The Wire: Season Two
Next week I'll be diving into the first episode in the second season of The Wire, a season which introduces a whole host of new characters while also continuing the stories and lives of returning characters from the first season. I can recall the first time I watched the second season I was a little jarred by the shift in focus, the second season is centered around the Baltimore port, the Stevedores who work their and their Union. But we do also get to see the continuing story of the Barksdale organisation and see how their fortunes have changed after the events of the first season. The second season is very much a look at the blue collar heartland of America and how unions like the Stevedores and their members are struggling to survive in their way of life.
In my opinion the second season definitely improves upon the first season, there can be some initial culture shock with the dynamic change in locale for many scenes. This can make it seem that the show has changed dramatically, but it is always worth remembering that at heart The Wire is a show about the institutions which affect and dominate peoples lives, unions are one such institution, they're powerful organisations which both absorb and protect the people in them.
In order to conceal any spoilers about the first season I will place the rest of this post behind a cut...
Read about the story so far beyond the link...
In preparation for next week I'm going to take a very brief look at what's happened to this date and then look at where the various characters from the first season are now.
The first season dealt with a long term investigation into the Barksdale organisation, a collection of dealers who controlled a huge section of the Baltimore drug trade without really bringing the attention of the police onto them. An outburst from one D'Angelo Barksdale resulted in a shooting which caught the attention of Detective Jimmy McNulty, who decided to attend the court hearing and then saw witnesses retract their statements - obvious victims of intimidation. He unwisely complained to the judge over seeing this case - one Judge Phelan - sticking his neck out and getting the judge fired up enough to put some political pressure onto the police department. Pressure with the intent of catching the Barksdales.
Gradually a detail was put together under Cedric Daniels, a talented officer who tended to toe the line. McNulty saw him as a "yes man" and the friction between the two was obvious, but gradually as Daniels began to commit to seeing this case to it's full fruition instead of looking for "dope on the table" (a quick bust) McNulty started to respect him and the two of them worked better.
The rest of the detail included the talented cool cat Lester Fremon - a detective who was busted down to Pawn Shop duty for not following orders, Sydnor - a young and relatively inexperienced cop, Herc and Carver - two narc cops who are a little fast and loose with the rules, Kima - a brilliant detective and Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski - a screw up with a powerful father-in-law in the department (Valcheck). They were often assisted by Kima's informant "Bubbles" a drug addict who lives on the streets of Baltimore.
For all of these cops this detail would change them, some in far greater ways than others. By the end of the season Jimmy's constant insubordination resulted in him being sent to the one place he didn't want to be - on Baltimore harbor patrol, Kima was confined to a desk job after being shot when undercover and Daniels had been passed over for promotion to Major. But it wasn't all bad, Herc, Carver and Sydnor had all learnt a great deal from the older detectives and even managed to pass a little of this onto others. Lester Fremon's skills had not gone unnoticed either, he had been promoted into homicide after his sharp insight was noticed - catching things many others would have missed. But possibly the biggest change occurred in Prez, who went from a being a genuinely incompetent screw-up into an exceptional paper trail chaser thanks to the supervision of Daniels and more importantly the mentoring of Fremon. Bubbles on the other hand didn't fair as well, he'd gotten himself clean thanks in part to Kima's influence, but after she was shot Jimmy was left to handle him and wasn't sensitive enough to understand how tenuous Bubbles's new found sobriety was. By the end of the season Bubbles had returned to old habits.
For the Barksdales the news was mostly bad, despite the detail's wiretap program being cut short there was still enough evidence to imprison a large amount of them. Avon Barksdale, his nephew D'Angelo and Wee-Bey were all locked up on various charges along with many others. But Stringer Bell managed to beat the rap, in part at least thanks to Poot and Bodie, who shot their friend Wallace and silenced anything he might have passed onto the police after he decided to inform to them. Poot and Bodie were not caught for their murder and remained on the street dealing in an area referred to as 'The Pit'.
It is from here where the second season starts, with McNulty on a boat, Kima at a desk, Fremon in Homicide (with Bunk), Avon and Dee behind bars and Stringer in control of the Barksdales. Over the next twelve episodes the second chapter of The Wire will unfold.
For a more detailed look at the events in the first season see my recap and reviews, the contents page is here.