“I still wake up white in a city that ain’t.”
I think I need to change things up. My reviews of The Wire have effectively been “The Wire is amazing, here’s why”, and then what was good and what wasn’t. I don’t want people getting bored with my reviews so for seasons 4 and 5 I’m going to do things slightly differently. After I watch an episode I will come on here and write down what I thought of it, so the review is broken down into paragraphs about each episode with a short sum up at the end. Honestly a whole review could be written about each episode but I’ll try to keep them short. Enjoy!
Season 4 introduces us to the education system in Baltimore and with it, a wealth of different characters. Like the ports of season 2, the schools of Baltimore are something very few of us have ever seen. And after seeing the children of Baltimore in previous seasons, you know this is going to get messy.
Episode 1 – “Boys of Summer”
The first episode of season 4 of The Wire introduces us to a group of children. I was ready to hate these characters, I really was. After all it’s rare to see child actors up to the standard set by other stars on The Wire but these kids were excellent. They get up to the usual childish antics, Baltimore style! What does “Baltimore style” consist of you ask? Well it involves pissing into water balloons and throwing them at their “enemies”. Avon Barksdale, these kids aren’t, but it’s entertaining nonetheless. Also in this episode we see Pryzbylewski (Jim True-Frost) start his new job as Maths teacher at a Baltimore middle school. The classes haven’t even re-started and it already looks like chaos. You really get the impression that this isn’t like an ordinary school, this is a war zone.
In this episode we also follow Tommy Carcetti (Aidan Gillen) on the campaign trail. He’s getting tired of the system in Baltimore but as people keep reminding him; he’s white. Baltimore is a town where no one wants a white Mayor. This theme has run throughout the first 3 seasons of The Wire and it’s great to see this twist on the usual racial stereotype. We find out more about the Stanfield crew, headed by the enigmatic Marlo Stanfield (Jaime Hector). Marlo is scary but the man has rules, an eye for eye seems to be his favourite. We catch up with old faces like McNulty (Dominic West) who is much happier with his job as a beat cop and we see Herc (Domenick Lombardozzi) in his new job as bodyguard to the mayor. Overall this was a great introduction to the new faces as well as a reminder as to what others are up to. It’s a shame we didn’t see anything from Omar (Michael K. Williams) or Bubble (Andre Royo) but I’m sure they’ll show up.
Episode 2 – “Soft Eyes”
Now we’re into the swing of things. This episode shows us that Carcetti is a real family man (despite having sex with that prostitute last season. Hopefully that’ll be mentioned again). He has all but given up on the election now and does not hope to win. It’s in a debate with Mayor Royce (Glynn Turman) where he seems to really become the Tommy Carcetti we knew. The debate in this episode is so satisfying, it’s awesome to see the slimy Mayor Royce being taken down a notch. This is also the episode with the famous Clay Davis “Shiiiit”, which is as amazing as I expected.
Also in this episode Marlo somehow wins the affection of the kids on the street and remains one of the most terrifying people of all time. He’s shaping up to be a real bad guy. Jaime Hector seems to have been typecast a little bit as complete bastards, but he does it well and with real evil. Elsewhere on the streets my favourite plotline is becoming the story of Dennis “Cutty” Wise’s (Chad L. Coleman) gym. Dennis won’t take any crap from the kids and these scenes between him and the kids work really well.
One thing I thought was worth mentioning was the closing scene with Namond (Julito McCullum). He flicks over to the debate on TV where Tony Gray (Christopher Mann) is talking about how important it is to get the kids into schools before they start out on the streets being violent. Namond ignores this and flicks the Xbox on and starts shooting the crap out of the Covenant in Halo 2. Now, this could mean nothing, but knowing The Wire it’s saying something. And if it’s saying the obvious things about kids, games/media and violence then it’s an outdated and weak argument. Then again, The Wire is over 10 years old so I can let it go for now. I just expected subtlety David Simon.
Episode 3 – “Home Rooms”
This episode saw the return of Howard “Bunny” Colvin (Robert Wisdom) in his own plot. He’s working as security in a swanky hotel when we meet him, dealing with a beat up prostitute. Honestly, Robert Wisdom is so enjoyable to watch I could have sat through a series detailing his life working at the hotel, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Another very enjoyable element of this episode was Prez’s first day of teaching. It’s impossible to not feel sorry for him in this environment, kids are talking and lying to him and are ignoring everything he says. Things take a turn for the shocking when one girl slashes another in his class. This seem to be a very strong plot line, it’s just a shame because I really like Prez so I hope things get better for him.
Omar pops back up as well and makes one of the strongest opening scenes in the show to date. It’s just him walking to the shop to buy a box of Cheerio’s, yet everyone runs in fear. Another great scene see’s him robbing Old Face Andre and getting back in the game. Omar’s still got it.
Beadie Russell (Amy Ryan) from season 2 makes her return after a brief appearance in season 3. Things are getting serious between her and McNulty, and it’s weird to see him happy for once. Also, he seems to have taken on her children and forgot about his own. Hopefully this’ll be mentioned in the future.
Quickly becoming one of my favourite characters is Bodie (J.D. Williams). It ‘s great how we’ve seen him rise up through the ranks after killing Wallace in season 1 to becoming a lieutenant of what’s left of the Barksdale empire. Something tells me the best of his story-line is yet to come however.
Episode 4 – “Refugees”
In this episode, we really see the similarities between the school’s and the streets. Randy (Maestro Harrell) is caught our of class selling sweets, in the same way older boys sell drugs. He is then questioned by a teacher and the whole thing plays out like a police interrogation and the teacher blackmails into getting him to snitch. Also in this episode Colvin starts working at the school, analyzing the kids before they’re lost to the drug game in the outside world.
Greggs (Sonja Sohn) starts a new job in homicide division in this episode, but as she’s the rookie she’s on the receiving end of some pranks. The homicide division is like some sort of exclusive club that only some people are allowed into, and Greggs seems to be getting annoyed with it by the end of the episode as well. Greggs also gets her first murder case in this episode, but it turns out she’s just being played again. The bosses want the murder of a state’s witness to be stalled as to not interfere with the election so they give it to the rookie, but I reckon Greggs will knock it out of the park.
Also in this episode Propistion Joe (“I have a proposition for you“) manipulates Omar into robbing Marlo. Marlo promises that this will come back on Omar, I just hope Omar can handle it. Marlo has a corner shop security guard killed in this episode just for “talking back”. He’s been evil, but I think this is where he crosses the line. Marlo is becoming a bigger villain than Avon could ever dream of.
Episode 5 – “Alliances”
Ok, now Pryzbylewski is getting somewhere. In this episode he starts a new scheme in his classroom, he awards the good kids with stickers and the bad kids with detention. The problem with it is that he starts doing this ruthlessly, and you finally think that he’s manned up to deal with these kids. But when it gets to detention he gives up and lets the kids go early. It’s difficult to see him get pushed around and played like this, but that being said, he does seem to be building up a good relationship with a lot of the kids. I guess Mr Prezbo might have what it takes after all.
Bubbles has a hard time this episode. In his quest to protect his protégé Sherrod (Rashad Orange), Bubbles get’s himself beaten up. This may be the saddest scene for Bubbles in what may be his saddest season. Everyone on the corner laughs at him as he gets beaten and as well as that, his addiction to heroin is just consuming him even more.
The Stanfield gang are trying to get Omar after the events of last weeks episode. This again shows Marlo becoming truly evil when he gets Chris Partlow (Gbenga Akinnagbe) to murder someone and frame Omar. But this is Omar we’re talking about, he won’t be taken down that easily! At the end of the episode, some of the kids go and find what’s left of Lex. Amazingly, knowing he’s dead puts their mind at ease, he wasn’t a zombie after all. Baltimore just keeps getting weirder.
Episode 6 – “Margin of Error”
Carcetti for Mayor! The struggle for Mayor heats to boiling point in this episode and we find out who won the election. It’s Tommy! A really great scene is when he receives the call telling him he’s won. His expression is blank, it takes him a second to realise if he’s happy he won. He decides he is and go to get pissed with his supporters. At the end of the night Terry D’Agostino (Brandy Burre) tries seducing him but Tommy spurns her advances. Perhaps Tommy Carcetti is a changed man after all.
In the review of Episode 5 I said Omar won’t be taken down by Marlo’s little plan. Well, I was wrong. Omar is arrested on the street and thrown into a cell. Omar in prison is like the scene in Watchmen in which Rorschach is thrown in with the criminals that absolutely despise him. The difference is that Omar didn’t send these men to prison, he shoved his shotgun in their faces and robbed them blind.
These men want to kill Omar, and even the guards turn a blind eye. But Omar has protection from the outside in the form of his friend Butch (S. Robert Morgan) who sends him some bodyguards and a knife. Omar isn’t out of the game yet. Also, I love the ring in these past few episodes. Old Face Andre’s ring was taken by Marlo, Omar then stole it from him before Officer Walker took it from Omar. It’s almost an omen of bad luck in the show and it’ll be interesting to see if anything comes of it.
At the school Colvin’s plan is in full swing. They are now teaching the worst of the worst, the corner kids. Because of this plot at the school, especially Prez’s struggles with his class, season 4 is quickly reaching the heights of season 2 in my opinion. It’s amazing.
Episode 7 – “Unto Others”
Poor Omar. He’s being set up and there’s a bounty on his head. People are trying to kill him whenever he leaves his cell. But this is Omar. OMAR LITTLE! He isn’t go to be taken down by a shiv in a prison cafeteria. No, he’s going strap books to himself as a substitute to armour. Because Omar is awesome.
At the school, Mr Pryzbylewski finds a way to connect with the kids in his class; gambling of course! He see’s some kids at lunch gambling on peanuts. At first he isn’t happy about it, then he realises that it could be a good way to teach kids about odds. In the teacher’s lounge later on he’s told that he can do what he wants as long as it looks like he’s staying on the curriculum. The kids actually enjoy Prez’s new lessons though and it’s fun to see him connecting with these kids finally after so much difficulty. In Colvin’s special class he seems to get disheartened at the realization of the task they have taken on. It’s amazing because the 8th grade kids in that class are all crazy, one is an alcoholic the rest have a whole host of mental problems. It’s a far cry away from any school you will have likely seen before.
One person who is going exceptionally downhill in this series is Bubbles. I mean the guy was a drug addict in the past seasons and his ex-best friend overdosed but it’s getting worse. I don’t know how much more of Bubbs being beaten up I can take. This series can only get worse for Bubbles and I hate to think where he’s going to end up.
Episode 8 – “Corner Boys”
Snoop (played by real life criminal of the same name Felicia Pearson) and Chris are terrifying. In this episode they give some new up-and-coming thugs some help on the best way to kill someone. It’s scary stuff from the two scariest characters. Marlo on the other hand is playing it cool as to the whereabouts of Herc’s camera, “But you know cameras. Kinda like pigeons in the storm. You know what I’m saying? Sometimes they come back, sometimes…” Marlo doesn’t need to be out on the street killing people or beating people, he could make someone wet themselves just by looking at them. This is something Avon never had.
In the troubled home of Michael (Tristian Wilds) his mother has a surprise for him, the return of his stepfather. Now I’m not sure how I feel about this guy just yet, perhaps he’s not as bad as Michael makes him out to be. But when his stepfather touched his face, the look Michael gave him was one of pure hatred. Something happened between the two of them. This is going to be a bad few episodes for Michael.
At school Prez finds the kids are still struggling. He’s made a connection but a lot of kids just don’t get the subject. But s other teachers tell him, his first year is more about him surviving. In Colvin’s class things are starting to work out. All over in this season, the actors playing the kids are BRILLIANT. They’re just amazing, better than half the people on TV today.
Episode 9 – “Know Your Place”
Poot’s back! Yep, after a 15 month stint in prison, Bodie’s right hand man Poot (Tray Chaney) is back on the street. And he’s only on the street a few minutes before bumping into his old friends Herc and Carver. They might be slinging for Marlo now instead of Avon, but the game doesn’t change.
Back on the street, Bubbles helps Herc track down Little Kevin and in return Herc promises to protect him. But we all know Herc is a screw-up so when he ignores Bubbles’ plea for help, Bubbles is beaten up worse than ever before. It’s getting really tough to see Bubbles get beaten up every episode. It’s like the feeling I get watching Theon Greyjoy getting tortured throughout season 3 of Game of Thrones, y’know, just not as hilarious. But it is difficult to see this level of violence being aimed at one of the nicest people on the show. That being said, there is an awesome reunion between Greggs and her old CI Bubbles. It’s nice to see someone caring about him.
Prez is still getting along with his students and is thinking outside of the box to get them to learn. Randy finds out he can buy sweets cheap online but needs an adult to enter the credit card details. This is where Prez comes in. Somehow Randy manages to convince Prez by saying it’ll help with their arithmetic. Prez agrees (or course he does) and the kids win the money by gambling on the street. So at least maths is involved somewhere.
Episode 10 – “Misgivings”
Ooh that Officer Walker (Jonnie Brown) is a nasty piece of work. At the beginning of this episode he see’s Donut (Nathan Corbett) driving a stolen car. A chase follows, and there’s damage to a lot of pedestrians cars in the process. Walker’s pissed about his so when he eventually finds Donut he breaks his fingers. Walker is a typical dirty cop, but it’s minor characters like him that are often much more fun to watch. We may wince but we know he’ll get his comeuppance eventually.
We get another glimpse at the new McNulty in this episode. He’s out having a meal with his kids, joined by The Bunk (Wendell Pierce) and his kids. The kids have grown up since we last saw them. It’s easy to forget when watching it night after night like I do just how much time has passed. I mean, it’s been years since the kids have last been seen on the show. Times are changing, the jukebox has gotten more expensive and the jukebox has gotten more expensive. This past series has been an odd one for McNulty, he actually seems happy.
As it turns out, you don’t mess with Bubbs. After spotting the guy who’s beating him up on a regular basis and calling Herc like he was told, Bubbs is just ignored again. I like Herc, I do, and it’s difficult with Marimow breathing down his neck, But I wish he’d pay attention to Bubbs. But like I said, Bubbs finds a way to mess with Herc. He tricks him into arresting a priest. It’s funny at first, then it becomes sad. I don’t think Bubbles realises just how much shit he’s got Herc into. Also in this episode, Randy faces some trouble from schoolmates when word hits the street that he’s been snitching. Another Herc screw-up. I love Randy, he’s a nice kid without the problems at home that his friends have. It looks bad for Randy right now but things can’t get that bad for him can they? Right?
Episode 11 – “A New Day”
I knew it, it’s been due for some time now. Officer Walker is taken down a notch. The 4 boys find where he hangs out, puts a gun in his face and dumps yellow paint all over him. This is a great punishment and it has the violent elements of the street combined with a childish prank, after all they’re all still kids. Later on in the episode, McNulty bumps into Bodie in a fast food restaurant. I love this scene between the two of them, they don’t exactly get along but they don’t hate each other. These two have been on the street together for so long they may as well be best friends. I don’t know if it was just the harsh light of the room they were in or if the street has taken its toll but the two of them, they looked old.
Poor Herc. Bubbles’ revenge has landed him in something deep. The Reverend that Herc almost assaulted is annoyed and wants Herc to be adequately punished, and complains to Carcetti with it. As there is in many crimes in Baltimore, there’s a racial issue here. The Reverend was black. If Herc is fired, the Police will see it as unfair. But if he isn’t then the high-up black ministers will be pissed. Aside from this, Carcetti is seemingly doing quite well in cleaning up the city, but he faces opposition at every corner. It’s difficult being the Mayor.
Things get worse for Randy. After school some other kids accuse him of snitching and ask how Michael can stand with him. Michael fights them for Randy until Prez appears and breaks it up. It’s great to see Prez looking out for his students and it’s nice to see that friendship still means something in Baltimore. Everyone needs a Michael.
Episode 12 – “That’s Got His Own”
Things get worse for Randy. Much worse. He’s staying home from school till this snitching thing blows over and his foster mom is talking about pulling him out of school and moving him completely. Carver assures him that’ll he’ll protect him. He can’t. In a shocking moment Randy’s house gets firebombed by a couple of street punks. They take snitching seriously in Baltimore. Also in this episode Bubbles tries to get even with the guy who’s been stealing his drugs and money by giving him some heroin mixed with cyanide. Also, Sherrod comes back! Ok, so Bubbs makes a hot-shot and his drug addicted partner comes back. It’s not difficult to see where this is going, which is weird for The Wire. But it’s still shocking to see, and even sadder to see Bubbs so upset. Sadly this is The Wire, so things will get worse.
Namond isn’t cut out for the corners. He talks the talk but when things get violent he can’t handle it. Michael on the other hand, is turning into a monster. He beats Namond around in the gym and when Cutty tries to bring him back, he gets shot in the leg by one of Michael’s new “friends”. Michael does stop his friend from murdering Cutty, but at this point it counts for little at this point. Michael is lost.
Lester’s back! In this episode Lester Freamon (Clarke Peters) returns to his rightful home at Major Crimes. Freamon also works out the mystery behind the vacant houses in Baltimore. Some of the brass don’t want him opening the houses and discovering a dozen John Does, but Lester stays and goes up the chain of command to his old friend Daniels (Lance Reddick) Freamon can be annoying sometimes with his superiority but he always does the right thing. Also, Daniels realises these bodies would go down on Royce’s records NOT Carcetti’s. Everyone ends up playing the political game eventually.
Episode 13 – “Final Grades”.
This episode is possibly the most depressing end to a season that I’ve ever seen. We’ll start with Bubbs. He turns himself in after he accidentally kills Sherrod and things just get more sad for him. Whilst sat in the interrogation room unsupervised, he attempts to hang himself. It’s a great scene, and you don’t think he’d actually do it. I think however, that the fact that he fails this task as well makes it all the more sad. He can’t seem to do anything right, not even kill himself. It’s a depressing end for Randy and Carver as well. After he reaches a dead-end with social service Carver has no choice but to give Randy up to social services. He leaves him in a group house where Randy will be abused and beaten and there’s nothing Carver can do about it.
Bodie see’s Little Kevin being pulled out a vacant house and flips out, kicking a Police car. McNulty bails him out of prison and goes and gets something to eat. This is a great dynamic, the old cop and the tired soldier. Bodie and McNulty have been through shit together and Bodie sums this up perfectly; “This game is rigged, man. We like the little bitches on a chessboard.” Not only is this a great callback to the amazing chess scene with D’Angelo in season 1, but it shows Bodie has finally realised the pointlessness of the game. It seems to me like Bodie reached the end of his character arc, and this fear was realised a few scenes later when he is gunned down in the street by Chris and Snoop.
It’s not all bad (although the vast majority still is). McNulty joins the old team, and he convinces Beadie he won’t slip into his old habit of drinking and whoring. Bunny convinces Namond’s parents to let him go. This involves a great scene between Bunny and Wee-Bey. They’re like the next generation of McNulty and Bodie and they realised how pointless it all was a long time ago. The game used to have rules, people used to have respect. Namond ends up with Bunny in the nice suburbs of Baltimore. The series ends with a lingering shot on the crossroads.
It’s easy to see why people say season 4 is the best season. And if the critics say this season is the best season of the greatest TV show of all time, well that is an accolade. This season truly is the best. Better than season 2 in fact, which I loved. I was sure the season would go downhill after the loss of some of the major players in season 3, but the new characters made all the difference. The school we saw throughout the season was great and it was brilliant how life in the school reflected later life on the street. Critics have compared The Wire (especially this season) to the works of Shakespeare, hell, The Wire is even taught at Harvard. But if it is compared to Shakespeare, this season is most definitely a tragedy, more so than other seasons I think. The stories of the kids at the school escalates quickly and soon spirals out of control ending in the utmost sadness for all involved. On the street Marlo Stanfield’s power grows to incredible proportions and the police may have opened Pandora’s box by pulling the bodies out of the vacant houses. It’s amazing to watch.
This review is bordering on 4500 words. If I could write that much for something work related, I’d be over the moon. But I thought this season needed a good review to explain just how great it is. At one point during the latter end of the season, me and my brother had stayed up till 4.30 in the morning watching episode after episode. It’s addictive but in a sad sort of way. It’s a downright depressing show but I wouldn’t want it to be any different. Season 5 will be lots of things, but boring will not be one of them.