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July 12, 2018 10:31 AM   Subscribe

Every Episode of 'The Wire,' Ranked (spoiler alert, slvulture)
posted by box (64 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
3 season 5 episodes in the top 10? Clearly, the writer is insane.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:50 AM on July 12 [10 favorites]


Agree, too many Season 5 episodes highly ranked and too many Season 2 ones lowly ranked.

"Hot Shots" at #56? Nah
posted by sektah at 10:51 AM on July 12 [4 favorites]


The Wire Seasons Ranked in Order of Greatness
1. Season two.
2. Season one.
3. Season four.
4. Season three.
posted by Fizz at 10:57 AM on July 12 [10 favorites]


I think that the order in which they aired is your order of best to worst. However, every successive episode was inferior only by millimeters.
posted by NoMich at 10:58 AM on July 12


Every Episode of the 'The Wire', Ranked, but with Tom Waits singing All Star as the intro
Every Episode of the 'The Wire', Ranked, but ranking changes every time someone says "motherfucker"
Every Episode of the 'The Wire', Ranked, but if you come at the King you best not miss
posted by gwint at 11:07 AM on July 12 [25 favorites]


1. Any episode with Frank Sobotka
2. The rest of them
posted by komara at 11:18 AM on July 12 [1 favorite]


In my experience, nine times out of ten, when somebody says they liked Season 2 of the Wire the most, they're white.

Which is not necessarily a knock against Season 2, or the people who love it, but once I noticed, it really jumped out at me. Looking back on it after three additional seasons, the degree to which it's centered on white is striking, along with the lolzy stuff about McNulty that was, I imagine, HBO being like YOU NEED MORE SEX AND BOOBS WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH OUR MONEY????? WRITING???????

(Season 4 for life, because nothing says quality like being haunted for days, fucking DAYS, afterwards by the sight of Randy curled up on himself on the floor of the new group home. And that's setting aside Bodie and Michael and Bubbles and Dukie. Second for me is Season 3, because Hamsterdam and Bunny Colvin and the incredible, beautifully wrought and plotted and acted and developed and EVERYTHING of that penthouse scene between Stringer and Avon. I'd forgotten that Stringer dies in that episode, too -- what an episode, Christ.)
posted by joyceanmachine at 11:22 AM on July 12 [23 favorites]


Its interesting to see how Season 2 has been reevaluated over the years. For a long time, people pretty much universally thought it was the worst of the 5 or second worst next to the 5th.
posted by Lame_username at 11:24 AM on July 12 [2 favorites]


I hated season 2 the first time I saw it but upon repeated viewings I started really liking the story, and the way the cops kept trying to get other departments to take on the case about the girls. The Sobotkas are a bit tough to take, especially Ziggy and Nick, but I do like the dock story line.

I read the top and bottom five, but I don't really feel like many episodes can stand on their own. The seasons can be ranked, but not the episodes.
posted by bondcliff at 11:25 AM on July 12 [2 favorites]


Rank 'em however you like as they're all pretty brilliant in some way or other, but I'm just not sitting through that tedious all-fuck dialogue scene again.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:27 AM on July 12 [2 favorites]


Its interesting to see how Season 2 has been reevaluated over the years. For a long time, people pretty much universally thought it was the worst of the 5 or second worst next to the 5th.

Hmm, it is interesting because in the circles where I run and The Wire is discussed, it's just always been assumed that Season 2 is the strongest.
posted by Fizz at 11:27 AM on July 12


Immediately after I posted this, which was a joke:

> 1. Any episode with Frank Sobotka
2. The rest of them


I was introduced to this comment, which the timeline suggests was not written in direct response to my comment, but it sure does make it feel like it was:

> In my experience, nine times out of ten, when somebody says they liked Season 2 of the Wire the most, they're white.

In response, I would like to offer up my true opinion of the ranking of episodes of The Wire:

1. S04E01: The One Where Snoop Buys a Nail Gun
2. The rest of them
posted by komara at 11:28 AM on July 12 [31 favorites]


Season 4, episode 3, "Home Rooms". The episode where [redacted because spoiler] is a new teacher and extremely out of their depth, and takes a class where things go very wrong.

That episode. Number #1 episode of any series so far this century. I will fight anyone who disagrees.
posted by Wordshore at 11:29 AM on July 12 [4 favorites]


I should finally watch this, right? I feel like it's time. Will it fill me with more rage than usual?
posted by poffin boffin at 11:33 AM on July 12 [3 favorites]


1. That kid who grew up to be Killmonger is in it. (Honorary inclusion for "Where's Wallace, String? Where's the boy?")

1. Features Brother Mouzone.

1. Had an "Oh, indeed."

1. Lester Freamon is doing that thing that Daniels is talking about here. (Honorary inclusion for Daniels' impression.)

1. Any strong Stringer Bell episode not already included above.

2. The rest of them.

...

99. Listicles.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:38 AM on July 12 [9 favorites]


I loved season 2 because of how futile it made the MCU's work look. Local police were never going to stop drugs, trafficking, and violence. They're baked into the system.

Also for the jokes about headless and handless corpses from the boat.

But season 4, absolutely, and for the scene between Wee-Bey and De'Londa when he tells her to let Namond go to the Colvins. Season 5 is watchable for Bubbles and for Snoop's beautiful, perfect delivery of, "How my hair look, Mike?"
posted by gladly at 11:40 AM on July 12 [5 favorites]


Will it fill me with more rage than usual?

This is a complicated question. When I finally watched The Wire, I was in a very low place. I hated so much about my life and what was going on around me. I was being slowly crushed by The Man!

And yes, the hype about the show then was much like it is now - in the conversation for Best Evar (though Six Feet Under was still in that conversation then lol).

Finishing the show brought me a kind of peace with certain things in my life, and it's proven to be a remarkably resilient kind of mindset.

Ultimately, what I took from the show was that institutions are inherently flawed, and only as strong as the decisions of the many, many people working to uphold that institution. Getting bummed about that makes no sense; focusing on real relationships of depth and shared humanity can create lasting change for at least two people, which is possible more than tilting at a motherfucking millstone that will almost certainly crush you to death for your efforts.
posted by rocketman at 11:43 AM on July 12 [12 favorites]


It took me a long time to get into The Wire. I kept starting and giving up. Something eventually clicked and I kept watching.

Recently I realized how to entice people into watching The Wire: have them watch S4E1 and then tell them they have to start from the beginning to find out what happens.

Hell, you could probably show them the opening scene and the credit sequence and that would be enough to draw them in.

"Why'd you finally watch The Wire?"
"I wanted to see what she was going to do with that nail gun."
posted by elsietheeel at 11:59 AM on July 12 [9 favorites]


4, 2, 1, 3, 5

That's a personal list - 1 is probably better than 2 in reality. The strength of 2 is really largely the strength of its ending/the self-contained plotting. 3 has the consensus best subplot in the series (Stringer vs. Avon) and I have a soft spot for Cutty Wise, but a lot of the rest of it doesn't stick with me for some reason. I guess the Hamsterdam plot is kinda just preaching to the choir when I'm in the audience.

3 season 5 episodes in the top 10? Clearly, the writer is insane.

Well, they're all among the last three episodes of the series itself, which together do a good job tying things up. But I'd probably only put two of them there. My bigger disagreement is with the number from 5 versus 2 in the top half.
posted by atoxyl at 12:07 PM on July 12


In my experience, nine times out of ten, when somebody says they liked Season 2 of the Wire the most, they're white.

I've watched the whole thing at least three times but to be honest most of the time when somebody wants to go on about The Wire and why it's the best show ever, they're white.
posted by atoxyl at 12:09 PM on July 12 [8 favorites]


I loved the whole thing, although season 5 is the weakest, and I always felt like it was the most unfaithful to the characters.

In other news, I used to be responsible for training volunteers to write freeform reports, and to encourage clear organization, I'd play this scene.
posted by Gorgik at 12:09 PM on July 12 [2 favorites]


From the list:
We largely have The Wire to thank for the now-ubiquitous term “burner"

You sure about that?
posted by atoxyl at 12:21 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


Also Season 2 has a lot of Prop Joe
posted by atoxyl at 12:27 PM on July 12


I have a special place in my heart for season 2 because my family is Polish and from Curtis Bay. But I don't think it's the strongest season at all, both 1 and 4 are far better IMO.
posted by desuetude at 12:56 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


1. S04E01: The One Where Snoop Buys a Nail Gun

I feel like there should be a separate ranking for all the set piece scenes in addition to the one for the episodes. Not the brutal ones, but the ones like “fuck”, “the king stay the king”, “burning the evidence”, “I got the shotgun, you got the briefcase”, “McNulty redoing the turn until he gets it right”, “losing the station”, etc.
posted by ambrosen at 12:57 PM on July 12 [4 favorites]


While I thought most of The Wire was very, very good, the season that has stuck with me most is Season 4. I am sure it's partly because I'm an educator who works with marginalized and racialized youth. That season made me despair because it was so realistic--the home lives of the kids, the hope and passion of the teacher clashing with the intractability of the system.

In a way I want to watch it again, but I don't know if I can take it.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:00 PM on July 12 [9 favorites]


The fact that any episodes in Season 2 or Season 5 ranked ahead of any episode in any other season renders this writer's opinion invalid.
posted by dobbs at 1:23 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


In a way I want to watch it again, but I don't know if I can take it.

That's how I feel about most of Darren Aronofsky's movies, and Avengers: Infinity War.

Also, I got the impression that S2 was what it was specifically because David Simon didn't want to give the impression that crime and corruption in B'more was exclusively the province of black people, the occasional crooked cop notwithstanding.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:29 PM on July 12 [2 favorites]


awww....i really *liked* season 5....
posted by logicpunk at 1:29 PM on July 12 [2 favorites]


Season 4 as a whole is probably the greatest work of art I've experienced in my lifetime, no exaggeration. Or, if not greatest since it's difficult to compare to so many apples and oranges, most important.
posted by mannequito at 1:37 PM on July 12 [6 favorites]


I liked it too, logicpunk. I think that a lot of people didn't like it because of what McNulty did, but I think that he did it to save himself. Plus, there seemed to be a lot of inside baseball stuff at the newspaper that was probably Simon settling scores.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:40 PM on July 12 [2 favorites]


I feel like there should be a separate ranking for all the set piece scenes in addition to the one for the episodes.

Honestly those sorts of short snippets are what I really remember from the show, much more than the overall plots. I think it's partly because while the writing was occasionally a little uneven and veered into David Simon's personal score-settling by the end, the acting was pretty uniformly excellent, and it really shines through in the smaller moments and one-off jokes.
posted by Copronymus at 1:43 PM on July 12


I liked it too, logicpunk. I think that a lot of people didn't like it because of what McNulty did, but I think that he did it to save himself. Plus, there seemed to be a lot of inside baseball stuff at the newspaper that was probably Simon settling scores.

The McNulty plot just ventures too far from realism in service of pretty blunt point-making, and the newspaper stuff is as you say. The one thing that is to be said for season 5 is no small thing, though - in those last three episodes it does absolutely stick the landing.
posted by atoxyl at 1:45 PM on July 12 [4 favorites]


Baltimore drug kingpins, ranked:

Proposition Joe
Stringer Bell
Avon Barksdale
Cheese Wagstaff
Slim Charles
That guy who advises Marlo to get a Lincoln Town Car
That guy who says 'That sentimental motherfucker just cost us money'
Marlo Stanfield
Fat Face Rick
That guy who owns the rim shop
Hungry Man
'White Mike' McArdle
Kintel Williamson
posted by box at 1:58 PM on July 12 [5 favorites]


No Blind Butchie? Come on.
posted by rocketman at 2:03 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


Oh good - I've been watching The Wire for the first time and it turns out I've already watched the best episode. So I can stop watching now.
posted by lagomorphius at 2:17 PM on July 12


Rank 'em however you like as they're all pretty brilliant in some way or other, but I'm just not sitting through that tedious all-fuck dialogue scene again.

I watch it every day as part of my morning affirmation.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:16 PM on July 12 [8 favorites]


No Blind Butchie? Come on.

Honest oversight. And embarrassing, given that I'd slot Butchie pretty high, probably between Cheese and Slim.

"I'm afraid I'm blind. Legally."
posted by box at 3:17 PM on July 12


I probably hate Cheese more than anybody else on the show for betraying Proposition Joe and overall loathsomeness. As things turned out, surely Slim Charles should be rated higher than Cheese in the final rankings.

I'm officially Mostly Heterosexual, but Stringer Bell caused some rumblings on the Kinsey Scale.

In my experience, nine times out of ten, when somebody says they liked Season 2 of the Wire the most, they're white.

Stuff White People Like #85 The Wire
A long time ago, someone started a rumor that when The Wire is on TV, actual police wires go quiet because all the dealers are watching the show. Though this is not true, it seems plausible enough to white people and has imbued the show with the needed authenticity to be deemed acceptable.
Agree, too many Season 5 episodes highly ranked and too many Season 2 ones lowly ranked.

I thought about posting this article but I would've had a hard time not leading off with this exact point.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:38 PM on July 12 [2 favorites]


You can't hate Cheese, he's in the fucking Wu-Tang Clan!
posted by elsietheeel at 3:40 PM on July 12


I will not abide any ranking that puts Cheese above Slim Charles. Cheese was an utter buffoon whose only accomplishments were antagonizing people smarter than he was, killing people whose deaths served no purpose, and generally being a selfish dipshit whose existence made life worse for everyone and everything around him. Slim Charles wasn't, like, great at leading a drug operation, but at least he wasn't the absolute fucking worst.

Also, as far as I, a non-native white gentrifier can tell, Anwan Glover is a legit figure in the go-go scene in DC, so it's not like he's lacking for street cred, even compared to Method Man.
posted by Copronymus at 3:45 PM on July 12 [6 favorites]


I just drifted away from The Wire in season 5. This thread is leading me to believe that was fine and I should make no effort to rectify it.
posted by obfuscation at 3:48 PM on July 12 [2 favorites]


The only reason I enjoyed the 5th season was to follow up on the boys from the 4th. Even though most of their endings aren't happy.
posted by elsietheeel at 4:06 PM on July 12


A long time ago, someone started a rumor that when The Wire is on TV, actual police wires go quiet because all the dealers are watching the show. Though this is not true, it seems plausible enough to white people and has imbued the show with the needed authenticity to be deemed acceptable.

I know this is a joke site but is this claim supposed to be true? I don't remember ever hearing that or seeing it ever mentioned when people talked (or raved) about The Wire.
posted by Sangermaine at 5:45 PM on July 12


I watched most the episodes of Season 1 this past winter. I liked the writing and some of the characters, but I found the police-procedure format somewhat artificial and boring. Is it a police-procedural the whole way through the series?
posted by JamesBay at 8:11 PM on July 12


Yet, with all that going on, the biggest moment here is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shot of Rawls hanging out at a gay bar, which was never referenced again.
Wow, watched the series a couple times and never caught that.

komara: "
In response, I would like to offer up my true opinion of the ranking of episodes of The Wire:

1. S04E01: The One Where Snoop Buys a Nail Gun
"

This is easily the second best bit in the show and the best long bit. The best bit being Freamon's the toss off of "pawn shop unit" at the meeting of departments after Griggs gets shot.
posted by Mitheral at 8:14 PM on July 12


This is the only context in which I can say I. Hate. Cheese.
posted by goofyfoot at 9:30 PM on July 12


Is it a police-procedural the whole way through the series?

Not really. Each season focuses on a different aspect of Baltimore, and the policing isn't always the main story.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:48 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


Trying to rank indidual episodes of The Wire is a fools errand - mainly because of the ongoing and interacting story lines spread over many episodes and indeed series. The game be the game.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:58 AM on July 13 [2 favorites]


Season 4 is tops and epitomizes the greatest tragedy of modern America- that some people are born with the deck stacked against them. For me, the most poignant episode was when some of the boys who win a classrom competition get taken out to a fancy restaurant (Ruth's Chris) and they are so out of their element- they don't even know how to order from the waitress.
posted by emd3737 at 1:35 AM on July 13 [5 favorites]


Ranking The Wire episodes is an exercise in futility, for, as the French saying goes, tout est bon dans le cochon
posted by Kwadeng at 2:14 AM on July 13


You can't hate Cheese, he's in the fucking Wu-Tang Clan!

Method Man is playing a pimp without a heart of gold in Simon's The Deuce, but he's so good at it, and he has so much charisma, I still sort of like his character.
posted by gladly at 4:11 AM on July 13 [2 favorites]


Ranking Slim below Cheese is a travesty. They're not even in the same game. Slim is essentially Norman doing his best to guide any Carcetti he can put his faith in. He's the pragmatist, the facilitator. Cheese is a fantastic example of how good Method Man is as an actor, by making him one of the most loathesome characters in the series.

so, spoilers for a show we're all discussing episode by episode: Omar's death was stunning, and heavy, but Bodie's death was a true gut punch.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:19 AM on July 13 [8 favorites]


1. That kid who grew up to be Killmonger is in it. (Honorary inclusion for "Where's Wallace, String? Where's the boy?" )

Speaking of Killmonger, I felt like such a creeper watching that movie, because Michael B. Jordan will always be scrawny vulnerable kid Wallace to me and yet Michael B. Jordan is now mind-shatteringly attractive.

Ahem. Where was I? I think I like S1 the best and S5 the least, but really, who ranks moments on a rollercoaster?
posted by eirias at 7:17 AM on July 13 [3 favorites]


I started with Season 2 back when I moved to the mid-Atlantic, literally renting a disc at a time from a physical video store (remember those?).

At the time I really liked the infrastructural texture, aggrieved white working class angle a lot, and because it's where I started I didn't really pick up on a lot of the discontinuity with the rest of the series.

Upon re-watching them start to finish, Season 2 holds up as good TV, but 3 and 4 are where it really hits its stride, and 1 is significantly better than I remember it being (I originally watched it between 4 and 5).

I'd forgotten that Stringer dies in that episode, too
That might be the single best episode for me.

I think HalloweenJack's ranking above pretty much covers it.
posted by aspersioncast at 7:36 AM on July 13


Why watch Season 2 when I could just listen to Springsteen's "Nebraska" album?

But seriously though, I appreciated the world-building of Season 2. Even if everyone's motivations were pretty stupid. Plus I'm a bit of a logistics nerd, so the port ops stuff was pretty fun. AND it has Brother Muzzone and Omar's awesome court appearance.

1. 3
2. 1
3. 2
4. 4
5. 5

I'm not saying Season 4 is bad, I just never could get as invested in Marlo's crew like I did the Barksdales, and I found Prez's Stand And Deliver turn to be cringe-inducing to watch.
posted by dry white toast at 8:41 AM on July 13


53. “Undertow” (Season 2, Episode 5)

While Avon has always been content to operate by the code of the streets, Stringer Bell — who moonlights as a student at Baltimore City Community College — has been trying to bring a corporate mind-set to their drug business, applying what he learns in the classroom to his everyday dealings. He even engages his economics professor on the best way to deal with having an “inferior product,” which elicits some sound advice. Stringer’s leadership style sets him apart from the people he works and runs with — and will eventually be his undoing.


I'm just here for every episode with a scene in which Stringer gives an economics lecture, e.g., elasticity of demand and market saturation.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:13 AM on July 13 [9 favorites]


I watched most the episodes of Season 1 this past winter. I liked the writing and some of the characters, but I found the police-procedure format somewhat artificial and boring. Is it a police-procedural the whole way through the series?

It's kinda The Wire's whole deal to show intersecting narratives, expanding in overall scope as it goes on. There's usually some sort of police procedural side (which is often one of the weaker parts) but it fades to the background in a couple places and after Season 1 there's an increasing amount of other stuff going on.

Season 1 shows the cops on one had and the drug dealers they are investigating on the other (plus some other characters who are part of the street scene).

Season 2 takes a rather sharp detour to tell a self-contained story about dockworkers, international drug smuggling and human trafficking, and the police investigation thereof. It also continues following some threads to do with the dealers from Season 1.

Season 3 goes back to focusing on the original cops and drug dealers, and introduces another major angle - on city politics.

Season 4 changes it up again to focus on a public school, the school kids, and the rise of a new set of drug dealers. It is relatively light on cops. It probably also has some stuff about politics in there I don't remember exactly.

Season 5 introduces a plotline about the inner workings of Baltimore Sun and wraps up... basically everything else by the end.
posted by atoxyl at 11:44 AM on July 13 [1 favorite]


I think a good 90% of The Wire's reputation comes from Seasons 3 and 4. 98% if you include the last 4 episodes of Season 2.

Season 1 is good but nothing spectacular. The rest of Season 2 is a bit dull (although salvaged somewhat by the awesome payoff). The less said about Season 5, the better.

But 3 and 4 are the best things ever put on television. I'd probably lean towards 3 as the best one but it's awful close.
posted by breakin' the law at 12:59 PM on July 13


The lack of humor was a big thing that hurt Season 5. Yeah, McNulty at the FBI was hilarious, but there wasn't much aside from that. Not compared to the previous seasons. It was particularly absent from the newspaper storyline, which is why it feels like David Simon had an axe to grind against his former employer. David Simon is a genius writer, but jokes aren't his thing.
posted by riruro at 6:03 PM on July 13


Like a lot of other people in the thread, I just can’t rank individual episodes because to me each season is a whole story. An episode is just too small a component for me to analyze and rank.

I liked Season 2 the best, because

1) We had most of the interesting characters from Season 1, but their arcs started getting more complex and some of them got some more nuanced characterization.
2) I found the Barksdale crew more interesting to watch than Marlo’s crew, and Marlo’s crew starts getting screen time in Season 3 and gets more with each season.
3) I find the politics (Carcetti) to be one of the least interesting parts of the show to watch (though not as bad as the newsroom stuff in Season 5) and Carcetti starts getting screen time in Season 3 and seems to get more with each season.

Also, I think the newsroom storyline in Season 5 suffered from just really flat characterization. Everyone was either clearly on the side of Good or Bad. Which is another reason it may have come off as ax-grinding. In every other story arc, even people who did monstrous, unforgiveable actions were still portrayed as human beings.
posted by creepygirl at 10:59 PM on July 13


Gus is such a Mary Sue that it really brings the whole 5th season down a notch or two compared to the others.

Marlo is interesting as compared to all the previous dealers he's such a ultimate predator, almost inhuman... so has zero audience sympathy. It's only right at the end of his journey... when he 'wins' but still loses that his facard cracks and I think that makes him an interesting character.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:11 AM on July 14


All the talk of interesting characters vs uninteresting characters is a little odd to me. I've always approached The Wire as if the main character of the show is the city of Baltimore itself. Simon mentioned, sort of offhandedly, if I recall, that a theoretical sixth season would have had to be about the influx of Hispanic migrants into the city, which he admitted to knowing too little about to be in creative control of a season based on it. Personally, I think it would have been amazing to see.

That, and my introduction to the Wire was the spinoff blog Heaven and Here, from the folks behind Free Darko. Shockingly, still online, and worth checking out.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:02 AM on July 14 [1 favorite]


Fizz: Hmm, it is interesting because in the circles where I run and The Wire is discussed, it's just always been assumed that Season 2 is the strongest.

... that is literally an opinion that I have never, ever heard before. At least in person. I know people who liked season 2 the least, though I would not put it there, but I have never heard anyone say it was the best.

I do think the last few episodes salvage a lot of the season, and it was an interesting place to go, to show how capitalism and the rentier class are disposing of what was once the white working/middle class as ruthlessly as they did the black version before them, but there are a whole lot of tedious scenes with Ziggy to sit through to get there.
posted by tavella at 9:03 AM on July 15


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