“It’s Baltimore, gentlemen; the Gods will not save you.”
It was difficult to write this review without giving away at least one major death, but I will write a spoiler free review.
This is the season where everything gets political. One police chief starts his own war on drugs, we see the inner workings of the Baltimore political system and Stringer Bell tries to become a business man.
This series saw the introduction of some of Baltimore’s political heavy hitters like Odell Watkins (Frederick Strother) and
Littlefinger Thomas Carcetti played by the brilliant Aidan Gillan. Carcetti is a politician on the city council with ambitions of becoming much more. With a storyline like this, with many different characters, a viewer is in danger of getting lost behind all of the names and political jargon. But The Wire handles it brilliantly. After an episode or two you know who is who and when the series is done you feel like you know enough about the systems inner workings that you could become an elected official in Baltimore.
The different storylines in the show soon begin to weave into and impact others. For example the political system is the catalyst for most of the events on the street in this season. The word comes down from the Mayors office that homicides in Baltimore must remain under 300 for the year. This pressure gets to one person, Major Howard “Bunny” Colvin (played by Robert Wisdom who to me will always be Tito from Face/Off) and he starts his own personal war on drugs. He states that the Police can’t stop charging the dealers because then they look weak, but they’re not getting anywhere by beating them senseless everyday. So he moves all of the dealers to a certain location of town, nicknamed “Hamsterdam” by the dealers. Here, drugs are effectively legal. It’s an amazing and sometimes shocking thing to see, people shooting up on street corners whilst Police sit around letting them do it, but it leads to a huge decrease in district wide crime and the Baltimore community loves it. It is such a great thing to see in The Wire, one Major standing up to his superior officers and doing what he wants even if it looks like it might cost him his job. But Colvin is perhaps not the noble hero he first appears, he is only so willing to set up “Hamsterdam” because he knows he’ll be out of the door and into his retirement in a few weeks. This is The Wire after all, there are no perfect characters.
For me this series proves what we’ve suspected all along, Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West) is a scumbag. One scene see’s him giving Kima (Sonja Sohn) the best advice on how to cheat with her partner. He turns up to work after a night out, looking homeless and smelling of sex and whiskey. He drinks himself almost to death and is so crude, yet why is he so likable?! It’s something about him; he’s pathetic. You can’t help but feel for the character. All he has in his life is the job, and he is constantly spurred on by his need to bring down Stringer Bell (Idris Elba). But it’s becoming more difficult as Stringer is seemingly cleaning up his act. He is a business man now, with a list of properties to his name. Stringer is the most tragic character of this season, he is a business man stuck in a gangsters world. Don’t get me wrong, his street mentality is still there. If pushed he’d kill without regret. But he has something that puts him above the rest of the Barksdale gang; he wants to get out of this world. Things only get worse when head of the Barksdale operation, big man Avon himself (Wood Harris) gets out of prison. Things on the street have changed, the drug game is no longer about corners and gun battles. Avon however cannot see this and refuses to accept the new rules of the game.
Old faces show up throughout the series, Omar (Michael K Williams) and Brother Mouzone (Michael Potts) team up to take down Stringer Bell and Bubbles (Andre Royo) continues to struggle on the street and help out the Police when he can. We also have the introduction of some new characters such as Dennis Wise played by The Walking Dead‘s Chad L. Coleman. A lot of screen time is devoted to Dennis’s story, and it makes a welcome change from the politics and drugs. Dennis starts the series by getting out of prison, after a hit gone wrong he finds he isn’t cut out for “the game” anymore and begins to turn his life around by setting up a boxing gym for all of the troubled kids on the street. Like the port in season 2 this offers a side of Baltimore which, before this show, I had never seen. Coleman is a big guy, but he also brings a quiet sort of nice guy vibe to the role. He is quickly becoming one of my favorites on the show.
This season was amazing, yet sometimes I felt like I missed the setting of season 2. I keep reading that season 2 is the weakest but I feel like it may be my favourite. It’s really a testament to the creators that in the supposed weakest season I found my favourite characters. That being said, season 3 is still amazing and is one of the most well written seasons I can think of in TV history. It feels now like the creators are making the show they want to make, showing us this vast criminal world and also showing us the personal day-to-day lives of so many characters. The story of “Hamsterdam” was always going to end in tragedy but it was great to see this grand, borderline illegal plan spiral out of control in a way only The Wire can. With season 4 getting the majority of the critical acclaim, I can’t wait to dive back in.