The Wire: Season 4
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Wire, The: The Complete Fourth Season (DVD)
With the fall of Barksdale and the ascent of young Marlo Stanfield as West Baltimore's drug king, the detail continues to "follow the money" up the political ladder in the midst of a mayoral election that pits the black incumbent, Clarence Royce, against an ambitious white councilman, Tommy Carcetti. The theme of urban education is explored through four new characters – Michael Lee, Namond Brice, Randy Wagstaff and "Dukie" Weems as they traverse adolescence in the stunted, drug-saturated streets of West Baltimore. The world that awaits these boys and the American commitment to equal opportunity are depicted brilliantly in the edgy, all too realistic Season 4 of The Wire.]]>
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
- 13 episodes on four discs
- Commentary by creator David Simon, cast, and crew on six episodes
- Hourlong behind-the-scenes documentary: "It's All Connected," "The Game Is Real"
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An aberration because even when compared to other shows that are often heralded as "great", the case can be made that The Wire: Season 4 leaves the competition behind. Quite simply, this is one of the best seasons of television ever produced in history. And while one might typically caution against over-hyping so as not to set a degree of expectation for the uninitiated that can never be met, it seems unlikely that the typical rules apply here.
Every detail of this season sparkles. Even with principle character Det. Jimmy McNulty taking a noticeable back seat to the rest of the cast, the characters and story lines that come to the forefront are so engaging, so compelling, that the viewer feels a sense of urgency for resolution each time the show cuts away to a different story line, only to have that feeling immediately return as they invariably get sucked into the next plot point.
The adolescent characters are beautifully written, and portrayed with remarkable nuance by a young cast. David Simon, Ed Burns and the rest of the writing staff are careful to prevent any of them from becoming one-note, or falling into stereotypes. As per the show's M.O., viewers will find themselves growing attached in different ways to each of the new characters, while familiar faces from seasons past continue to evolve and show us new sides to their personalities.
The Wire Season 4 is to television what A Christmas Carol is to literature. It is often profound, sometimes shocking, and will leave you questioning our nation's inextricable marriage of politics, the criminal justice system, and our misguided public education curriculum.
Highest possible recommendation.