The Wire: Season Two thoughts [TVGA Masterworks]

It seems that it wasn't all that long ago that I was writing about my thoughts on Season One of The Wire. That's because that is actually the case, and since then I have plowed through Season Two in its own right. However, don't take that as an indication that it was so good that I couldn't stop watching. It was more about using it to fill time that normally I'd spend, say, watching Mystery Science Theater 3000 in YouTube.

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It was quite interesting to see how The Wire changes from Season One to Season Two. The Wire isn't like a lot of other shows I've seen. There were several notable differences between the two seasons. A lot of the major characters from Season One were back, but with many of them in prison, the criminal focus turned to the docks and illegal smuggling. Why, even the credit sequence changed for the new season, complete with a much worse version of the theme song.

Much like the first season, Season Two is about a group of police from varying departments coming together to take down a target. However, this time the main target, at least at first, is a union man on the docks named Frank Sobotka, and the only reason he's a target is because there is a police major who is mad that the dock workers got themselves the new window in the Polish church he wanted. Of course, Sobotka ends up being a minor player working for a group of nefarious, violent characters led by a mysterious man only known as "The Greek." Other key new players are Frank's nephew Nicky, Frank's goofball son Ziggy, and The Office's Amy Ryan as a low level police officer who ends up getting pulled into the investigation. Also, there's a container full of dead prostitutes. So, there's that.

Early on, I wasn't enjoying this season as much as the first one. The stuff at the dock wasn't as interesting as the drug storylines, and neither were the characters. Nicky annoyed me, and while Ziggy was kind of funny, he was really just comic relief. Even The Greek, Spiros, and company weren't all that engaging. Other than Frank, none of these characters jumped out to me, and the storyline wasn't all that interesting either. However, by season's end, I thought Season Two was better than Season One. While Nicky never became all that compelling of a character, Ziggy did, and there is one episode in which he makes a decision with grave consequences that really served as a turning point for all the dock stuff. The way the storyline ended up finishing wasn't quite as satisfying as Season One, but it was still fairly good, and it stuck to what appears to be the show's themes about crime and law enforcement.

The characters from the drug game did not disappear, however. Even though Avon and D'Angelo were in jail, they still got plenty of screentime, with Stringer Bell taking on a bigger role, and finally becoming a major and compelling character. D'Angelo was the one character from the drug dealers that resonated in Season One, and he continued to be strong in season two, even if he didn't make it the entire season, which surprises me, in a positive fashion. Additionally, the East Baltimore drug game became a much bigger part of the show this season, which had a positive impact. In particular, Proposition Joe got much more to do than coach a basketball game, and with his drugs highly potent and Stringer and company's weak, it really created some interesting dynamics.

Adding intrigue to the drug game was Brother Mouzone, a character who managed to be one of my favorites despite very limited screentime. It strikes me as slightly disappointing that David Simon and company can create a dynamic character like Mouzone with a sparse few scenes, but some characters that have been around since day one still aren't all that interesting. Of course, if you are talking drug dealing on The Wire, you've got to mention Omar, who did most of his best work not robbing drug dealers. In my favorite episode of the show so far, "All Prologue," Omar testifies against one of Barksdale's crew in a murder case. It was fantastic, and a great showcase for the character, and I particularly like the way he foppishly waved his ascot at Stringer when entering the courtroom. Also, he wore a shirt saying, "I am the American dream," in one episode, and it was awesome. After two seasons, I can see why he is a lot of people's favorite character, although in season two my favorite moved from Lester to Bunk.

Bunk got a lot more involved this season, as he got dragged into the crew this season after getting stuck with 14 Jane Doe's that were tied to the smuggling case. Bunk provides a lot of the comic relief, and the character is quite funny, but he's more than just a guy there to lighten the mood in an often dark show. There is a fair amount of humor in The Wire. It's not White Collar, for example, but it isn't just a series of miserable events.

Speaking of the police, while we get the same crew together, with Bunk and Amy Ryan’s Bea Russell thrown in, since season one the dynamics have changed, which helps keep things fresh. Although, early on Jimmy McNulty is on the outside looking in, as he has been banished to harbor duty due to his actions last season, much to his displeasure. McNulty wasn’t quite as interesting this season, spending some of his time trying to get back with his wife. He’s still a good character, but despite being sort of, kind of the main character, there are several other characters I enjoy more. At least Dominic West got the chance to bust out a British accent, which, given that he is actually British, was not an issue.

After two seasons of The Wire, I still don’t consider it a great show, and I still think Breaking Bad is the best drama of all time. However, it is certainly a good show and, with Season Two building upon season one quite well, I am looking forward to Season Three. I’m sure the dynamics will be changed once again for next season, with another focus point. I wonder if there will still be any mentions of the docks or those characters, because the drug game characters were kept around despite not being all that connected to the main storyline. If so, they are really going to start building a huge cast. Bring on Season Three of The Wire!

By Chris Morgan

About the author

Chris Morgan has written for an abundance of websites. He once cowrote a show for The Second City in Detroit. It was closed soon after. He has a podcast: http://cheers.libsyn.com/rss He wrote a novel: http://www.amazon.com/Smoke-Gets-Your-Eyes-ebook/dp/B00961KJNW/

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2 Comments
On: Saturday, January 21, 2012
Eric - TV Geek Army "Revered Leader" said:

Nice breakdown again, Chris. 

I think you do need to be careful in how you characterize The Wire relative to other TV dramas and television history for a few reasons. First, you're watching The Wire for the first time and therefore judging it as a whole without having first watched it as a complete body of work. Second, you've admitted that you're not a huge consumer of television drama. Breaking Bad and The Wire are vastly different shows -- each unique and truly masterful in their own ways -- even though both are ostensibly dramas. 

I say this because it seems that there was a lot that you did enjoy about the season by reading through your comments, but you follow by adding -- perhaps glibly -- that you don't consider it to be a great show. Hope makes sense? 

On: Sunday, January 22, 2012
Lucas High said:

Chris,

I'm pleasantly surprised that you found yourself liking Season 2 more than Season 1, particularly your first time through the show. When the show aired, Season 2 was the whipping boy season, but has since become the "secretly good/underrated" season du jour as people are watching it a second/third/fourth time.

Season 2 is one of my favorite seasons and that is mainly due to the fact that Frank is one of my favorite characters. I agree that Nicky was under-developed and Ziggy was mostly just there to drink Natty Boh and wave his dick around. But Frank was a masterpiece of a character.

By all means, keep doing these season breakdowns. But please, please, please reserve judgement about the show's "greatness" until you've seen all five seasons. The Wire can really only be viewed (and judged) as a whole. And lucky for you, you've got a lot of episodes to enjoy before that "whole" starts to emerge.

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