29 September 2016 | shandronobrien
An American Masterpiece: The Single Greatest Narrative of Our Generation
I say that without a shred of hyperbole. The Wire's importance, beyond setting the standard for all modern television, is one of a historical document. 500 years from now, the show will surely be one of a handful that allows future generations to glean the state of American society during this time period -- it's problems, it's people, it's language, it's institutions, and the constant tension that exists when all of these are forced to coexist.
This is due to the fact that the Wire, through nuance and true-to- life portrayal of human interactions, constructs an extremely lucid and heart-breaking evaluation of almost every aspect of society. Most of you reading right now wake up every day as a cog in the massive, interwoven, and fundamentally autonomous institutions which together make up a capitalist society. However, given that we are all a minuscule part of this larger whole, it is nary impossible to take a step back and objectively evaluate just how much influence these institutions hold over the course of our lives. It's not unlike trying summarize a 1000-page novel while holding a single random page less than an inch from your face. Our perspectives are inherently limited in this regard, and so too is any vain attempt to connect the pieces and make sense of it all.
This point is one of the many reasons that the Wire warrants our time and careful consideration. From a bird's-eye perspective, each season builds on those prior until at the very end we have no choice but to reckon with vast tapestry of individual strands as a singular work. One that feels so true to life that it's near impossible for me to think of anything else, fiction or non-fiction, book or movie, painting or play, sculpture or architectural feat, which in their combined power holds the volume of educational lessons, thoughtfulness, humanism, pure ethos, or entertainment that the Wire does.
"All the pieces matter," a quote that flashes across the screen at the beginning of an episode in Season One, is prophetic in it's understanding that the totality of something can have a much greater impact than its individual parts. And that is why I find it upsetting when reading reviewers which call the show "boring" or "slowly paced" or "overrated" and then go on to admit that they gave up watching before the end of Season Two.
I am not a cynic by nature and in general tend to dismiss the common criticism that our generation is one that needs constant gratification all of the time in order to stay engaged with something for the long haul. But in this case, I truly believe that the Wire is so much different than what most people are used to watching on the medium of television that some may get confused or frustrated when the show refuses to pander to the standard beats and thrill-inducing plot devices on an episode-by-episode basis which we have been trained to expect with TV shows. There are no neatly wrapped episode arcs, no spoon-feeding over obvious plot points via voice-overs or flashbacks, and no musical score to tell us how a particular scene or moment should make us feel.
Instead, the show forces us to become witnesses to a series of events in much the same way we would witness something unfolding right in front of us. Especially during Season One, David Simon and his creative team give us a lot of footage that looks like it should be from a documentary. This is all intentional, of course. The 4:3 film, the non-HD look, the way the camera seems to lack the traditional god- like power to always know that a character is going to say something important so that it shows us that character a second or two before they say their line (indeed, if you watch closely you'll notice that there are times that the camera will only pan to a speaking character after they begin saying their lines, giving the viewer the distinct feeling of a real-life situation unfolding in real time) -- all of these things are by careful design. And all of these devices add to the show's power because the characters become more real when depicted in this way. This makes it all the more devastating every time one of these characters is chewed up and spit out by the merciless wheels of capitalistic institutions surrounding them.
I chose to write a review which differs from many of the others here because simply rehashing why I love Omar so much, or which season is the best, or why I think it's better/worse than the Sopranos or Breaking Bad are all things which are touched upon over and over again. Instead I wanted to provide my own analysis about why the show succeeds and stands apart of from others to the point where comparison is futile. Some people, including myself, think that the show will provide you with such an empathy-rich experience that when you have finished you may potentially see the world a little bit differently, that you'll feel a little bit closer to all of the people you share this country with, no matter how different their persona or background is from your own. By this measure, your persistence and patience given to the show will be repaid 10-fold.