January 7, 2008

Season Five, Episode One

“Americans are by in large stupid people. We pretty much believe whatever we’re told.” So goes a line from the opening scene in season five of The Wire. I will be posting here every Monday in the hopes that this is true. If you aren’t already watching this show, you need to be. You can go to your local video store and rent the first season today and I promise you will be hooked by 9 O’clock tonight. With any luck, you will have finished the first four seasons by the time this final season gets pulled from HBO on demand.

Something that is also true of Americans is that we often don’t enjoy being told what to like. I am firmly entrenched in this camp, especially when it comes to music and television. My friend Mike has been telling me to watch The Wire for years now and the only reason I eventually did was due to boredem. I had already watched every episode of Entourage on demand and needed something to kill time while waiting for Annie to wake up from a nap. Now here I am trying to push you into watching when I’ve only been a fan for three months. So I can see how you may not be ready to take this one on. But you should know that one day down the road you will watch this show and you will love it. Too bad that when this happens you won’t have anyone to talk to about it.

The first episode of season five, as is typical of The Wire, gives us a taste of some old story lines and then takes us in a completely new direction. Like the four previous seasons David Simon thrusts us into something new, just when we were comfortable with the old. On the surface, this sounds cruel, but it keeps the show interesting and the viewer on their toes. Every great show becomes stagnate eventually, because the creators pander to what advertisers and executives have deemed is the show’s base. This doesn’t happen with The Wire, both because it airs on HBO and because its creators don’t seem to care what you think.

Okay, that’s enough of the crap that you would normally read in a professional review of a TV show. Hopefully it will be that last of this that I foist on you. Now we can get down to the meat of these Monday morning sessions. There are a few staples that I have planned. First, I’d like to go through some of the nuances that make the show great. Second, I want to have a segment called “Omar’s Wisdom.” I’ve discussed this before, but here is a refresher. Omar is the baddest man on an incredibly bad show. He makes a living sticking up the drug dealers in Baltimore without thought to how many people they may have killed. He also is comfortable giving information to the police about the people he just stole from. There are two great kickers to this: One, everyone knows who he is and what he does, and two, he’s gay and everyone knows that too. It is evident when watching the show that being a snitch and being gay are the two worst things a man can be when working the drug trade in Baltimore, and yet nobody gets to Omar. He is without question the man.

The third recurring theme that I have planned (as of now) is the McNulty watch. Let’s start there. My boy is back off the wagon and in one hour he has successfully stumbled around drunk in two scenes, cheated on his wife, and cursed the people he works with. Fortunately, in the upside down world of Jimmy McNulty, this makes him a better police. You can see it in his eyes. It’s embarrassing, but I get chills just thinking about the next nine hours of him taking it to Marlo (the current most powerful drug dealer in the city.)

There was only one subtlety that I picked up last night that really cracked me up. In a scene where Michael, an up and coming drug dealer, is playing Connect Four with his little brother, there is a crappy cliché of a forensic cop drama on the TV in the background. Perfect.

As for Omar's wisdom. Like I said, bad dude, and full of great takes on society as a whole. He often kills without hesitation, yet time and again he is the most principled, sensitive (in his own way,) and astute observer around. That being said, he didn’t appear in episode one and that leaves me with nothing. So standing in for him today is Norman, one of Mayor Carcetti’s confidants. In a scene where they are discussing the merits of accepting state money to bail the city out of its deficit, he tells the mayor that without the money he is “Just a weak ass mayor of a broke ass city.” Succint and poetic. A strong fill in.

Okay, there will be one more feature that is more housekeeping than anything else. At the beginning of every episode we are shown a quote that either sums up the feel of the ensuing drama or is just too good not to highlight. Every night, my wife and I compete to guess who will be the deliverer of the quote. So far, over the course of 51 episodes I am up two to one. Sad I know, but when you try it you will see how difficult it can be.

Last night’s quote was from Bunk Moreland, a staple in this game. “The bigger the lie, the more they believe.” This winds up being in reference to some interesting interrogation practices that the detectives use involving an office copier standing in for a polygraph machine. We were out of practice last night and so excited to be watching in HD for the first time that we forgot to guess. My lead is safe for now. I just need to keep distracting my wife with popcorn at the beginning of each episode and my success is assured.


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