As if you need any more prodding from me to watch The Wire in its convoluted, messy, beautiful entirety…
what David Simon, Ed Burns and company are doing here is revealing that “The Wire” is going to be far more than a cops vs. drug dealers saga. It’s not a crime show. There’s a lot of crime in it, yes, but it’s a story about the death of an American city (really, the death of the American city), and little by little the show is going to take us into every corner of that city. Last year, it was the projects and the drug war raging within them. This season, our focus turns to the ports, and to the state of blue-collar, industrial America, which has been phased out in favor of a service economy that many of these guys just aren’t equipped for. As Simon referred to it in a few interviews, it’s “a meditation on the death of work and the betrayal of the American working class.
As has been said many times before, the opening scene of each “Wire” premiere is like a mission statement for that season. We open with McNulty riding forlornly on the boat, staring out at the many abandoned factories ringing Baltimore’s harbor. Once upon a time, these places were thriving concerns that provided jobs for any man willing to put in the work, no matter his background or skill level; now they’re rotting husks, relics of a time that barely exists anymore. Jimmy looks at those factories and thinks wistfully about the way things used to be, the lifestyle his father and his father’s friends had. Then he and his partner Claude answer a distress call from a party boat filled with yuppies who couldn’t care less about Bethlehem Steel or Domino Sugar; they just look at the harbor as a place to get their drink on while dancing to “Blue Skies.” Jimmy notes that they have to tow the boat out of the shipping channel, but at the same time, the harbor seems so dead that it hardly seems worth the bother; it’s been a long time since cargo ships were constantly coming and going from this port.
Recognizing all of this, Jimmy takes a bribe to tow the boat to an out of the way location where the party can keep going, and there you have your season in a nutshell: the port workers are dinosaurs, being replaced by wealthy people looking to party (or buy condos with waterfront views), and the only real money to be made around here is through bribery.
[Click to continue reading The Wire, Season 2, Episode 1: “Ebb Tide” (Veterans edition) – NJ.com ]
I recently re-watched the entire series, but was too lazy to tap out my thoughts on it. Suffice it to say, I will probably watch the entire series again for a third time next year. Such a nuanced television novel rewards multiple viewings.