The Critical Optimist

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The Wire: Season 2

After the gripping first season of David Simon’s show about life in Baltimore, I vigorously took to watching season two.  Instead of taking us down the dark alleyways of the inner city this time, Simon takes the story to the city’s waterfront shipping economy.  When a crate of dead bodies arrives in court, a police investigation headed by the crew from season one is initiated.

I might as well make my opinions clear from the get-go; this season was not the most enjoyable watching experience I’ve ever had.  Gone is the gang warfare, and phone surveillance of season one; replaced by scanning shipping containers.  I respect Simon’s intentions however, because in the making of this season, he cemented the Wire’s existence not as a crime show, but as a show about Baltimore.  The inner harbour is an important aspect of the city, and while it may not be anywhere near the interest level of the narcotic riddled streets, it is still a story that must be told.

Simon also delivers an antagonist that is far more complex than season one’s Avon Barksdale, in Frank Sobodka.  A blue-collar dock worker, Sobodka becomes involved in drug smuggling not because of greed, but to continue to support the Stevedore Union.  His crime is one of affection, and desperation — this makes him stand out.

Additionally, the show features excellent documentary style cinematography, with excellent wide shots and sweeping vistas of the beautifully decaying Baltimore waterfront.  The shows creators have taken even more effort this time around to show that the action is indeed in  Baltimore, with many establishing shots of local landmarks like the Domino Sugar sign.

My suggestion to anyone who has never watched the wire, is to fix this right away, but to start with season one, for obvious reasons.  For those who have seen and loved season one, you should absolutely bite the bullet, and slog through this less intense, slower paced, but no less rewarding second season.


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