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
Original network HBO
Original release June 2 (2002-06-02) – September 8, 2002 (2002-09-08)
Season chronology
Next →
Season 2
List of The Wire episodes

The first season of the television series The Wire commenced airing on Sunday, June 2, 2002 at 9:00 pm ET in the United States and concluded on September 8, 2002. The 13 episodes tell the story from both points of view – the investigating police detail and the drug-dealing Barksdale organization.

The season 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.



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]


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]


The first season received mostly positive reviews from critics,[54] holding a 79/100 on Metacritic.[55] Some called it superior to HBO's better-known "flagship" drama series such as The Sopranos and Six Feet Under.[56][57][58] 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.[59] 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 named the first season as the best TV show of 2002 in their Top 10 Everything 2002.[60]

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.[61] 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.[59] However, anticipation for a release of the first season on DVD was high at Entertainment Weekly.[62]

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


No. in
Title Directed by Story by Teleplay by Original air date
1 1 "The Target" Clark Johnson David Simon & Ed Burns David Simon 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.[63]
2 2 "The Detail" Clark Johnson David Simon & Ed Burns David Simon 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.[64]
3 3 "The Buys" Peter Medak David Simon & Ed Burns David Simon 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 losing his weapon and being placed on office duty. 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.[65]
4 4 "Old Cases" Clement Virgo David Simon & Ed Burns David Simon 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.[66]
5 5 "The Pager" Clark Johnson David Simon & Ed Burns Ed Burns 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.[67]
6 6 "The Wire" Ed Bianchi David Simon & Ed Burns David Simon 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.[68]
7 7 "One Arrest" Joe Chappelle David Simon & Ed Burns Rafael Alvarez 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.[69]
8 8 "Lessons" Gloria Muzio David Simon & Ed Burns David Simon 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.[70]
9 9 "Game Day" Milčo Mančevski David Simon & Ed Burns David H. Melnick & Shamit Choksey 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.[71]
10 10 "The Cost" Brad Anderson David Simon & Ed Burns David Simon 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.[72]
11 11 "The Hunt" Steve Shill David Simon & Ed Burns Joy Lusco 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.[73]
12 12 "Cleaning Up" Clement Virgo David Simon & Ed Burns George Pelecanos 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.[74]
13 13 "Sentencing" Tim Van Patten David Simon & Ed Burns David Simon & Ed Burns 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.[75]


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  75. ^ "Episode guide - episode 13 Sentencing". HBO. 2004. Retrieved August 4, 2006. 

External links[edit]