The Wire: The Complete Series
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After one episode of The Wire you'll be hooked. After three, you'll be astonished by the precision of its storytelling. After viewing all 13 episodes of the HBO series' remarkable first season, you'll be cheering a bona-fide American masterpiece. Series creator David Simon was a veteran crime reporter from The Baltimore Sun who cowrote the book that inspired TV's Homicide, and cowriter Ed Burns was a Baltimore cop, lending impeccable street-cred to an inner-city Baltimore saga (and companion piece to The Corner) that Simon aptly describes as "a visual novel" and "a treatise on institutions and individuals" as opposed to a conventional good-vs.-evil police procedural. Owing a creative debt to the novels of Richard Price (especially Clockers), the series opens as maverick Detective Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West, in a star-making role) is tapping into a vast network of drugs and death around southwest Baltimore's deteriorating housing projects. With a mandate to get results ASAP, a haphazard team is assembled to join McNulty's increasingly complex investigation, built upon countless hours of electronic surveillance.
The show's split-perspective plotting is so richly layered, so breathtakingly authentic and based on finely drawn characters brought to life by a perfect ensemble cast, that it defies concise description. Simon, Burns, and their cowriters control every intricate aspect of the unfolding epic; directors are top-drawer (including Clark Johnson, helmer of The Shield's finest episodes), but they are servants to the story, resulting in a TV series like no other: unpredictable, complicated, and demanding the viewer's rapt attention, The Wire is "an angry show" (in Simon's words) that refuses to comfort with easy answers to deep-rooted societal problems. Moral gray zones proliferate in a universe where ruthless killers have a logical code, and where the cops are just as ambiguous as their targets. That ambiguity extends to the ending as well; season 1 leaves several issues unresolved, leaving you begging for the even more impressive developments that await in season 2. --Jeff Shannon
The Wire: The Complete Second Season
It hardly seems possible, but The Wire's second season is even better than the first. The "visual novel" concept of this masterful HBO series is taken even further in a rich, labyrinthine plot revolving around the longshoremen of Baltimore's struggling cargo docks, where corruption, smuggling, and murder draw the attention of detective McNulty (Dominic West). What follows is a series of events which at first seem unrelated (including 13 bodies found in a cargo container), and then the ongoing effort to topple the drug empire of "Stringer" Bell (Idris Elba) and the imprisoned Avon Barksdale (Wood Harris), whose business is suffering from short supply, high demand, and disruption of distribution. The dutiful diligence of a Marine Police Patrol Officer and the moral outrage of the longshoremen's union leader are also factored into the suspicious goings-on at the loading docks, and what unfolds in these 12 episodes is an American crime epic easily on par with the Godfather saga. Yes, it's that good.
Detailed synopsis is pointless; The Wire must be seen, heard, and absorbed to fully appreciate the way in which over 40 characters are flawlessly incorporated into a sprawling but tightly disciplined plot that deals, in the larger sense, with the deindustrialization of America and the struggle of longshoremen in a changing economical climate. Offering a privileged and occasionally frightening glimpse of the inner workings of shipping ports and cargo transports, The Wire is also a detailed exposé of organized crime and blue-collar corruption, and an authentic, well-informed study of political maneuvering among police and city officials. There's not a single false note to be found in the cast, direction, or writing of this phenomenal series, hailed by many critics as "the best show on television." With all due respect to HBO's other excellent series, The Wire tops them all. --Jeff Shannon
The Wire: The Complete Third Season
With volatile issues of Baltimore city political reform as its narrative focus, the third season of The Wire superbly maintains the series' astonishingly consistent status as the greatest "novel for television" ever created. While the Baltimore police department's wire-tapping investigations continue to monitor the intricate and now legitimately fronted drug ring of Russell "Stringer" Bell (Idris Elba, smooth as ever), detective Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West) continues his loutish ways, navigating through a series of shallow sexual conquests while doing some of the best cop-work of his career. Stringer's ex-convict partner Avon Barksdale (Wood Harris) is back in the picture and bent on eliminating a drug-dealing competitor named Marlo (Jamie Hector), and Baltimore P.D. Major Howard "Bunny" Colvin (Robert Wisdom) tries his own defiantly independent brand of street justice by essentially legalizing drugs in "Hamsterdam," where isolated sections of the city are established as open drug-dealing zones, utterly without the knowledge or approval of Colvin's superiors. As city councilman Tommy Carcetti (Aiden Gillen) plots his own ruthlessly ambitious strategy for the mayor's seat, Baltimore officials, McNulty's wire unit, and the entire Baltimore P.D. stand poised for the inevitable fallout from street-level and executive-level manipulations of power.
Of course, this is just the tip of a very large iceberg, as The Wire continues its labyrinthine yet tightly controlled chronicle of over 50 characters, major and minor, who are all flawlessly woven into the fabric of these 12 remarkable episodes. For season 3, series creator David Simon continued to recruit a top-drawer lineup of reputable writers (including novelists Richard Price, Dennis Lehane, and George Pelecanos) and directors (including Ernest Dickerson, Tim Van Patten, and Agnieszka Holland), and by the time a major character is killed in the season's penultimate episode (arguably the series' finest yet), it's clear that The Wire has earned its crown as the most ambitious and intelligent crime drama in the history of American television. DVD extras are excellent, as usual, including five illuminating episode commentaries (an absolute must for devoted fans of the series), a Q&A session with cast & crew moderated by renowned TV critic and author Ken Tucker, and a classroom conversation with Simon that delves deeper into the creative process of the series. Having deservedly earned its renewal for a fourth season (out of a projected five, according to Simon), The Wire delivers surprises aplenty (keep a close watch for startling revelations) while proving, yet again, that cable-TV is the place to be for anyone seeking respite from the relative mediocrity of mainstream network programming. --Jeff Shannon
The Wire: The Complete Fourth Season
Even if you missed the first three seasons (the character guides and thorough episode recaps on HBO's website are recommended), and with only one season left, it's not too late to get in under The Wire. In fact, season 4 is an accessible introduction for those who know The Wire only by its street cred as arguably the very best show on television. For them especially, this season will be, as befitting its theme, a real education. Without resorting to melodramatics that other ratings-challenged series employ to gain that frustratingly elusive audience, The Wire shakes things up this season in a way that is true to the series and its characters. A major character, Dominic West's McNulty, plays a minor role as a contented street cop and family man, while a former supporting player, Jim True-Frost's Roland Pryzbylewski, goes to the head of the class as a new eighth grade teacher at beleaguered Edward Tilghman Middle School. It may take a couple of episodes to orient yourself to the Baltimore backrooms, squad rooms, classrooms, and street corners where The Wire's intense dramas play out, and new viewers may miss something in character nuance, but they will easily grasp the big picture. A politically motivated shake-up sends Major Crimes detectives Freamon (Clarke Peters) and Greggs (Sonja Sohn) to Homicide. The gloves come off in the mayoral race between black incumbent Clarence Royce (Glynn Turman) and idealistic white challenger Tommy Carcetti (Aidan Gillen). Gang leader Marlo (Jamie Hector) quietly and deliberately becomes the city's new drug kingpin, managing to subvert all surveillance efforts. Meanwhile, while "Prez" tries to reach his students, four highly at-risk kids will be drawn into the drug trade.
Mere synopsis does not do The Wire justice. The series deftly juggles its myriad storylines and characters, all of whom make an impression, from Marlo's cold-blooded enforcers, Snoop (Felicia Pearson) and Chris (Gbenga Akinnagbe), to boxing instructor "Cutty" (Chad L. Coleman), determined to keep his young charges off the corners. There is not a false note in the performances or the writing. Richard Price (Clockers) and Dennis Lehane (Mystic River) again contributed episodes. That this series has only been nominated for only one Emmy (for writing) is a travesty. As engrossing as the finest novels and in a class by itself, this isn't television; it's The Wire. --Donald Liebenson
The Wire: The Complete Fifth Season
A barroom toast to Det. Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West), a one-man good cop/bad cop, offered in The Wire's final episode could very well serve as this series' epitaph: "When you were good, you were the best we had." Season five bears witness to this. The 10 riveting, wrenching episodes focus on yet another beleaguered Baltimore institution, The Baltimore Sun daily newspaper, whose staff, much like the police, is forced to do more with less. One editor (Clark Johnson) struggles to maintain the paper's journalistic standards in the face of declining ad revenues, employee buyouts and bureau closures. An ambitious reporter (Tom McCarthy) undermines him by taking a page out of the Stephen Glass/Jayson Blair playbook, manufacturing sensational quotes, and eventually, whole stories, while bean-counter management encourages its rising star and keeps its eye on the (Pulitzer) prize. Meanwhile, on the streets, the year-long investigation of rising drug lord Marlo Sansfield (Jamie Hector) and the 22 bodies found in "the vacants" has been discontinued and police morale is at an all-time low (the money promised to the department has been diverted to the schools). McNulty manufactures a serial killer case that will have far-reaching repercussions in the mayor's office, where Tommy Carcetti (Aidan Gillen) is mounting a run for governor a mere two years into his term. "I wonder what it would be like to work at a real police station," McNulty rages at one point. The Wire, as ever, is all about real. It's a gritty and unflinching look at life in one of roughest districts of a "broke-ass city." There is street justice for some characters, and street injustice for others. Some meet sad, sudden, or shocking ends that defy TV convention. Referring to Marlo, McNulty declares early on, "He does not get to win; we get to win." The hard-earned victories are mostly small, or come with a price. Not that The Wire does not offer glimmers of hope. Bubbles (Andre Royo) struggles to maintain his sobriety (Steve Earle portrays the leader of his 12-step program and also does the theme song honors this season), and the final episode features a cameo by Jim True-Frost as the once overwhelmed teacher, "Prez," who now seems to have the hang of the job. The ratings-strapped and criminally Emmy-snubbed The Wire has always been a critic's darling with a passionate fan base. To the show's credit, it did not make itself more accessible in its final season (consequently, its send-off did not receive near the fanfare of The Sopranos or Sex and the City). That should not dissuade newcomers to the show. It is heavy lifting, and if you're just joining The Wire, a visit to the show's official website for orientation is recommended. But buy it, watch it, and be patient. It's so worth it. From the masterful storytelling to the peerless ensemble, it just doesn't get any better than The Wire. But that's not exactly news. --Donald Liebenson
Bonus features from all five seasons, including audio commentaries by cast and crew
Three prequels explore life before The Wire
Never-before-seen gag reel
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
These are a few examples of the incredibly diverse cast of characters and actors that make up The Wire. Just like the real world each of these characters (as opposed to caricatures) show signs of both virtue and vice, redemption and damnation. This realism is incredibly important and effective in conveying the reality of the post-industrial city and its devasting effects on people and institutions. Each season of The Wire focuses on different aspects of the city, following a different theme each season.
Season 1 effectively examines the danger of being an individual in an organization, using Detective McNulty and a drug dealer (D. Barksdale/Larry Gilliard Jr.) who both struggle against the reins of their respective employers. This issue develops against the thrilling backdrop of the drug war and an investigation into druglord Avon Barksdale (Wood Harris).
Season 2 shows the death of work in the post-industrial world, particularly the loss of blue collar jobs. This is shown through the port of Baltimore and its workers who start illegally importing items and dealing drugs to keep afloat.Read more ›
Doesn't this sound like perfection to you? Trust me, it is, in more ways than you can fathom.
THE WIRE is a show so meticulously crafted and executed that it would take me a dozen reviews to scratch the surface of what makes it great. After catching the very first episode on HBO, I immediately bought the 1st season. The rest, as they say, is history.
I'm so afraid to ruin anything that I don't even want to give away characters' names. To even let you go in expecting certain traits from a character would spoil the fun. So instead, I'm deliberately being vague about what occurs. If you've never heard about this series, you deserve go in cold.
But I'll give you a few details, starting with the very first scene. THE WIRE begins when a detective is questioning a young hoodlum who witnessed a murder. The detective asks why the guy and his friends allowed the victim to continue rolling dice, after he'd been known to snatch the money & run. The scene closes when the kid says, "Got to, man. This America."
Then the show begins its title sequence, in which The Blind Boys of Alabama's cover of "Way Down In The Hole" plays over a montage of seemingly random clips of police activity & urban life. But as you'll learn the more you see this title sequence (and song), this montage is actually filled with clues, both literal and metaphorical.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
great blu ray series, i watch this every chance i can, my sister loves it a lotPublished 17 days ago by Len cali
Great police movie about drugs and gangs in Baltimore. Great actors and wonderful plots. Also, traded this set back in to amazon for gift card credit. Love amazon marketing.Published 1 month ago by egroeg
This is one of my all time favorite series on television. Each season is great. If you were a fan of the "Homicide" series that ran on NBC then you will love this series as... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Charles E. Rey