Does 'The Wire' hold up?

Hey all,

I’ve been watching The Wire over again with my partner, and I’m finding myself slipping into the old habits again of letting clips run on auto on Youtube. I love this show. Like many people, with full acknowledge of that eye-rolling trope, I think it’s one of the best TV shows of all time.

But I recently listened to a podcast about how shows like ‘The West Wing’ have warped left-wing ideology for the worse, and I look back on a lot of shows now and see some of the bad politics behind them and how they shape perception of today. I think the majority of the politics within the Wire are good. The ones at the forefront being a DEEP critique of the drug war and how policing around the drug trade has completely failed in the U.S. But I’m open to new perspectives.

People still put ‘The Wire’ up on a pedestal, me included, and I wanna see what people have to say critically about the show with the 10+ years of reflection we’ve given it.

So, what do you all think? I’m always willing to discuss The Wire, good and bad.

Yes it does, and I’m only typing more than the word “yes” because of the character limit.



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Heh, that’s kind of the mentality I’m coming at with this. The Wire is beloved by so many, that it’s hard to find any kind of critique of what Simon is writing.

In all fairness though, I just wanna talk about The Wire again.

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The thing about The Wire is that it is barely fictional. It’s like… a dramatization of real life. The entirety of Season 1 is a re-telling of a real case run by Ed Burns in the ‘80s. Season 4 is based on Ed Burns’ second career as a teacher. Season 5 is based on Simons’ actual experiences at the actual newspaper. Most of the characters are based on real people.

Omar was a real dude but they had to hide his power level under a cloak for the show because people wouldn’t believe what the real dude got up to in real life. You know when Omar jumps out of the 4th story window to escape? The real dude jumped from the 6th. I’m not even kidding.


I’ll mostly co-sign @dogsarecool’s statement, although it’s been over a decade since I watched the show. I suppose the one issue I had with the show is that it starts by centering a white character when it doesn’t quite fit with the show’s themes. McNulty should have been a side character for season one, with Kima or Bunk being the lead. Also, the minimizing of Prezbo’s killing of a black officer never sat right with me, even though it leads to a very strong season 4.


I would have loved having Bunk as the lead for Season One, but overall I quite like the arc of McNulty through the show as a whole and I don’t know if it would have worked as well as it did if he hadn’t gotten plenty of setup in S1.


I feel like Prezbo’s killing of an officer, and all the other shit that he gets into, goes into the ‘protect your own’ mentality of Police. It’s presented as just a fact of the people who work there, instead of critique.
You see that in episode 3 with the commander protecting his people for going in the projects and causing trouble.

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That’s true, but it felt like it didn’t affect Prezbo much outside of fucking up at his job. Also, there wasn’t any portrayal of the trauma it caused the dead officer’s family. It felt out of step with how the show portrays the rippling effects of trauma in the community.


Yeah. It felt very different about how the cast rallied around Kima’s shooting in season 1. We saw how her loved ones reacted, how the police reacted, and of course… One of the GREATEST gifs of all time:


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By the way, if ya’ll didn’t know, The Wire did a bunch of origin shorts that weren’t featured in the show:


Especially when you’re the son-in-law of a very high-ranking cop! Prezbo should have never been a cop and his story to me is pretty much the story of a well-meaning chronic fuckup in the wrong job who keeps getting protected even when he doesn’t deserve it. Being a teacher was way more in his lane.

edit: y’all wanna hear the hottest “woke hot take” i’ve ever heard, re: the wire, which I heard in real life once?


Yes plz…

Is it that Season 2 is the best season? Because that’s true, actually.


The Wire is bad/problematic because it depicts black people as criminals, and anyway David Simon is white and characters say the n word a lot

(I would like to make it clear that this is NOT my hot take, just one that I once heard IRL)


Austinwalkertakesobad dot jpeg


The show isn’t without its faults, but I feel as though its great use of themes (along with everything else that’s stellar about it) really helps to keep The Wire relevant. Like, I’m from Detroit, and every major theme in the show can be directly paralleled to what’s going on in my city (and pretty much any major US city, I imagine).

S1: Folks turn to crime because the job market and the lack of any decent safety net has failed them.

S2: The auto industry is a husk of what it once was, and despite the unions’ best efforts, companies like GM will still lay off 2,500 workers in a single day (local economies be damned)

S3: The backroom deals you see Clay and String make are the foundation of Detroit’s recent revival, with developers chomping at the bit to buy up Downtown/Midtown real estate for Condos residents can’t afford.

S4: Look up anything about Detroit Public Schools and the board who runs it, and you’ll see why The Wire is especially relevant here.

S5: Our local press is frequently desperate to take back its former glory, chasing vapid poverty/perseverance porn stories while, at the same time, offering little to no critical analysis of the fact that almost all of downtown – including its workforce – is more or less owned by a single person.


I’ve always thought about how they could do a sixth season of The Wire set in modern times, exploring past characters and new characters in the years after the events of the first 5 seasons.

Simon apparently had this idea for the sixth season:

Considering the ratings hole The Wire fell into during season five, David Simon surely knew that, like fighting the drug war, holding out hope for a sixth season would have been an exercise in futility. But had The Wire been given a sixth season, Simon thought the exploding Latino population in Southeast Baltimore would have been the subject. According to Simon, the topic would have been directly in The Wire ’s wheelhouse, since “immigration is this incredibly potent source of friction and ideology, and maybe always has been in American life.” But the time it would have taken for Simon’s team to research immigration, combined with the low ratings, more or less buried the idea.

Seems like with our current events, that’d be an interesting topic to explore now.

Plus I wanna see what a Slim Charles run crime organization looks like, lol Lowkey one of my favorite characters.


According to All the Pieces Matter: The Inside Story of The Wire (which is a very good book that I recommended) it is spelled Sheeeeeeeee-it. Always with 9 e’s.

The Wire half made me afraid to visit Baltimore, which was a total mistake. Baltimore is a wonderful city, with great food, great places to just hang, a super accepting music scene and great stories.

I tried re-watching it with my SO too, and they could not get into it. I still think it rewards the patient, and my response to the theme song is almost pavlovian, but the initial focus on McNulty and the police is a hard place to start. My SO didn’t like anything special was going on there, and felt a fundamental discomfort with the colonial/fascist power dynamic from the start. Which I think is good because that’s really a place Simon wants you to go, but maybe not so soon? Part of me wants to start again with S4 or S5, because I think those showcase the show’s power better, but I’m not sure they work without knowing the history.

So, I still love it, but I think that it’s fallen behind a little bit, in how newer shows have developed ways to hook the viewer on the procedural grind that the Wire S1 depends on better.