The Wire – Season Four

There was a five month gap between when I finished season three of The Wire and when I started season four. I had a lot of stuff going on so I put off watching it. It’s a great show but I’ve never been the type to “stay up all night because I had to” with TV shows. Not my thing. I usually spread things out, although I have been compressing things with books this year with all of the serialized fiction I’ve been banging through.

I’ve spent almost two years watching seasons one through four on flights. Of the nearly 50 episodes, I can only remember watching two episodes someplace other than 30,000 feet off the ground. It’s just what I do on airplanes; as soon as the captain gives the okay, I settle in with my iPhone and Shure in-ear headphones and get comfortable. It doesn’t matter who’s sitting next to me or the noise level. It means I’m in the air, business or pleasure, and I’m going to escape into the small screen without any chance of interruption.

It’s not escape though. It’s not light, mindless muddle to get me through the boredom of everyday. It’s hardcore fictional stories about hopelessness in a big, American urban area. Stories where the only reprieve from the despair is occasional, wry humor from cynical cops and certain acts of kindness by a diverse group of people who care.

The stories – they’re relevant, man.

They’re stories about the mayor of Baltimore trying to plug a $54 million hole in school funding – which I watched on the first day of the Chicago teachers strike. Or stories about finding dead bodies before the new year in West Baltimore so the homicides can be attributed to the previous mayor – which I watched during a violent summer in Chicago where the homicide rate went through the roof for our mayor’s first full year.

They’re fictional stories that enlighten and expand upon what’s going on in this millennium in our country. The Wire doesn’t make sense of it, necessarily, other than to show how senseless it all is. It’s a showcase in frustration for me, especially during this election year. I don’t trust any Democrat or Republican to make a dent in poverty, schools, or crime and some of that mistrust could be rooted the feeling of helplessness I get when I watch this show.

It moves me a lot. It makes me sad a lot. But it feels right. It feels like progress, I guess. I’m not sure why I embrace the despair so much. Why does this show seem so friggin’ great when it strikes so many sad notes?

Here’s why. They are moving stories, with deep characters, about timely topics, with just the right amount of humor and hope tossed in to make you smile in the face of despair. Seems simple doesn’t it? Stories… Characters… Topics… Humor… All coming together in five seasons of one of the greatest television shows in the history of mankind. That’s what people have been saying for years, and after four seasons I can’t argue.

Early on I proclaimed to my wife that “this is the most intense season yet.” She doesn’t watch, and probably won’t, so I don’t expect her to understand. But she did notice when I actually leapt out of my seat during the closing scene of episode three and seemed a little curious. We were on a flight to Florida and, as usual, she was watching something separately on her iPad and I was watching on my iPhone. My audible gasp and physical reaction caused her to pull out her headphones and ask what’s up. I didn’t really explain it to her.


The plot lines in general don’t focus much on cops, criminals, and lawyers. Instead, this season transitions to issues of education and politics in a manner that still stays true to first three seasons. The wiretapping is over with and the major crimes unit is broken up, but the players remain roughly the same.

For me, the education story line is riveting. Absolutely riveting. And the way they tie it in with Coach ‘Cutty’, ex-commander Colvin, and the Deacon is beautiful.

In episode four the Deacon stopped by to visit Coach and offer up an opportunity to make some extra cash on the side. Coach questioned him about the opportunity but the Deacon didn’t offer anything up about it, but he did have this to say to Coach:

A good church man is always up in everybody’s shit; that’s how we do.

I love quotes like that. I love moments like that. I love the random and not so random conversations and snippets. Episode eleven also had one of my favorites when McNulty sees Bodie in the diner and sits down for a quick bite. It foreshadowed an especially gut-wrenching ending to the season.

I’m rolling right into season five. McNulty is in the picture and the team is back together to bust another big drug dealer. There are a lot of loose ends with the kids and I’ve heard they don’t get tied up. That’s fine, I’m going to let this thing go wherever it wants and just let it happen. I trust season five will suck me in just like the first four.