Alan Sepinwall, NJ TV critic and master of “The Wire” (SPOILERS)

“Got to. This America man.”

—Snot Boogie’s friend

Valchek v. Sobotka. Who knew where that would end?
Valchek v. Sobotka. Who knew where that would end?


With everything happening in Iran, and then Michael Jackson passing, I would like to mention something that makes me happy. New Jersey Star-Ledger television critic Alan Sepwinall is back at it with his episode by episode writeups on The Wire, one of the great cinematic experiences of my life.

Sepinwall began his writeups during Season 4, which he covered as it aired. He continued the series when Season 5 aired in early 2008, and then went back to Season 1 at the start of last summer. Now, in the summer of 2009, he is taking on Sobotka, The Greeks, and the docks in Season 2, with Season 3 presumably slated for the summer of 2010.

What makes Sepinwall’s writeups so fantastic–apart from the enjoyment of going deeper into perhaps the greatest television show in the history–is the way he breaks down the many minor tragedies along the way that have to happen for the big tragedies to take place.” I won’t go thru it, because it is quite timely, and I can’t find the exact link, but we’re talking about all of the little events that had to occur for Wallace to be killed or Randy to end up back in the group home.

For me, that’s what always made The Wire such a brilliant piece of storytelling. We are not connected by random coincidences (think Crash), but through millions of small, concrete decisions that people make every day. That was The Wire to me.

And now, before you enjoy Sepinwall’s writeups, here are a few enjoyable links.


A five season hip-hop recap, spit with great skill and detail by Detroit MC Mad Skillz

“Breaking down The Wire with Steve James and Alex Kotlowitz, from

Jacob Weisberg’s story, “The best TV show of all time” from

And without giving too much away, (although, of course, I have already given everything away with the Skillz clip, so never mind) here is a tasty sampling of all The Wire has to offer:

“Unless they some smart-ass pawns.” Bodie, from Season 1:

“You can get anything you want.” The waitress, from Season 2:

“Go home schoolboy. You don’t belong here.” The Bunk, from Season 3:

“…then where are my bodies?” Lester, from Season 4:

“Don’t see the boy snitching.” Chris, from Season 5:

4 Replies to “Alan Sepinwall, NJ TV critic and master of “The Wire” (SPOILERS)”

  1. Wow. Thanks, Jack, for bringing a lost world into perspective. I didn’t realize there’s an entire army of viewers with analytical interests in the The Wire. Just as FOX viewers hit on violent football images or CNN’s audience scrapes the screen for tidbits of screaming political insights, voyeuristic The Wire fans peep through their monitors hoping for a glimpse of The Game so many of us fortunately do not experience in our lives. Watch out for flying shards from the security camera! You might just get hurt.

    1. Thanks Dad! I just now saw this.

      You’re right — there is an “army of viewers” who have become The Wire’s cultural gatekeepers, positive and negative. I consider myself a part of the group. Of all the visual narratives of our collective lifetimes, I think The Wire will endure because it will grow more valuable over time. With so many stories within its episodes that attempt to understand the lives of people rooted more firmly in reality than characters in many other bits of filmmaking, my guess is that future viewers will watch The Wire as history lessons.

      Those lessons, of course, will not be 100% accurate. Nothing is. But I think future viewers will recognize the show for its attempt to bring a journalistic ethic to this medium.

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