The Wire: The harsh reality of Baltimore's urban communities (a look back)

*I'm going to try and write this with as few spoilers as possible. That is no easy task because this show was so full of detail that skating around them has been rather hard. For those who have watched I would love some feedback on who your favorite characters and/or scenes were.*

When HBO's The Wire was at it's height somewhere along the second season where most of America caught on to this show I had the fortune of working with a Baltimore transplant who introduced me to the show via his weekly animated discussion with other co-workers who were into the show. Having access to him gave me the opportunity to ask him many questions after binge watching the first season. Surely this show was simply going for a shock value and couldn't possibly reflect what life in urban Baltimore was like. It was genuine, he vouched for it and he himself had spent parts of his childhood on many of the streets seen on the show. He had lost his father to the game and had a brother serving time in prison for it, his move to New York was to escape it. It was then that I realized this was more than just a show, it was the story of Baltimore's many faces plastered on the canvas provided by HBO. Having grown up in Harlem I was familiar with the environment of drug trade and the lore of drug dealers who ran it all, looking back now I realize that I had it easier than those who spent their childhood in Bodymore.

David Simon the shows creator and lead writer teamed up with former police officers, drug dealers, and some of the brightest writers to deliver one of the most realistic experiences someone unfamiliar with this world will ever have. What they captured was a realistic and troublesome representation with alarming accuracy what politics, policing, and street life can do to a generation. Most of the cast of the wire was a melting pot of non-actors who simply had a connection to the area, from retired drug dealers who had survived the late sixties and seventies to those who had spent decades in the system. Most of the shows authenticity comes from those elements, unlike other shows where they cheat their way through a narrative the wire took you deep into the emotional roller coaster that is the life of an addict, a police officer, a drug dealer, and a politician. They also did a great job of sprinkling other vultures who prey on these situations to make their mark in the world, the real estate developers on the show as well as the money launderers. The show was so realistic that law enforcement actually had to step in and request that some details of their procedures be removed from the show altogether because they feared actual criminals watching the show could use this to their advantage. Things such as surveillance and devices to track phones caused issues between the creators and law enforcement, most of this made it's way  into the show because many of the consultants on the show were retired Baltimore detectives. The reality is that the wire wasn't supposed to survive, it's straight in your face approach wasn't supposed to pull you in according to television standards at the time, what became of it has been a shock to many in the industry and given birth to creative freedoms networks would otherwise not be willing to take on otherwise. It's five season run is owed to it's authenticity and the attachment viewers experienced watching as the scales of power constantly shifted.

One of the things that pulled me into the show was how they transitioned from the drug riddled streets into the seat of a police officer, from a police officer to the drug dealer with each having a tie to the others fate. The complexities of a Jimmy McNulty, the hunger and arrogance of Avon Barksdale, the thin line that Idris Elba played as Stringer Bell. Idris in my opinion gave the show balance because he was written for in a way that showed he loved the game but also wanted more out of life, he was more of a centralized force that seemed to hold everything in place. His desire to transition into more than just a drug dealer but his oath to bringing his brother with him and the price he ultimately paid for it all. Characters like Bunk and Bodie offset the pace of the show by showing one a good detective trying to do right and the latter a young man trying to follow footsteps of men he considered his role models. Bubbles was the character that I would imagine most developed an attachment to because his was the most emotional role of all, from drug addicted fiend, to puppet for both criminals and police, to the guilt of his own actions he's the one character that stays true to the show throughout every single season. Over the course of the shows run we see one generation thin out giving passage to those who would follow in their footsteps, this was the focal point for one entire season itself and with good reason. You see the spawn of these drug dealers either follow suit or simply find themselves incapable of filling the shoes of the guys who "have the game by the balls", within this group you will find one of the saddest moments of the show one that has spawned an meme and hashtag of it's own, you'll know which one it is. Friends will have to choose sides and let's just say the first time around the result is not easy to digest. It doesn't stop there though characters like Clay Davis cause you to loathe those elected to power more than you find yourself hating the criminals themselves at time, it's a great portrayal of the vultures I mentioned earlier. Those who help make laws to seem strongly against crime to the voting public but are just as dirty as the criminals they swear to put away in private.

If you haven't seen The Wire yet you've been missing out on a great piece of television history and I really hope you go ahead and give it a try. It wasn't as heavily criticized for no reason, sometimes people can't handle the reality that they've let things spiral entirely to out of control and would rather live in denial. The shows success has helped transform Baltimore in many ways, it has brought new money to the area via tour groups that bring fans of the show to locations where the show was shot. It has helped former criminals at crossroads tell their story and has given retired police the honor of telling their story in the struggle to save a generation from itself. I wish I could get into a deeper conversation about many other aspects of this show but it would end up ruining it for those who may not have been of age when it was on the air or those who just entirely missed out on it's run for any number of reasons. I do believe even then the justice it deserves couldn't be captured within a few thousand words and somethings have to be experienced rather than read.


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