“The Wire” – A Perfect Name For An Almost Perfect Show

In watching the first season of The Wire, I remember falsely assuming that the show’s title would largely inform the thematic and narrative dynamics of the show. From the pilot episode onward through the middle of the season, I was under the impression that the series was focused on the viewer’s penetration of the drug underworld, whether it was from within, as represented by the story arcs concerning the Barksdale organization, Bubbles’ life as an addict, and Omar’s exploits, or from without, as represented by the tales of the police detail assigned to the homicides associated with the drug underworld. I took the show’s title quite literally as a reference for how each season would play out: In my mind, the title “The Wire” referred to the wiretap investigations carried out on the show.

Of course, as I continued to watch, especially through the second season, my assumptions would quickly be subverted. Dana Polan discusses how the show emphasizes “the cyclical nature of life in the city, where the new is continually replacing the old: a new police commissioner for the old one, a new Robin Hood gangsta for the old, a new addict for one who’s recovered,” etc… (Polan 1). I think this cyclical theme informs the show’s title to the furthest degree. Simon wants us to understand the complete interconnectedness of life in Baltimore, or any American city. Nothing is simple, nothing exists in a vacuum of good and evil, especially when we view the organizations of the American city as critically comprised of flawed human beings. Each season never truly begins from a standstill, and each season never ends with textbook resolution. The series is more of a reflection of real life than any other I have seen before.

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