The Wire (season 1)

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The Wire (season 1)
The Wire - Season 1.jpg
DVD cover
Country of origin United States
No. of episodes 13
Broadcast
Original channel HBO
Original run June 2, 2002 (2002-06-02) – September 8, 2002 (2002-09-08)
Home video release
DVD release
Region 1 October 12, 2004 (2004-10-12)
Season chronology
Next →
Season 2
List of The Wire episodes

The first season of the television series The Wire commenced airing in the United States on June 2, 2002, concluded on September 8, 2002, and contained 13 episodes. It introduces the drug-dealing Barksdale organization and the police detail that is investigating them.

The first season aired Sundays at 9:00 pm Eastern in the United States and was released on DVD as a five-disc boxed set under the title of The Wire: The Complete First Season on October 12, 2004 by HBO video.

Plot[edit]

The first season introduces two major groups of characters: the Baltimore police department and a drug dealing organization run by the Barksdale family. The season follows the investigation of the latter over its 13 episodes.

An investigation into a large Baltimore based drug dealing is triggered when detective Jimmy McNulty meets privately with judge Daniel Phelan following the acquittal of D'Angelo Barksdale for murder after a key witness changes her story. McNulty tells Phelan that the witness has probably been intimidated by members of a drug trafficking empire run by D'Angelo's uncle, Avon Barksdale, having recognized several faces at the trial, notably Avon's second-in-command, Stringer Bell. He also tells Phelan that nobody is investigating Barksdale's criminal activity, which includes a significant portion of the city's drug trade and several unsolved homicides.

Phelan takes issue with this and complains to senior Police Department figures, embarrassing them into creating a detail dedicated to investigating Barksdale. However, owing to the department's dysfunctionality, the investigation is intended as a façade to appease the judge. An interdepartmental struggle between the more motivated officers on the detail and their superiors spans the whole season, with interference by the higher-ups often threatening to ruin the investigation. The detail's commander, Cedric Daniels, acts as mediator between the two opposing groups of police.

Meanwhile, the organized and cautious Barksdale gang is explored through characters at various levels within it. The organization is antagonized by a stick-up crew led by Omar Little, and the feud leads to several deaths. Throughout, D'Angelo struggles with his conscience over his life of crime and the people it affects.

The police have little success with street-level arrests or with securing informants beyond Wallace, a young low-level dealer and friend of D'Angelo. Eventually the investigation takes the direction of electronic surveillance, with wiretaps and pager clones to infiltrate the security measures taken by the Barksdale organization. This leads the investigation to areas the commanding officers had hoped to avoid, including political contributions. When an associate of Avon Barksdale's is arrested by State Police and offers to cooperate, the commanding officers order the detail to undertake a sting operation to wrap up the case. Detective Kima Greggs is seriously injured in the operation, triggering an overzealous response from the rest of the department. This causes the detail's targets to suspect that they are under investigation.

Wallace is murdered by his childhood friends Bodie and Poot, on orders from Stringer Bell, after leaving his "secure" placement with relatives and returning to Baltimore. D'Angelo Barksdale is eventually arrested with a large quantity of drugs, and learning of Wallace's murder, is ready to turn in his uncle and Stringer. However, D'Angelo's mother convinces him to rescind the deal and take the charges for his family. The detail manages to arrest Avon on a minor charge and gets one of his soldiers, Wee-Bey, to confess to most of the murders, some of which he did not commit. Stringer escapes prosecution and is left running the Barksdale empire. For the officers, the consequences of antagonizing their superiors are severe, with Daniels passed over for promotion and McNulty assigned out of homicide.

Production[edit]

Crew[edit]

David Simon is the series' creator and head writer, show runner and executive producer. Alongside Simon, many of the creative team behind The Wire are alumni of Homicide and Emmy-winning miniseries The Corner. The Corner veteran, Robert F. Colesberry, was also executive producer. Colesberry is credited by the rest of the creative team as having a large creative role for a producer, and Simon credits him for achieving the show's realistic visual feel.[1] He also had a small recurring role as Detective Ray Cole.[2] Colesberry's wife Karen L. Thorson joined him on the production staff.[3] A third producer on The Corner, Nina Kostroff Noble, also stayed with the production staff for The Wire rounding out the initial four-person team.[3]

Stories for the show are often co-written by Ed Burns, a former Baltimore homicide detective and public school teacher who has worked with Simon on other projects including The Corner.[3] The writing staff includes acclaimed crime fiction novelist George P. Pelecanos from Washington, D.C.[3][4] Pelecanos has commented that he was attracted to the project because of the opportunity to work with Simon.[5] Staff writer Rafael Alvarez was a colleague of Simon's from The Sun and a Baltimore native with working experience in the port area.[3][6] Another city native and independent filmmaker, Joy Lusco Kecken, joined the writing staff and served as the script coordinator.[3][7] David H. Melnick and Shamit Choksey complete the writing staff.[3]

Homicide alumnus Clark Johnson,[8] who directed several acclaimed episodes of The Shield,[9] directed the pilot, the second episode, and the fifth episode.[3] Another repeat director is Clement Virgo, who directed two episodes.[3] Single episode directors include Ed Bianchi, Joe Chappelle, Gloria Muzio, Milčo Mančevski, Brad Anderson and Steve Shill.[3] The season finale was directed by Tim Van Patten, an Emmy winner who has worked on every season of The Sopranos.[3] The directing has been praised for its uncomplicated and subtle style.[10]

Cast[edit]

The major characters of the first season were divided between those on the side of the law and those involved in drug-related crime. The starring cast comprised characters from both groups. The investigating detail was launched by the actions of Detective Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West), whose insubordinate tendencies and personal problems overshadowed his ability.[11][12][13] The detail was led by Lieutenant Cedric Daniels (Lance Reddick) who faced challenges balancing his career aspirations with his desire to produce a good case.[11][14][15] Kima Greggs (Sonja Sohn) was a capable lead detective who faced jealousy from colleagues and worry about the dangers of her job from her domestic partner.[11][16][17] Her investigative work was greatly helped by her confidential informant, a drug addict known as Bubbles (Andre Royo).[11][18][19]

These investigators were overseen by two commanding officers more concerned with politics and their own careers than the case, Major William Rawls (John Doman) and Deputy Commissioner Ervin Burrell (Frankie Faison).[11][20][21][22][23] Assistant state's attorney Rhonda Pearlman (Deirdre Lovejoy) acted as the legal liaison between the detail and the courthouse and also had a casual relationship with one of the officers.[11][24][25] In the homicide division, Bunk Moreland (Wendell Pierce) was a gifted, dry-witted detective partnered with McNulty.[11][26][27]

On the other side of the investigation was Avon Barksdale's drug empire. The driven, ruthless Barksdale (Wood Harris) was aided by business-minded Stringer Bell (Idris Elba).[11][28][29][30][31] Avon's nephew D'Angelo Barksdale (Larry Gilliard Jr.) ran some of his uncle's territory, but also possessed a guilty conscience.[11][32][33]

The first season featured several significant characters in recurring roles. Like Detective Greggs, partners Thomas "Herc" Hauk (Domenick Lombardozzi) and Ellis Carver (Seth Gilliam) were reassigned to the detail from the narcotics unit.[34][35] The duo's initially violent nature was eventually subdued as they proved useful in grunt work, and sometimes served as comic relief for the audience.[11][36][37] Rounding out the temporary unit were detectives Leander Sydnor (Corey Parker Robinson), Lester Freamon (Clarke Peters) and Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski (Jim True-Frost).[38][39][40] Sydnor was a rookie detective with a reputation for solid undercover work.[41] Though not initially important players in the operation, Freamon proved a quietly capable investigator with a knack for noticing tiny but important details, and Prez, while a liability on the street, turned out to be a natural at his desk job.[11][42][43] McNulty and Bunk served in a homicide unit squad led by Sergeant Jay Landsman (Delaney Williams), the jovial squad commander.[11][44][45] Peter Gerety had a recurring role as Judge Phelan, the official who started the case moving.[11]

There were also several recurring characters in the Barksdale Organization. Loyal Wee-Bey Brice (Hassan Johnson) was responsible for multiple homicides carried out on Avon's orders.[46][47] Working under D'Angelo were Poot Carr (Tray Chaney),[48] Bodie Broadus (J.D. Williams),[49] and Wallace (Michael B. Jordan), all street-level drug dealers. Wallace was an intelligent but naïve youth trapped in the drug trade, Bodie a violent and determined young dealer, and Poot a lascivious young man happy to follow rather than lead.[11][50][51] Omar Little (Michael K. Williams), a notorious Baltimore stick-up man robbing drug dealers for a living, was a frequent thorn in the side of the Barksdale clan.[11][52][53]

Reception[edit]

The first season received positive reviews from critics,[54] some calling it superior to HBO's better-known "flagship" drama series such as The Sopranos and Six Feet Under.[55][56][57] One reviewer felt that the show was partially a retread of themes from HBO and David Simon's earlier works but still valuable viewing and described the series as particularly resonant because it parallels the war on terror through the chronicling of the war on drugs.[58] Another review postulated that the series might suffer because of its reliance on profanity and slowly drawn-out plot, but was largely positive about the show's characters and intrigue.[8] TIME Magazine named the first season as the best TV show of 2002 in their Top 10 Everything 2002.[59]

Despite the critical acclaim, The Wire has received poor Nielsen ratings, which Simon attributes to the complexity of the plot, a poor time slot, heavy use of esoteric slang, particularly among the gangster characters and a predominantly black cast.[60] Critics felt the show was testing the attention span of its audience and felt that it was mistimed in the wake of the launch of the successful crime drama The Shield on FX.[58] However, anticipation for a release of the first season on DVD was high at Entertainment Weekly.[61]

Awards and nominations[edit]

19th TCA Awards

  • Nomination for Program of the Year
  • Nomination for Outstanding Achievement in Drama
  • Nomination for Outstanding New Program of the Year

Episodes[edit]

No. in
series
No. in
season
Title Story by Teleplay by Directed by Original air date
1 1 "The Target" David Simon & Ed Burns David Simon Clark Johnson June 2, 2002 (2002-06-02)
"...when it's not your turn" - McNulty
Homicide detective Jimmy McNulty observes the murder trial of a mid-level drug dealer, D'Angelo Barksdale, and sees the prosecution's star witness recant her testimony. McNulty recognises drug king-pin Stringer Bell in the court room and believes he has manipulated the proceedings. McNulty circumvents the chain of command by talking to the judge, who then places pressure on the police department over the case. D'Angelo is acquitted and returns to work for the Barksdale drug-dealing organization—moving to the low rise housing project known as "the pit." A homeless drug addict named Bubbles acts as mentor to another addict in an ill-conceived scam with severe consequences.[62]
2 2 "The Detail" David Simon & Ed Burns David Simon Clark Johnson June 9, 2002 (2002-06-09)
"You cannot lose if you do not play." - Marla Daniels
The witness who testified against D'Angelo is killed, and the Barksdale organization is suspected; a detail is formed to investigate their drug dealing activity in the low rises. The detail's Lieutenant, Cedric Daniels, is concerned with the quality of his team, while Detective McNulty is concerned with the department's plan for the investigation. Daniels' protégé Kima Greggs uses Bubbles as a confidential informant to identify members of the Barksdale organization. However, Daniels' suspicions about his other detectives prove correct when a late night foray into the West side projects by Herc, Carver and Prez goes awry.[63]
3 3 "The Buys" David Simon & Ed Burns David Simon Peter Medak June 16, 2002 (2002-06-16)
"The king stay the king." - D'Angelo
The detectives' brutal actions lead to a minor riot, bad publicity for the detail, injury to Herc, and Prez being placed on administrative leave. D'Angelo gives young dealers Wallace and Bodie Broadus a lesson about their place in the Barksdale hierarchy. The detail finally starts to see results as Lester Freamon obtains an old picture of Avon Barksdale. Stick-up man Omar Little takes advantage of D'Angelo's crew's lapses and steals their stash of narcotics. The pit is later raided by the police and Bodie receives a beating for striking an officer, but nothing turns up due to Omar's robbery.[64]
4 4 "Old Cases" David Simon & Ed Burns David Simon Clement Virgo June 23, 2002 (2002-06-23)
"Thin line 'tween heaven and here." - Bubbles
Bodie wakes up from his injuries in a Washington, D.C. area juvenile detention center and manages to escape just before Herc and Carver arrive to interrogate him. Avon discusses the loss of the pit's stash with his enforcers and marks Omar and his crew for death. McNulty and Bunk Moreland, his partner from homicide, investigate an old murder that may be related to D'Angelo.[65]
5 5 "The Pager" David Simon & Ed Burns Ed Burns Clark Johnson June 30, 2002 (2002-06-30)
"...a little slow, a little late." - Avon Barksdale
Stringer warns D'Angelo that there may be a snitch in his camp. The detail gets its affidavit approved for a cloned pager but are puzzled at the results. Prez begins to redeem himself in the eyes of his colleagues by taking a fresh approach to the pager information. Wallace spots Brandon, one of Omar's crew, in an arcade and passes the information on to the Barksdale enforcers.[66]
6 6 "The Wire" David Simon & Ed Burns David Simon Ed Bianchi July 7, 2002 (2002-07-07)
"...and all the pieces matter." - Freamon
Brandon's bloodied body is discovered in the pit. Wallace gets even more unsettled about the situation after Avon rewards him for his part in Brandon's murder. The detail gets a wiretap running. Daniels clashes with homicide Major William Rawls over their approach to the evidence they have gathered thus far.[67]
7 7 "One Arrest" David Simon & Ed Burns Rafael Alvarez Joe Chappelle July 21, 2002 (2002-07-21)
"A man must have a code." - Bunk
Using information from the wiretap Detectives Greggs, Herc, Carver, and Sydnor catch a runner on his way to the pit with a re-supply. Avon worries about a possible snitch and Stringer confounds the detail's investigative efforts by cautiously instructing his people to stop using payphones. Rawls pressures his detective in the detail for information on their case.[68]
8 8 "Lessons" David Simon & Ed Burns David Simon Gloria Muzio July 28, 2002 (2002-07-28)
"Come at the king, you best not miss." - Omar
McNulty uses his children to tail Stringer after a chance encounter in a local market. Greggs and Carver arrest a driver picking up a large amount of cash from the Towers from known gang members, but are forced to return the money when the driver's political connections to Senator Clay Davis are revealed. Daniels discusses his problems following the money trail with his wife Marla.[69]
9 9 "Game Day" David Simon & Ed Burns David H. Melnick & Shamit Choksey Milčo Mančevski August 4, 2002 (2002-08-04)
"Maybe we won." - Herc
Freamon gets Sydnor and Prez started on the Barksdale money trail. Omar gives East side kingpin Proposition Joe a stolen package for the opportunity to parley with him. Avon and Proposition Joe host an East side vs. West side basketball game, giving the detectives the first glimpse of their elusive target. Omar attempts to kill Avon, but is himself wounded.[70]
10 10 "The Cost" David Simon & Ed Burns David Simon Brad Anderson August 11, 2002 (2002-08-11)
"And then he dropped the bracelets..." - Greggs
After being clean for three days, Bubbles gets some strong advice from a former addict. Avon and Stringer tighten up ship following Omar's attempted hit on Avon. The detail identifies a major Barksdale stash house and an undercover operation has terrible consequences. Omar and Stringer Bell meet for a parley.[71]
11 11 "The Hunt" David Simon & Ed Burns Joy Lusco Steve Shill August 18, 2002 (2002-08-18)
"Dope on the damn table." - Daniels
While Greggs' life hangs in the balance, Daniels is ordered to raid the Barksdale operation. The detail's hand is forced and a series of city-wide raids and arrests are made to appease the Commissioner's desire for "dope on the table". Bubbles unwittingly implicates himself in the shooting.[72]
12 12 "Cleaning Up" David Simon & Ed Burns George Pelecanos Clement Virgo September 1, 2002 (2002-09-01)
"This is me, yo, right here." - Wallace
Avon and Stringer meet with their attorney, Maurice Levy, to discuss a potential leak in the wake of the raids. Wallace goes back to the pit and asks to be let back in but Stringer has another plan. With the loss of their wiretaps the detail takes a fresh approach and installs a camera in Avon's club. They catch Avon discussing a drug run with D'Angelo and arrest him en route.[73]
13 13 "Sentencing" David Simon & Ed Burns David Simon & Ed Burns Tim Van Patten September 8, 2002 (2002-09-08)
"all in the game..." - Traditional, West Baltimore
Daniels and McNulty's evidence of political corruption is of slight interest to the FBI, but the unit decides not to turn over the case to the FBI, but to pursue other directions, so that those involved in the drug trade are arrested or taken off the street. Daniels and McNulty face the ire of their superiors for flouting orders for a quick resolution to the case. D'Angelo is convinced to stand with his family after a visit from his mother. The detail has enough information to arrest Avon and many of his people but Stringer is left on the street. Business resumes in the pit with Bodie and Poot leading the way.[74]

References[edit]

  1. ^ David Simon (2005). "The Target" commentary track (DVD). HBO. 
  2. ^ "Org Chart - The Law". HBO. 2004. Retrieved October 16, 2007. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "The Wire season 1 crew". HBO. 2007. Retrieved October 14, 2007. 
  4. ^ Dan Kois (2004). "Everything you were afraid to ask about The Wire". Salon.com. 
  5. ^ Birnbaum, Robert. "Interview: George Pelecanos". Identity Theory. Retrieved September 17, 2007. 
  6. ^ Goldman, Eric. "IGN Exclusive Interview: The Wire's David Simon". IGN. Retrieved September 27, 2007. 
  7. ^ Alvarez, Rafael (2004). The Wire: Truth Be Told. New York: Pocket Books. p. 10. 
  8. ^ a b Todd Weiser (2002). "New HBO series The Wire taps into summer programming". The Michigan Daily. 
  9. ^ Jim Shelley (August 6, 2005). "Call The Cops". London: The Guardian Unlimited. Retrieved May 25, 2010. 
  10. ^ Chris Barsanti (2004). "Totally Wired". Slant Magazine. 
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  17. ^ "Cast & Crew - Sonja Sohn as Shakima "Kima" Greggs". HBO. 2008. Retrieved January 15, 2008. 
  18. ^ "Character profile - Bubbles". HBO. 2006. Retrieved December 19, 2007. 
  19. ^ "Cast & Crew - Andre Royo as Bubbles". HBO. 2008. Retrieved January 15, 2008. 
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  30. ^ "Character profile - Stringer Bell". HBO. 2006. Retrieved December 19, 2007. 
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  33. ^ "Cast & Crew - Larry Gilliard, Jr. as D'Angelo Barksdale". HBO. 2008. Retrieved January 15, 2008. 
  34. ^ "Cast & Crew - Seth Gilliam as Ellis Carver". HBO. 2008. Retrieved January 15, 2008. 
  35. ^ "Cast & Crew - Domenick Lombardozzi as Thomas "Herc" Hauk". HBO. 2008. Retrieved January 15, 2008. 
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  37. ^ "Character profile - Ellis Carver". HBO. 2006. Retrieved December 19, 2007. 
  38. ^ "Cast & Crew - Corey Parker Robinson as Leander Sydnor". HBO. 2008. Retrieved January 15, 2008. 
  39. ^ "Cast & Crew - Clarke Peters as Lester Freamon". HBO. 2008. Retrieved January 15, 2008. 
  40. ^ "Cast & Crew - Jim True-Frost as Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski". HBO. 2008. Retrieved January 15, 2008. 
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  43. ^ "Character profile - Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski". HBO. 2006. Retrieved December 19, 2007. 
  44. ^ "Character profile - Jay Landsman". HBO. 2006. Retrieved December 19, 2007. 
  45. ^ "Cast & Crew - Delaney Williams as Jay Landsman". HBO. 2008. Retrieved January 15, 2008. 
  46. ^ "Character profile - Roland "Wee-Bey" Brice". HBO. 2008. Retrieved January 15, 2008. 
  47. ^ "Cast & Crew - Hassan Johnson as Roland "Wee-Bey" Brice". HBO. 2008. Retrieved January 15, 2008. 
  48. ^ "Cast & Crew - Tray Chaney as Malik "Poot" Carr". HBO. 2008. Retrieved January 15, 2008. 
  49. ^ "Cast & Crew - JD Williams as Preston "Bodie" Broadus". HBO. 2008. Retrieved January 15, 2008. 
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  51. ^ "Character profile - Malik "Poot" Carr". HBO. 2006. Retrieved December 19, 2007. 
  52. ^ "Character profile - Omar Little". HBO. 2006. Retrieved December 19, 2007. 
  53. ^ "Cast & Crew - Michael Kenneth Williams as Omar Little". HBO. 2008. Retrieved January 15, 2008. 
  54. ^ "The Wire: The Complete First Season". Rotten Tomatoes. 
  55. ^ Alan Sepinwall (August 6, 2006). "Taut 'Wire' has real strength.". Newark Star-Ledger. p. 1. 
  56. ^ Aaron Barnhart (2006). "'The Wire' aims higher: TV's finest hour is back". Kansas City Star. 
  57. ^ Leslie Ryan (2003). "Tapping The Wire; HBO Police Drama Tops Television Week's Semiannual Critics Poll List". Television Week. 
  58. ^ a b Robert David Sullivan (2002). "Slow Hand". Boston Phoenix. 
  59. ^ Poniewozik, James (December 12, 2002). "Top 10 Everything 2002". TIME. Retrieved February 5, 2012. 
  60. ^ David Simon (2004). "Ask The Wire: David Simon". HBO. 
  61. ^ "DVD Request of the Week". Entertainment Weekly. July 11, 2003. 
  62. ^ "Episode guide - episode 01 The Target". HBO. 2004. Retrieved July 24, 2006. 
  63. ^ "Episode guide - episode 02 The Detail". HBO. 2004. Retrieved July 26, 2006. 
  64. ^ "Episode guide - episode 03 The Buys". HBO. 2004. Retrieved July 26, 2006. 
  65. ^ "Episode guide - episode 04 Old Cases". HBO. 2004. Retrieved July 26, 2006. 
  66. ^ "Episode guide - episode 05 The Pager". HBO. 2004. Retrieved July 26, 2006. 
  67. ^ "Episode guide - episode 06 The Wire". HBO. 2004. Retrieved July 26, 2006. 
  68. ^ "Episode guide - episode 07 One Arrest". HBO. 2004. Retrieved August 2, 2006. 
  69. ^ "Episode guide - episode 08 Lessons". HBO. 2004. Retrieved September 5, 2007. 
  70. ^ "Episode guide - episode 09 Game Day". HBO. 2004. Retrieved August 2, 2006. 
  71. ^ "Episode guide - episode 10 The Cost". HBO. 2004. Retrieved April 8, 2006. 
  72. ^ "Episode guide - episode 11 The Hunt". HBO. 2004. Retrieved July 26, 2006. 
  73. ^ "Episode guide - episode 12 Cleaning Up". HBO. 2004. Retrieved July 31, 2006. 
  74. ^ "Episode guide - episode 13 Sentencing". HBO. 2004. Retrieved August 4, 2006. 

External links[edit]