Wednesday, January 16, 2008

LISTEN CAREFULLY

Because The Wire is back, and due to the glory that is On Demand I've seen the first three episodes. <*grin*>

But season 5 isn't what I really want to talk about. Regarding that, all I can say is...oh, McNulty. Is there anything (or one) you won't do? Heartbreakingly hilarious and sometimes just heartbreaking. Especially after his arc last season.

But. What I want to do is alienate myself from the rest of the writing community by saying something shocking. Okay, it's not that shocking, but it is a little shocking. Are you ready? Do I enjoy having conversations with myself? Hopefully, and yes.

Here we go: I wasn't in love with season 4. <*ducks in anticipation of objects being thrown*>

Before season 5 aired, Jul and I bought and watched season 4 in its entirety over about a week. There's a lot of good in the season--a lot of good. McNulty finally getting his shit together made me smile every time. Prez discovering himself as a teacher was inspiring...and watching him uncover the bullshit that occurs like new computers and textbooks going unused made me feel his frustration and bemusement.

Cutty doing everything to be a good guy and get through to the kids, only to realize that he was still screwing up just hurt. And Bubs...god, it was painful watching him hit rock bottom--at least I hope it's rock bottom for him. Not to mention that every single thing the main kids went through was agonizing because of the way we (and they) are continually made to feel hopeful, only to have those hopes dashed...for the most part.

But both Jul and I kept waiting for that inevitable Wire build and tension that happens in every season...and it just didn't come.

That last statement is perhaps too reductive. It wasn't that there was no build or tension, but that previous seasons had orchestrated it in such a way that the last few episodes brought you to the peak before releasing you with the final episode. In season 4, the storyline that had the most build and tension for me was Carcetti's run for mayor, and when that was resolved with several episodes left, it was like the wind was gone from the sails of the show. Every episode from that point on was mostly a series of downbeats and/or set up for season 5, which for me just wasn't as satisfying as previous seasons.

Don't get me wrong. I think that David Simon and company probably got exactly what they wanted out of season 4. The extended downbeats weren't as satisfying because they shouldn't be as satisfying. Loyal viewers could do nothing but watch as mistakes and failures played out, and in this way were put in the same situation as most of the characters in the show. Still, even knowing this and respecting the art of it...not as satisfying.

And it's not hard to figure out what was missing: there was no case to follow. Or rather, the case we followed against Marlow never felt like much more than set up, much like the Barksdale stuff from season 2. Except that in season 2, there was also the port case going on. Season 4's case, as it were, is what Prez and the main kids go through. And while the individual parts of it are all extremely well done, the whole just didn't quite do it for me in the same way that the "real" cases do in previous seasons.


All of that said, season 4 is still great television. Perhaps its biggest flaw is that it came after the uber-brilliant season 3, which for me stands as the best season of The Wire, and maybe even the best season of a TV show ever.

I dare you to try to one-up Bunny Colvin's Hamsterdam, Stringer's vendetta against Omar, or the final betrayals of the Barksdale criminal empire. Seriously, try.

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