March 5, 2012

TPG WIRED: The Show As A Cop Story

I have finished watching "The Wire" and simply put, it is the best TV show I have ever seen*. I enjoyed the show on so many different levels, I've decided to share my various perspectives on it with you guys here. So, if you haven't seen the masterpiece I will be talking about the ot as a whole, which is complicated way of saying SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS! That being said if you have seen it, please tell your friends about these series of posts, and if you haven't gazed about the power of epic TV, allow me to say that the hype is real.

Throughout each of the 5 seasons of "The Wire," there are cops and everybody else. Supporting characters shift between dock workers, teachers, and newspaper reporters, but the police officers remain the same for each season. Characters and personalities may change, but at the end of the day, the cops are at the center. The shows creator, David Simon, who was a reporter in the 80's spent a year shadowing the Baltimore police department and his deep knowledge of how a city's boys makes all the differences. He knows how police departments work and he knows about the value of "the case."

Ahhh yes, "the case," the focal point of every season. Most cop shows are procedural with a "case a week" structure, but "The Wire" is different because it follows as "case a season" or maybe arguably a "case a series" structure. This focus on the larger narrative makes it feel kind of like super mythology heavy shows like "Lost" and "Game of Thrones," and that's a good thing. The cops are investigating the dealers, but the dealers are connected to the Greeks, who are working with the dock workers, who's union is tied to the politicians, who may or may deal with the drug kingpins. In the words of the show, "all the pieces matter." This is detective work on a gigantic scale, something which you rarely ever see on TV and it's totally fantastic. I mean someone like Clay Davis, who is just a side character in season one, turns out to be a huge character in later seasons. Everything is connected.

But even as a procedural the show works extremely well. Each episode shows how the police use technology, smarts, and just plain police work to solve the case. On the show you have the "Major Crimes Unit," which is kind of the police super team that does all the super cool surveillance stuff. It's a thrill seeing the unit in action and the lengths they to go to get the titular "wire" up on the bad guys, but that's just part of it. There are drug dealer codes to be cracked, favors needed to be called in to the FBI, warrants that need to be issued by judges, undercover missions, police tails on cars, interrogations, you know all that awesome cop shit that is fun to watch but you don't want to have happen to you! It's all in there!

Like any good police narrative, you got your colorful cast of characters. Everybody from Da Bunk with his suits and cigars, Greggs with her strict moral code, and Lester with his wood shaping hobby and almost superhuman knowledge of surveillance technology are just a part of a the perfectly written police department. You have hyper aggressive cops who just want to kick down doors and bust faces, you have smart detectives like McNulty who want to work the case, and you have some guys that fall somewhere in the middle. During the series, you can see how each police officer's experience working the beat changes them. Some people like Carver (my fave character) go from being a cop who might snag a little drug money during a raid on a stash house to being cops who do the right thing aka "good poolice," and he's just one of the many cops who go on this journey.

And that's what the show really is, a journey both into the heart of a police force and it's characters, but also a journey with police on a badass solving cases saving the day way as well. It's also dope that it's on HBO so there is plenty of gritty language and violence, but that's just part of the game, it's the characters and the journey of the police that count!

Stay Tuned for the next installment where I focus on the drug dealers

*I've never seen The Sopranos

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