The Wire 1.6-1.8

1.6 The Wire

The opening sequence of this episode begins with a great crane shot that transitions into the house Wallace (Michael B. Jordan) lives in. It’s a great sequence because it sets up a couple of things. It gives us a good ground level look at the lives of these kids outside of the drug world. It also demonstrates how close to home the violence is. Right outside his window, Wallace could see the aftermath of his actions from the last episode.

This scene also further demonstrates how much the show avoids sensationalizing violence. This is a violent world and a dangerous place, but so far it keeps a lot of the details of those actions off screen. Here, we see the body of Omar’s boy stretched out over the hood of a car. We can imagine what happened to him, but the show doesn’t even show him being tortured, let alone kidnapped.

Another great bit of camerawork is a scene where the cops are monitoring who is at the payphone. The camera is above as it gazes down at D but then as the scene transitions it cuts down to ground level as the show moves back to D’s story. It’s a great use of perspective to show the effortless way the show looks at both sides of the criminal world instead of taking one perspective over another. It’s a holistic, multifaceted depiction.

And switching over to the cops, we get another great bit of politickin as the crew tries to fight to keep the case alive. McNulty’s strong work on the murder cases comes back to bite him when his superior decides he wants to charge D for murder. Everyone knows it’s a purely bureaucratic move. There’s not enough material to convict D for murder, but if they can get him to court, they’ve cleared the case and it ups the percentage of cases cleared.

1.7 One Arrest

One thing that often irks me about TV shows is how often they introduce characters that seem interesting, but ultimately end up playing a thankless role. Therefore, I’m delighted that this opening scene reinforces the evolution of Prez’s (Jim True-Frost) character. He started off as a loose cannon and he’s been benched for a while. However, he’s found his niche in the group as their code-cracker. I’m glad to see a character that started off really annoying is now finding his place in the crew instead of being a thankless plot device.

The show also brings back the kid Prez pistol-whipped back in the second episode, which is how Prez got benched to begin with. It’s another example of how little details have more long-term repercussions. I think this is one of the distinguishing features of the show so far. The attention to detail in the structure of the narrative and the repercussion of actions is a good head above just about any other TV show.

However, as an overall episode, I have a bit of a quibble with this episode. Most other episodes build around certain movements. Here, the episode seems to be grabbing bits and pieces of stories from almost every character in the show and the result is that this feels like an episode where not much happens. Once again, I’m giving this episode the benefit of the doubt because I think it’s building more towards the long game, but it’s the first episode of this show where I didn’t feel like there was development and growth.

1.8 Lessons

McNulty is one of those characters that you know is going to go to crazy lengths to get the job done, but sometimes he crosses a line. Having his kids tale Stringer Bell in the opening scene of this episode is just astounding. I love how chill the scene plays. It could intensify the scene with editing or maybe some smart sound design. Instead, it plays it straight, which makes it possibly more unsettling.

Once again, this show casually brings up little details that fall into the back of your mind. A senator’s aid from the big political party Daniels attended in the previous episode ends up getting pulled over with drug money. It’s here the show begins to bridge the two worlds. Follow the drugs, you’re on the streets, follow the money, and you’ve no idea how high up you’re going to go. Daniels superior ends up pulling rank and telling him to let the guy walk. All they want is Avon, they don’t want it to hurt their own people.

It’s curious to see Stringer Bell learning economics. While it certainly could be him trying to learn how to better move product, he also seems passionate about running legitimate businesses. Is he planning on getting out and going straight? I like seeing this other side of criminals, that there’s more to their wants desire and dreams than just making money, that it’s not necessarily what they want to do. It might seem like an obvious point, but I think a lot of crime dramas can easily overlook this truth.

We get our first scene of gun violence in the show. So far, the show has avoided glamorizing violence and that proves to be the case here. Some interesting framing and quick editing gives the scene a strong sense of disorientation. The act of violence is played slowly to briefly punctuate its messiness. Furthermore, the scene puts the audience in the perspective of the victims instead of the aggressor, placing the audience in a place of disempowerment when they experience the violence.

© 2013 James Blake Ewing