Two people on a park bench — “The Wire” and the importance of conversation

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 5.01.54 PM Two people on a park bench — “The Wire” and the importance of conversation

by Jack M Silverstein (@readjack)

“Makes me sick motherfucker how far we done fell.”

As “The Wire” HD marathon rolls on, I’ve spent time tweeting with fans about our passion for the show and with cast members about characters with whom they wish they’d played one scene while also writing or re-sharing my work on the show, such as this, thisthis, this, this and this.

The topics that come into focus while steamrolling episode after episode are the ones strung across seasons or even the series — the repetitive or parallel elements that only reveal themselves upon multiple viewings.

Like characters sitting and talking on a park bench, for instance. Continue reading “Two people on a park bench — “The Wire” and the importance of conversation”

Four reasons why it’s not “The Wire” without Season 2

Frank Sobotka, I.B.S. local 1514.
Frank Sobotka, I.B.S. local 1514.

You can’t spell “The Wire” without “Sobotka” — An examination of Season 2 

by Jack M Silverstein (@readjack)

“You’re a Sobotka.” 

“Fucked, is what I am.”

Season 4 would have been too late for Season 2.

When a new chapter of The Wire was born in 2006, 21 months after the end of Season 3, two significant story threads were already in motion: the simultaneous rise of Tommy Carcetti and Marlo Stanfield.

There were also changes for McNulty (now manning a beat in the Western), Cutty (now running his gym), Prez (out of BPD and pursuing a new and then-unknown career) and Daniels (a newly-minted major) that a new season would naturally address.

Chester and Nicholas Sobotka.
Chester and Nicholas Sobotka. (screen shot from HBO)

Season 4 needed to feel like a continuation of Season 3. The reason the fresh batch of school characters felt like a continuation rather than a departure is that the school story folds easily into the others.

Carcetti’s first administration-defining choice revolves around the school budget; Marlo helps corrupt Michael and doom Randy; Cutty interacts with all four boys at the gym; Prez teaches all four.

That wasn’t the case in Season 2. After spending 13 episodes learning names, faces, personalities and backstory of close to 30 characters, this unruly little show about Baltimore did (seemingly) a 180 and introduced a (seemingly) unaffiliated set of characters in a different part of the city.

For people who don’t like “the docks,” the complaints tend to echo how Fruit felt about Hamsterdam: “Why you gotta go and fuck with the program?” Continue reading “Four reasons why it’s not “The Wire” without Season 2″

The Death of Stringer Bell, 10 years later: A look back at the greatest episode of (probably) the greatest television show ever

The Death of Stringer Bell, 10 years later

A look back at “Middle Ground,” the greatest episode of (probably) the greatest show in television history

by Jack M Silverstein (@readjack)

“…nothing I can do to change y’all minds…”

My parents had Kennedy.

I had Stringer Bell.

Granted, John Kennedy was an international figure, and real, and my parents experienced his death when it happened. And Stringer was local, and fake, and I didn’t watch Season 3 until three years after it aired.

Didn’t matter. Stringer’s death, silly as it sounds, was a “Where were you when?” for me.

I was at my parents’ with them and my brother, the four of us locked into the fates of nearly 40 characters over 10 hours of storytelling. And really, by the time Stringer was facing Omar’s shotgun to the east and Mouzone’s pistol to the west, we’d had almost 36 hours of this story.

That elongated buildup and knowledge of history is what makes Season 3 my favorite of the five. And that makes “Middle Ground” — that season’s penultimate, and finest, episode — the greatest 60 minutes in the show’s history.

I first saw it in 2007. But the night TV fans went to bed stunned by the death of this fictional drug dealer was Dec. 12, 2004 — 10 years ago today.

There’s a lot to like about “Middle Ground.” Let’s start at the beginning. The previous episode, “Reformation,” opens with the return of Brother Mouzone and closes with Mouzone and his assistant Lamar kidnapping Omar’s boyfriend Dante. I won’t even chop into that backstory, only to say that its strength and depth allows Omar to be one of the stars of “Middle Ground” despite having only two scenes, the first and the last.

That first scene is one of several that anchor the episode, the season and the series. By my count, there are nine.

Continue reading “The Death of Stringer Bell, 10 years later: A look back at the greatest episode of (probably) the greatest television show ever”

The Godfather of Television

Following the thread: how The Wire became a cinematic masterpiece

February 29, 2008

It doesn't take McNulty and The Bunk to figure out why The Wire is so good.
It doesn’t take McNulty and The Bunk to figure out why The Wire is so damn good.

“We’re building something here, detective. We’re building it from scratch. All the pieces matter.” –Freamon

My true introduction to the The Wire came with a man in a wheelchair.

My dad and brother discovered the show last October when HBO re-ran the entire series; I’d been in and out of the house, catching an episode when I could. My family loved it, and while I thought the show was excellent, it did not have its hooks in me. That changed with “All Due Respect,” the second episode of Season Three. Continue reading “The Godfather of Television”