The Wire's fourth series

17th January 2009 – 2.02 pm

I've finished watching the fourth series of The Wire, after getting the DVD box set for Christmas. I greatly enjoyed the previous three series and was expecting more great drama from this one and I wasn't disappointed.

Before I watched an episode I wondered if this fourth series would be a 'bridge' series, much as I consider the second series to be. This isn't to say that the second series isn't self-contained, or that it suffers as a result. It is just that there were two threads that didn't really share any common points until later in the series and much of the plot involved the establishing or evolution of characters for future rôles. As such, when compared to the singular focus of the Barksdale stories of the first and third series, the second series feels more like it is setting the stage for a more complex story yet to be told than the first or third does. Not only is this quite audacious for a TV series to attempt but it is also successful in achieving a coherent story that leads in to something greater.

I get the same feeling when watching the fourth series of The Wire. Whilst there is a common theme, this time that of education, much of the programme seems to be developing characters and introducing changes that will become more important in the next series. Whilst the first and third series have definite conclusions the second and fourth leave me wanting more, in a good way. I am happy with the resolution of the individual threads presented, but there is the tantalising promise of greater stories to be told in the future. I am full of expectation for the fifth series.

Now that I have finished watching the fourth series I am left wondering what to do next. I could buy and watch the fifth series, rewatch the fourth series, watch the fourth series episodes that have audio commentaries, or watch the first four series back-to-back. It's probably not worth watching only the third and fourth series together for additional insight, and as the second series is, to me, a 'bridging' series I would have to go back to the beginning to see the whole picture. I think I would be better off waiting until I have all five series to enjoy before I do that, though.

The answer is to watch the fourth series again, but listening to the commentaries on the few episodes they are available. I'll get the fifth series later. I've watched the first three episodes again and it is surprising how fast-paced the plot moves on a second viewing. The Wire seems to be quite slow-paced in general, because of its long running time and rejection of contemporary commercial television structure, yet plot points and action that I would have placed much further in to the series have already occurred. This is a credit to the writing that manages to cram so much in to a series yet manages to keep a sustained dramatic tension. It also makes repeated viewings of The Wire enjoyable.

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed.