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Author Topic: Sam Watches The Wire  (Read 9999 times)

roujin

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Re: Re: Review the Last TV Episode/Season/Series You Watched
« Reply #20 on: December 12, 2013, 04:00:28 PM »
WHERE'S WALLACE, STRING?

Sam the Cinema Snob

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Re: Re: Review the Last TV Episode/Season/Series You Watched
« Reply #21 on: December 12, 2013, 04:02:18 PM »
 :'(

Antares

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Re: Re: Review the Last TV Episode/Season/Series You Watched
« Reply #22 on: December 12, 2013, 04:28:06 PM »
I'm really interested to hear your take on Season 2 (a season I didn't really appreciate until the second time through).

In the first few episodes, I thought it was a sophomore slump, especially the Ziggy character. But when the Greeks became more involved, I found it to be a really great arc line.

I consider the second season the third best of the five, just ahead of season three, with season 5 taking up the rear.
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Sam the Cinema Snob

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Re: Sam Watches The Wire
« Reply #23 on: December 13, 2013, 10:37:04 AM »
Season 1

ďItís all in the game.Ē The last line of season 1 might be the most important one. The Wire is a show about a lot of details, a lot of procedures, and a lot of rules. While the cop side of the show draws upon the real-world rules that must be followed in the American criminal justice system, there are the rules of the street that must be followed as well. While the cops follow explicit rules, many rules of the street are implicit. You know them because youíve grown up in the game.

And yet, thereís much more to the game than the rules. Youíre not just playing the board according to the rules, youíre playing the players, sometimes that means playing against your own team. Thereís an entire game of politics going on within the department involving rank, possible promotions, who has dirt on whom, and how far one is willing to go to push someone.

All of this means is that you can only get so far playing by the rules. More than once the cops have to break the rules, play dirty and outright cheat in order to get what they need. It brings up the ethical question of do the ends justify the means. Police brutality, false statements, and unauthorized invasion of privacy are just a few of the unjust acts officers commit in order to try to bring Avon to justice. And yet, The Wire presents this idea as more of an implicit theme. Itís not something the characters are self-aware about because theyíre used to it, this is the game they play.

The rules are still important. The Wire dedicates a lot of time to getting into the gritty details of casework, including presenting a lot of the tedious, unglamourous casework that is often a brief scene in most crime shows. Scenes like where Lester talks about the complexity of chasing the money trail or watching as the titular wire slowly picks up calls lack the glamor of the typical crime show, but The Wire always finds a way to make them fascinating.

The writing is another major aspect of the craft of the show. Thereís a lot of talking in any given episode and for something so immaculately written, it never comes off as showy or manufactured. Part of it comes from the lingo, which you have to pick up on your own as the show develops. Another factor is the stellar performances of the cast. Some of it is that intangible pacing which makes each exchange enthralling. In the moment, youíre probably not aware of it, and itís hard to talk about how it works as well as it does, itís one of the most intangible traits of great writing. A meter that draws in the audience.

Another aspect of the show that remains consistently impressive is how events build off one another. As Lester says, ďall the pieces matter.Ē The tiniest player in the game can make a big difference Bubbles becomes a key component of giving the investigation that groundwork it needs. But itís often little events, tiny things that you figure arenít that important which end up coming back. There are few unimportant moments in the show. Every piece is building to something, it just sometimes takes a while to get there.

Therefore, itís an unconventionally paced show. Each episode doesnít necessarily end on a satisfying conclusion or with a hook to reel the audience into watching next week. The early episodes lay the foundation for the big moments. In this way, the format of The Wire as a show emulates the real-word nature of casework. Thereís a lot of time spent doing things that arenít that thrilling, but they lead to those big moments.

And when we get to those big moments, they donít play out how we expect. Crime dramas often find a way to make violence, or the threat of violence, exciting. In The Wire, the sense of excitement is almost always undercut. A lot of times, it remains offscreen. Weíre often left dealing with the aftermath of the violence as the cops try to piece together what happened. Itís still engaging, but thereís never any catharsis or release from the violence. Itís not made to be as exciting, attention grabbing or thrilling as most crime dramas.

Even the culmination of all the work, when they finally arrest Avon, isnít an epic moment. Daniels and McNulty walk into the club where Avon and Stringer are waiting. The scene plays out with only a single line. We donít get an epic shootout or a big chase scene where they finally nab their man. Avon knows heís cornered, but he also knows to say anything or to run will only make things worse.

All of this is to say that The Wire is a lot smarter than most TV. People often designate certain kinds of stories as smarter than others but The Wire is one of those rare cases where just about everything else in comparison looks dumb, gaudy and childish. Itís a scholar among shows, itís done the research, put in the work, and produced something that isnít interested in mass appeal, but is a much richer and edifying experience than the typical crime drama.
« Last Edit: January 31, 2014, 08:51:22 AM by Sam the Cinema Snob »

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Re: Sam Watches The Wire
« Reply #24 on: December 13, 2013, 11:10:26 AM »
Confession Time. I haven't gone past Season 2. I got busy in the middle of S2 and never picked it back up. Now I feel I should start from the beginning (which is fine because S1 was great.) You're reviews are building like a guidebook of post-watch thoughts that can only be enjoyed if I finally rectify this situation. Was planning on getting back into Doctor Who in the Spring, but now I'm leaning towards completing The Wire.

Sam the Cinema Snob

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Re: Sam Watches The Wire
« Reply #25 on: December 13, 2013, 11:14:19 AM »
I vote for THE WIRE, but DOCTOR WHO is pretty much dead to me at this point.

Sam the Cinema Snob

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Re: Sam Watches The Wire
« Reply #26 on: December 18, 2013, 05:18:55 PM »
First off, whatever moderator moved all the posts over into this thread, many thanks! You're awesome.  ;)

2.1 Ebb Tide

Itís interesting to see where everyone ends up this season. We got to see some of it in the last season, McNulty is working on a police boat and Lester is in homicide. Now we discover that Daniels ends up getting buried in evidence and Kima still works narcotics, but as a pencil pusher after her close scrape from last season. I also like seeing Prez and that he wants to step up and do some real casework. I liked the arc of his character in the last season and Iím hoping he gets more screentime this season.

We also catch up with some of the boys from The Pit as they go down to Philly to get some drugs. Bodie (J.D. Williams) is one of those characters that seemed to just be there for most of season one, but he has potential for growth. He plays tough even though you can tell part of him is just a scared kid. The sequence where heís listening to A Prairie Home Companion is a hilarious juxtaposition of cultures.

The Wire expands its horizons on crime by dropping us into a completely different culture of crime. Down at the docks, Frank (Chris Bauer) works as one of the foremen for shipping and he seems to be tangled up in some sort of operation. His son, Ziggy (James Ransone), is this crazy, bug-eyed kid who desperately wants to get into the world of crime, but is too talkative and overeager. This whole world has a different feel to it so Iím not sure what to make of it yet. Part of me expected the show to keep on trucking with the drug crimes, so Iím not sure what to make of this drastic shift in setting.

A few little things that stand out this episode. I love seeing Amy Ryan joining the show as Beadie, a police officer down at the docks. Also, youíve got to love how McNulty is still able to screw with his boss by sticking them with a homicide theyíre trying to offload to another county. Finally, the ending is such a tease and I think shows that this season is going to be a whole different ballgame. This is a really disorienting episode for a season opener. Iím left with so many questions and feel a bit adrift, but Iíll see how things pan out in the next few episodes and hopefully this one will stick better in hindsight.

2.2 Collateral Damage

After Beadie stumbled on 13 bodies in one of the cargo crates, the question becomes who gets the bodies? The sequence where the cops talk through where the bodies should end up is another great example of how the real-world American criminal system informs the content of the show in a way that is both informative and entertaining. Thereís also something a little sick about how unwanted and disconcerted everyone is about offloading the case to someone else.

Already, Frank ends up getting in trouble with the police, but over something that isnít criminal. Major Valchek (Al Brown) wants to burn the dock boys over a stain glass window in a church. He starts having his officers harass Frank and his men with petty charges and thereís a great confrontation between Valchek and Frank where Frank tells him off for not being mature enough to come to him first and talk it over. Itís a moment where the show demonstrates that criminals in some ways might be more respectable human beings than some of the cops.

Valchek decides that something is up with Frank and has his son in law, Prez, head up a case to investigate. Itís crazy to see how something so personal and petty can spur on a criminal case. Still, Iím glad to see theyíre setting Roland up to be a bigger player in this season. It seems his crew is made up of new faces. Part of me wants the old team to get back together, but I think The Wire wants to take the harder road and I can respect that.

Speaking of the old team, McNulty decides to help Beadie with the case. I could see the two of them being a good duo, heís the jaded veteran with a chip on his shoulder and sheís still wet behind the ears and a bit shocked by what sheís discovered. Once again, McNulty is trying to stick it to his old boss again, this time itís for 13 murders. Weíre still playing a game, but this game feels a lot more morbid than the one last season.


don s.

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Re: Sam Watches The Wire
« Reply #27 on: December 19, 2013, 09:17:05 PM »
This whole world has a different feel to it so Iím not sure what to make of it yet. Part of me expected the show to keep on trucking with the drug crimes, so Iím not sure what to make of this drastic shift in setting.

The audacity of this is what turned me from a mere admirer into an eager fan who couldn't wait to see where the show went next.
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Sam the Cinema Snob

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Re: Sam Watches The Wire
« Reply #28 on: December 20, 2013, 10:11:01 PM »
2.3 Hot Shots

The opening scene of this episode is probably one of the funniest scenes of the show. Itís a gag that is set up in the previous episode, so youíre not going to get it if you havenít seen the last episode. Once again, this is a sign that The Wire is playing the long game. Also, the pacing is just right with the editing to make it all work. But what sells it is Bunk and Lester trash-talking and mocking the interviewees. I wonder if that bit was improv or written. I imagine written, given how constructed the show is. Regardless, itís a great bit of acting.

Another great moment in this episode is when McNulty shows up to tell Brick and Lester about the murders theyíve been stuck with. Before he can get a word in, they proceed to dress him down and walk through everything heís going to tell them. Itís on the verge of being a bit too self-aware, but done in just the right way with enough bitter sarcasm that you see it coming from the characters instead of being the creators acknowledging McNulty as a fictional character.

Omar is back in town. Weíve known this since the end of season one, but we havenít heard of him since. Iím glad the show isnít making him a regular character every episode. Getting bits and pieces of his story here and there means weíre not getting too much of a good thing. Itís interesting to see how heís running his new racket and Iím wondering how heíll factor into the changing drug scene.

Frankís cousin, Nick (Pablo Schreiber), seems like heís going to fill the role of D to a certain extent. Unlike D, his story feels a bit too stereotypical. Heís down on his luck, low on cash, and finding living a life on the straight and narrow isnít getting him anywhere. On the one hand, it gives the show a way to explore crime as something motivated by a desire for good: he wants to get a home for his girl and their child, but on the other hand, itís a story weíve seen countless times and so far this take on the story doesnít feel unique enough to be justified.

Three episodes in, and weíre still learning about how much the game has changed. Frank is spending resources and time lobbying to get what he wants to get more jobs for the docks. Heís go to play politicians, make some subtle donations to those on the fence, to get the votes he needs. We see an old familiar face in the political scene, so some of the players are the same even if this is a whole different ballgame.

Iím intrigued by human trafficking being the instigating crime of this season. While most people know about the prevalence of drug activity, human trafficking is in the top 3 of global crime industries, but doesnít get nearly as much depiction in the media. Iím glad The Wire at least brings some social awareness that this is something that happens in America, but I hope it might get at the scope of it more.

2.4 Hard Cases

In the last episode, Valchek found out his crew isnít doing anything so he decides to give Daniels the detail. And Daniels decides he wants a lot of familiar faces with a chance of making this detail long-term. With Valchek pulling so much weight, it looks like heís getting a shot. So wait, the crew is getting back together? Donít get me wrong, Iím glad, but it takes 20% of the season to get there? I get that The Wire is playing the long game, but this might be taking things a bit too slow.

Iím digging Beadieís character. A lot of the characters in this show either fall into the weathered, jaded group or the young, eager yuppies. Beadie exists in the middle. Sheís new to the game, but sheís been around the block with life so sheís not a kid, but sheís also not as emotionally deadened to the horrors she witnesses on the job.

Itís funny to see how dated technology is in this episode. The show isnít that old, this season came out ten years ago, but weíve made a lot of strides since then. Digital cameras are a revolutionary idea that people are still trying to understand. Also, the original X-Box is a new thing and itís so funny to see Avon playing it on a portable DVD player. I wonder how much will the datedness impact peopleís appreciation of the show going forward. I still remember this technology, but I imagine the next generation will find some of this stuff baffling.

Speaking of Avon, heís set up a sweet way to beat this prison term. He sets up a bad batch of cocaine to be smuggled into the prison and then promises the warden to finger the guy who did it in order to shave some months off his first parole hearing. Avon tries to get D in on his scam, but D wants no part of it. Itís interesting to see how Avon is using the justice system against itself, using the rules to get ahead of the game.

As good as that stuff is, we still have to deal with Nick and Ziggy. The more we get into this story, the more I wonder why Nick puts up with Ziggy. I get that theyíre cousins, but Nick gets that Ziggy is going to get them into trouble and yet he keeps him along. I think the story needs Ziggy to have something Nick needs. A connection in the docks or maybe Ziggy is getting the cash from his old man that Nick needs. As it stands, I think Nick realizes he needs to cut Ziggy loose, but I donít know what heís waiting for.

Thereís a wonderful dinner sequence in this episode. Both Kima and Daniels have to tell her and his respective significant other about the detail. Without a word of dialogue, we get the setup of a beautiful candle-lit dinner where itís clear the news didnít go well. The pacing of the action and the intercutting between the two scenes is done just tight enough to give it a good flow, but with enough space between each moment for the repetition to not feel too tight. Itís one of the best sequences of the season so far.

Melvil

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Re: Sam Watches The Wire
« Reply #29 on: December 21, 2013, 12:11:53 AM »
The "getting the team back together" aspect of the second season is one of the most traditional things the show does, I think. It's part of the reason Season 2 seems so out of place amongst the rest of the show which generally progresses far more organically without the need for such obvious structuring.

Regarding the technology, although it may date the show on the surface I think it utilizes the technology in a fairly timeless way. Just like so many older thrillers/noirs/procedurals, the plots would significantly change if they were updated with modern technology but can still be appreciated taken on their own terms. The Wire makes great use of being set during a transitional time, and makes use of the level of technology so thoroughly and consistently that I don't think it will matter too much how things change for us now.

 

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