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The Wire Virgin Diary – Sometimes foreshadowing doesn’t work

My 'The Wire' Virgin Diary watch through continues. I will attempt to keep my complaining about season two to a minimum.

Is The Wire‘s second season improving for me? Better? Yes. Up to the standards set in the first season? Not so much. For a variety of reasons, it looks like I will be wrapping up this Virgin Diary of The Wire with the second season finale. I’m going to continue watching the show, but am not planning on continuing these reviews as the fall season starts. I hope I’ll enjoy the next couple of seasons more than I have this one.

Season Two, Episode Five: “Undertow”

“What the hell is a Baltimore knot?”
“I don’t know, but it’s never the same thing twice.”

As much as I complained last week – and I’m sorry that post devolved into a 500-word bitch fest – “Undertow” was an improvement. It didn’t set the world on fire – just a car – but the story seemed much more cohesive than in the past couple of episodes.

It was a no-brainer that the murders would eventually get folded into Daniels’ detail, no matter how much he tried avoiding it with Bunk. Daniels flashed a side of territorialism and selfishness we’ve not seen out of him since early in the first season. Not nearly as bad as Rawls, who consistently wins the award for the biggest asshat on The Wire, but more than we’re used to seeing. That’s surely a product of his situation, sent to the basement now finally given a chance of getting out; sadly, though, it’s reflective of the incredibly poor culture inside the Baltimore Police Department, which if reflective of reality is a very scary notion.

I also loved seeing Kima, Herc and Carver working together again. The later provides some of the smiles during the first season, something definitely found lacking so far here.

Things are heating up between the Greek and the union boys. If there has ever been a character stuck in a bad spot on this show, it is Frank Sobotka. He doesn’t fit the role of the standard antagonist; his motivations are relatively pure and his hands have stayed relatively clean. He is protecting his own empire, but only for the benefit of protecting his people.

That’s actually one of the more interesting spins on this season; last year the story was centered on the encumbered good vs. the unencumbered evil. Police politics factored in, but never really were a player in the endgame. This season is painted – to steal a turn of phrase – fifty shades of gray. The Greek and his boys are obviously all kinds of evil, but they aren’t even the focus of the investigation … yet. The union boys and Volchek factor in a great deal more at this point, but neither is all antagonist or all protagonist. The mostly wears white hats, but now we’ve seen Daniels play the game. Is Jimmy McNulty, and his quest to find the families of the victim, one of the only “pure” things about this entire season?

Episode Six: “All Prologue”

“You really see him shoot the man?”
“You really asking?”

I know that the end of D’Angelo Barksdale’s story should have held more significance than it did. Maybe it was fellow Clacker Bob Degon hyping these two episodes as more exciting; or even the near comical amount of foreshadowing throughout “All Prologue” leading up to the final moments. Both of these are plausible explanations, but they’re not really why his death held so little impact for me. Instead, it’s because his death occurred six episodes too late. D’s story has had no real arc since the second season began. He’s been a liability ever since he started talking to the detail late in season one; his show of solidarity before and during the trial was just a speed bump to where he found himself at the start of season two. It’s a damn crying shame really, as the direction the character took in the first season was considerably more nuanced and interesting. Now, he’s just a loose end that needed to be tied up. He could have been left completely out of this season, and the story would not have been impacted in the least.

Nick is such an interesting parallel to his cousin Ziggy. Both are trying to improve their station in life, but Ziggy has an unusual way of going about it. Apparently, “when he’s flush,” burning $100 bills like its nothing is an appropriate course of action. His is a character I expect to see all “cadaverous” by the time the season is over, but as The Wire likes to confound my expectations, I’m sure Nick is much more likely to suffer such a fate, what with his girlfriend and child to look out for. Considering the life that he’s being sucked into, it wouldn’t come as much of a surprise, would it?

I’ve not really been a fan of the subplot between Kima and Cheryl that’s been hanging out in the background this season. At some point, someone besides Daniels has to have a (relatively) normal home life, right? Considering how much Cheryl disapproves of Kima’s decision to go back in the field, I’m surprised their relationship has survived this long. It did lead to the hilarious scene as Cheryl accompanied her girlfriend and Prez to the strip club; between Prez’s obvious discomfort and the dancer’s comment to Cheryl as she walked out, that was one of the funnier scenes of the entire season.

Omar’s testimony in Bird’s trial makes up for every problem I had with each of these episodes. The craziest thing was that it was actually successful; Omar worked the jury much better than anyone expected him to. His shot at defense counsel was outstanding.

Photo Credit: HBO

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