The Wire: All in the Game

The Wire centres on ‘The Game’, which is the colloquial term for the drugs trade but in reality has a much wider scope as an overall set of rules used by drug dealer and politicians alike.  Played by subtly different rules within each group, it’s all about social advancement and the pursuit of power, money and of being remembered.  There are codes that everybody sticks to, unique in their line of business; the internal logic, no matter how disagreeable adheres to rules which reward blind loyalty but also demands a strong sense of self-preservation.


The disconnection of the people at the top end of politics who make the decisions, from the rest of the populace is palpable, the failing system does more harm than good yet voter indifference seems to perplex these people.  On the side of the drug dealers, it is generally accepted that anybody in the game faces the consequences of their employment, mortality being high and emotion seen as a weakness to be exploited.

The futility of the drugs war – at least as it is fought now – allows institutions on all sides to treat it as nothing more than a contest.  For example the interactions between street level dealers and police are viewed by both sides as ineffective but a routine in which the rules are adhered to blindly, (the inevitability of prison, parole, back to the street). it is expected despite no real conclusion forthcoming but as a form of going through the motions with little respect and no hope of a finish which makes it all the more tragic.

What The Wire does best is offer detachment,  its lack of compromise or sentimentality allows the viewer to debate the morals of the players which are often conflicted but all too painfully real.  The apathy of both sides on the front line is harrowing; especially in terms of the offhanded nature with which murder and overdose are greeted, which is now just accepted as an inescapable consequence of street life.

the tactics of a stunted and ineffectual drug war and the lack of police knowledge to help to more effectively combat crime and build ties with innocent citizens residing in areas controlled by the dealers is brought into focus when those in power try gambits outside the traditional and accepted rules.  We often see them shut down or The Game takes to a lately introduced aspects, as the new ‘rules’ are then adapted to and a new sub Game begins afresh.

Even the desire to do good has revelations about the poor state of the fabric of society and the malaise beyond it.  The words and actions and their subsequent consequences are all weighed perfectly in the show’s depictions and convey not only the deep-lying corruption pervasive at every level of society but also how one act can have significant and unforeseen ripples throughout the city of Baltimore.

To flip that thought though, The Wire is also about people just trying to survive in the situation they were brought up in and that they have little control over, apart from their own internal moral compass.  It’s painful to watch at times but utterly rewarding to explore the lessons of those living with the particular hand they are dealt.  The best and worst of humanity is depicted and the reasons behind both are explored in-depth and reminds the viewer that there is a lot more to the situation than the narrow view of the outsider has knowledge of.

So what does the wire change?  Since its message has had plenty of time to get out there (season five concluded the show in 2008) and resonate (as it should) with the masses.  The real and sad answer is nothing, reform comes at a price and nobody is yet willing to pay.  Those in it for the money and power don’t care, those who wish to make a difference to the people slowly become consumed by the need to look good and stay in power; to kid themselves that retaining office in a stagnant system with no room for movement, will eventually yield positive and effective reforms.  It doesn’t, can’t and won’t change until those with the chance to effect improvements do so selflessly and that is the inherent problem.  Until that time, when the good of the people is thought of first and personal profile is secondary the inexorable slide will continue.

That a television show would attempt to put such systemic failings squarely in the field of vision of the viewer is impressive in its ambition and another reason why you must watch this show.  If I haven’t convinced you yet, then you will have to wait for my next post on another aspect of this sprawling epic.



26 Replies to “The Wire: All in the Game”

    1. Sometimes something moves me enough, this is required watching. Each of the five seasons is between 10 – 14 episodes long at an hour each. Each one feeling like so much has been crammed in yet there is no rushing, it takes its time for maximum drama. I assumed you would have already seen it being right up your street.


      1. Somehow it’s passed me by. I read an article where they said the local accent was incomprehensible, which also put me off. It’s in Baltimore, isn’t it? I’ve been there and I thought


        1. To begin with I found some of the terms they use confusing but on reflection I preferred that it didn’t dumb it down with on the nose dialogue to ease the viewer in, it’s like being dumped down in a second season where the viewer has met everybody already. I like tat, it’s like real life and the viewing public are treated with respect by not feeling the need to explain it.


  1. Great assessment of what is a masterpiece of a series. I’m about due for a re-watch, although I’m pretty sure I could watch it on the loop and never tire of watching it.


    1. There is so much to it, I am still finding things I hadn’t noticed the first five times I watched it. I have a couple more posts yet, I think four will be the maximum though, any more and I may as well set up another blog purely devoted to it.


  2. You are a determined fan. I’m still not inclined to subject myself to something so dark and forbidding. I tend to like pleasant things, or at least things which have a good possibility of correct resolution. But I give you credit for trying to convince!


    1. Apologies for all the Wire posts, I only have two more to post and then I will be done with subject. I wish I could convince you, however I look forward to finding other things more up your street.


      1. You don’t have to apologize to me for what you post about; even if I’m not a fan of that thing in particular. For one thing, it broadens my horizons to know what’s going on in the world, whether it impacts on my life or not. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to meet you when you were over here in Boston, Steve. I live in a small town outside the limits of Boston by at least two hours’ travel by the means I have available. It’s called Hull, like the seaport town in England. But I couldn’t face Boston in the summer heat, since I walk less outside these days, and my living space is really my mother’s main home, where I’m not really free to entertain guests. Still, I consider you a friend and ally, and gladly read anything you write (unless you suddenly turn into a Donald-Trump-style Nazi, in which case I will wash my hands of you–and Lucie-Minou will wash her paws, too,I feel sure. She has given me a little more time on my next literary project of posting, but you know how it goes, she still keeps an eye on me. Pats and love to Bela from both of us).


        1. Well my friend I do hope to be over that way again so I am happy to come visit you, head out for a meal or what not, the heat was indeed a challenge so I know where you are coming from there. I assure you I won’t be going down the Trump road at any time, the very thought of it is highly unpalatable. There is always anticipation for your next literary project from over here but yes, I know how life gets in the way, I will be looking to post after the weekend now but wish I could be posting sooner!


  3. It’s Too Much for me but husband Matthew worked his way through all of the seasons and thoroughly enjoyed the different levels of interest and enjoyment he got from it.


    1. It is a fine show and apologies in advance for the two further two posts that will be up shortly, I am sure there is YouTube mash up to cover the show in about ten minutes without being too grim, if you didn’t want to feel too left out lol.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This show sounds like something that I must save to my watch list. Your description of the show has most definitely peeked my interest, and who doesn’t love drug world drama.


    1. As of this moment, I would say that this is the definitive show for drugs and the enforcement of the laws against them, that is a sweeping statement, I know but I’ve seen none better. I have a couple more post coming up on the subject as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow! Love your passion! Do you know if it was adapted from a book, or written for TV? Do you think a book could be as good, or better?


    1. There are two books, The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood and Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets. Both of which I read after watching The Wire and it was through those books that I realised how close the show was to real life. Some of the real people play parts in the show as well so it becomes even more authentic. The books are equally as good as the show in my opinion and all are worth getting.


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