The more I watch ‘The wire,’ the more I’m impressed aesthetically, and the more insightful its social commentary appears. David Simon got in the heads of his characters – and there are hundreds of them – better than any other writer did, in any medium. And the show’s sense of humor is unrivaled by any other non-sitcom. The following scenes, to me, are most revealing of the brilliance of ‘The wire.’ It’s difficult to arrange the scenes in order of greatness, so I don’t bother.
- Bunk tells off Omar
“All this death, you don’t think that ripples out? You don’t even know what the fuck I’m talking about.” Omar’s eventual fate is hinted at in this beautiful scene. While Omar remains one of the coolest characters in television history, his moral reasoning – of seemingly only preying on ‘players’ – is ultimately flawed.
- Cutty leaves the game
After a brief encounter with his old lifestyle, newly-released ex-convict Cutty realizes that his heart is no longer into the game. And Avon Barksdale is left in admiration.
- Slim consoles Avon
The above heading is a joke of sorts. Slim was giving more of a pep talk to get Avon back into fighting mode, after the death of another member of the organization. War is not about right or wrong, but life or death. Loyalty is such a premium commodity in the game because you need trust in one another to survive.
- Snoop buys a nail gun
Snoop was as funny as her scariness allowed it. Amusing in this scene is the varying facial expressions of the store clerk as Snoop goes on with her murderous tale.
- Carver, McNulty hang out with Bodie
It was only on my third viewing of the fourth-season premiere that I came to appreciate Carver for the sympathetic and effective cop he became. In the beginning of the show, Carver was no different than his best pal in the unit, the all-muscle, no-brains Herc. But the ‘Hamsterdam’ experience of season three opened Carver’s eyes to a different approach to communicating with the corner kids in contrast to the usual street nabs. In this easy-to-overlook scene, he bonds with Bodie, Lex, and Kevin through light-hearted ball-busting (“Just words”), thus investing in long-term information extraction. Because, “Bust every head, who you gonna talk to when the shit happens?”
A bonus is McNulty coming in to join in the fun with praise for Bodie’s natural smarts, and Caliccio being a typical asshole.
- Omar in jail
The best scenes of ‘The wire’ were usually non-action ones, but Omar’s stay in jail is an exception. You could see the overwhelming fear on Omar’s face when left alone, but when it came down to defending himself, he acted very deliberately and left a great impression on the other inmates.
- Omar visits Proposition Joe
The best thing about the scene is Proposition Joe’s speech. It was like David Simon used Joe as a mouthpiece for all the brilliant metaphors he could think a thug would say, and this is just one of many shows of eloquence that makes Joe my favorite of the mob leaders.
- Freamon finds the bodies
Lester Freamon is a favorite cop of mine on the show, along with Colvin and, more recently, Carver. On little more than somewhat of a side comment by his intellectual opposite Herc, Freamon solves the case of the missing bodies hounding the homicide division for a year. Bunk, unable to keep up, needs some time to take the whole thing in, before uttering the last words of the episode: “Fuck me.”
- Omar takes on Slim
The scene displays Slim’s ready-to-die warrior mentality, and Omar’s recognition and respect for that, and for Slim’s tight logic.
- Bubbles speaks out about Sherrod
You root for Bubbles through all his fuck-ups, and this scene appears to be a new beginning for him, after a long adulthood of addiction and petty thievery.
Another viewing and I might be more inclined to favor other scenes. There is an element of subjectivity to this, after all. Hell, after making this list, it occurs to me that I forgot Bunny Colvin’s great paper bag speech, which should be up there! Probably replacing Omar’s visit to Joe. You may notice that I give little attention to seasons one and two, which I love too. But single scenes do not a show make, anyway.
Still, I’d give honorable mention to:
McNulty and Bunk interrogating D’Angelo – Police work is a dirty job, when you consider the need to take advantage of a criminal’s good side to outsmart them; and
Rawls consoling McNulty – Rawls dishes out the worst insults to a guilty, helpless McNulty, whom he detests. Which is actually a rare display of kindness from Rawls.
Plus, there are the popular ‘chess’ and ‘fuck’ scenes which are just a little too contrived for me, but are still very entertaining. Also, as much as I hate watching violence, characters’ deaths were done very classily, and were insightful of the characters involved.
I love watching shows, and of all the shows to name the best-ever, I would nominate ‘The wire.’