Television series frequently come into their own in the second season.
It sometimes takes the writers a year to get the feel of the characters
and discover what type of plots will work for a show. (Star Trek:
The Next Generation is a great example of this tendency.) The
first season of The Wire was excellent though, and I didn't really
think the second season could improve on the tight scripts and excellent
acting that the first season presented. As a matter of fact, I was
expecting the quality to go down somewhat. Well, I was wrong.
The second season is even better than the first, as hard as that is to
Note: This review talks about events that
happen at the end of the first season. If you haven't seen that yet,
you might what to skip down to the technical review.
Like the premier set of shows, this season of The Wire focuses
on a single case. The program follows both the police and the lawbreakers
as a case comes together, showing the pressures all of the characters are
under, both in their family life and professionally.
As the show starts, many of the cops from last year didn't quite land
on their feet after the big drug busts that concluded last season.
As everyone knows, McNulty was assigned to the harbor patrol (they do explain
how that happened too, I was happy to find out.) Lt. Daniels has
been assigned to the evidence room, and after being shot, Kima is at a
desk job, which she hates but her partner loves.
McNulty isn't happy where he's landed, of corse, and he still tries
to makes life as rough as he can for Col. Rawls, the man who gave him the
assignment. When Port Authority agent, Officer Beadie Russell discovers
a cargo container with 13 dead women the various jurisdictions start fighting
over who has to take it. It is an unsolvable case that no one wants,
but McNulty pulls some stunts that ensures that file lands in homicide's
There is also some bad blood between the local port Union rep, Frank
Sobotka, and Major Valchek, head of the local police station and Prez'
father-in-law. Valchek is irked that Sobotka and his union have provided
a stained glass window for the local Catholic church, a window that Vlacheck
wanted to provide. To get even, he starts a small task force to look
into Sobotka's dealings and find out where he's getting his money.
A task force that eventually gets headed by Lt. Daniels, with most of the
people from last year working with him.
Added to that are the dealings of the Barksdale gang. Though the
head, Avon, is in jail, Stringer Bell is still keeping the drugs flowing.
There are problems both in and out of jail though, and Barksdale's hold
on his territory is not as firm as it may seem.
These three seemingly unrelated plots are entwined wonderfully in this
series. The plot most along at a good clip, and there is a large
cast of over two dozen important characters, but the program never gets
confusing, thanks to the excellent scripts.
I was happy to see that all of the old characters are back in this season,
even some of the more minor players. Omar, my favorite character
from the first season, makes an appearance. He comes back to testify
against Bird and his scene on the stand is excellent. Bubbles has
some screen time too. The great thing is that all of the people are
worked in logically. There is a reason for everyone to be in the
show, and they all make sense. (The only exception was Carver's return
to the unit, which was plausible but not probable in my opinion.)
This show continues to have the best scripts of any show on TV today,
and excellent acting. The show continues to surprise me with how
engaging and engrossing the plots and characters are. If you enjoyed
the first season, this one is even better.
Like the previous season, this five disc set comes in a book like case.
The cover opens up to revel five pages, each with a separate DVD. I really
like this design for multi-disc sets. It is more compact than having five
Amaray cases, and much more wieldy than the foldout type case.
This set has a good set of audio options. Viewers can listen to this
show in stereo in French, Spanish, and English, and there is a 5.1 mix
in English too. The show sounded excellent. The show was very busy with
a lot of sounds in the background, from canisters being offloaded from
ships on the docks to prison noises and gun shots. All of the sounds
in the foreground and background come through clean and clear. The mix
is very dynamic with a lot of highs and lows, going from a loud club to
a quiet alley with both sounding good. The 5.1 mix made good use of the
soundstage, throwing background noises and music to the rears to create
an enveloping sound. A great sounding show. There are also subtitles in
French, Spanish, and English.
The full frame video looks as good as the show sounds. There are a lot
of dark scenes taking place in project buildings and alleyways where details
are still visible. The colors are accurate and the flesh tones look real.
With only two or three hour long shows on each DVD, digital defects are
not prevalent, though some aliasing is visible. The show looks very good.
The only extras on this set are audio commentaries accompanying two
episodes. Episode 6 has a commentary by Dominic West (McNulty) and
Michael K. Williams (Omar.) It was fun to hear Dominic's natural
speaking voice with his British accent that isn't apparent in th series.
Episode 12 has a commentary by co-producer Karen L. Thorson and editor
Thom Zimny. Neither commentary was very exciting. There were
a lot of dead spaces in both, and neither really held my interest for very
long. In addition, the levels of the commentaries were a little low,
and sometimes the show overpowered the people speaking. I was really disappointed,
as I was with the first set, that they didn't include more.
As unlikely as it may seem, the second season of The Wire is
better than the first. Taking all season to follow one case from
start to finish again, this year the detectives don't know who they are
looking for, or what crimes they'll uncover. There are a lot of surprises
and the show continues to have the tight writing that made the first season
so memorable. I'm still disappointed that there are so few extras
included with the set, but the strength of the shows is enough to warrant
a purchase. HBO has hit another home run, as The Wire is an
excellent series and one that you shouldn't miss. DVDTalk Collector