Television Revision: The Wire – Season 2

Television Revision: The Wire – Season 2. Starring Dominic West, Idris Elba, and Chris Bauer. Rated MA. By Andrew Williams.

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Television Revision is a weekly feature in which our tuned in TV critic trawls through the best the box has to offer, giving you a primer on some of history’s finest shows (and warning you away from the specific episodes – or even seasons! – that might have ruined their reputation).

Now, this is a story all about how The Baltimore police department has a brand new case when a bunch of dead bodies turn up at the port, while the Barksdale organisation continues their drug dealing activities despite the imprisonment of their leader.

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Happy days? The first thing to know heading into Season Two of The Wire is that having watched Season One will do you much less good than you’d think. Creator David Simon uses each season to introduce a new side of the city into the mix; in this case, Frank Sobotka (Chris Bauer) and his not-so-merry band of stevedores. While most of your favourites return, they’re often sidelined or marginalised, and The Wire never makes it easy for audiences to get to know the new guys.

As always, The Wire takes a long time to get going, and the early episodes of Season Two might be the hardest slog of the entire series. It’s a slog that pays off, sure, but a slog nonetheless. Luckily, it’s some kind of payoff: Simon uses his well-developed characters to hammer home the cynical, anti-establishment themes of the first season while depicting the devastating human effect of technological progress on the working class.

The performances remain stellar. Dominic West has more of a handle on his American accent this time around, Idris Elba remains intimidating, cold, and terrific, and the addition of Amy Ryan has never, ever hurt a television show. You may know Bauer best from his role on True Blood, but that’s a part with about one hundredth of the substance he has to chew on here, and he makes the most of it.

The final frontier: It’s not the best season of The Wire, but it’s no slouch. A slow start leading to a thoroughly effective finale.

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Top three episodes: 6) All Prologue. A heartbreaking death exemplifies Simon’s refusal to permit even the slightest of happy endings for the majority of its characters. 10) Storm Warnings. Contains the season’s best sequence; the harrowing culmination of incredible character groundwork laid throughout early episodes. 11) Bad Dreams. As with most HBO seasons, the penultimate episode is where the really big stuff happens.

Worst episode: Once again, the third episode proves to be the most disappointing. When you’re laying that much groundwork, the natural lack of drama has to go somewhere, and the third episode has been the recipient twice now. One more, and it’s officially a trend.

Season MVP: James Ransone plays one of The Wire’s most controversial and divisive characters, Ziggy Sobotka; the abrasive son of union leader Frank. The character’s self-destructive tendencies are absolutely infuriating, but Ransone never plays him with anything less than total honesty. What’s more, when he is given a big scene to play, he absolutely nails it. It’s a terrific performance.

4/5

The Wire – Season 2 is available on DVD. It can also be streamed instantly on Quickflix PLAY.

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