Tuesday 19 August 2008

The Wire - Season Three

Look at the picture above and you will notice something. Avon and Stringer, together in the same car, but looking in different directions. That tells you all you need to know about these two 'brothers' in season three of The Wire. Whilst Stringer is greasing palms to make the most of the properties they control Avon is glad to be back in the game, keeping control of the corners, and regaining his place on the street. Season three brings us back to the problem of drugs in Baltimore and one man's plan to combat the problem. Major Colvin jokes at one stage that to meet the crime reduction targets he has been set he is going to legalise drugs. But his throwaway comment isn't too far from the truth. By creating zones where a blind eye will be turned on drug dealing and use, he hopes to clean up the corners, concentrate the problem in specific areas and make it easier to target those wrongdoers when the time is right. What it allows the series to explore is the wide web that drugs cast in society, how it affects those directly involved in their production, selling, use and abuse; everyone from the kids used as lookouts to the lone elderly woman who finds herself the only resident in one of these 'free zones'.

Daniels and his now permanent detail have a much harder task to gain any useful information from a wire as the drug crews have become far more cautious about how they use phones, and with their communication in general. This means that we get to enjoy the complications of the police work again, just as in the first series, but with added layers. In fact layers are being added in all aspects of the programme allowing the series to show what TV can do better than any other medium. Given the extended time of several hour-long episodes we are seeing characters rendered in the kind of detail which is usually the reserve of the novelist. It isn't simply time that allows this, but the amazingly high standard of writing and performance. Characters aren't given vast speeches to show personality, just the right words; and the actors deliver them perfectly. Relationships within the police team and the implications of the work on their personal lives (and vice versa) create wonderful tensions. These are mirrored on the other side of the legal divide with the drug crews.

On top of all of that we have the character of the city itself. Baltimore is depicted in great detail; the various districts feel very different to one another, requiring differing approaches from the police. The interplay between politics, policing, media and residents is given great prominence in this series. Everyone is checking their back, as an air of intrigue and suspicion worthy of Shakespeare hangs over proceedings. The introduction of Aiden Gillen (another actor from this side of the water) as Tommy Corcetti, a young and ambitious council man, is significant. I just hope he relaxes into his role. His reptilian stare is right but he looks a little nervous at the moment, like he's really concentrating on getting the accent right. He's a fantastic actor though so I'm not too concerned. The skullduggery is also obvious amongst, and indeed within, the drug crews too of course and it is that increasing body count which keeps the heat on the police and the wind in the sails of this superlative series. Bring on season four.


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