Joltin' Jeff McCoskey recently posted these thoughts on The Wire seasons three and four on a dormant comment thread. His shocking departure from the conventional wisdom on seasons two and three (we're talking Copernicus here) deserves more attention, so here you go. May they kick off an open thread for any readers who are deep in the pangs of withdrawal.
Not 'cause anyone asked me, but seasons 3 and 4 are now under my belt. Understand all comments forward are on a Wire relative scale, not intended to be used for comparison to say Desperate Housewives.
I ended S3 respecting the thorough thought excercise of Hamsterdam, enjoying Carver's first steps to respectability, McNulty turning on Daniels, the nice (too-nice really, but why not?) Avon-Bell double betrayal, but in the end couldn't stack it above S2. I think Bell poisoned himself in S2 against my sympathy, so while I found his arc intellectually tragic, emotionally I was uninvolved. The new element, politics, was cut off mid-arc to my mind (the election in S4 would have been a tighter structure, though probably not story). I enjoyed the Mayor's agonized deliberation of the pros to Bunny's experiment... but I missed the scenes of wheels moving against each other tightly and inexorably, and did take points off for retrenchment to Barksdale ground already covered. Ultimately it felt like a slight letdown after S2. (Relative scale, remember?)
So S4 just up and blew it all away. The stock central conceit, cresting innocent youth into adulthood, is supercharged here with inner city concerns and premature aging. Each of the 4 kids' character arcs was compelling on its own, so much so that McNulty can rehabilitate himself (becoming a better, more boring, person) and not take anything away. The political angle comes into its own here too -- ending what S3 started. If anything the school system gets shorted in its own season by the compelling character and political drama. Prez gets some nice moments but by and large mouths stock-if-accurate 'why can't we just teach' speeches, and it's still the best use of the character yet. Carver's arc, Carcetti as frustrated crusader ultimately doomed by his own pride if not political ambition, Bunk and Omar... A thoroughly rich backdrop to the intensely engaging Front 4. Who each get a wrenching Sabotka-worthy arc making it, what, 4x S2? Maybe 3.5? The only sour note I could come up with was the neutering of Prop Joe - it becomes more and more difficult to see him as a drug kingpin as easily as he's played by Omar and Marlo. But really? Window dressing.
All the praise I lavished on S2? Quadruple it for S4.
And it is true that the linearity and focus on Barksdale->Bell->Marlo, as well as their intimate connection to Hamsterdam in S3 and the schoolkids in S4 make S2 standout as disconnected (the Greek link only apparant at the end). I still vaguely find that an issue with S1,3,4 rather than 2.
Kind of sad now, actually, with only 1 more season ahead.
Remember, Jeff hasn't seen Season Five, so don't tell him that Marlo hired Kenard to strangle Kima and Cheryl's kid.
I hope to be back in a couple days with a new post looking at two books by Wire writer and Washington, DC novelist George Pelecanos.