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Customer Review

1,951 of 2,003 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't forget why people avoid "The Wire", December 23, 2008
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On the basis of previous reviews, you'd never know that this series was on the verge of being canceled at least twice, that it never made satisfactory numbers for HBO, or that it was almost universally ignored by award committees despite its fervid following.

There's a number of things for the faint-hearted or first time viewers to know about The Wire before you jump in:

1. There is no denouement, no simple, clear resolution at the end of every episode ala CSI, NCIS, or any other typical police drama. On the contrary, The Wire is the epitome of the "slow build", it takes episodes to get started, much less finished. As in life, there are rarely any easy, clear resolutions at the end. Unlike the black and white worlds of network tv, The Wire is all gray.

2. There is not a simple, single story line. Rather The Wire is characterized by complex, multiple story arcs that can extend over more than one season. It demands (and rewards) concentration, rather than escape. Redemption and revenge are possible, but not in one episode or one season. The Wire requires patience.

3. There are no clear cut heroes and villains (this is the anti-"Heroes" tv show.) There are only human beings, all flawed. McNulty, a hero, is an alcoholic who cheats on his wife. Even Marlowe, the apparently soulless villain, grapples with very human issues of loyalty and pride.

4. Though there are great, fully realized characters (almost too many for escapist viewers to follow), and though to some degree Baltimore, the city, is a central character, the abiding presences in The Wire are Baltimore's institutions and organizations: courts, city government, educational system, labor unions, police, newspapers. Even gangs are seen as just another organization. Unlike any other show I've ever seen, The Wire demonstrates how institutions are built from a complex web of relationships and motivations and seem to have an existence independent of those who participate in them. And it does so in such a subtle way that it's not automatically obvious. It doesn't appear to be about institutions, but it is. That's subtlety.

That's only a start. There's more that makes The Wire a challenge for viewers: it's non-linearity (it's more like a spiral), it's bleak view of cities and urban institutions; the seeming randomness of so many events that impact lives, etc., etc., etc.

All that said, The Wire, for those willing to make the investment of time and attention, is a transcendent, moving experience. However downbeat it's subject matter, it is, in the end, a true work of art, a masterwork, and as such ultimately enobling and uplifting. And just a thrill to watch.
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Tracked by 13 customers

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Showing 31-40 of 81 posts in this discussion
Posted on Mar 20, 2011 6:40:20 PM PDT
E. Calantoni says:
True dat.

Posted on Apr 6, 2011 7:53:44 AM PDT
C. Seavey says:
Thank you, sir. You've managed to capture exactly what makes The Wire so fantastic and why the LCD should stay away.

Posted on May 19, 2011 5:25:59 PM PDT
B. Squadroni says:
Kudos on an excellent review. I started watching the show on Netflix (not sure how amazon feels about that...) and I was in from the very first episode. It's very refreshing to find a crime drama where you are actually invested in the fate of characters. The only thing I am not liking is waiting for discs in the mail to get my fix.

Posted on May 24, 2011 7:03:08 PM PDT
K A Wilson says:
Yep! that pretty much sums it up

Posted on Aug 16, 2011 9:24:40 PM PDT
This review truly is great. It IS a "slow burn" but very good.

Posted on Aug 24, 2011 4:26:07 AM PDT
This review is so good that I can't see the point in writing my own. You said it all. And yes, The Wire is a work of art -- as complete an experience as a great book -- beautiful and moving, worth the work and the time.

Posted on Aug 24, 2011 6:56:59 PM PDT
Robert Amor says:
Man! really great review ! the wire is a epic show

Posted on Aug 24, 2011 10:39:44 PM PDT
BabyNurse16 says:
Barry, You have written the absolute best review of an absolutely wonderful series--I could not add anything further to enhance it!!!!!!! I think David Simon a genius and I think your review of his work equal genius! Actually, I have to wonder if you are a professional either as an English teacher or for a newspaper or something similar. I WISH I had written it!!! Thank you.

Posted on Sep 20, 2011 11:17:25 PM PDT
Awesome review, and yes it is a very slow arc, but it usually does pay off at the end of the season. The writers didnt know if they were going to get an additional season, so they had to wrap it up just in case.

And yea, there are some heroes. Lestor Freamon, the supersmart under used cop that used to work on pawn shop cases finally gets to show his police skills. Gus Haynes, the honest reporter that is frustrated with his paper's politics. Bubs the bum has a nice character arc.

And really, they try to make Omar Little seem like some sort of super hero or robin hood. And they seem to try to do something similar for the other gunmen Brother Mouzone. Ah well, fun characters anyways.

Anyways, good review, i may have to pick this up again, a pity i missed out on the gold box sale.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 20, 2011 11:46:36 PM PDT
TX reader says:
The Wire is a guilty pleasure--
I should just buy it or ask for it for Christmas--
it is one reason I keep my Netflix dual membership because this is not available on-line...and likely won't for many more years...
too profitable to go on-line...

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Top Reviewer Ranking: 54,955