Watching The Wire: Season Three: An Introduction

Category: , , By Rev/Views

"The Game Remains the Same..."

So as promised in October it's time to start viewing the third season of The Wire and following along with the third edition of Rev/Views' rather verbose crib note/recap/review series. For those of you seeking the first or second season their respective contents/introduction pages are located here and here, each of those two pages will contain thoughts about the season, the journeys that the characters involved have undertaken and most importantly they contain links to each individual episode recap and review.

For those of you who are already up to date then you'll know the drill by now, every Sunday for the next three months or so a post about an episode of the third season will appear here. Each post will contain a relatively lengthy recap which is spiced with occasional thoughts, notes and small bits of trivia and this will be followed with a short review. For the record, while The Wire tends to be more about the city of Baltimore and the various institutions which direct and control it's destiny (and thus the destinies of the people living in it) I do focus more on the characters as they are the vehicles through which the prose and events are driven.

For now here's a reminder of where the story so far stands:

Season One:
The first season stands as a reminder of the relative failure called 'the war on drugs'; an investigation into a drug organisation - know loosely known as 'The Barksdales' after it's leader, one Avon Barksdale - is catalysed by the trial of one D'Angelo Barksdale, who gets off thanks to a key witness recanting her statement. One Jimmy McNulty is present at this trial and later "mouths off" to Judge Phelan (who was presiding). This sparks an investigation which McNulty continues to fuel, something which is originally filled with humps and career minded "quick answer cops" but gradually becomes a working, functioning unit. In part thanks to the exceptional skills of one pawn shop detective known as "Cool Lester Smooth" Fremon.

The investigation gains legs and momentum and looks like it's going to become something serious and huge when disaster strikes as one member of the detail - Kima - is shot while undercover. The department then goes off half cocked and rolls up as much of the Barksdales as possible, spoiling any chance that the detail has of completing their investigation. While Avon, D'Angelo and several others are arrested and charged Avon's number two man "Stringer" Bell remains on the street and the dealer's organisation is dealt a severe blow but not slain.

Season Two:
The second season - which deals with the death of the American blue collar workplace - opens with McNulty living out his penance for stepping out of line, as prophesied by Landsman McNulty seems fated to spend the last of his police career on a boat - exactly where he didn't want to be. McNulty uses his time and considerable detective skills to dump a floating Jane Doe on Rawl's Homicide Department, petty revenge for what happened to him.

But in a case of synchronicity thirteen more Jane Does are found dead in one of Baltimore's loading docks, an area run by one Frank Sobotka. This investigation wouldn't have had much in the way of legs except Frank managed to upset Stan Valchek, a short police captain with a huge stick up his arse and a lot of political clout. As a result the detail are all summoned back from their various positions (minus a few members - including McNulty who's been blackballed by Rawls) and they look into the trafficking at the Docks.

Time and the investigation unfolds and it becomes clear that there's a lot of dope being smuggled in via this particular dock, an organisation known only as The Greeks and headed by a man known only as "The Greek" use these docks to bring a whole host of illegal items in and out; not just drugs but also human trafficking and more besides. Unfortunately the investigation collapses thanks to a leak from the FBI which warns The Greeks that the game is up; they shut up shop and tie up loose ends, which include one Frank Sobotka - who turns up the following day floating in the harbour with his throat cut. The top members of The Greeks Organisation escape, leaving only a few lieutenants to take the fall.

In the meantime Kima has been bringing a few interesting photos to the attention of the detail, it seems that their old friend Stringer Bell is back in business and working with some interesting new partners - in particular one Joseph "Proposition Joe" Stewart - a dealer who bought his product direct from The Greeks and is now sharing it with Stringer and the remains of The Barksdales...

Season Three:
Which brings us to the third season, my personal favourite - while it's not the season which I intellectually acknowledge as the best one (that's the fourth season) it is my favourite one. It expands on the mythos of the first season and deepens the world of The Wire's Baltimore in several significant ways. Introducing an entirely new layer to the city's landscape by revealing the significance of politics in the lives of every individual in the city and telling a story about politics in a fresh and gripping fashion.

The show also introduces not one, not two, not even three, but four significant characters to the world of The Wire - just one of whom we've encountered before (in a brief season two cameo). These individuals live separate lives, but the actions of each has an impact on the others. It's quite an achievement to bring in four new characters and make them so significant and natural in the show. These four are the ambitious politician Tommy Carcetti, returning character Major Howard 'Bunny' Colvin, released ex-convict Dennis 'Cutty' Wise and the young up and coming Marlo Stanfeld. We'll learn more about them as the season progresses, but it's enough to say that each of them is a fantastic character in their own right and that each of these characters has an impact on the other, even if it's only through indirect effect.

But the season isn't just about new characters, it's about old pursuits of previous ones - McNulty is back on the chase after Stringer Bell, a man who evaded and bested McNulty in the first season. And so the show swings back to looking at the Barksdales (if you recall Avon engineered a bargaining chip with the prison parole board last season in the episode 'Hot Shots', using said hot shots to "expose" a corrupt guard). It's a tale of two brothers with different attitudes.

But more than that it's also a tale of one man who has the head and the attitude for the bigger game. It's about a man from the Baltimore streets with ambition and drive. It's a story about Stringer Bell, the gangster with the glasses and the business classes - it's a story all about him. And you've just got to love the guy.

And that's introducing the third season of The Wire.

It's all about the game...


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