#5: The Wire - Season One

In Baltimore, keeping the devil way down in the hole is not as easy as the Wire's title theme suggests.  As a series, The Wire functions mostly as a relentlessly realistic look at the city of Baltimore, each season adding another dimension to the city (Season 2 is the shipping industry, Season 3 is the political sphere, etc).  Season One lays the foundation for the rest of the series as it focuses almost exclusively on drug dealing in the city and the Baltimore Police Department's attempts to combat drug dealing itself and the crime that comes with it.  Were this a show on FOX, TNT or any network channel for that matter, the drug war would be portrayed exclusively from the side of a few valiant detectives, who solved murder mysteries on a week to week basis.  However the Wire eschew's this chiche and gives a gritty look on the ongoing drug war in Baltimore from the perspective of those on both ends.  The police department is shown to be anything but noble, infested with corrupt higher-ups who are more interested in "doctoring" crime stats in order to make their way up the ladder and boneheaded patrolmen more interested in banging skulls than making any real progress in fighting drug dealing.  Conversely, the Wire drives home the point that not all those involved in the drug trade are murderous gangstas (though there are a fair share), but also young (relatively) innocent products of poverty and bad neighborhoods.

What the F*** did I do? - McNulty (on many, many occasions)
While the stark realism of the Wire contributes to its excellence, the combination of well-written characters and excellent plot is where the Wire truly attains its greatness.  Jimmy McNulty is the TV antihero by which all other TV antiheroes should be measured.  McNulty's character flaws range from rampant alcoholism and philandering to having a unique talent in pissing off superiors but despite all of this, he is one of a very few *Lester Freamon voice* "true police" in the Baltimore PD.  The entire cast of characters that compromise Lt. Cedric Daniels' squad tasked to bring down Avon Barksdale (West Baltimore's most powerful drug lord) is excellent from Shakima Greggs to Herc & Carver (one of the most underrated comedic duos in television history) to Daniels himself.  Without writing 2,000 words it is impossible to acknowledge all the great characters in the first season (Omar, Bubbles, Avon, Stringer, Prop Joe, Bunk, and so many more shine).  That said, I feel obligated to comment on what was perhaps the most emotional and powerful moments of the entire series: the murder of Wallace, a soft-hearted 16 year old, who wanted to get out of "the game" before he was in too deep, by his best friends Bodie and Poot on suspicion of snitching.  As the scene occurred at the end of the episode, I was left just staring at the screen for probably five minutes after the credits rolled.  In a society which has been so desensitized to watching murder (from TV drama to the news), the scene managed to tear away all of the thick skin we had build up, and left you with more than just sadness, but also a sense of how cold and ruthless inner city drug dealing is.  If that is not a testament to the Wire's brilliance, I'm not sure what is.