Echoes and Layers: A Look Back at The Wire, Season 5 and Beyond

In the final segment of this three-part series, I try to diagnose season five’s problems, all while suggesting some possible remedies and proposing ideas for future seasons.

Last time I asked: Where are the kids in season five? I know, I know — we see all of ‘em, if only briefly. We drop in on Randy in his brutal new foster home, where he’s been forced to harden his heart to combat accusations that he’s a snitch. We follow Michael and Dukie through most of season five, and even Namond makes a brief appearance in superheroic mode, kicking ass in a debate competition. Unfortunately, it’s not enough, and it’s not what season five needed, I submit.

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Echoes and Layers: A Look Back at The Wire, Seasons 3 and 4

In part two of a three-part series, I look back at The Wire’s strongest seasons.

Let’s talk about The Wire’s magnificent third and fourth seasons, which feature the most satisfying examples of thematic layering, echoing and character graduation. Season three introduces a theme so potentially boring it would have sounded death-knell for any other show: management.

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Echoes and Layers: A Look Back at The Wire, Seasons 1 and 2

In the first of a three-part series, I look back at The Wire and try to figure out why season five is the weakest entry of this brilliant series.

I first watched The Wire, David Simon’s seminal portrait of the city of Baltimore in five acts, a few years ago. I recently plowed through the series again, this time with the foreknowledge that its final season was generally regarded as its weakest. When I first watched the show, I remembered admiring the newsroom scenes, and especially the performance of Clark Johnson as the Sun’s city editor. So did my rewatch confirm or disconfirm the inferiority of season five?

Sadly, it confirmed it. 

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Two TV Series That Weren’t: Serenity and Mulholland Drive

The networks axed Firefly and Mulholland Drive before they could find life. What might they have been like in the long run?

I’ve never seen the pilot to Twin Peaks.

Even though it’s one of my favorite shows ever, Twin Peaks is one of those programs I inhaled on video – VHS, of course, seeing as how they’ve yet to release its second season on DVD in the states. The only version of the pilot episode I’ve seen is a truncated version with a different ending that Lynch and company shot to make the pilot work as a movie, no doubt so they would have something to release in case ABC didn’t pick up the pilot. The Twin Peaks pilot-as-movie thingy works fine; it’s still much cooler than most movie thrillers out there. Furthermore, in Mulholland Drive, we got to see one of those rejected-TV-pilots-as-full-length-narrative onscreen without ever having seen the complete series to go with it, and like the abruptly ending non-pilot to Peaks, Mulholland Drive works fine as a movie, but I wonder what would have become of Robert Forster’s character, or the two guys in the Denny’s with the creepy homeless guy out back had Lynch been given a full TV series to work with. True, as a network series, we wouldn’t have received the mind-blowing lesbian sex scene, but just think how satisfying it would have been to go through, say, 30 or 32 episodes – well into the second season – before having Lynch reveal to us that the whole Nancy Drew/Hollywood starlet sequence was a pipe dream of Naomi Watts’ pissed-off lesbian character. Then we would have had the rest of season two to sort through that narrative wreckage before the season two finale, which would no doubt feature the second appearance of the Cowboy to deal with Justin Theroux, who by the end of the second season would be quite ready to fire his leading lady. And then in season three, would Lynch shuffle his deck of characters again? What would have happened?

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A Welcome Shift in Perspective for Orange is the New Black

Orange is the New Black is like a pirate broadcast from a happier, matriarchal universe where women dominate the airwaves, and we just happened to get one of their prison dramas. 

Season two wasn’t perfect, and that’s OK. This show doesn’t need a handicap. It’s not the kind of show where we have to wave away great swaths of imperfection (LOST) or the kind of great show where we have to overlook one (or more) weak performances (January Jones on Mad Men). Nope, this show is mostly fantastic from bow to stern. Let me try to break down why:

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Arrested Development Season Four: An Unwieldy, Beautiful Mess

What was pitched as an artistic choice turned out to be one of necessity — and we’re all the better for it.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

Here’s my favorite joke from the original run of Arrested Development: While planning a charity event, George Bluth Sr. asks his family to recommend an organization or cause to benefit. Everyone recommends something self-serving in the secret ballot, except one family member, who suggests “cervical cancer.”

“Oh, I wonder who wrote that one down,” George Sr. deadpans as the camera cuts to Michael.

I love this moment, not only because it’s funny and indicative of the family’s self-involvement, but also because this is how we find out the cause of Tracey Bluth’s death — through comedy.

For me, comedies are always best when they’re dramas (or outright tragedies) first. The fourth season of AD didn’t deliver as much tragedy as I would have liked, but it did finally reveal Michael’s late wife amidst a hectic, muddled, misshapen new season that was frustrating and funny, off-kilter and canny.

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