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Jimmy McNulty managed to anger the major and is paying for the consequences.

Jimmy McNulty managed to anger the major and is paying for the consequences.

The second season shifts the focus to the loading docks of Baltimore, where the local union leader, Frank Sabotka, is involved with a criminal organization and showing a lot more money than would be expected of a dock worker, thus sparking the interest of a district commander(one Sabotka managed to anger), who gets the familiar faces of season 1 on a detail to catch Sabotka. Mixed into the whole mess are 13 women who die of suffocation in a loading container. The story focuses on the dockworkers and the criminal organization some of them are involved with. The Barksdales aren’t entirely forgotten but aren’t the focus here.

The policework stays much the same, involving wiretaps, cameras and waiting, as things happen in reality I quess. McNulty is once again the police the series follows the most. On the criminal side the Sabotka family gets the most screentime, with the most interesting one being Sabotka’s son, Ziggy, who mostly clowns around, and as he describes himself, is “the punchline of every joke”. He is drawn towards criminal activity due to easy money involved therein, but doesn’t succeed at that very well because no one takes him seriously. To sum it up he is the archetype of a failure and in a way embodies the message of the second season, which to me was living in poor conditions with little money easily leads people to crime. The loading docks are getting less and less traffic and the dock workers less and less work, which means less money of course. Set against this you understand why some of the dockworkers are lured to the money in crime, which in this case involves helping with smuggling and stealing loading crates that arrive at the docks.

Three and a half inches of diamond every morning

Three and a half inches of diamond as Sabotka describes what he wakes up with in the morning.

Season 2 takes a few episodes to get its pace together, but soon enough the series has you in again. I like the new characters a lot and the shift from the city to the dock area is welcome change in scenery and blows a lot of fresh air into the series. Its not too big a jump since the characters on the police side stay the same, more giving the season a tone of its own and still carrying the characters from the first season with it.

I have just have to mention the intro song again. This time its Tom Waits himself performing Way Down In The Hole with film material from the docks: Boats and loading crates being loaded and unloaded. HBO does intro’s extremely well, managing to sum each of their series in a minute and a half. The Wire perhaps even more so with a stroke of genius: Having the same song with five different versions serve as the intro to each of the seasons. If I ever hear Way Down in the Hole somewhere else it will bring this series to mind instantly. Otherwise there is very little music in the series. Although there was a brilliant episode with Johnny Cash’s Walk the Line playing, while each of the characters did their morning routines. Not including that, music is used very sparingly, not that I put all that much attention into things.

The Wire season 2 is extremely good. All the favorite characters from the first are present and the level quality doesn’t see any drops compared to the first, which sadly happens all too often with series. Six Feet Under changed into a direction I didn’t like as well as Rome. With the Wire season 2 is what you liked from the first one with a new set of criminals. Just bear with it for the first few episodes and you’ll enjoy the hell out of it.

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The Wire

“You gotta keep the devil, way down in the hole” sing The Blind Boys of Alabama in the intro song for the Wire. Now the devil could be interpreted as pretty much anything in the series, from drugs to that ass of a major in homicide. The hole is could be Baltimore where everything takes place, perhaps a life in crime, or even a life as an overworked detective with said major breathing on your back. No matter how you interpret the lyrics of  the intro song it sets the mood for the entire first season and why not even the series as a whole. A moody blues about “walking the straight and narrow track” defines policework rather well, at least in The Wire.

Everything begins with a trial of a murderer called De Angelo Barksdale, whose uncle Avon leads a drug dealing crime mob. Because of his influence and some well placed threats De Angelo escapes a sentence. The judge doesn’t like this and asks his friend, detective McNulty, who happened to be watching the trial, to explain what is going on. He tells about the crime league and how a lot of other criminals have avoided sentences as well. The judge is furious and exerts his influence on the police force and other officials. As a result a team is assembled to bust Barksdale. All well and good except that McNulty gets his major’s hatred for spilling the beans to the judge. The first season  follows the team in its efforts and also the drug gang and a couple of addicts. The array of characters is very wide and you get many sides to one story, which is rather typical for HBO.

suspicious

Even though the criminal are also portrayed the biggest focus is still on the cops. In the Wire policework is shown in a rather down to earth manner. The cops take bribes, get drunk and most, especially the ones with some rank, are only worried about the next promotion. Set against all this is the character of McNulty, somewhere between a hero and an anti-hero. He’s one of the few police with a higher set of morals, even if he does his best to hide it. This of course gets on the nerves of everyone above him, in part because he’s not worried about the chain of command, or the pecking order. McNulty loves his job and wants to get it done. As proof of being a workaholic he has an ex-wife and two kids from a wrecked marriage. The other main character is De Angelo Barksdale. Even though he is very deep in his uncle’s organization De Angelo has become tired of murdering and questions the way his uncle operates. Both characters are interesting to follow. It would be a great folly to forget the plethora of side-characters, because there are some very interesting and funny personalities who make the series all the more enjoyable.

The biggest strength of the Wire are definitely its characters. Almost everyone with some screen time gets your affection and at least I was worried about what would happen to the characters next. Of course there is a quota of bastards and assholes HBO seems keen to fill in each of their series, but they only make your favorites shine all the brighter. Most importantly The Wire has you caring about its characters. Occasionally very sad and sometimes extremely funny, the series goes through a wide emotional spectrum and you’re so very in it all the time I simply couldn’t wait to watch the next episode, the one after that, and man was that an exciting way to end an episode, so I’ll have to watch the next one of course… This followed until I had watched the entire first season.

Wiretap

All in all HBO proved to me once again that their series are some of the best on television and their seal of quality is to be trusted. I liked the Wire more than Deadwood, perhaps in part because The Wire had more of an actual plot line going throughout the first season. Deadwood tended to be more about the day-day doings in the village and seeing it gradually become more civilized. Rome still stands taller, but not by that big a margin. I’m excited to see how George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones is pulled off, if it gets the green light. Meanwhile I very much recommend watching the Wire. If you like C.S.I.s gadgets and focus on solving the crimes in a lab, this isn’t you’re piece of cake. If on the other hand, you want great characters, corrupted officials, a constant uphill fight to even get a wire tap authorized and all in all a more realistic approach, The Wire is definitely for you.

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Newswipe is a tv-program appearing on BBC4. In it Charlie Brooker takes a critical and sarcastic look at the news, looking especially at how entertaining the news appears nowdays. The fifth episode, nicely found through Youtube, is a sort of best-of compilation and a good way to get into the program. The episodes come in three parts:

In part one of the episode Brooker looks at how the public forms a big part of newscoverage. Features a couple of guys who go within 50-meters of an oil-plant on fire and pictures on snow that people sent to BBC.

Part 2 has my favorite part of the series dealing with American news-reporters, especially Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly. Pretty scary footage. Also the death of Jade Goody, a British reality tv-star who got cancer, which was widely talked about in the tabloids and tv.

Finally in the last part there’s more on Jade Goody and a look at  a shootout in Germany where a school kid killed 16 fellow students. Especially interesting is what a forensic psychologist has to say on how shooters like him are portrayed in the news.

If you got interested a quick search on Youtube will give you the rest of the Newswipe episodes as well as Brooker’s Screenwipe, which looks at tv on a wider scale.

What I most like about Brooker is the very sarcastic and dark humor. He also doesn’t take himself too seriously. On one episode of Screenwipe he took part in a children’s program as one of the hosts and ended up getting four cream cakes on his head.  An ironic reading makes even the worst crap on TV enjoyable.

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