I was genuinely pleased with the first season of The Wire. Season one ended smoothly; the wiretap was out and everyone was more or less back to doing whatever they were before the detail (with several exceptions, namely McNulty’s forced move to the harbor police). I felt like the season had come full circle, and was excited to see what I knew from the reading was supposed to be a shift in narrative focus. I sat down yesterday to dive into the second season to find the show didn’t just take a narrative shift; it had taken a narrative leap. Though we still have the characters of the first season, they seem to be lost in multiplying tiny plot arcs. We’re suddenly introduced to an entire different cast of characters, locations, and slang. I had a tough time keeping up with what some of the new characters were saying, and, as always, trying to keep up with the plot Simon cleverly keeps hidden under what he doesn’t show us.
Marsha Kinder explores the interplay between systemic analysis and emotional engagement that occurs as The Wire shifts from its first to second season.We still have half a protagonist in McNulty, but I’m uncertain if the rest of the cast can be carried through the entire season after the Baltimore we knew in the first season has been busted wide open. I’m certainly interested in seeing how far this analysis can take us while still sustaining my emotional engagement, but I fear the show is already losing me emotionally. I’m tired of seeing every character I like die or stray further into the dark. If McNulty can’t make himself a protagonist worth staying mildly interested in, and if likable characters like Bubbles stay off the show for too long, I’d just as rather stop watching the show.
Just a side note: I think it’s interesting that Kinder quotes Simon on not mentioning systemic analysis when first proposing the series. I’m not sure if she means that Simon had not intended to include the message of policy reform into the series and it simply happened,or if Simon purposefully omitted the fact that the show wouldn’t only focus on the drug war from his proposal. Either way, I guess the show was bound to go “deeper” by the time the first season was being written. The detectives made several allusions to the wide reach of the capital tied up in the Avon Barksdale case.