Saturday, February 02, 2008

Final Season of The Wire

Some thoughts from me on "The Wire", widely acclaimed as the best show in TV history, now entering its final season.

Personally, I would vote for "Barney Miller" as #1, but "The Wire" is closing the gap fast.

When I want some insightful analysis, I turn to the blog of Tim Goodman, TV critic for the San Francisco Chronicle.

This season with the newspaper subplot seems to be starting off a little slow for me. But then, I thought that the school subplot was heading in a predictable direction last season, but then it went in surprising and very effective directions.

The theme I saw emerging in the latest episode, "Transitions", was one of advice offered but not taken, leading to complications for the younger generation and peril for the authority figures giving the advice. Marlo clearly didn't take Prop Joe's offer to step aside. Scott the reporter is blowing off the cautionary advice from his editor. Burrell did a kind of passive-aggressive ignoring of Nerece's advice to bow out quietly, putting on a public face but still handing over the incriminating folder on Daniels. In just a momentary scene, Michael distances himself from his dysfunctional mother. The cop who goes psycho doesn't take Carver's advice on how to deal with Internal Affairs.

Wow, that's a lot of parallel action. The other show that excels at that style of narrative is "Rescue Me". Notice on that show, you don't have one character having marital problems, a drinking problem, or caring for elderly parents, you've often got two or three of them going the same way. Then sometimes the situations resolve the same way, sometimes the outcomes are complete opposites.

Tim Goodman mentions that this last season of "The Wire" seems to be rushing to tie up loose ends with the story arcs for different characters. The archetype for this tactic on HBO must be "Oz", which shares lineage with both "The Sopranos" and "The Wire". (The creators of "Oz" and "The Sopranos" are pals; many actors from "Oz" moved over to "The Wire", for example Lance Reddick and Reg Cathey.) The final season of "Oz" was hugely entertaining precisely because the plot twists zoomed by at breakneck speed, so each character could get their comeuppance or redemption.

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