes that next step.

The season ends with one last tease. I knew it was coming. Omar was just too well-realized of a character to not return. They know theyíve got something special, I just hope they donít try to overuse him going forward, but I would like to see more of the man. He sticks up a man, asks for all heís got and says what could sum up a lot of this season: ďItís all in the game.Ē


Quick question that just occurred to me as I look to the absurd length of this post: Should I make my thoughts on THE WIRE it's own thread? I kinda feel like I'm hogging this space a bit. Or maybe I should just move it over to our existing thread on the show, but I'm kinda worried about seeing spoilers if I poke around in there.

Thoughts?

Antares

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Re: Re: Review the Last TV Episode/Season/Series You Watched
« Reply #18 on: December 12, 2013, 01:56:31 PM »
The Wire

The other day I noticed that Amazon had dropped the prices of all 5 seasons on DVD, but I talked myself out of getting it at this time, because I just bought the first four seasons of Breaking Bad. But after reading your reviews of the first season, I changed my mind. I realized how much I love this series. And you're right, Lester turns out to be one of the better characters on the show, down the road. He gets one of the best lines of dialog in the whole series...

Speaking to McNulty... A life, Jimmy, you know what that is? It's the shit that happens while you're waiting for moments that never come. One of the best lines I've ever heard, be it television or film.

Good job on the reviews. I envy you, you're going through the next 4 seasons virgin, the best is yet to come.
Masterpiece (100-91) | Classic (90-80) | Entertaining (79-69) | Mediocre (68-58) | Cinemuck (57-21) | Crap (20-0)

Melvil

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Re: Re: Review the Last TV Episode/Season/Series You Watched
« Reply #19 on: December 12, 2013, 03:08:58 PM »
Awesome reviews, Sam! You're definitely making me want to go through the series again myself. I'm really interested to hear your take on Season 2 (a season I didn't really appreciate until the second time through).

Doesn't really matter to me where you post the reviews, but you should definitely be wary of the main The Wire thread in case you spot anything you wouldn't want to know.