The Greatest Character on "The Wire"
March 14, 2012 12:35 PM   Subscribe

Grantland held a March Madness-type bracket this past week to determine the greatest character from HBO's 2002-2008 series "The Wire". The idea came from a conversation between Grantland's Editor-in-Chief, Bill Simmons, and President Obama. Voting took place via Grantland's Facebook page. Spoilers from the results and TV show are within.

Round 1: Round of 32 - Part One and Part Two
Round 2: Sweet Sixteen
Round 3: Elite Eight
Round 4: Final Four
Round 5: The Finals
Winner
Reaction From the Winner
posted by Jeff Morris (105 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Recount. Bunk is the best.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 12:36 PM on March 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Was there every any doubt?!
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:36 PM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Recount. Bunk is the best.

But in a shootout between Omar and Bunk, Omar would win. So Omar wins.
posted by goethean at 12:37 PM on March 14, 2012


The cheese stands alone.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 12:39 PM on March 14, 2012 [9 favorites]


They had Bunk knocked out by McNulty? In the Elite Eight??

No argument with the winner though.
posted by Eyebeams at 12:39 PM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is incomplete without Mike Schur's rebuttal bracket that is 1) a 64-character bracket 2) has far better seedings, and 3) actually remembers female characters.
posted by gladly at 12:40 PM on March 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


I am in love with Bunk, but in awe of Omar.
posted by readery at 12:40 PM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Stringer vs McNulty looked close for a minute.
posted by box at 12:40 PM on March 14, 2012


Dear America,

Not everything can be reduced to a sports contest, not even in the month of March.

Affectionately,
aught.
posted by aught at 12:42 PM on March 14, 2012 [8 favorites]


(Also, when Barack Obama says his favorite show is The Wire, why doesn't anybody ever ask a good follow-up question? Because there are some good ones.)
posted by box at 12:42 PM on March 14, 2012 [19 favorites]


Wrong. Bunk FTW!
posted by photoslob at 12:43 PM on March 14, 2012


Holy s**t I found this picture of Omar from season 4.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:46 PM on March 14, 2012 [15 favorites]


Wrong. Bunk FTW!

Recount. Bunk is the best.

You want it to be one way. But it's the other way.
posted by oliverburkeman at 12:46 PM on March 14, 2012 [20 favorites]


I will pay you money if you can tell me where to get a ringtone for my phone that has Omar's whistle of, "The Farmer in the Dell."
posted by digitalprimate at 12:47 PM on March 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Nope. Sorry. Without Valchek, this is not a valid tournament. Guy's a cockroach, the ultimate survivor. You could drop an atom bomb on Baltimore and he'd come crawling out to run for state senate or something.
posted by gompa at 12:49 PM on March 14, 2012 [8 favorites]


I will pay you money if you can tell me where to get a ringtone for my phone that has Omar's whistle of, "The Farmer in the Dell."

Here.
posted by Jeff Morris at 12:49 PM on March 14, 2012 [10 favorites]


I'm glad to see the rebuttal bracket, because I couldn't at all see how not including the Greek and Vondas made any sense, especially if you're going to go and include Malatov. Also, the rebuttal bracket includes choice first-round matchups like Bunny vs. Namond, Beadie vs. Frank Sobotka, Mayor Royce vs. Rawls, and Fitzhugh vs. McNulty. That's just awesome.
posted by LionIndex at 12:50 PM on March 14, 2012


i didn't need a contest to tell me this. (i didn't bother looking at the brackets, just the winner, cause i knew it couldn't be otherwise.

and yes, i would love that ringtone. i might actually take my phone off of permanent vibrate for that one.
posted by sio42 at 12:50 PM on March 14, 2012


Nope. Sorry. Without Valchek, this is not a valid tournament. Guy's a cockroach, the ultimate survivor. You could drop an atom bomb on Baltimore and he'd come crawling out to run for state senate or something.

Valchek vs. The Greek. That would be a tough one.
posted by LionIndex at 12:52 PM on March 14, 2012


I'm pissed at the internet and the world for failing to notify me personally precisely when this started . . . I thought the interwebs were all-knowing and shit?

I feel like a corner boy who just found out I fucked up the count.
posted by eggman at 12:54 PM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also--sorry, moot bracketology/argument. They're all fantastic, for all the reasons the whole goddamned show was epic, nearly beyond any Harvard-sponsored discussion . . .
posted by eggman at 12:55 PM on March 14, 2012


I cannot for the life of me figure out how Brother Mouzone got knocked out so quickly. I mean, I knew that he wouldn't win (he was in, what, two or three episodes?), but every scene where he makes an appearance ranks amongst my favorites. I generally wait for shows that I want to see to come out on DVD, but if someone were to make a show that was nothing but Omar Little and Brother Mouzone walking the Earth and having adventures, I would immediately go out and buy the biggest fucking television on the market and a cable subscription, financial consequences be damned.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 12:58 PM on March 14, 2012 [10 favorites]


Also, when Barack Obama says his favorite show is The Wire, why doesn't anybody ever ask a good follow-up question? Because there are some good ones.

Intrepid reporter: Mr. President, blahty-blahty-blah? Blah blah blah?

President Obama: This America, man.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:04 PM on March 14, 2012 [13 favorites]


I've never even seen an episode and I could have told you it would be Omar.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:05 PM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Omar is cool and all, but he's so highly rated that he has to be overrated, plus I don't think he's actually as important to the show's thesis as Stringer is. This statement, from "The Finals" link above:

"What’s the single most important axiom The Wire promotes? That’s debatable, but I’d argue it’s this: “To live outside the law, you must be honest.” And if that’s the takeaway, the choice is clear"

is mind wrenchingly wrong. The Wire central message is something along the lines of "the house always wins" where "the house" is a masterless system and "wins" means ruining peoples lives for no purpose.

Stringer is a better embodiment of the message of the show than Omar and should have won; plus, that scene with him and Avon on the rooftop at the end of season three is the best scene in the entire show.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:10 PM on March 14, 2012 [9 favorites]


Omar wins precisely because he's the opposite of the show's thesis -- he finds a way to keep his humanity despite his surroundings. Without him the show would be unrelentingly bleak. We love him because he is a pressure valve that gives us some measure of hope.
posted by felix at 1:14 PM on March 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've never even seen an episode and I could have told you it would be Omar. posted by mrgrimm

American-style Democracy in a nutshell.
posted by Ufez Jones at 1:14 PM on March 14, 2012


And here I was, rooting for the Duck that drank itself to death on whisky.
posted by ShutterBun at 1:16 PM on March 14, 2012 [14 favorites]


The cheese stands alone.

The Buffy thread was just a couple of days ago.
posted by yoink at 1:18 PM on March 14, 2012


Omar makes sense as the winner. I would have liked to see Bubbles in the final four, and brother Mouzone in the elite 8. I miss this show.
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:19 PM on March 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


The other day i did a big double take because McNulty was riding a bike down my sleepy, one block long side street in West London (and not the glam part).

He was on tv last night with Damien Lewis from Homeland. Old Etonians seem to rule the world again.

He sounds pretty grand without the Baltimore accent.
posted by C.A.S. at 1:19 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Bulgaroktonos, I agree with you about the Avon/Stringer scene, but can't agree with you about Stringer's potential to win. First, as far as being important to the show, he was dead for the last two seasons. Second, the first and second seasons were basically a setup for the viewer as far as seeing Stringer as some sort of superior dealer - all through those seasons, especially the second one, the show leads you to believe that if Stringer could just get his way, his organization would be wildly successful. Then the third season comes along and Stringer is basically portrayed as an ineffectual chump - not business enough to be able to run his development deals, not gangsta enough to be able to handle Marlo, and ultimately meets his end as a result of the seeds he had sown because he wanted to get into Donette's pants free and clear. Stringer's certainly a 1 seed, but no way does he win the whole thing.
posted by LionIndex at 1:21 PM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Omar wins precisely because he's the opposite of the show's thesis -- he finds a way to keep his humanity despite his surroundings. Without him the show would be unrelentingly bleak. We love him because he is a pressure valve that gives us some measure of hope.

That might be part of the reason that I never got the love for him, he's a cool character, but he seems like he's in the wrong show. A stylized Robin Hood who whistles children's songs ominously is a weird part of a show that tends toward realism.

This goes double for Brother Mouzone, who I hated.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:22 PM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Omar wins because we shouldn't like him (he's a ruthless killer) but we do anyway.
posted by desjardins at 1:22 PM on March 14, 2012


Also--sorry, moot bracketology/argument. They're all fantastic, for all the reasons the whole goddamned show was epic, nearly beyond any Harvard-sponsored discussion . . .

All the pieces matter. And you cannot lose if you do not play.
posted by gladly at 1:23 PM on March 14, 2012


Yeah, I'm pretty sure "Got to. This America, man." would work as an answer to virtually any White House Press Corps question on any policy that is of interest to me. Let's see...

Undeclared war on Libya?
War on drugs?
Bankers get away scot-free?
Oppose gay marriage?
Warrantless wiretapping?

*cries*
posted by gauche at 1:24 PM on March 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


A stylized Robin Hood who whistles children's songs ominously is a weird part of a show that tends toward realism.

He was actually based on a bunch of real Baltimore stickup men. Less stylized than you probably think.
posted by Avenger50 at 1:25 PM on March 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Prez was woefully underseded in my opinion. Really, of all the characters, he's the one who never has a true moment of victory, and yet steadily becomes a better person over the course of the series.

And who the fuck votes McNutty over Bunk?
posted by Navelgazer at 1:26 PM on March 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


How was he a Robin Hood? They never really said what he did with all of the money.
posted by desjardins at 1:26 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


So why isn't Michael K Williams opening multi-million dollar blockbuster movies, that's what I want to know--star power like that doesn't come along all that often.
posted by yoink at 1:27 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


>Nope. Sorry. Without Valchek, this is not a valid tournament.

The actual Final Four was Valchek, Scott Templeton, Marlo, and Levy, no?
posted by darth_tedious at 1:28 PM on March 14, 2012


Mefi's own jkottke feels the same way about Omar:
With respect to the President, Omar is the most overrated character on The Wire. I mean, I love Omar. I do. He is everyone's favorite character and easy to love because he's one of the show's most manufactured characters. Gay, doesn't swear, strong sense of morals, robs drug dealers, respected/feared by all...come on, all that doesn't just get rolled up into one person like that. The Wire aspires to be more than just mere television, but when Omar is on the screen, it's difficult for me to take the show as seriously as it wants me to.
posted by SpiffyRob at 1:28 PM on March 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Prez was woefully underseded in my opinion. Really, of all the characters, he's the one who never has a true moment of victory,

I'd say he had a minor when he lit up Valchek.
posted by LionIndex at 1:29 PM on March 14, 2012


was were (though perhaps not in Baltimore).
posted by darth_tedious at 1:29 PM on March 14, 2012


Also, (friend-link warning) seek out Bayou Black for an awesome Michael K Williams performance.
posted by SpiffyRob at 1:30 PM on March 14, 2012


The other day i did a big double take because McNulty was riding a bike down my sleepy, one block long side street in West London

I hope he didn't hit anything taking a corner....
posted by daveje at 1:32 PM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Final Four for me is Omar, Stringer, Bunk, and Bubbles. McNulty and Avon are great but not Final Four material.

I have no problem with Omar's character. He might be the least believable character...well, other than Brother Mouzone...but even bleak territory like the projects of Baltimore will have some anomalous characters like Omar. I don't think it's fair to say that because of the environment it's impossible to have some of the characteristics that Omar possesses. Also, he's freaking awesome.
posted by mcstayinskool at 1:34 PM on March 14, 2012


I think there should be an N.I.T. analogous tournament for minor side characters that didn't make the initial field of 32.

It amazes me that I am proposing a contest to determine the 33rd best character on The Wire. It was quite an epic journey, that one.
posted by mcstayinskool at 1:37 PM on March 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


Might as well just make your pics like this . . .
posted by eggman at 1:39 PM on March 14, 2012


Omar wins precisely because he's the opposite of the show's thesis -- he finds a way to keep his humanity despite his surroundings.

See, if the point of the bracket is to sort of say who's the most Wire-like of characters, who plays The Game best, then that's why I say Valchek's Final Four material, maybe even (as in the show itself) the ultimate winner. Omar's outside the system, working his own game. But Valchek fucking owns the system. Does almost no work. Stays well outside the messy day-to-day retail politics of a Daniels or Carcetti. Would never be selfless and stupid enough to go anywhere near the projects except for a ribbon-cutting. Valchek comes in at opportune moments, takes what he can get, and then gets out of the way and lets the lesser insects eat each other alive. He's Cheney, he's Blankfein, he's Abramoff.

Valchek - that America, man.
posted by gompa at 1:42 PM on March 14, 2012 [7 favorites]


I love The Wire, but McNulty knocking out Bunk exemplifies everything that is wrong with The Wire fandom.
posted by muddgirl at 1:43 PM on March 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


How was he a Robin Hood? They never really said what he did with all of the money.

The analogy isn't precise, but he robs characters we aren't supposed to like and give it to a character who very precisely crafted to be liked (himself).

Gay, doesn't swear, strong sense of morals, robs drug dealers, respected/feared by all...come on, all that doesn't just get rolled up into one person like that.

Yeah, this is my real problem, expressed better than I was expressing it. It's easy for Omar to read a list of check boxes to make viewers like a character while keeping him just outside the box labelled "hero."

I think there should be an N.I.T. analogous tournament for minor side characters that didn't make the initial field of 32.

Slim Charles to win it all!
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:46 PM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Fuck it.

*pops in Season 1 DVD*

I'll be staying in today.
posted by ShutterBun at 1:51 PM on March 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's easy for Omar to read a list of check boxes to make viewers like a character while keeping him just outside the box labelled "hero."

If your checksheet for "making viewers like a character" spits out "black, gay, badass" you sure as hell didn't get it from Hollywood or TV-land.
posted by yoink at 1:55 PM on March 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


I think it's important that Omar be so colorful so Marlo's empty soul comes out in sharper relief.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:59 PM on March 14, 2012


I loved the look on Marlo's face when his compatriots told him that Omar's called him out in the streets.
posted by desjardins at 2:03 PM on March 14, 2012


My loathing for transforming every possible multiparty comparison into a March Madness format is overcome only by my love for The Wire.
posted by MoonOrb at 2:10 PM on March 14, 2012


huh, I actually stumbled onto this a couple weeks ago but thought it was years old. I was revisiting the show after getting my gf hooked on it (for absolute cute points and a path to my heart, she can't help referring to it as The Barksdales).
posted by mannequito at 2:13 PM on March 14, 2012


I think, given the people who watched The Wire, making Omar gay went a long way toward making him a likeable character.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 2:14 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's SEO bait
posted by jedro at 2:16 PM on March 14, 2012


They're all fantastic, for all the reasons the whole goddamned show was epic

Agree entirely. Looking at every single character on that list, I was all "Oh yeah! That character was awesome!" McNulty did not belong in a final 4 though if we absolutely have to play this game. A round robin format is kinda crazy; characters that got eliminated early could easily have made the final four with the right matchups. No way Prop Joe should have gotten further than Bubbles or Snoop. How does Prop Joe beat Bunny and Sobotka anyway? The system is FUCKED.

Man now I gotta watch this show again.
posted by Hoopo at 2:18 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Totally in Agreement that Omar is overrated. Before they even started voting, I decreed this bracket to be crap.

Ignoring the female characters is inexcusable. This bracket is not complete without mom of the year candidates Brianna Barksdale and Da'Londa Brice.

As mentioned above, an entirely separate tourney for the supporting characters. Carcetti's right hand man Norman would go far in a division B tourney. So would Da"Londa Brice.

Take the character arcs of some characters as teams, and they're greater than the sum of their parts. Herc &Carver. Chris & Snoop. Bodie, Poot, And Wallace. The Kids from season 4 as a Unit are a strong contender to win the whole thing.

They seemed to value gangsterism as the most admirable trait of a character, which takes the show at it's most superficial level. (Bill Simmons is involved, so I'm not sure why I expected anything more). Foe example, Michael may win for gangsterism, but as a character, he was pretty one-dimensional. Well played, but not really much mre than a damaged kid being exploited by damaged adults to a really horrible end. Randy on the other hand is much moredeveloped character. A smart, sweet, likeable kid who's trying really hard, and can't catch a fucking break. Every time he comes in contact with the world, the world grinds him down a little more. By the end, every scene Randy is in is heartbreaking.

Most of all, I knew they dropped the ball when I saw Bubbles as a #8 seed. And they had the nerve to consider Bubbles over Clay Davis an Upset? If I was putting this together Bubbles would be my favorite to win the whole thing. Edit out every other storyline, and just have the scenes following The Life of Bubs and you still have one of the most engrossing, fascinating emotional roller coaster of TV Show ever. Not to mention a heart wrenching look at the issues of addiction and the failure of the war on drugs. In a show full of amazing acting performances, Andre Royo's performance over 5 seasons was the at the head of the class.
posted by billyfleetwood at 2:31 PM on March 14, 2012 [14 favorites]


Yeah, Bunk shoulda made the final four. Wendell Pierce's fine performance subsequently in "Treme" somehow serves to make Bunk even more memorable, retroactively.

Michael K. Williams has a recurring part in "Boardwalk Empire," and his character there is pretty much of a badass, too. He's been used relatively sparingly so far, but with some other characters getting killed off at the end of last season, perhaps he'll get more to do.

I'd pay to see Williams and Andre Royo playing buddy cops in something, double if Royo were cast as the hard-nosed one and Williams as the funny one.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 2:35 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, poor Dukie. Somehow it fits with his character that he gets taken out in the first round.
posted by Hoopo at 2:47 PM on March 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


(Also, when Barack Obama says his favorite show is The Wire, why doesn't anybody ever ask a good follow-up question? Because there are some good ones.)
posted by box at 9:42 AM on March 14 [12 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]


There really are.

Is this the place to voice my minority view that the 'fuck' investigation scene in S1 was a misstep, and the kind of 'aren't we clever' bit of writing that the Wire (in its first four seasons at least) took pains to avoid?

No?

Okay.

(Cool Lester Smooth all the way, he was ROBBED)
posted by Sebmojo at 2:47 PM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's some sharp writing in that Grantland series - I particularly like this analysis:

Were this a straightforward popularity contest conducted in March of 2008, Stringer likely prevails. But that’s not what this is. This is a metaphor contest. In the semis, Stringer beat Jimmy McNulty because a likable drug dealer is more symbolically significant than a likable cop; in the opposite bracket, Omar beat Avon Barksdale because an ethical murderer is more symbolically significant than a Machiavellian murderer. That leaves us with Stringer vs. Omar, so the make-or-break question is this: What’s the single most important axiom The Wire promotes? That’s debatable, but I’d argue it’s this: “To live outside the law, you must be honest.” And if that’s the takeaway, the choice is clear.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:53 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Carcetti's right hand man Norman would go far in a division B tourney.

Damn right. He never turns down a vote!
posted by dragstroke at 3:04 PM on March 14, 2012


I, too, knew exactly who would win before I clicked on the link, because there is no other possibility.

I get what everyone is saying about Omar and Brother Mouzone being unrealistic but I think that Omar is necessary and perfect in his unrealism. All of these characters are painfully real, but with Omar, you have a man who has made himself a myth, whose code precedes him. He is entirely human, but at the same time he's more than mortal. He's the bogeyman and the punishment and the fear that humans will create wherever they go and in whatever culture -- it just happens that Omar Little saw how to exploit this legend, live by his own code, and own the streets. I love that he isn't real, because that's how he becomes amazing and multifaceted and can become the face of a show that's about all levels of society.

(As regards Brother Mouzone...I got nothin', but I loved his character too?)

Valchek wins because at the end of the universe he'll be standing there with Levy, equally pleased and disappointed that entropy is winning, but he's not the whole show the way Omar is.
posted by kalimac at 3:04 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


And the Bunk defeat shows that a likeable gangster is (somehow) more symbolically significant than the smart black kid who grew up to be The Man.

The symbolically best Final Two would be Bunk and Omar - two faces of the same too-smart street kid.
posted by muddgirl at 3:08 PM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I'm pretty sure "Got to. This America, man." would work as an answer to virtually any White House Press Corps question on any policy that is of interest to me. Let's see...

That line is why I don't understand people having to qualify their recommendations of the Wire with stuff like "Give it time, it takes a while to get good." It's from the first scene!
posted by Lorin at 3:22 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


a likable drug dealer is more symbolically significant than a likable cop

McNulty was a likable cop? Bunk, Kima, Lester, Carver, sure, but I'm not sure I could even have a beer with McNulty.
posted by desjardins at 3:26 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


The symbolically best Final Two would be Bunk and Omar - two faces of the same too-smart street kid.

Yes, this. I would still vote for Omar, though.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 3:42 PM on March 14, 2012


Yeah, Omar obviously...

But Valchek should have been up there, along with Bubbles... it was those two when I first saw the final montage that produced biggest emotional reaction (laughter and a single manly tear, respectively)

And if McNulty should have been up there too... if there was a single character that drove through the whole show, it was him - he's in the very first and the very last scenes after all.

I'm gonna have to rewatch it again very soon (not least because of a bit of youtubage I did the other day has made me think again about Marlow)

Oh and Michael K. Williams seems to be slowly carving out another legend in Boardwalk as Chalky White... this is my favourite scene evah since the wire. And this is electric.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:44 PM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure I could even have a beer with McNulty.

I would totally have beers with McNulty; he's the type of crazy drunk that is going to take you on the sort of ill-advised and dangerous adventures that result great stories you'll be able tell your friends for many years to come. Your friends...or possibly your cellmates.
posted by Hoopo at 3:54 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


One of my favorite aspects of The Wire is that thanks to its inventive use of grammar, "Police police police police police police" is a complete sentence.
posted by ShutterBun at 4:04 PM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's easy for Omar to read a list of check boxes to make viewers like a character while keeping him just outside the box labelled "hero."

I get that criticism of Omar as a character, and have felt it myself sometimes. But here's the thing that always made Omar stand out for me, personally (I can't speak as to why he's the favourite of others):

In the amoral swamp The Wire is, Omar is one of the few moral characters. His morality, though, comes simply from the fact that he has a set of rules that he plays and lives by and does not bend; those rules, on examination, are fucked up - he makes his living as a robber of drug dealers - but he has his Code that he will not break, and in the world of The Wire that is a special thing. This is why I also deeply respect Bunk; he too has a Code that he will not break.

For the vast majority of other characters, there is no clear sense of a morality at play, merely that they are trying to play an angle in the game, to somehow advance their position and "win". Omar and Bunk, on the other hand, have already "won" through understanding that to survive as a whole human being in the game, one has to have a Code to measure one's own success by; i.e., they are playing the only game they can win because it is the one they have set the rules for - their own lives.

This exercise was nothing more than a popularity contest, and so the result is predictable. A far more interesting debate would be to examine the characters against the different themes of the show, and debate which one typifies those. However, I don't expect a website (as enjoyable as Grantland is) primarily about sports and pop culture to get that deep.
posted by never used baby shoes at 4:06 PM on March 14, 2012 [7 favorites]


> Your friends...or possibly your cellmates.

Or your wife as you attempt, in vain, to explain yourself.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:19 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Bubbles discovers a code of dignity and self-worth for himself, free of his addiction. McNulty discovers (so I choose to believe anyway) that the selfish, arrogant code he lived by as murder police, was no good. Both he and his city were better when he was a beat cop, and now that he has lost even that, he'll have to find some other modest role in life.
posted by wobh at 4:23 PM on March 14, 2012


he'll have to find some other modest role in life.

McNulty PI ... I'm right here Hollywood! Right here!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:29 PM on March 14, 2012


Omar's a great character, but he was invloved in two different scenes in the show that made me strongly think the show was jumping the shark: his dark-alley showdown with Brother Mouzone and his leap from the window (and the subsequent failure of anyone to, you know, check that door right over there). A little bit out stylized outlaw makes him awesome, but those two scenes are straight out a comic book. (And I don't care if they actually happened to real Baltimore stick-up men or not. While I'm mostly not fit to shine David Simon's shoes, he has a hard time internalizing the writing 101 lesson that "but that's the way it really happened!" is no defense of fiction).
posted by Bookhouse at 4:33 PM on March 14, 2012


those two scenes are straight out a comic book

I think what you meant to say is "Dat's some Spider-man shit there."
posted by ShutterBun at 4:38 PM on March 14, 2012 [8 favorites]


This contest ain't nothin without my main man Horseface Pakusa.
posted by geneva uswazi at 4:39 PM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, when Barack Obama says his favorite show is The Wire, why doesn't anybody ever ask a good follow-up question? Because there are some good ones.

Fortunately, String and Bunk (escorting Gwen Ifill!) will be at the White House State dinner tonight, so maybe they can ask him.
posted by gladly at 4:46 PM on March 14, 2012


McNulty PI

I'd watch the hell out of a Spenser for Hire ripoff set in Baltimore with McNulty and... well, I'd prefer Wee-Bey or Cutty, but I'd also take Slim Charles.
posted by box at 5:23 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


For the vast majority of other characters, there is no clear sense of a morality at play, merely that they are trying to play an angle in the game, to somehow advance their position and "win". Omar and Bunk, on the other hand, have already "won" through understanding that to survive as a whole human being in the game, one has to have a Code to measure one's own success by; i.e., they are playing the only game they can win because it is the one they have set the rules for - their own lives.

This is why Bodie is my second favorite character behind Bubbles. In a lot less flashy way he exemplified this better than Bunk or Omar because thay had some measure of power in their respective environments. Bodie was just a pawn, and he knew it.

"Pawns, they get capped quick. They're out of the game early... Unless they some smart ass pawns."
posted by billyfleetwood at 5:25 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd also watch the hell out of a Banacek ripoff with Freamon taking a retirement job as an insurance investigator and Shardene serving as his driver. Or it could be Bunny Colvin and Namond--I'm not picky.
posted by box at 5:29 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's kinda silly to talk about "best character" on a show where so many characters are so awesome in so many different ways, which is why I interpreted this exercise as silly fun, and not any kind of serious analysis of the show.

For example, it's easy to pick out Bunk as one of the best characters, because he's basically the Roger Sterling of the show -- the one who always gets the best line of the episode. But then you look at Bubbles, probably the most obvious redemption story in the show ... and can you really even compare the two? They both succeed at such completely different things.

Omar is a great character and enormously fun to watch, but watching him isn't really an emotional experience. I can't say that I really feel for him. I don't think his character is overrated though; people enjoy watching him because he's enjoyable to watch. Nothing wrong with that.
posted by Afroblanco at 5:59 PM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, the world NEEDS a Wire prequel told entirely from the perspective of Kima Griggs. Call it Kima's Story.
posted by Afroblanco at 5:59 PM on March 14, 2012


I agree that 'best character' is kind of silly, but I think that's a pretty shallow reading of Bunk. The writers drew intentional parallels between Bunk and Omar - I don't think you can have one without the other. Both of them get some pretty badass lines.

I don't think Bunk is my favorite character - what I objected to is not that Bunk lost, but the fact that McNulty is preferred by fans. On the other hand, I have a kneejerk bias against Byronic heroes, which doesn't work in McNulty's favor.
posted by muddgirl at 6:24 PM on March 14, 2012


Okay, thinking about it some more, here is my defense of Omar Little being allowed to be a bit more over-the-top than the other characters.

My take on the overarching theme of The Wire is similar to Bugaroktonos'. Namely, "The top priority of our social institutions is to themselves" Stringer can't elevate and legitimize The Game because Avon needs to stay in his comfort zone on the street. Marlo ultimately goes through this himself. Frank can't get the channel dredged and reinvigorate the docks because The Greek likes things the way they are and the politicians don't give a damn about the steveadores. Bunny's two good ideas can't get any political traction no matter their results because they shake up the status quo at institutions tied to arbitrary and meaningless numbers games. And on and on.

Our only real "success stories" come from people creating their own damn institutions. Narcotics Anonymous works because it is run by the recovering addicts themselves. Namond gets a happy ending because Bunny just says "fuck it" and takes him in himself. Lester, though as natural a police as any, found a zen place long ago by being happy with his life outside of work, and can stand to lose that work if he needs to. Cutty makes his own gym to have a place of some safety and good in the neighborhood.

(on a side note, I never really "bought" Cutty, as a character. He came out of the joint squeaky clean and never really had an arc that I felt. And then the worst thing he does is accidentally set off Michael's emotional triggers. Not saying he was unrealistic so much as uninteresting. Bunny was also a little too "shining knight" but his ideas were compelling enough to keep me with him.)

Back on point, Omar epitomizes the rejection of institutions more than any other character on the show. He lives "in the wind," squatting in empties, robbing from the players in The Game, using the cops to his own ends, and generally making entirely his own way. When he's on the stand, making a mockery of the court system, Levy asks him how he's survived as long as he has, doing what he does. It's an important question, and one which gets to the key of why he works.

In rejecting ALL institutions, Omar Little becomes our thematic Hero, whether Simon planned it that way or not. By all accounts, he should be long dead and forgotten, and nearly everything he does poses that risk anew. By the time we first meet Omar, we already know what to expect from this show, and so in addition to Omar's actions being thrilling and funny, we're waiting for the other shoe to drop. He simply can't keep doing what he's doing and not die.

And every time he survives, he becomes a little more superhuman, but that only ratchets up the tension that much more. And then, once he's actually home-free and happy, he has to come back to Baltimore, and and we know that's the end. Of course, we didn't know how that end would come, but it was perfectly fitting to the character. There was nobody big enough to come at the king by that point. It had to be someone small enough.

Anyway, that's my piece.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:43 PM on March 14, 2012 [15 favorites]


This is killing me. I've been trying to hold out against my Wire love, but I don't know if I can take much more. Currently working my way through BSG (better than I expected) and The Sopranos (different from what I expected). If I throw The Wire in there...who knows if I'll ever get back. I might just find myself in a Wire loop, endlessly watching and rewatching...

And, for the record, I was rooting (after the fact) for Bubbles.
posted by Ducks or monkeys at 7:12 PM on March 14, 2012


Navelgazer--extremely well said . . .

Bookhouse, while I don't disagree that both of the scenes you reference push the limits of traditionally suspended disbelief, "jumping the shark" is at best an unfair description and, at worst mildly insulting to Simon:

"Jumping the shark" is . . . used to describe the moment in the evolution of a television show when it begins a decline in quality that is beyond recovery . . . The phrase is also used to refer to a particular scene, episode or aspect of a show in which the writers use some type of "gimmick" in a desperate attempt to keep viewers' interest.

. . . In its initial usage, it referred to the point in a television program's history when the program had outlived its freshness and viewers had begun to feel that the show's writers were out of new ideas, often after great effort was made to revive interest in the show by the writers, producers, or network . . .

Emphasis mine, of course.

All due respect to your take, and I certainly know what you're getting at, but I hardly feel either scene fits the broadest interpretation of jumping said shark . . . and something about that hackneyed term, in my book, shouldn't be casually tagged on what is widely considered to be some of the best television ever made.
posted by eggman at 8:17 PM on March 14, 2012


It's tempting to write Brother Mouzone off as a one dimensional character, but I always kind of viewed him as a New York version of Omar (not Omar as robber of drug dealers, rather Omar as the person the other criminals fear). His name inspires fear and awe among the other criminals, and, most likely, in his own city he'd be as fierce and unstoppable as Omar. However, he's in Baltimore, out of his element, and so reduced slightly. The alley meeting, to me, is of, if not equals, living legends/boogeymen that recognize that quality about each other. I also think, in some ways, that him being from New York was part of the joke. In the show, nothing from New York is any kind of good. New York is frequently mocked or run down (Snoop, explaining that anyone from New York wouldn't know what good music is), and in some way, it fits that New York's top killer can't take down Baltimore's badass.

That said, I don't think we saw enough of him to justify him being in the brackets more than anyone else.

Still, of all the characters, my favorite was Bodie. He stood for something, even though he knew that it wasn't all that wonderful, and would likely get him killed. After Bodie, I had a massive weakspot for Slim Charles. And Sidnour. And Prez. And Landsman. Definitely Landsman.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:43 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, if it did jump the shark, it was the serial killer.
posted by box at 8:44 PM on March 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


#7 "Bubbles" (9,723) defeats #2 Clay Davis (4,099) **UPSET!**

SheeeuuiiiiIIIiiiIIIiiiiuuu-it!
posted by A dead Quaker at 9:07 PM on March 14, 2012


Both Omar and Brother Mouzone are larger-than-life. But Omar gets away with it because Omar could actually exist.

With Brother Mouzone, I feel like they tried too hard to create an anti-Omar, and his character comes off as contrived.

Still, he's enjoyable enough to watch, and I don't think he wrecks the show or anything. Were he a more-important character, maybe. But on the whole, he doesn't really get a lot of screen time.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:12 PM on March 14, 2012


All due respect to your take, and I certainly know what you're getting at, but I hardly feel either scene fits the broadest interpretation of jumping said shark . . . and something about that hackneyed term, in my book, shouldn't be casually tagged on what is widely considered to be some of the best television ever made.

I didn't say the show jumped the shark, only that the scenes made me think it might. They are in my opinion jarringly misguided scenes. And if "jump the shark" is a hackneyed phrase, it is because most shows get worse near the end of their run. It's a highly useful phrase.

Even shows that could be filed under "best television ever made" tend to suffer huge declines in quality at some point in their runs. Twin Peaks, The Sopranos, Deadwood and yes, The Wire all ended with seasons that were far worse than their pinnacles of glory. The Wire is superior to those other shows in part because its ratio of great-to-not-great is higher: four fantastic seasons followed by one wildly uneven season. Hey, an average like that will keep you in the majors.
posted by Bookhouse at 11:54 PM on March 14, 2012


How was he a Robin Hood? They never really said what he did with all of the money.

He gave away his stolen drugs for free. (which I guess could be seen by some as benevolent) Stringer himself makes the Robin Hood comparison in Episode 8 "Game Day"
posted by ShutterBun at 12:58 AM on March 15, 2012


Is this the place to voice my minority view that the 'fuck' investigation scene in S1 was a misstep, and the kind of 'aren't we clever' bit of writing that the Wire (in its first four seasons at least) took pains to avoid?

You're not alone. That scene stopped me cold. I have deep and abiding love of the show as a whole but I don't get the appeal of that scene at all. I don't even think it was cleverly written -- it seemed transparently stagey.
posted by gauche at 6:08 AM on March 15, 2012


on a side note, I never really "bought" Cutty, as a character. He came out of the joint squeaky clean and never really had an arc that I felt. And then the worst thing he does is accidentally set off Michael's emotional triggers. Not saying he was unrealistic so much as uninteresting. Bunny was also a little too "shining knight" but his ideas were compelling enough to keep me with him.

I think Cutty's arc was that basically prison (or may be just getting older ) took away what had made him such a bad ass on the streets before he went in. He had a discover that and then admit it to himself and others then find a new way forward (compare and contrast with Stringer Bell 'Not hard enough for this right here and maybe, just maybe, not smart enough for them out there.') I'm glad he just didn't die as I totally expected him to first time around.

On the shark jumping front, although the serial killer thing was out there I think, especially on a re watch it pretty much worked... When you watched the series back to back McNulty's motivations become a lot clearer.

The only place it got close was with the newspaper with far too many one-note characters - up and till that point (with the possibly exception of Beadie) there were no perfect characters, they all had flaws and even the 'bad guys' had notes of sympathy to them. Perhaps Simon was too close but you never had any sympathy for the snivling boss and the lying journo and the woman journo and the one who did the profile on Bubbles were just boring goodie too shoes. And Gus just seemed like a Mary Sue.

You're not alone. That scene stopped me cold. I have deep and abiding love of the show as a whole but I don't get the appeal of that scene at all. I don't even think it was cleverly written -- it seemed transparently stagey.

Yeah, I actually kind of thought that too... but when I rewatched it recently (during a youtube clips binge) it seemed like that was deliberate and it worked. That the two of them had done so many of these crime scene investigations they would make a game out of it. Though I'm probably reading too much into it.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:45 AM on March 15, 2012


How was he a Robin Hood? They never really said what he did with all of the money.

They do make allusions to the blind dude and Omar's money and how Omar isn't keeping it for himself.

Stringer vs. Omar is a tough call for me to make. Stringer was by far my favorite in Seasons 1-3, but Omar having the longer character arc simply had more time to be awesome and that really nudges him over the top. Tough call though.

("The chair ain't recognize yo' ass!" is perhaps my favorite moment in the whole damn show. Not that Stringer says it, but imposing Robert's Rules of Order on a drug dealing operation? Priceless.)
posted by sonika at 7:06 AM on March 15, 2012


The characters are all just so rich. I am half way thruogh my second viewing and it's better the second time.
And coming from a big family, I think of this exchange all the time. IT IS SO TRUE.

Sergei: Family cannot be helped.
Proposition Joe: Who you tellin'? I got motherfuckin' nephews and in-laws fucking all my shit up all the time and it ain't like I can pop a cap in their ass and not hear about it Thanksgivin' time. For real, I'm livin' life with some burdensome niggers.
posted by readery at 11:42 AM on March 15, 2012


This is why Bodie is my second favorite character behind Bubbles. In a lot less flashy way he exemplified this better than Bunk or Omar because thay had some measure of power in their respective environments. Bodie was just a pawn, and he knew it.

"Pawns, they get capped quick. They're out of the game early... Unless they some smart ass pawns."


Indeed. I don't think I realized how much I appreciated Bodie until Omar's death scene. I realized Bodie's death had been much more difficult for me despite Omar being my second favorite character after Prez.
posted by mannequito at 2:26 PM on March 15, 2012


Yeah, I kind of like the S1 crime investigation scene; for a couple of reasons it really works for me, despite the choreographed nature. I think they're trying to portray the idea that it was practically child's play - that any decent homicide detective could do it in their sleep (thus, the reporting detective was completely and utterly incompetent, and furthermore there was no oversight to prevent incompetence). I think it's hard to portray that without lots of exposition. Also, it's a cool scene, and I think The Wire needs moments like that to break the spell of reality (since it's a work of fiction, not a documentary).
posted by muddgirl at 6:19 PM on March 15, 2012


The tragic flaw of Grantland's Wire bracket
posted by never used baby shoes at 12:16 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


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