Sunday, December 10, 2006

Major Crimes: The Wire Season 4

The Wire has, with this recent season, catapulted itself from television critics favorite show (with hardly any audience) to regarded as the pinnacle of art in the medium (with hardly any audience), and as far as I can tell, the accolades are well deserved. The sheer scope of it is more than most television shows have the capacity to explore, and that isn’t even what makes it so good. What it has that no other show on television, save maybe The Sopranos, can even approach, is not only the depth and insight into a faction of society most of its viewers have never encountered, but the courage to let it unfold as-is, without dumbing anything down.

Granted, this is most likely the reason its audience has remained so small, even though its hyper intelligent themes and culture sensitive dialog (and by that I mean, it is a large and complicated story that is propelled by the gritty, inner-city language it stubbornly leaves up to the viewer to decipher), spoken not only by the dealers, addicts, and general ghetto denizens that inhabit its setting (Baltimore), but the cops, politicians, and, as they so succinctly put it in the show, “taxpayers” that make up the rest of the characters.

Now, the show has always been good, since the first season 4 years ago, but this particular arc has reached positively literary levels and is being described as most who have watched it as nothing less than Shakespearian in form and breadth. I personally think it is more Dickensian but have to admit, its shamelessly tragic inevitability is such that I’ve never witnessed on the ol’ boob tube. Even in The Sopranos you have the idea in your head the entire time that Tony will be ok in the end and even though the show is on its last legs, that everything will turn out, to some extent, cleanly. Not with the Wire and not this season. Not at all.

This season has dealt (along with its usual story line of the police department and its eternal struggle trying to do what every police department aims to do, solve crimes) with the crumbling school system and the grim future for its students, particularly 4 kids that have taken front and center in the show over the term of this years episodes. Life is already bleak enough for these kids, and school and learning seems like a luxury that none of them can really afford given the strife they must deal with at home. It is the heart of the story in its overall arc, as what these kids go through symbolize the cycle of despair running through the arteries of most urban areas. What I want to do, considering that tonight is the season finale and, taking into account that HBO seems to take million year breaks between its series seasons, I wont be able to see the show again until I am 45 years old, is recap the 4 kids and what I expect will become of them.

Michael: in the beginning of the season Michael was the brooding, quiet kid that always walked his brother home from school and had a penchant (and a talent) for boxing. It wasn’t until he stood up to Marlo, the soft spoken, lollipop sucking, cold hearted ruthless dealer that took over the drug trade when Barksdale went down in season 3, that you saw the icy cool demeanor that Michael housed, as well as his staunch independence and fierce loyalty to his friends. This independence was challenged when Michaels stepfather came home from jail, and in what was probably the biggest decision in his life, Michael enlisted the aid of Marlo’s henchmen to rid him of this burden, in the process trading his own street independence and becoming a hit man in training for Marlo’s crew. I suspect that in this seasons finale Michael will have his loyalty challenged as well, as I’m sure Marlo will order him to kill his best friend Randy.

Randy: in the beginning of the season Randy was the smart, quick witted kid that sold candy to the kids in school for a profit. His home life was somewhat better than the rest of the kids because he lived in a foster home and had a maternal figure that demanded he not only do well in school, utilizing his obvious intelligence, but largely kept him out of trouble. Unfortunately the streets have caught up with Randy somewhat, and his minor involvement in the death of a drug dealer lead him to divulging crucial information to the cops so that his foster mother wouldn’t find out he was loosely involved with another, lesser crime. This came back to bite him on the ass as it got around that he was a snitch, and even though the cops put someone outside his house to make sure no one bothered him (he had already been beaten up in school), the crafty thugs in his neighborhood got around it and burned down his house, killing his foster mother in the process. No one is ever even in the hood, and because the dealer that died was killed by one of Marlo’s own, this is why it seems inevitable that Michael will be ordered to kill him. To get rid of the snitch while simultaneously proving his loyalty.

Namond: Namond has it hard. His father was one of the key players in fallen drug dealer Barksdales army, and is now sitting in jail, coasting on his legendary status of taking the hit on a bunch of murders for his boss. This means little in the street, as Barksdale clan is no more, and thus, there is no financial support for Namond and his mom. His mom is an entirely different set of stresses for Namond. She is used to a certain type of drug dealers lifestyle and essentially demands Namond go out on the corner and start building up a new crack fueled empire. Namond, on the other hand, doesn’t have the heart nor demeanor it takes to be a hard nosed drug pusher, and his runners are starting to take advantage of him. As of last episode he had been robbed by one of his underlings and when he didn’t immediately take this kid out, was berated by his mother and told he had better not show his face at home until he had proved his mettle on the corner. When he and Michael approached the young runner that robbed him, Namond got shaken by the reality and violence of his trade, and proved himself not a man, but a scared young boy in front of Michael and the young [bloodied] runner that robbed him. After this cowardly display he has nowhere to go, and sits in a police station waiting for some adult, ANY adult, to rescue him from this despair. His mother, when called to be told about his whereabouts, said simply to “throw the little nigga in jail where he can learn something,” then hung up.

Duquan: otherwise known as “Duquie,” Duquan has the softest temperament of all the 4 kids and is perhaps the most heartbreaking of them all. His home situation is easily the worst, as both his parents are out of control drug addicts that hardly even recognize he is alive. Throughout the course the season the only thing that has really changed with Duquan is that one of his teachers has sort of adopted him, letting him shower when at school and making sure he has food to eat every day. As the school semester draws to a close, Duquie has no idea what he will do without the teacher’s generosity, which, as far as I can tell, no one else but his friends has offered him. The striking thing about Duquan, and all the kids for that matter, is how much he can act with his eyes, instead of spelling out with words, the complex emotions that spin inside behind them. It is a testament to the producers that they have so many unknown people that act better than half the assholes on major network television these days. Yet another thing to love about The Wire.

Well that is my (rather long) recap of The Wire. If you haven’t watched this season, or this show, I strongly urge you to get the DVD’s. Don’t be afraid, you’ll like them.

edit: I was wrong about michael being ordered to kill randy, but seeing as where randy ended up, and the shit he's going to have to go through, its almost the same fate. i grew up in a group home, and let me tell you, shits bad, but as the wire shows, it can be way worse.

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I almost forgot, you guys should all peep out the site Crate Kings. For those that want to get to the music behind the music, its a really good source. And the guy that runs it is pretty cool.

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:gray matters: by jkg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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