Monday 1 September 2008

The Wire - Season Four

Well, season four has completely blown me away. Building on the achievements of the previous three seasons it adds a new dimension which you might say was previously lacking: genuine emotional involvement. As I've said before the writing and the detail contained within it had made us interested in the characters and to care about them too. But by focusing on the education system, and a group of eighth graders in particular, it forces us to really worry about a group of children growing up in a city which has already shown that for some people the only opportunities available are different ways to ruin your life.

A hotly contested mayoral election is the main event in Baltimore. Tommy Carcetti may be the wrong colour to be mayor but by speaking to the right people and genuinely trying to engage with the voters he puts himself in a real position to challenge that. Aiden Gillen, looking immediately more comfortable in his role this series, shows with lip-smacking relish the contortions necessary to move ahead politically in a town with a black majority. Spin, sleaze and backhanders abound. It's a bit like here in England. For the police meanwhile, with Barksdale back inside, Marlo Stanfield is the target and the question that plagues them is how he has managed to wrest so much control of the corners without stacking up bodies. Stanfield's two enforcers, Chris and Snoop, are genuinely frightening with their cold detachment and in much the same way as Javier Bardem terrorised those he met in 'No Country For Old Men' whilst carrying a pneumatic cattle gun, they stalk anonymously through the vacant houses armed with a nail gun and a tub of lime.

Jimmy McNulty is almost entirely absent from the series (maybe Dominic West was busy doing one of his theatre jobs in the UK) which is a bit of a shame. Even in the scenes he is in he is a changed man, on the wagon and working hard to be a family man. Bunk keeps us going with his inimitable wisdom but the focus of this series really is with the children. Prez and Colvin having both left the police department are working in the school system; Prez as a teacher and Colvin working with a special group of corner kids to find the way to integrate them back into the classroom. It is a rude awakening for both of them and for us as viewers too. Lt. Daniels later says that he 'had a good education now that I think on it'. I found myself very grateful for mine as I watched these children struggle. It isn't just within the school system that we see the importance of mentoring and nurture. On the street the entrepreneurial Bubbles is trying to help a young boy himself, but there's a reason why they call it the school of hard knocks.

As I've said, it really is all about the children, and the four main actors (pictured above) are a credit to the series. Each have their own problems and seem to be following a trajectory. As a viewer I found myself desperately trying to change the course of that trajectory by thought alone, like a horror movie fan screaming 'don't go back into the house'. I really cared, and that is due largely to the performances. It isn't that these children are innocent and deserve our protection; it's precisely because they aren't innocent and yet still deserve our help and protection that shows the maturity of this series. I've barely scratched the surface here, you'll just have to watch it and educate yourself.


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