[Photo from Variety blog]
I was going to space this out and do two posts about the rest of season 1, except I couldn’t control my Wire consumption and stayed up way too late watching episode after episode in a row. Typical. On to the observations – I even took notes this time so I’m not just pulling random thoughts out of my hazy impressions. Oh, the things I do for you, internet. And need I say, spoilers ahead?
Eps. 5-8 – the “middle” period
The middle period can be seen as the time when action really picks up. They clone their first pager (D’Angelo’s), and people we’ve seen and stuck with from the first few episodes die. Some of the key players later on the show made their debut during this time. A quick look at my notes for episode 7 (“One Arrest”): “Clay Davis makes an appearance! Sheeeeeiiiiiittttt!” and “Walon? I didn’t know he appeared so early on.”
We also see Clay Davis’s dirty deeds for the first time as his driver Damien Price is caught with $20,000 of drug money, which is returned without question. This incident also makes Daniels flip to the “dark side” (aka cease being Burrell’s lap dog) as he begins to see how corrupt the system is.
In fact, the “middle period” of season one is when we see the characters evolve from the beginning; Prez solves his first beeper code in episode 5 and discovers he’s good at the paperwork stuff; Wallace’s sensitive side is revealed as he struggles with the death of Omar’s boyfriend and succumbs to drugs, standing out from his hardened peers; Omar’s truly daring and caring nature come to light as he distributes drugs to those in need (kind of like a mobile safe injection site) and shoots Stinkum dead to avenge his partner’s death. D’Angelo is also starting to see the ugly side of his business, as he ends up at a disgusting party with everybody high on drugs, and cannot seem to enjoy himself in the least.
Other random observations: Daniels has incredibly long arms (which he dangles in a weird bent state when he walks), and Dominic West really needs to work on his American accent – gotta roll them Rs more, McNulty! Otherwise you sound like you were educated in a fancy English boarding school.
Eps. 9-13 – the “late” period
Lots of stuff happens in the “late period” of season 1, yet very little actually gets accomplished. There’s a promise of Barksdale being within reach of the police – Wallace flips and links Stringer to the murder, and D’Angelo almost flips and gives them the whole establishment in hopes of getting a fresh start, until he’s guilt-tripped by his mother about “family” (aka she wants to keep her nice house). But the main catalyst here is Kima getting shot, of course. The whole sequence right after her shooting is pretty heartbreaking, and watching how her team reacts to the shooting was intense (Daniels shouting repeatedly for medic, Carver with his hands on his head and on his knees, McNulty trying desperately to perform CPR on her).
There’s also the mini-arc of Bubbles trying to get clean for a few days, and relapsing. This happens for a few reasons; he tries to do it alone without help, and his main source of help (Kima) gets shot and the messenger she sends after her shooting (McNulty) is too self-involved and experiencing trauma himself to help Bubbles. It also seems that his wish to get clean came from external motivations (wanting approval perhaps, from the NA meeting he attends with his friend) as opposed to internal motivations, which will happen later in a more tragic way.
I really felt for D’Angelo and his moral dilemmas throughout this season. His case was an example of how family can bring you down – it also reminded me of The Fighter, which I recently saw on my plane ride to Vancouver. Except in The Fighter, Mickey Ward gets a second chance to get away from his destructive family influences, and D’Angelo rots in prison. Is there a racial factor there, or am I reading too much into it?
Another surprising confession: Herc is kind of…likable? You can definitely see his jerkiness and self-aggrandizing attitude budding, but he’s the goofball that can get the team a few laughs this season. That being said, he and Carver do steal some of the drug money they seize at the season finale, though they manage to resist the temptation the first time mid-season.I also completely forgot that Carver was the rat that ruined the team’s chances of going big on the Barksdale case, by giving away the location of the main stash house to Burrell.
Oh, and: Proposition Joe enters the picture, and we learn about the east vs. west rivalry for the first time.
The casual racism and homophobia of the police world also stood out a lot – the nameless police commissioner who thought Daniels wasn’t the lietenant, but the white detective with him was (and refused to speak to Kima’s partner, making Burrell do it instead), and the awkward cover-up of Daniels saying “Kima’s…..roommate,” when Carver referred to Kima’s partner as “Kima’s girl,” and Burrell asked: “Detective Greggs has a daughter?”
Season 1 establishes the message that the system is rigged (on both the “good” and the “bad” side) so that we will never get to the “bottom” of it all, because its inefficiency and corruption hold it up; the system reinforces itself through performativity (be it “sending a message” by dropping bodies, or seizing tons and tons of drugs and posing with them).
All in all, re-watching the season after watching 2 seasons of Treme, as well as “The Corner” (which inspired The Wire) was a pretty educational experience. For one, I’ve noticed how Dickensian Simon gets in this show compared to “The Corner,” which seemed more journalistic (especially in its format of a faceless journalist asking questions, then the characters answering questions directly to the camera). He took out the documentary style and flashbacks to make a more “realistic” – in a fictional sense – and expansive series. And I’m pretty stoked to revisit season 2 because I’ve forgotten a lot of details about the docks, too.