You Can Make This Stuff Up

The Do-It-Yourself Nature of HBO’s 'The Wire'

by Adam Tramantano

28 August 2009

 

So much of The Wire is about watching the characters make things up. Beginning with season one, Lieutenant Daniels, the detail he supervises, their purpose and even their basement location, all come together during the process of the story. 

In Season two, the self-starter-ness of the characters moves every major part of the story; from the fact that Major Valchek wants Frank Sobotka to be convicted of something (he knows not what), to Nick Sobotka’s entrepreneurial venture into the business of heroin dealing. 

Season three takes the make-it-up-on-your-own notion to a whole new level with Major Colvin’s decriminalized drug zone, known as Hamsterdam. We are also introduced to a new and very compelling character Dennis “Cutty” Wise who starts his own boxing gym.  It is in this season where Sergeant Ellis Carver forges a new relationship with the corner dealers.
  
Although his Hamsterdam ends his career in police work, we see Colvin making it up as he goes in the classroom of a junior high school in season four. 

By season five, the making it up aspect of the show takes center stage. McNulty makes up a serial killer case, in order to get the mayor to put money back into the police department. Reporter Scott Templeton makes up a phone call from the fake serial killer.

Ultimately, this is a show about characters working with and around the rules of the different yet intertwined worlds they live in. Whether it is McNulty working around the bureaucracy of the police department, Marlow Stanfield going around the rules of the co-op, Omar robbing the stash house, or Kima Greggs telling on McNulty and Young, we are compelled to watch these individuals because they create a reality for themselves.

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