Enjoying the High "Wire" Act

It's taken forever, but after numerous recommendations from friends (directly) and famous personages (somewhat more indirectly), I am finally settling in and watching HBO's The Wire.

Holy Moly!  How has this show been around for so long and I never heard about it?

Just kidding.  Everyone and their brother has been talking about how great The Wire is.  My friend Jason and his wife alternated every video in their Netflix queue with a Wire disc and constantly email me about its greatness.  My freshman college roommate harangues me at every lunch about why I've never seen it.  Articles, and critical assessments permeate The House Next Door.  Video essays on the opening credits were commissioned by the Museum of the Moving Image.  And then the kicker: in an interview with Entertainment Weekly (of all places) comics legend Alan Moore stated that The Wire is "possibly the most stunning piece of television, full-stop."

So over the weekend I plopped down and watched t
he first five episodes of the first season.  By the end of episode four I was, well, hooked (c'mon...I had to do it).  I love the lack of any gateway "in" - unlike every cop show on broadcast television, The Wire expects that if you don't know the ropes then by God you'll deal with it until you figure it out. Our heroes can be utter pricks, our villains can be virtuous.  And Bubbles...damn I love Bubbles.

But rather than go off at length about why, after only four episodes, I've come to be a Wire convert, I'd like to address just three scenes that sum up everything wonderful about the show:

1.  Dee Teaches the Gang to Play Chess (ep 3)

I fear that Dee isn't going to make it out of this season (don't spoil it for me), and that's a shame because he more than any other character has an arc that encompasses both sides of the coin (at least five episodes in).  His explanation of the rules of chess to his gang, equating each piece to someone in the organization, is both brilliant and tragic as they get to pawns, and each person, Dee included, realizes that for all they do, that's what they are.

2.  McNulty and Bunk: "F--k" (ep 4)

One word, used over and over again in various incarnations as McNulty and Bunk investigate an apartment where a woman was murdered is more than just a great gag.  In one scene it shows their relationship as partners, their skill as policemen, and a lack of any modern equipment that continues throughout the season.  But yeah, it's also laugh-out-loud funny.

3.  Games On Both Sides of the Tracks (ep 4)

Not much to say about this: just a great transition that speaks volumes about the world of Baltimore, where The Wire takes place.  In the first scene, McNulty watches his son play soccer.

The scene then cuts to a bunch of street kids running around at night.  These are the games on the other side of town:

All this in only the first four episodes of what I'm told is an outstanding five seasons.  Can't wait to see the rest.