N00bs on the Tube: The Wire. Mission Accomplished.
In an effort to cause a little chaos here at Character Grades, each week we're setting up one brave writer on a blind date with a very important episode… of a show they've never seen. They'll attempt to navigate the foreign story, understand the strange characters, and somehow emerge [relatively] unscathed.
Season 3: Episode 12: "Mission Accomplished"
Here's what I know about The Wire.
- Drugs are bad. The Wire is supposed to be really good.
- There are cops and there are drug dealers and there are cops who pretend to be drug dealers and drug dealers who pretend to be cops and sometimes I guess there are journalists too.
- Characters use words like "mah'fucka" a lot.
To be honest, I'm not even sure what kind of "wire" The Wire's title even refers to. Is it like cops wearing wires to record what drug dealers are talking about? Anyway, somebody told me that this episode is one of the best episodes of the whole series -- a series that is constantly referred to as one of the best television series of all time, by my brother, my roommate, my friends, and my favorite TV blogs and critics. So let's see what all the hype is about, shall we?
COLD OPEN: we open on a crime scene, with a lot of tough talking cops who call victims "vics" and say things like "what's the fit?" It's kinda old school Raymond Chandler stuff. Is this show supposed to be set in the '20s? Are there flappers? PLEASE TELL ME THERE ARE FLAPPERS.
OKAY SO: we have our dead body, pumped full of lead, and a sad looking dude (police officer? detective? ghost?) sitting by it. Sad Dude tells Cigar Smoking Tough Cop that he caught somebody on the wire - is it like The Wire the wire? That wire?
Anyway, finding a dead body is a classic TV opening. I'm sure in the next one hour our heroes will solve the crime and prevent the killer from striking again and everything will be wrapped up in a neat little package!
MEANWHILE: a bunch of REALLY angry black guys are hanging out, cocking guns. One of them is more sad than angry - I bet he's related to or best friends with the dead guy. His friends wanna strike back at "them" but he's not sure who "they" are. (Neither am I. Perhaps he's never watched The Wire either?) MEANWHILE, AGAIN: the mayor - is that Idris Elba? I can't tell, because he has a beard - is trying to figure out a way to legalize drugs without sounding like a poon in the newspapers. Because legalizing drugs - even though that has brought about enormous positive social and economic change in other countries - sounds like a lefty poon idea to most Americans. God Bless America!
MEANWHILE, SOME MORE: so there's also another guy who's spying on some drug dealers, he's also using a wire. Perhaps it is The Wire. I can't tell if THIS is Idris Elba or not, either? (Is it racist that I can't figure out which one of these distinguished African American gentleman Idris Elba is? To be fair, I can't differentiate most of the middle aged white male characters either.)
SIMULTANEOUSLY: a roughed up drug dealer and Chalky White from Boardwalk Empire are chillin' out grillin' out relaxin all cool at a motel room. A finely dressed young man comes and yells at him, about something. I have no earthly idea what's going on.
OH JESUS: there's a lot of set up here. We're 12 minutes into the show and I haven't seen a single character appear in more than one scene. Each scene is a completely new set up! I wish this was The Royal Tennenbaums and I had Alec Baldwin's svelte voice-over narration to help me figure out who's who.
YAY: I recognize someone! It's Sad Detective, and he's got a HOT TIP from an ex-cop. He finds a bunch of cell phone chips, which means something! Also, there was a guy trying to win his back earlier? Now he's teaching kids about boxing. I feel like The Wire is setting him up for something bad to happen. Watch your back, Boxing Coach.
CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT: Sad Detective and Cigar Smoking Detective are hanging out by the train, getting tanked on whiskey. This is what being a cop is in Baltimore. The next day Sad Detective is debriefed by Agent Broyles from the show Fringe! Oh man, what I wouldn't give for a nice brain-melting computer virus or shapeshifting spy from the 5th dimension right now!
UH-OH: So I guess the police commissioner and the mayor agreed to allow "police free" zones where drugs could flow freely. They tried to keep it a secret but now there are so many junkies and kids and crooks hanging around that the journalists found it. This kinda make sense, but what would have been the best case scenario? Police stop enforcing laws and then...criminals go away? Somebody show me the math on that one.
RANDOM LESBIAN SEX SCENE BETWEEN TWO CHARACTERS I DON'T RECOGNIZE.
INTRIGUE: At the mayor's office, the mayor wants to blame the police commissioner and the police chief wants to blame the mayor, until they agree to blame a third party. Politics for the win! I'll admit that last scene with the police commissioner and the mayor was pretty, pretty, pretty good. I always enjoy a good blackmail scene.
ACTION SCENCE: Once word gets out that the police have been turning a blind eye on Crackville, the police chief gets dressed up in his Sunday finest outfit and raids the whole neighborhood, arresting drug dealers and crack heads and whores and some kids, too. Then the garbage trucks come and the cops throw out all of Crackville's furniture and boards up all the houses and shanties. This is depressing. SUSPENSE: Meanwhile a bunch of white cops are loading up their guns and sneaking around, and a bunch of black drug dealers are sitting around also loading their guns. Sad Drug Dealer from before tells everyone to cool it and the drug dealers are relaxed when the cops come running in and arrest everybody. Sad Detective and Fringe Agent Brolyes tell Sad Drug Dealer that he got snitched on by this guy Stringer...which...might be...one of these other characters? Good God, there's like 48 speaking roles in this goddamn thing.
OKAY AND THEN: Part of the problem summing up this show is that there are a TON of scenes, but each one is about 45 seconds long and nothing much happens in them besides a few lines of dialog. A lieutenant gets fired. The government yells at the mayor of Baltimore. Sad Detective interrogates a kid. Agent Broyles gets promoted. Fired Lieutenant drinks in the police station parking lot. Agent Broyles takes his girlfriend out to dinner, even though he's got a wife. Which part of Baltimore has a nice restaurant?
REVELATION: Stringer The Snitch was the dead body at the beginning of the episode. You know what they say, snitches get stitches. DEPRESSING MONTAGE ALERT: Kids getting arrested by cops, depressing. The Boxing Coach finds his students on the corner goofin' off and pushin' drugs. Cigar Cop falls asleep and some sort of troll steals his tie. A lady cries while watching TV. A guy throws his bag into the river. Cops snoop around drug dealers. White people clapping for white people who are promising to clean up the city. Sad Drug dealer is in court, checking out a special lady. A dude with a shopping cart talks to the Lieutenant at the spot of the bulldozed Cracktown, and the episode ends.
What I Now Know About The Wire:
- Don't go to Baltimore.
- I still don't know which one was Idris Elba.
- There's no metaphor about the title The Wire. It's just actual wires.
- If you have enough characters on a show, none of them have to do anything.
- Lots of drug dealers have nicknames, but not all of them are cool. One drug dealer's nicknames was Puddin. I think that my drug dealer nickname would probably be Snowflake or Faggie. Maybe Ziplock Faggie.
- Even in the season finale, The Wire doesn't really care about tying up loose ends.
- Legalizing drugs in just one section of town is probably not a good idea.
- Seriously, don't ever go to Baltimore, you guys.