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The Wire: A twisted love story to a city and its people

March 19, 2009

It’s The Wire week on GM

If the underlying conceit of The Wire is essentially socialistic, that the venality and greed, in all its guises, of corporations, civic institutions and the drug trade is killing the city of Baltimore – then there is one burning high note.
That is the belief, of the creators and writers, in the spirit of the city and many of its inhabitants to be reborn.
The Wire is cynical in the truest form: it protests at how bad things are because it shows just how good they could they can be.
While many characters are brutalised and become almost feral in their pursuit of power, wealth and influence, at the core of the programme are a handful of shining beacons.
Among others, The Deacon (played by former real life heroin lord Little Melvin Williams), to the gangster-turned-boxing coach Cutty, to top cop Bunny Colvin and Miss Donnolly (assistant principal of Edward J. Tilghman Middle School) these characters are quixotic outposts of hope and belief in the human ability to change.
They mirror the work of Miss Ella who runs the nursery in the Wire’s HBO mini-series precursor, The Corner; community workers investing great bundles of emotion and optimism in the face or overwhelming disappointment.
In many ways the moral barometer of The Wire is Bubbles, played wonderfully by Andre Royo (pictured above right with Wire creator David Simon). He is a troubled but immensely likeable and intelligent junkie trapped in the all-consuming grip of drugs and their trade.
Bubbles may be a chronic drug addict but he has an acutely and righteously tuned moral compass which illustrates the wider complex morality at work in the programme. There is no real good and bad, just shades of whatever colours those vague concepts may be represented by.
It’s a terrible cliché, but, his prison is his addiction. The bridges that addiction has helped to burn with his family and the suffocating reach of drugs, both spiritually and geographically in Baltimore, conspire to offer him no obvious means of escape.
We watch Bubbles’ multiple bids for salvation from the abyss and they mirror Baltimore’s. We watch how cops, friends, outreach workers and reformed addicts reach out to him and how he reaches out to other addicts in a bid to leave this world.
It takes 60 hours of viewing to resolve itself, though, ultimately nothing is ever that morally simplistic in the world of The Wire.
It is nevertheless, addictive TV. Utterly compelling, vital and paradoxically, uplifting.

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