» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]


 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum

February 22, 2008
To proclaim anything to be the best of its kind, in any capacity, is doing that thing a certain degree of disservice. Statements like "it was the funniest thing EVER," or "that was the worst meal EVER," provide a gross overstatement that serves only to diminish the lasting power of the implication. Superlatives of this type imply that the thing can be directly compared on some level to other things around it, which in the case of The Wire is untrue. Now in its fifth and final season, the one-hour HBO drama series, which airs Sundays at 9pm, is not the best show ever - as many have heralded it - but rather a show deserving of an entirely new realm of analysis, dissection, and praise altogether.

The Wire is not a cop show. It's not a mystery show. It's not a crime show. It's not a reality show. It's not a soap opera. It is an all-encompassing life show. It is a knock-you-on-your-ass-with-the-sheer-magnitude-of-its-scope-and-social-relevance show. Sure, there are cops, mysteries, crimes, true-to-life scenarios, and a litany of intertwining personal lives, but those elements are merely vehicles for the show to deliver insight into the world of a failing and neglected socio-political ecosystem. At no point does anyone "crack the case" or "bust the villains." Nothing in life is ever that cut-and-dry, and nothing on The Wire betrays that fact. Instead, David Simon, Ed Burns, and the rest of the writing staff run their plot lines through the complex web of machinations - legal and illegal, public and private - that dictate how life in a major metropolitan city operates. The show's stories do not hit highs and lows with love and loss, but rather with dawning realizations of exactly how complex and difficult it is to provide practical solutions to impossible questions, and what it is to make a difference in a place as afflicted with question marks as Baltimore, Maryland.

Each of The Wire's seasons is loosely centered around a theme that is explored through the various levels of the system in Baltimore; the Federal Government, the Mayor's Office, the City Council, the City Police Department, the Port Authority, Taxpaying Baltimore Citizens, the School System, Drug Lords, Street Thugs, and the Homeless all unfold through the show's lens. What the show so deftly manipulates are the ways in which each level is affected by each of the others. No decision is made that doesn't result in consequences for some or all of the other levels, good or bad. Each of these connections is explored without exploiting the real world counterparts on whom these characters are based. It would have been easy to turn this into "Gangs of Baltimore," or "The Warriorz: The Show," without addressing any of the important issues or causing any sort of lasting impact. Instead, rather than simply grazing on the headlines of the day like so many Law & Orders, the seasons of The Wire dive headfirst - and in season-length depth and detail - into the drug war, the battle between unions and big business, state politics, a disastrous school system, and the misrepresentation of all of these issues by the media. At the same time, The Wire does not exist to criticize, name call, or finger point. Creator David Simon, a 13-years veteran at The Baltimore Sun, set out with the explicit intent of getting the viewer involved by thinking along with the problems. The series was created and run by Simon and a sort of media militia populated by people who love the city of Baltimore and want to fix its myriad problems, however daunting a task that may be. The ideas presented within each of The Wire's five seasons, while sometimes farfetched, are intended to stimulate conversation and instigate change, not just in Baltimore, but also in cities across the entire world. The issues facing Maryland's decayed metropolis are universal.

Okay, so if all that genre-evading and philosophizing sounds completely boring, The Wire can also be described as a high-tension, slow-burning series supersaturated with some of the most badass and awesome characters ever presented in an entertainment medium of any kind. Come for Brother Mouzone, the scholarly bow-tie wearing assassin from New York, and stay for Chris and Snoop, drug lord Marlo Stanfield's nitro-glycerin-blooded right hand man and woman. Not to mention the shotgun concealing, homosexual thug Omar Little, the most complex and likeable mass murderer imaginable (that is a deserving superlative). As boisterously adjective-laden as they are, none of those descriptions do the characters any justice, and no one on The Wire can be understood with simple title delineations. Every single person on the show mutates and changes over time, which allows them to stay interesting and relevant for years, but in a perfectly natural and uncontrived manner. Once-beloved characters could easily be chided for their actions by the end of subsequent seasons, and vice versa. It's a difficult thing to build sympathy for fallen street-level cocaine dealers, but the pens behind The Wire accomplish just that. Although played by actors, the show's characters are so visceral that they might as well exist in the real world. In at least one instance - the actress Felicia "Snoop" Pearson, who was sentenced to prison at age 14 for murder and now plays herself on the show - they do. At the very least, the fictional lives in The Wire echo the real lives of a large percentage of the world's population, and bring a bit of understanding to the remainder.

SEE ALSO: www.hbo.com/thewire
SEE ALSO: www.nationalbohemian.com
SEE ALSO: mikeshea.wordpress.com

Mike Shea
A staff artist for LAS magazine, Mike Shea is bringing comics all up in the ish from his home in Brooklyn, New York. You can visit his blog at www.mikeshearules.com.

See other articles by Mike Shea.



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