Hot 5: Issues With the Wire

Recently here at Grownheadz HQ, we have been taking a look back at one of the greatest TV shows ever made. Which one, you say?  Wait for it…wait for it…The Wire. 

While we’re hardcore, boxset owning fans of the crime drama that ran on HBO from 2002 to 2008 and chronicled much more than crime in Baltimore, we wanted to see how it has held up over time. And while our love for the Barksdales, Bunk and Bunny Colvin is unabated, upon review we have found some chinks in The Wire’s armor.  The writers got a whole lot right, but here are a couple of holes that sure could have used filling.

Weak Female Characters
The Wire had some women we loved, like Det. Kima Griggs (Sonja Sohn), Avon’s sister Brianna, and a character we totally forgot about until we watched Season 5 again, Council President Nerese Campbell.  There were also some women we loved to hate, like Webay’s wifey and momma to Namond, De’Londa.

These were strong characters, but they weren’t given much nuance or backstory.  We got all sorts details about the male characters’ off-duty lives and their private motivations or demons, but the very few female characters got short shrift. We did see some of Kima’s home life at the start of the series, but from Season 3 onward, she was strictly in the background.  Watching the last three seasons, you could almost forget that, at least initially, she had been a major player and Daniel’s No. 2.

McNulty: Good Cop, Bad Attitude
We all know a Jimmy McNulty—or maybe not. This self-destructive drunk and womanizer’s only redeeming quality was the fact that he was “reeeal po-lice.” Smart yet stupid, he put the case (every case) above his personal and professional life in an admirable show of determination. Right?  Wellll, a closer review reveals less than admirable qualities.

Throughout the series, characters regularly compromised, picked their battles, made deals with the devil or whatever you want to call it in order to achieve their greater goals, but McNulty was Above All That.  If you weren’t willing to go all in and piss off your superiors and sacrifice your career for the case, you were a sellout.  You weren’t trying hard enough.  McNulty was a wrecking ball to his own life and everyone’s lives around him, and a few solved cases and smart one-liners can’t fix that.

Black Bosses and Respect.
Apparently, the show’s white writers never had  an African American supervisor.  We were tripping on how McNulty would come storming into Lt. Daniel’s office (his boss), talking loud and telling him off about the case. 

Heeeeeeelll to the naw. We as a people just don’t operate like that. You can be upset, you can be unhappy, you can have legit grievances on the job, but you better DAMN sure watch your tone of voice.  Daniels had spent years on the force, and probably put up with more than a few holdover racist cops while he was coming up.  At this point in his career he wouldn’t go for any ol’ white boy talking crazy to him, ESPECIALLY one he outranked.  A REAL black boss would squash all that ish real quick.

Wack-Ass Hip Hop
With so much drama in the hood, The Wire had immediate hip hop credibility. Iconic characters like Omar and Snoop seeped into our consciousness, and the show got shout-outs on a few albums. There should’ve been more: Wire-themed mixtapes, soundtracks with all-star casts… There was that much love.  So why did the show’s hip hop suck so badly?

Seriously, we haven’t heard such sub-par hip hop since mid-80s cop action movies. Given the different incarnations of the theme song, it’s obvious that the writers and producers had a handle on the Alt-Blues-Rock connection, but they definitely could have benefited from a rap consultant.

Too Few Happy Endings
We really appreciate all the realism on the show and the “life ain’t fair” ethos that it portrayed.  But come on guys, it’s still a TV show. Can we get some Hollywood endings, pleeeease? In five seasons, viewers only get two: Namond getting into Bunny Colvin’s place, and Bubs getting off heroin. Lester getting the young ex-stripper as his girl wasn’t bad either. 

But when you weigh that against all the people who died (Bodie, Omar, Wallace, Stringer, numerous others), had sad endings (Dukie on drugs, Randy in a group home, Gus getting demoted to the copy desk), or didn’t get what they deserved (The Greeks, Marlo, Clay Davis’s rotten azz, Rawls), it just didn’t equal out. The Wire was entertaining, but they sure knew how to bring a guy or girl down.

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