Way back in 2008, I was already late to the party in watching the Wire and then, when I’d eventually turned up, I had the nerve to suggest that it wasn’t that great a party anyway!
I can appreciate the quality of this show, but I didn’t really get into it. It’s a show that really has to be watched as a season rather than individual episodes, and I took longer than I usually would to watch 13 episodes. This meant I continually lost track of who was who and what was going on. Gritty realism is good, but unfortunately an element of that realism is a lack of clarity in dialogue and recapping what’s happening. Maybe I was just too sleepy and not paying attention. I did really enjoy the characters (or at least those I could tell apart). It was also surprisingly funny, including some real laugh out loud scenes and lines. I think I’ll try to revisit this series at a later date so I can appreciate it more.
It’s taken me SEVEN YEARS but I finally got round to that revisit when I spotted it as a box set on Sky. I re-watched the first season and then went straight into the second, so I’ll sort of review both alongside each other.
This time I did watch it more condensed, working my way through both seasons in a few weeks. I also had a tendency to not worry about watching a whole episode, frequently stopping in the middle and coming back to then watch another couple of hours the next night. This approach seemed worked a lot better to keep momentum going, the seasons are definitely more like very long films then episodic television.
It also helped me keep track of characters and the intricate networks of relationships and structures that made up criminal and police teams alike. But, it was still not 100% successful. In both seasons I struggled to keep track of the players in each criminal network, often not knowing if I was supposed to recognise someone or should have been making connections myself. I did find though that if I didn’t worry about it and just let it all sort of wash together, it seemed to be ok.
I was a bit unsure about the second season which introduced the entirely new story around the docks on top of the leftover elements of the drugs business from season 1. It felt like there were too many different threads, particularly given that most of the police team were divided up too, and I wasn’t quite sure who I was supposed to be focussing on. It took almost half the season for me to really settle into it and even then the occasional swing of focus back to Stringer Bell and his enterprise felt like a distraction that undermined the impact of the ‘main’ storyline.
I’m enjoying watching the series, and do find myself drawn into coming back to it and watching more at the detriment to other current series that are backing up. The humour that runs through it is very well done and when any of the characters actually gets a bit of time they’re all entertaining and interesting. But I don’t quite see why it’s held up in such hallowed tones. I guess at the time it was something very different, but now, maybe it’s just not as outstanding thanks to the quality that it encouraged in others.