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Wire:Complete Second Season

HBO // Unrated // January 25, 2005
List Price: $99.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted January 24, 2005 | E-mail the Author
The Show:

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 believe.

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 lap.
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.

The DVD:

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.

Final Thoughts:

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 Series.

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