The Wire 1:9 and 1:10

Man. Now we’re really getting into the thick of things on the show, at least as far as the first season is concerned. Lots to discuss this week, so let’s dive right in.

Episode 1:9

Bubbs is an awesome character. He’s someone we like. Someone real. He’s one of the most likable characters on the show. Maybe *the* most. He has a good heart. He cares about other people.

He just happens to be a junkie.

So when we have Walon talking about “hitting bottom” and how that’s usually something that doesn’t happen until druggies get older, it’s easy to see Bubbs thoughts as he hears it. And when Bubbs almost dies in an effort to get drugs that don’t even turn out to be drugs?

We can understand why he suddenly really wants to get clean. We sympathize with him. Root for him. And the only real thing standing in the way of Bubbs and a cleaner life is . . . Bubbs. There’s no red tape for him to deal with. No evil henchmen who he has to answer to or provide for. There’s just Bubbs and his addiction. But unfortunately for Bubbs, those addictions can be much worse than red tape.

It’s hard to have any real hope for Bubbs. And yet we have it anyway.

Meanwhile, other ares of the plot continue to unfold. I love the sequence where Lester describes the efforts the cops need to go through in order to trace the money of the case, even as I remember how that ended up the last time the team tried it. Money connects to unexpected people. People in power. Daniels clearly doesn’t want to go there. He’s seen what his higher ups think of that and how they respond.

Lester doesn’t care. He finally has a chance to start doing what he’s always dreamed of doing, and so he goes after it with a dogged determinedness. Prez is all too happy to go along, just excited that anyone has anything resembling a compliment for him.

Omar, meanwhile, continues to show just how good he is at playing this game. The only thing that can get in his way is bad luck. If Wee-Bay hadn’t come back when he did, Avon would be nothing more than a corpse leaking blood. But Wee-Bay did. Even Omar can’t plan for everything.

I really enjoyed this episode. Plot advancement across the board. Interesting things happening everywhere you look. Characters developed. Television operating on all cylinders. You get pampered, watching TV like this. Compare it to some of the other shows out there. Shows with plenty of padding and fluff.

9/10 for me. Great stuff.

Episode 1:10

Wow. I’m kind of wishing that somehow things had worked out for this not to have been the second episode I watched this week. It feels like an awfully long time to be stuck with this cliffhanger. Then again, this is really an excellent example of how well this show is working by this stage of the game.

Then again, as I think about it, I’m hard pressed to know exactly why this is. The “cop in danger” storyline is far from new, and the specifics of how this plays out aren’t groundbreaking in any way. True, we know Kima, and we like her a lot by this point. She seems much more vulnerable in her “cute girl” get up. Much less like Kima. But even so, what’s different in The Wire that made me have a sick feeling in my stomach as this all played out, despite the fact that I knew at this point what was going to happen in advance?

I think the biggest thing is how this show treats reality. It does its best to show us things as they really are, warts and all. How frustrating is it to see the Wire division start to make real progress in their efforts, only to be continually shot down by higher ups who don’t want to try anything too risky. Who want this all done and shuttered, so they can go back to the way things are. Why can’t it be different? (There will be answers to that in the seasons to come. Though they’re not spelled out for us, typically.)

In this episode, Omar does a very non-television thing: he leaves town. In your typical series, the Omar/Avon plotline would end with one of them getting killed. With the violence escalating week after week until there’s a dramatic showdown and climax. In this? He hops on a bus, because he knows full well that Avon’s people want him dead, and he doesn’t want to die. A character making a decision in his own best interest? That doesn’t feel very Hollywood to me.

Wallace is brought out to the country to live with his aunt, because the police don’t have the budget or desire to put a teen up for six months, even if that teen is a key witness in their case against the Barksdales. On your normal detective show, they’d have the money. They’d protect Wallace, and then Avon would figure out a way to try to kill him anyway. In this show? They send him off to his aunt with a pat on his head and some discussion about crickets.

So it’s because the show is so firmly rooted in reality, in normal decisions, that Kima’s peril is so real. (It also helps that she’s Bubb’s big chance at getting clean and staying clean. She can’t die now. What will Bubbs do?) The whole operation is a mess to begin with. It’s too hard to have this go down without a hitch. It would require our drug dealers to be stupid, and they’re anything but.

Because Avon and Stringer are such good villains (so smart, so cunning), the show is able to break out of its stereotypes and become something much more. Though let me reiterate: The Wire is so much more than a cops and robbers show. It’s not Law and Order, even if at this stage of the game you still think it is. There’s been nothing to make us believe otherwise.

Just wait.

Anyway. This is a fantastic episode of television. It gets a 10/10 from me. What have you thought?

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