Saturday, 22 November 2008

Scenes from The Wire

I’m currently re-watching all five seasons of The Wire via the gift of the DVD box set (I’m generous to myself like that). Problem is I get all obsessive-compulsive about it and watch an entire season over the course of 48 hours, which means I forget to do essential household chores such as watching Apparitions or anything currently emanating from the Jungle (saints preserve us).
My favourite scene from season 2 comes in episode 8, Duck and Cover. After being thrown out of the marital home, McNulty (since demoted from detective to harbour patrol) goes on a monumental bender. After promising a bartender that he has no intention of driving home, he does just does that. Swinging round a corner, McNulty completely misjudges it, and slams his car into a concrete underpass support. He gets out, and drunkenly tries to figure out how he didn’t make the corner. He gets back in the car, backs it up, and has another go. This time he hits the concrete support with much greater force than before, smashing the passenger side window and cutting his hand.

If all the scene did was to demonstrate McNulty’s pig-headedness, it would still be great – but it does so much more than that. It almost serves as an overarching metaphor as to exactly how McNulty lives his life: first time round, McNulty can’t help but fuck things up. Second time round, he simply repeats his previous error, which makes his fuck-up even greater than before. The metaphor is underlined by the fact that this scene sits slap bang in the middle of an attempted reconciliation between McNulty and his wife and a drunken shag with a waitress. This is superlative writing (by George P Pelecanos) that makes its point without resorting to heavy handed exposition or even a great deal of explanatory dialogue. The sequence of events spells things out just enough.

I love The Wire – then again, it’s a hard show not to love.

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