Jermaine Crawford as Dukie, Maestro Harrell as Randy, Tristan Wilds as Michael, and Julito McCullum as Namond.
By Andrew Williams
February 12, 2013
Television Revision is a weekly feature in which our tuned in TV critic trawls through the best the box has to offer, giving you a primer on some of history’s finest shows (and warning you away from the specific episodes – or even seasons! – that might have ruined their reputation).
Now, this is a story all about how... The Wire turns its attention to one of the most important (and most broken) parts of Baltimore: the schools, following on from previous seasons which focused on the city's drug dealers, port workers, and politicians respectively.
Happy days? Season Four of The Wire does something very unusual and very effective: it almost completely sidelines lead character, Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West). He reached the end of his natural arc in Season Three, and since there’s no reason to keep him front-and-centre any longer, the creative team choose not to. There’s no resorting to contrivances, no plunging into just one last case; McNulty just hangs around on the fringes, opening up more time for other characters to take the spotlight. It’s the kind of creative move that elevates The Wire above the majority of shows.
We follow the fortunes of four boys (Jermaine Crawford, Maestro Harrell, Julito McCullum, and Tristan Wilds) facing the battle between school and the street. Creator David Simon shines an unforgiving light on the education system; a system so entwined in bureaucracy it has long-since ceased to function. It’s another example of established institutions beating down unique opinions and new ideas; where every individual trying to think outside the box can’t help but take one step forward and five steps back.
This being The Wire, we still spend time with the Baltimore police department as they battle the local drug dealers, now led by the menacing Marlo Stanfield (Jamie Hector). Tommy Carcetti (Aidan Gillen) also continues his uphill battle to become the Mayor of Baltimore. It’s all brilliantly executed, and it never lags.
The final frontier: The time away didn’t blunt The Wire’s righteous indignation; it’s another cynical, furious, brilliant season and the second five-star masterpiece in a remarkable series.
Top three episodes: 7) Unto Others. Relatively positive episodes of this show are rare, so we may as well savour the ones that are. 12) That’s Got His Own. The penultimate episode continues as it began: with violence, soaring heights, and the inevitable loss of a key character. 13) Final Grades. A series of heartbreaking denouements make the scarce uplifting moment sweeter.
Worst episode: 4) Refugees. There is a remarkable lack of flat patches here, but every season has a table-setting episode that suffers dramatically, and this is it.
Season MVP: Of all the characters, the last one I expected to unequivocally root for was ‘Prez’ Pryzbylewski (Jim True-Frost). It turns out his change of scenery in Season Four is the best thing ever to happen to him, and True-Frost is more than up to the challenge presented by this new material.
Check out Andrew Williams' previous instalments:
The Wire - Season 4 is available on DVD. It can also be streamed instantly on Quickflix PLAY.