The Wire 2:1 and 2:2

And just like that, we’re into Season Two. This is a season that was pretty important for how I viewed the show, since it took it from the level of a simple cops & robbers drama and into something much deeper. The transition wasn’t an easy one for me, however. I’ll be interested to see how it is the second time through it. Let’s jump right in.

Episode 2:1

My first time through, I really disliked this episode, plain and simple. I’d been watching enough of these shows to know what I was entitled to get out of the second season: the Barksdale crew got away lightly last time, and so the team would be reassembled, and they’d get another go at bringing them down. McNulty would get off the boat, Daniels would get out of the basement, and they’d suit up, and good would conquer evil.

Silly, Bryce.

Instead, I turn on the show and get stuck with . . . boats? Shipping containers? What is this garbage?

I was less than amused, which is interesting, since the beginning of the first season was also fairly bewildering, but I was much more okay with that. I think the big difference is that I had a point of reference in the first season: it was a police procedural.

When’s the last tv show you watched that was all about unions? And why in the world would you want to watch it?

You thankfully find out by the end of this season, but it took a bit of pain to get there. I remember being frustrated that I was forced to spend time with idiots like Valchek and Ziggy. And what in the world was up with the stupid stained glass window?

Now that I’m watching the show through the second time, it’s easier to navigate all these things. Knowing where it all ends up, this episode wasn’t as jarring, and I had an easier time with it. (Though I still dislike Ziggy and Valchek. And I really miss Bubbs.) But even then, it’s a hard episode to get through, mainly because there’s so little in the way of actual good news. We see all the people from the first season, and almost all of them aren’t happy with where they are.

Nobody won at all.

Of course, McNulty can still be relied on to find ways to get back at people he’s mad at. Watching him spend hours so he can stick Rawls with an unsolved murder was amusing. (More on that in my response to the next episode.) In other words, characters are still being who they were. They’re just not happy about it.

And we have all these new people to worry about. Why? The short answer is that this show is all about presenting the entirety of Baltimore and what’s gone wrong with it. (And by showing what’s wrong with Baltimore, that can be extended to what’s wrong with America.) The drug crews, the police, and the lawyers are only part of the problem. They’re connected to it (which is why we still see them in this season), but they’re just a few of the symptoms.

So have patience with the show. Stick with it, and it’ll start making more sense soon.

Still, this first episode was a whole lot of setup and not a lot of oomph. 7/10 from me.

Episode 2:2

Okay. Things get a bit better here, though I still remember being upset when I was watching it. This episode confirmed that the first episode hadn’t been a fluke. We were stuck with these strange union guys for the long haul. And for the bulk of the episode, we’re still very much in setup mode. (Right up until the bloody end, when things get deadly serious very quickly.)

It’s interesting how both sides of this investigation (the murder investigations and the investigations into the union) start out of pettiness. McNulty takes his “stick Rawls where it hurts” mentality to a whole new level, and Valchek shows just how petty he can get. (Seriously. Having his officers waste time writing tickets is one thing. Starting an entire investigation, using up six people to try and get even. What a jerk. It’s fitting (and telling) that Rawls assigned him the drunk cop from season one. Clearly Rawls hasn’t changed his MO at all.)

There are good people in the city. Beadie (the new harbor cop) clearly cares about her job, but many of the people are good as a byproduct of other things they’re trying to get done. McNulty, for example, is good at detective work almost in spite of himself. He really wants to mess up Rawls, but he just can’t help being effective at the same time. (Then again, he’s also shown that his main motivation to be effective is to be able to prove to other people later on how smart he is. See, for example, the way he holds back on some observations about the first dead body he found, just so he could whip them out and make other people look dumb. Petty.)

Like last season, the episode is helped by having smart villains. The Greek (who turns out to be the old guy, not the younger one) is very business-like in his approach to crime. The casual way he orders the boat guy killed is on the same level as how Avon would have done it, but there’s something much more . . . brutal about having it done with knives instead of guns. And the torture at the beginning of it . . . Avon’s people tortured Omar’s boyfriend last season, but we didn’t see it, and it was done by his underlings. Avon didn’t like getting his hands dirty

The Greek doesn’t care about that. And he’s not using the body to send a message. He wants the body unidentifiable. Nothing that can lead back to him. The Greek makes Avon seem much more civilized.

And isn’t it ironic that the murder investigation this time is solved (for us) before the police can even really start? The Greek finds out who killed the girls, and he kills him. End of story. But the police don’t know that (and killing other people isn’t exactly kosher anyway), so the entire plot continues to unfold.

Meanwhile, the union workers are in just as bad a position as the drug gang was back in season one. It’s just a different flavor. They used to have jobs. They used to have hope. But they’re watching those jobs and that hope drift out to sea, and they’re left with trying to figure out the age old question: “What now?”

Frank has turned to making money by assisting smugglers, and the show quickly points out just how bad this can be. Drugs, prostitutes, weapons. Bombs? Make no mistake, Frank might be doing this with good intentions (saving his union), but it’s a very bad thing he’s enabling. 14 dead bodies is lightweight compared to what might happen. (And interesting to see that while Frank is really upset by the bodies, Nick isn’t. Maybe because Nick has so much less hope for his future?)

Anyway. I’m out of time now. This episode was an 8/10 for me. Still slow moving, but that finale was brutal, and things are getting into gear.

What have you been thinking so far?

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