The Wire 4:1 and 4:2

Bring on season 4. I think this might be my favorite season. It’s definitely the one that stood out to me the most in hindsight. Some great characters and as always a great storyline, but let’s get right into the review to talk about the episodes.

Episode 4:1

I don’t believe it. The first episode of a season, and it’s actually a really good one? Maybe I’m biased in this case, since it’s a season I remember pretty well, and so I already know and love the characters, but even considering that, I believe this is the strongest first episode of any Wire season so far.

Sure, you’ve got some random things going on. The conversation between Snoop and the home improvement guy is hard to follow, and it seems more than a little bizarre, but that’s cleared up by the end of the episode, so you at least have some idea what’s going on. The cops are wondering why there are no bodies, and we now know the reason. Snoop and Partlow are nailing them into the condemned housing projects.

There’s some deep meaning to be found there, if you think about it even a little. How the decay of the city helps cover up additional evils.

But beyond that, you’ve got some other great plots getting set up. Prez is back! And he’s a teacher, which is pretty cool in my book. I love how they set up the parallel between his current job and his old job, cutting back and forth between the two training sessions, and showing how little interest both groups have in what they’re hearing. (And how little relevancy the mandatory training has for them.) Two sides of public service, both bogged down by the same hoops that don’t actually appear to help at all. (It’s the result when something sounds good on paper but then is enacted for the sole purpose of getting it done. A cargo cult that ends up helping no one.)

McNulty is carefree and loving life, and it’s so nice to see him like this, even if it means we don’t see him as a main character at the moment. He has figured out what makes him happy, and he’s content to stick with it, even when Daniels begs him to step up, in an amusing turn of events.

Lester and the Major Crimes Unit have a new boss, and he’s not exactly keeping an eye on them, which gives Lester just the opening he’s been dying to have all this time to finally bring some pressure on the big wigs in the city. (I love that this plot, which was introduced in season one and then went nowhere, is brought back at last. One of the many reasons the show is so good. Everything’s in there for a reason.)

Carcetti, meanwhile, has realized what a futile endeavor this campaign is, and he’s mainly running through things just to say he did at this point. The scene with him sitting in his office wishing he were doing anything other than making phone calls for fundraising is great. All the fire and hope he had for his career advancement in the last season has pretty  much evaporated at this point, and it’s interesting to see how quickly things can go from promising to hopeless.

And then you have the highlight in my opinion: the boys. The kids who are too young to really be involved in the Game just yet, and are still innocent for the most part. Namond (the one with the hair), Randy (the one with the candy), Michael (the muscle), and Dukie (the poor one). Each one of them comes from a different background, and each one has different strengths and weaknesses. More importantly, each one is at a crossroads year in their lives. How do people go from being children to being full fledged players in the Game? This season will show the arc.

4/5 on this episode for me. Great stuff for a first episode, like I said.

Episode 4:2

Another solid episode that builds on the successes of the first episode. Looking at these two together, I think what the show did really well is connect things from this season back to threads from last season or even earlier. Last season we had Carcetti arguing about the witness shootings, and he was told what to do and why, and how it might come to help in the future. And then here we have the payoff at last. Because of the amount of time that went between the setup and the payoff, it really feels earned in a way most shows can’t pull off. Usually, a big debate reveal would feel a little deus ex machina at least, but here it’s a cool connection. Bravo.

Carcetti really is a tough character to read, and I think that’s why I like him (or try to, at least.) Because sure, you have him cheat on his wife and weasel his political way through life, but then you have him playing Battleship with his daughter. He’s put into a situation that seems hopeless, but he keeps plodding along, and now and then you see that he really does seem to care. He’s a lesson in contrasts, which is great. Not all good, not all bad. Just a regular person with highs and lows.

And how cool was it to see Wee-bay back, and to find out that he’s Namond’s dad? This is the first instance I can remember that the show depicts the Game softening instead of just getting harder. Namond is so unlike his father. He has no real drive to excel in the Game. He just wants to go out and have fun, and hopefully not get roughed up in the process. Compared to pops, he’s a powder puff. But stranger still, both his dad and his mom are really pushing him to take up the family business. They don’t view the drug trade as bad. It’s what pays the bills, even if it landed Wee-bay in prison. Go figure.

Seeing the subpoenas delivered was fun, and Clay Davis remains the easiest person to loathe but enjoy watching. He makes me want to wash my hands every time I see him and he opens his mouth. Funny to see that he’s paralleled with Namond, though. Both are willing to take a free handout and say as much in the course of the episode. When Namond took it, it didn’t necessarily seem too bad. He wasn’t committing to do anything for it. But when Davis does it, we see it for what it really is; buying influence. Dangerous stuff, bribes . . .

Bubs’ last protege might have met an untimely end, but that doesn’t mean he’s giving up, and here he is once more, trying to school a new kid. Except this time, he seems to be doing his best to keep the kid from falling into drugs and misery. His exchanged expression with Prez at school was awesome, and it’s nice to see Bubs back and doing his best, even if he never managed to kick the habit. He’s a good person. despite his flaws, in the same way that Davis is an evil person, despite his apparent shine.

And Valcheck is back, being a weasel against the mayor in two ways. He’s the one who informs Carcetti about Royce’s weak spot, and he’s the one Herc goes to for advice on how to deal with Royce’s . . . indiscretions. The man is greasy, but he knows how to play the game of politics, which is why his post as major makes more sense. Sad but true.

Really, this season is all about school and youth, and how best to handle those youths. You have different teachers: Bubs, Prez, Cutty, Bodie. You have different curricula: the Game, normal school. small business, politics. Everyone seems to be learning something or teaching something. It brings to mind Snoop’s opening scene with the home improvement guy, doesn’t it?

Anyway. I’m out of time for now. Another 4/5 for me on this one. Great stuff. Looking forward to next week!

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