When you walk through the garden, you gotta watch your back. Well I beg your pardon, walk the straight and narrow track. If you walk with Jesus, He’s gonna save your soul; you gotta keep the devil way down in the hole.
~”Way Down in the Hole,” the song featured in the opening credits of The Wire
After my previous post regarding the background and conception of HBO’s The Wire, I assume that my viewers know what to expect when sitting down to watch the riveting first season.
In the pilot, we’re introduced to Detective Jimmy McNulty, a flawed but well-motivated detective who attends a drug-related murder trial and is appalled by the fear and intimidation that the drug-dealing Barksdale organization spreads to potential witnesses. Because of the threat of Barksdale’s people, many witnesses who step forward in such cases are often harassed, tortured, or murdered. After the trial, McNulty talks to the judge about the influence of drug trafficking operations in West Baltimore and the murders that often go with such activity. McNulty adds that the Franklin Terrace towers and low-rise apartments have been controlled by Avon Barksdale and his enforcer, Stringer Bell, for almost a year, and that no one in the Homicide Division has been able to make sense of the puzzle.
When state witness William Gant is murdered in the project courtyards at the end of the pilot, the main events of the season are set into place. McNulty joins his partner William “Bunk” Moreland, Lt. Cedric Daniels, and Detective Kima Greggs as the main players in the investigation of Barksdale’s operations. The supervisors of the case, who often threaten to shut it down, are the slimy, politically-motivated duo of Major Bill Rawls and Deputy Commissioner Ervin Burrell. They assemble a rag-tag group of screw-ups and low-ranking officers re-assigned from other departments in order to investigate the Barksdale crew.
In addition to Barksdale and Bell, the drug-dealing crew includes Barksdale’s nephew D’Angelo, and youngsters Poot, Wallace, and Bodie. All four deal with supplying dope to addicts in the low-rise courtyards of Franklin Terrace.
Other major characters include the dope addict/police informant Bubbles and his hapless sidekick Johnny, the good-humored Sergeant Jay Landsman, and promising young Detective Sydnor. A middle-aged detective from the pawn shop unit of the Baltimore PD, Lester Freamon, becomes a major player in the wiretap of the ongoing case in the first season.
Arguably the show’s best-written character is the Barksdale organization’s nemesis, stick-up artist Omar Little, who robs drug dealers at gunpoint and redistributes the money (like the Robin Hood of the streets). Little, played tremendously by Michael K. Williams, proves to be the thorn in the side of drug traffickers all over the city.
As with many shows, The Wire gets increasingly better as the season goes on. It takes patience to watch, but the impeccable writing and acting gets the job done and keeps you coming back for more.
Created by David Simon
Executive Producers — David Simon and Robert F. Colesberry
Co-Producer — Karen L. Thorson
Produced by Nina Kostroff Noble
Starring Dominic West, Sonja Sohn, Lance Reddick, John Doman, Deirdre Lovejoy, Frankie Faison, Wood Harris, Larry Gilliard Jr., Idris Elba, Andre Royo, Michael Kenneth Williams, Clarke Peters, Jim True-Frost, Tray Chaney, Michael B. Jordan, J.D. Williams, Delaney Williams, Corey Parker Robinson, Hassan Johnson, Seth Gilliam, Domenick Lombardozzi, Peter Garety, Clayton LeBoeuf, Robert F. Chew, Brandon Price
“Uncompromising.” —The Boston Globe
“Astounding.” —USA Today
“Compelling.” —The Chicago Tribune
“Gritty.” —The Washington Post
“Best show on TV.” —Newsweek