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The Wire rewatch (spoilers for all seasons)

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After the death of Michael K Williams I started a rewatch of The Wire. Really I should be focused on school right now, but I couldn't resist. I started this thread for those interested in also doing a rewatch of what in my opinion is the best show ever made.

I finished season 1 this morning. I found that rewatching this show is almost an entirely different experience from the first viewing. You are familiar with all the characters, and so you are primed to catch a lot of the subtleties and nuances that are easy to miss the first time through. When I first watched the The Wire, I initially found it a little boring, and wasn't really engaged until near the end of the first season. Rewatching it, I was instantly immersed. The dialog is so clever (and often hilarious), and there's virtually no extraneous material. Almost every character is fantastic, even the minor ones. McNulty, Bunk, Omar, Greggs, Stringer Bell and the Barksdale crew, Bubbles, et al. I remember for my first watch being pretty lukewarm about Lieutenant Daniels and finding Lester Freamon as somewhat of a plain character, but those two are among my favorites now. I absolutely love how Freamon goes from the quiet nobody to being basically the brains of the operation, and Daniels' journey from being a good Lieutenant but company man to becoming an amazing leader. Herc is annoying, but his role as a juxtaposition to Carver is awesome.

Even the beauracratic monsters of the show (Rawls, Burrell, et al) are portrayed really well. You absolutely can understand their reasoning as they focus on short term gains and publicity against the long term consequences. One of the biggest antagonists in the first season is political myopia, and it is a far more interesting antagonist than just having some psychotic villain.

Anyway, I'm really enjoying the rewatch. I invite those who are also interested in a rewatch to make any observations or comments about the show here.

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I probably watched the wire 15 times from start to finish but not for 10 years. For me it is so far better than the shows that it is in competition with for greatest programme of all time (sopranos and BB). 

If there is a tiny tiny criticism it is that nominally the star, is the weakest written character  

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I've been rewatching as well, although I started two days before Williams died.  

It's as good as it ever was.  Omar testifying against Bird in season two is still my favorite scene in any show ever.

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I love The Wire so much. It's easily one of the greatest shows I've seen in my life and Michael K Williams death really bummed me out all week. I first watched the show a few summers ago and was amazed with how well written the first season was. Every character was just so dam likeable, even the criminals like Avon, Stringer and Prop Joe. Heck even minor characters like Carver, Bubbles and Wee Bey were insanely memorable and probably better written than most main characters on tv. 

It's funny too, since me and my friend, who both only ever saw the show once, were listing off some of the insanely minor characters from this show, the other night; such as Stinkum, Bird, Savino and Poot. All of these characters are extremely minor and were little more than stormtroopers, from a narrative perspective, yet all of them left a lasting impression on us, all these years after we finished the show. The Wire really is unlike any show I've seen before, for being able to do that.

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8 minutes ago, sifth said:

All of these characters are extremely minor and were little more than stormtroopers, from a narrative perspective, yet all of them left a lasting impression on us, all these years after we finished the show. The Wire really is unlike any show I've seen before, for being able to do that.



Hell, there's character arcs for people who only appear in three or four scenes across all the seasons combined. Like Dee Dee

 



Although the best one by Kenard by complete accident.

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26 minutes ago, sifth said:

Michael K Williams death really bummed me out all week.

I posted a link to David Simon's tribute to Michael Williams in the R.I.P. thread.  I pulled some of it, as it's in the NY Times, and paywalled.  But I don't think I pulled the best parts of Williams's responses to the situation Simon described.

 

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I started a rewatch after Williams’ passing as well (this has to be at least half a dozen times now). Currently on S2. Chris Bauer is so good as Frank Sobotka. Never really gets mentioned much. 

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15 hours ago, Nictarion said:

I started a rewatch after Williams’ passing as well (this has to be at least half a dozen times now). Currently on S2. Chris Bauer is so good as Frank Sobotka. Never really gets mentioned much. 

:agree: For me season 2 is truly brilliant.  Season 2 is what basically makes the following seasons so significant.  It's all connected.

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1 hour ago, Zorral said:

:agree: For me season 2 is truly brilliant.  Season 2 is what basically makes the following seasons so significant.  It's all connected.

I hated season two the first time I watched it, but on rewatches it has become my favorite season of the show.  Love Frank Sabotka, and I really enjoy the East side dealers like Prop Joe, who is one of my favorite overall characters on the show.  I know he technically debuted in season one, but he didn't become a regular until season two.  He's got a lot of the show's best lines, too.

"Look the part, be the part, motherfucker."

"Fool, if it wasn't for Sergei here you and your cuz would be cadaverous motherfuckers."

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52 minutes ago, briantw said:

I hated season two the first time I watched it, but on rewatches it has become my favorite season of the show.  Love Frank Sabotka, and I really enjoy the East side dealers like Prop Joe, who is one of my favorite overall characters on the show.  I know he technically debuted in season one, but he didn't become a regular until season two.  He's got a lot of the show's best lines, too.

"Look the part, be the part, motherfucker."

"Fool, if it wasn't for Sergei here you and your cuz would be cadaverous motherfuckers."

I also love how the show takes it's time getting the team (minus Sydnor) together. It makes it really satisfying when they all get transferred there and Prez is like "what took you so long?" 

Sadly the guy who played Prop Joe died years back too. :(

If anyone hasn't seen them there are three prequel shorts. Young Prop Joe being one of them:

 

One's about young Omar and "no heart" Anthony and the other is McNulty and Bunk Meeting. 

Once I finish my Sopranos re-watch in preperation for The Many Saints of Newark I'll probably start this again. I forgot Williams had a brief role in The Sopranos, I just got to that. 

Is there a consensus on which version of The Wire is better? I know they widescreened it a few years back and a few people were complaining about how it messed up a couple things. 

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20 minutes ago, RumHam said:

Is there a consensus on which version of The Wire is better? I know they widescreened it a few years back and a few people were complaining about how it messed up a couple things. 

I'm watching the HD version for the first time and I think it looks pretty spectacular.  

Here's Simon's take on the remaster, which he was involved in:

“At the last, I’m satisfied that while this new version of The Wire is not, in some specific ways, the film we first made, it has sufficient merit to exist as an alternate version,” Simon wrote. “There are scenes that clearly improve in HD and in the widescreen format. But there are things that are not improved. And even with our best resizing, touchups and maneuver, there are some things that are simply not as good. That’s the inevitability: This new version, after all, exists in an aspect ratio that simply wasn’t intended or serviced by the filmmakers.”

Edited by briantw

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1 hour ago, briantw said:

I hated season two the first time I watched it, but on rewatches it has become my favorite season of the show. 

I didn’t hate it, but it was a bit unsettling to finally feel like you were following the show after Season 1 only to be immersed in a whole different environment. It affected my enjoyment that I had no clue what Frank actually wanted, only that it benefited the stevedores. On second watch, I looked into it a little more and figured out why dredging the canal and having a grain pier would have benefited them, then explained as much to my partner who was watching for the first time. And yes, it’s so much better. 

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6 minutes ago, DaveSumm said:

I didn’t hate it, but it was a bit unsettling to finally feel like you were following the show after Season 1 only to be immersed in a whole different environment. It affected my enjoyment that I had no clue what Frank actually wanted, only that it benefited the stevedores. On second watch, I looked into it a little more and figured out why dredging the canal and having a grain pier would have benefited them, then explained as much to my partner who was watching for the first time. And yes, it’s so much better. 

Hate is probably the wrong word, but I almost stopped watching the show and had to force myself to get through it the first time.  It's just such a departure from season one.  Now, as mentioned, it's my favorite season.

I think that comes with the experience of having watched the whole series and knowing that the show isn't truly about cops and criminals, but about Baltimore and the failures of our institutions.  I was also in the 20-24 age range when I watched the series the first time, so no doubt my tastes were quite a bit different and I wasn't as capable of understanding and processing some of the show's nuances. 

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I was knocked out by season 2 on first watch.  Thought it ever so much superior to the first.  The way it ended, "Well," I thought, "now I see what I think they are doing with this.  It's not all cops vs drug dealers at all." It was at that point already it seemed to me they were telling the tragedy that is American history, in a way that no contemporary novels were doing.

Dreiser's An American Tragedy was about the Gilded Age, and the American Century hadn't quite kicked into full gear -- though soon.

And The Wire shows what this damned country's worship of wealth and religion of racism has destroyed it.

Treme is equally good in another dimension.  The only thing that keeps people going in such times of catastrophe and destruction is culture.  New Orleans has it. Baltimore did not have such an embedded culture, and what there was, the long decades of corruption and racism had eroded. At least not in the way it was and still is wired into New Orleans.  Though not much longer. One fears once this generation's culture bearers are gone, so will be the culture.  For that matter, very so will New Orleans (and Baltimore too, for that matter) with climate change and rising seas.

 

 

Edited by Zorral

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I really like The Wire a lot.  I don't know if I'd say it's the best TV show I've ever seen -- honestly, I've never been able to get into any of the other shows people tend to mention as competition -- but it definitely made a big impression on me when I first saw it and I've rewatched it quite a few times since.

I think Season 4 is probably the best season, but it's been a long time since I rewatched it in full because it's pretty brutal at points.  And while I remember reviewers being pretty critical of Season 5 when it came out (and I'd agree that the serial killer plot is a bit weak), it has some of my favourite moments of the whole series ("That was for Joe" / "... this sentimental motherfucker just cost us money.")

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I rewatched The Wire this summer - my third time through the show. It more than held up. Considering that it's now beginning to feel like more of a period-piece, especially with the progression from payphones/pagers to disposable cell phones (favourite line of the show: "they're doing that texting thing! My kid does that"), it's depressing how little has changed and that the show if anything feels more and more relevant.

Fresh from watching the show, I was really saddened by the news of Michael K. William's death. What an actor and what a performance.

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Season 3 has always been my favourite coz it's perfectly balanced and paced. I do understand why a lot of people love 4 more, for the dig into the schools etc, but I felt that trying to balance that and the police parts resulted in a little downturn of the show's flawless storytelling flow. I'm pretty sure I read once that Dave Simon first pitched the school thing to HBO as a spinoff, and worked it into the main show when turned down, and I feel like that rings true.

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57 minutes ago, polishgenius said:

Season 3 has always been my favourite coz it's perfectly balanced and paced. I do understand why a lot of people love 4 more, for the dig into the schools etc, but I felt that trying to balance that and the police parts resulted in a little downturn of the show's flawless storytelling flow. I'm pretty sure I read once that Dave Simon first pitched the school thing to HBO as a spinoff, and worked it into the main show when turned down, and I feel like that rings true.

I don't think it was the school plotline that was meant to be a spinoff, but the Carcetti election campaign. The original plan was to have a miniseries about the election in between seasons 3 and 4, but then they had to integrate it into the fourth season. With Ed Burns on board the Wire, and the focus on education in Simons' and Burns' book The Corner, I think tackling schools was always the plan.

I love season 4, by the way. My favourite season of television ever, and I actually like that the investigations take a backseat (aside from Herc and Fuzzy Dunlop). But nothing against you  for preferring season 3 - that's also an incredible season of TV.

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The HD version of the show is absolutely fine. I don't think there's much, if anything, they lose from the transition and it makes the show, if anything, feel even more like a documentary (because any documentary today would be filmed in HD or 4K in widescreen).

As for best season, it's a hard one. Season 1 has the tightest focus of the five, introduces the characters and probably has the most tension and the most actual focus on the criminal case of the moment. It also has two of the funniest scenes on the show (CSI: Cursathon and the sofa-moving scene). Season 3 really wraps up Stringer's story incredibly well, introduces Marlo and the political angle and the Hamsterdam idea is both interesting and ends realistically. Season 4 I think is almost attempting too much and I wasn't a huge fan when I first watched it, but the way it comes together at the end is unbelievably good and on rewatches it became fantastic from start to finish. Definitely the most epic season.

Season 2 I discount because I can't stand Ziggy (for my money, the actor who plays him is the weakest key player they ever had) and Season 5 for all the very traditional reasons (too short, main story kind of peters out, the serial killer plot is fundamentally unbelievable), though both are still incredibly strong seasons compared to any other show.

Something I want to do before doing yet another rewatch of The Wire is do a proper start-to-finish watch of Homicide: Life on the Street and The Corner. I also need to finish Generation Kill (watched the first episode and it failed to grab me) and I haven't watched Treme at all. Show Me a Hero is absolutely brilliant though, it's like a prequel to the political storyline in The Wire with Oscar Isaac in the Carcetti-ish role. Fantastic stuff.

Edited by Werthead

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I think the actor playing Ziggy is  quite good at playing an unlikeable but complex character. It's his cousin who was the weak link acting wise. 

I never found the season five serial killer story all that unbelievable, either. People have done and covered up crazier things. Given the implication at the end that Marlo was going to cause it all to fall apart and come out anyway I've always been fine with that plotline. The problem with season five is that they cut the episode order and "you can't do more with less." Prez and Cutty got shafted. 

I hope We Own This City is still on track. I don't see anything about it since the casting announcement.

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