2.14.2008

Way Down in the Hole

Who else is watching "The Wire"?

If you haven't been, read no further.

Anyway, I like the fifth season. The media storyline is getting beat up in the press (surprise, surprise) and in a limited way they're right. But in some of the criticism, the show's argument is reinforced- take for example, the fact that Slate has put Stephen Glass's editor and the spouse of one of his co-workers on the beat. And of course they hate it. They're proclaiming the show ruined. We don't ask Martin O'Malley to comment on season 3, or Margaret Spellings to write about season 4. Journalists--particularly journalists with a personal proximity to the sort of impropriety on display here-- are going to have a fairly predictable reaction to season 5. One wonders what Slate's editors were expecting. They do love to lead the charge when they can, after all, especially on backlashes.

To my mind, the single biggest shortcoming in the Mcnulty/Sun thread is that it feels rushed. Much of the nuance we're used to seeing in new locales is being cast aside in this shortened season. In a way, the show is pushing into the entirely uncharted waters of satire. I'll roll with it, but those two factors together do pose problems.

But the rest is pretty much the awesome.

7 comments:

Trevor Jackson said...

Big, big fan of The Wire here.

I haven't been following Slate's commentary, but I have been aware of the criticisms this season has gotten from journalists and media critics.

Part of the attraction to the show has always been Simon's ability to produce verisimilitude. Whether it's true or not, I feel like I know what life as a dockworker is like or how the drug trade in the low-rises operates like any business (middle-management squeeze!) or how much of a grind real policework really is. The show's "realness" has always been its stock in trade.

But now, with Season 5, we're getting a look inside the crumbling institution of newspapers. The copyediting jokes, the jargon, and, most important, the effect corporate consolidation has on the ability to do good work is all dragged out for the casual viewer to examine. For the media critic, this is covered ground and less interesting. For me? Just as riveting as watching power plays between councilmen and mayoral candidates.

Dexter said...

I have been dissapointed by this season of The Wire but i am not sure exactly why.... Perhapts is with focus of the Sun as the storyline or the implausibility of mcnulty's arc or if it is just that i will be sad that it will be all over in the episodes...

The Atlantic also recently had an article about Simon as his time at the Sun....sort of/

cek said...

God, I love The Wire.

I thought that both the McNulty/Sun storylines were a little bit weak UNTIL they intersected in that meeting two episodes ago and Templeton was faking and McNulty was faking and neither of them knew it. I turned to my viewing companion and said, "Wow, both of those storylines just got a lot better."

But is it just me, or is this always the way of The Wire? I'm usually interested but not completely in love with a season until the last few episodes where everything that's been building finally coalesces in this beautiful, tense, cohesive way that gives me chills.

So even though so far this is no season 4 to me, I want to have faith that the show will pull through, as it always does.

Can Omar fly?

Pete said...

It was in that gray area, like "maybe that isn't physically possible" or "maybe it is, just for Omar." It was a nice touch, given his legend.

But the best thing about it is that Omar now has a limp. The symbolic power of watching him fuck shit up with a limp is undeniable. It's the same thing that makes me love the Die Hard movies: the wounded warrior, the one in pain even as he inflicts pain on others, he is about something larger. Suffering itself, maybe. I don't know. But it hits me hard.

Grendel said...

Bummed I can't read this post, as we moved before this new season started. So we're still stuck in the "Schools" and "Politics" worlds of The Wire -- until it comes out on DVD here. Which is probably next year.

msf said...

I'm with cek--I was hating both the newsroom (all bones to pick, no real assessment of how it got so crappy) and McNulty (making up serial killers? Seriously?) until it all came together and I thought it was genius. I still think both stories could have been less lame before we got to that amazing moment where McNulty realized what was going on, but so be it. I gotta disagree on Omar, though--I think he's one of the best TV characters I've ever seen, but I'm pretty resistant to him actually being a superhero.

Pete said...

I don't mean to say he is or should be a superhero. Real people survive shit like that sometimes, and we call it "miraculous" or whatever, but really that's just way of saying "unlikely" with some degree of reverence. When it happens to someone who already has a batman/legendary quality, there's a meaningful sort of convergence. The improbability of it was pretty clearly deliberate, what with the repeated camera pans. But I don't think they meant to stretch the verisimilitude- just to acknowledge and play with the way that reality, and by extension, realism, can sometimes seem to stretch verisimilitude without actually breaking it. There was so much POV surrounding that jump-- Chris, Snoop, Michael looking down from the balcony, and later, with Marlowe, looking up with disbelief. It's about their understanding of Omar, and by extension, the larger legend of the guy.

The show is pushing the boundaries with this season in a lot of ways that I really appreciate. In a way, that's a perfectly reasonablt thing to do with the huge reserve of trust they've earned over the past four seasons. I'd follow these writers anywhere and I find myself deeply and thoughtfully enjoying decisions like this one--decisions that other viewers might (reasonably) consider to be narrative "mistakes." As a viewer, as a reader, that's kind of the best possible way to experience art, isn't it? It's rare, of course, because the trust that inspires it is so precious.

I don't know. There's a larger point here--about this season, this show, and maybe art itself-- but I can't quite articulate it yet.