DVDs in Review - #24 - The Wire: The Complete Fourth Season

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"No Corner Left Behind"

For the previous seasons check here:
Season One
Season Two
Season Three
And Why You Should Watch... The Wire

Dominic West as Jimmy McNulty
Wendell Pierce as 'Bunk' Moreland
Lance Reddick as Cedric Daniels
Deirdre Lovejoy as Rhonda Pearlman
Sonja Sohn as Shakima 'Kima' Greggs
Clarke Peters as Lester Freamon
Seth Gilliam as Ellis Carver
Michael K. Williams as Omar Little
Andre Royo as Bubbles
Jim True-Frost as Roland 'Prez' Pryzbylewski
Jamie Hector as Marlo Stanfield
Gbenga Akinnagbe as Chris Partlow
Chad Coleman as Dennis 'Cutty' Wise
Aidan Gillen as Thomas Carcetti
Felicia Pearson as Felicia 'Snoop' Pearson
Robert F. Chew as Joseph 'Proposition Joe' Stewart
Jermaine Crawford as Duquan 'Dukie' Weems
Tristan Wilds as Michael Lee
Julito McCullum as Namond Brice
Maestro Harrell as Randy Wagstaff
and J.D. Williams as Preston 'Bodie' Broadus

The Show:

"I still wake up white in a city that ain't." - Councilman Tommy Carcetti

The third season saw the effective end of the Barksdale organisation when 'Stringer' and Avon turned on each other. But everything in The Wire is circular in nature so when one organisation goes down another rises to the top. In this case it's the ambitious young Marlo Stanfield who's risen up and become the king.

But the focus of the fourth season is not just on the constant war between the Baltimore Police Department and the street dealers. It expands to look at the politics that cast their shadow over all events and more importantly the show introduces us to four young kids growing up in Baltimore - Randy, Namond, Michael and Duquan aka 'Dukie'. These kids and their experiences are just as integral to the story as anything that happens during Councilman Carcetti's campaign, Marlo's dealing or the P.D.'s investigations because the focus of the fourth season is on the education system and the experiences of children growing up in it.

It's a testament to the power of the writing in how quickly and naturally these kids integrate themselves into the show. Over the course of the season the viewer comes to understand, identify and care about these four lads. They become every bit as important to the story and the viewer as returning characters do.

The main focus of the police/street is all on the Stanfield organisation, the drug Co-op, bodies that begin to turn up in vacant lots and political maneuvering. Jimmy has stepped down from active duty as a detective after his perceived 'failure' over 'Stringer' Bell and is now contented with being a standard patrolman, he's a completely different McNulty when compared to the stressed, martyr complex, bug up his arse, jerkathon of the previous three seasons. He actually appears to be happy a lot of the time. The Major Crimes Unit has been scaled back, Kima and Lester have transferred to Homicide and Prez retired after the accidental shooting last season and is now teaching. In all the focus of the department is mostly turned inwards at the start of this season because Rawls and Burrell are determined to make the most of the political landscape.

In the streets life goes on as usual, but with a new group at the head of things. Marlo's star is most certainly on the rise and his constant need for more combined with the skills of his ambitious enforcers Chris and 'Snoop' cause a lot of friction between the Stanfield organisation and the rest of Prop Joe's co-op. Boadie has managed to get himself a solid position in the Stanfield organisation, Dennis 'Cutty' Wise has retired completely from banging and now runs a boxing gym for kids and Bubbles continues to struggle with his addiction almost completely alone.

The fourth season is just a phenomenal thirteen hours of television. It holds up the corruption and hypocrisies that is so evident in all levels of life in Baltimore for everyone to see. No-one is safe from the corrupting influence of drugs and people who desire power for themselves. Every episode is just simply staggering in it's depth and detail; no stone is left unturned, no corner is skipped and the experience of watching these four young lads grow up in such a place is close to heartbreaking at times.

This season punches low and hard and never lets up, it grabs you at the start of the first episode and doesn't let go, not even in the final moments. It holds on tight and never leaves you, not ever...

The Other Stuff:

"You play in dirt, you get dirty." - Jimmy McNulty

The set of five discs comes in a standard dvd case with two multi-pages for the DVDs (one per side), all contained within a cardboard dust sleeve. The style of the case matches up with the previous seasons while also contrasting nicely. The shot of the four lads on the front cover shows them either looking thoughtful, depressed or smiling but all around is the streets are tinted red in colour and the ominous words 'No corner left behind' (a play on the current American Policy of 'No child left behind') lurk in the foreground.

There are a grand total of six sets of commentary on this set:
Boys of Summer, with David Simon and Ed Burns
Margin of Error, with Dan Attias and William F. Zorzi
Refugees, with Kate Sanford, Karen Thorson and Jim True-Frost
A New Day with Robert Chew, Jermaine Crawford, Maestro Harrell, Julito McCullum and Tristan Wilds
That's Got His Own with Joe Chappelle and George Pelecanos
and Final Grades with David Simon and Nina K. Noble

Plus there is an hour long two part behind-the-scenes documentary titled "It's all connected" and "The game is real"

This is a bit more like it, the commentaries range in quality but all of them have insightful things to say about the making of the show and the stories in it. The final three episodes in particular have excellent commentary.

The current best UK price for season four of The Wire is with Zavvi who have it at £24.99.
The others are: Play & HMV @ £28.99 and sendit @ £27.89. Which means it's 3.2p per minute of the highest quality TV you can ever possibly watch.

The Final Word:

"World goin' one way, people another." - Poot Carr

Season four is a powerhouse production, standing proudly alongside the second and third seasons and possibly even being the best season of the show overall. But as always with The Wire it's not about which season is best; because you can't watch one season without seeing the previous ones, everything ties together as part of one tapestry. So all that can really be said is "watch The Wire", do it now! Do it!

The Final Score:

"This game is rigged man..." - Preston "Boadie" Broadus

I have no problem giving this one the magical five golden TVs - making it the second item I've reviewed on this blog to score the highest possible score (the other being Doctor Horrible's Sing Along Blog).


1 comment so far.

  1. MysterLynch 18 August 2008 at 03:10
    Not only would I call it the best season of the show, I would say it is one of the best seasons of television ever.

    Season four of The Wire would have Dickens and Shakespeare nodding in approval.

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