The Wire seasons ranked from worst (but still great) to the best. These rankings and final thoughts will contain MAJOR SPOILERS, so skip the explanations and read the titles if you just want to know my ranking. But be careful not to spoil it for yourself.
#5: Season 2
The Wire Season 2 is excellent, and just because I’m putting it last does not mean otherwise. The season uses the Sobotka family and the rest of the stevedores to help represent the government’s failure of the working class. It presents them as dysfunctional and corrupt, but pins them against the background of greater corruption and, ultimately, evil. The season also gives a beginning to a few important characters which will continue throughout the series, namely, Beadie and Spiros. Finally, the investigation itself is well constructed and one of the most often humorous moments in the show. The major missteps in this season which made it land at the bottom of my list were 1) that the main criminal characters (on average) were not nearly as sympathetic or interesting as those of the other seasons, and 2) that the main characters were rarely, if ever, seen again in the series, leaving it a bit of an outlier in that regard.
#4: Season 5
The Wire Season 5 often gets cited as the worst season, some people saying by far the worst. I very much understand the issues, as the fake serial killer was a bit over-the-top, Omar’s death was probably my least favorite moment in the series, and the season felt too short. But I don’t think any of these points can detract from the brilliance of the rest of the season. The investigation has many mind-blowing twists and turns, the Baltimore Sun stories add a new layer of corruption, and Carcetti’s moral downfall is both shocking and expected. On the streets Marlo has a perfect end to his character’s story, Bubs’ redemption is heart-warming but not sappy, and the kids from Season 4 all are leading vastly different lives. Finally, the plotlines merge in one of the most intricately written series finales – which may also be the best episode yet, something that I can’t often say for series finales.
#3: Season 3
The Wire Season 3 is basically on par with my decision for 2nd place, and any real distinctions between the two are truly minimal. This season focuses on Avon’s return from prison, the investigation to put him back, and Bunny Colvin’s infamous “legalization of drugs”. This legalization was one of the most powerful social critiques the show ever offered, showing how a solution to everyone’s issues can be so apparent yet will never be implemented because of how it will be viewed. Avon and Stringer’s feud also provides massive amounts of tension that leave your heart racing up until Stringer’s final moments (another one of the best episodes of all time). The one aspect which left this season just a touch below my next choice was Avon’s seeming irrationality. It seemed like he changed a little too much from Season 1, which in my opinion needed a little more explanation to fully believe.
#2: Season 1
The Wire Season 1 introduces us to what this series will set out to do, but does not drop us in lightly. The show begins with an incredible bombardment of characters from the streets to the office desks in the Baltimore PD. It becomes almost immediately apparent that the show will not be taking sides with either party, but will instead be objectively observing the positive and more horrifying facets of each. The actual wiretap investigation may still be my favorite one of the whole series – it is well constructed, utterly unique, and refuses to baby you through the more complex moments. The season also introduces the main cast, which end up being some of the best characters on television.
#1: Season 4
The Wire Season 4 is not just the best season in an already exceptional show, but one of the best seasons of television I have watched. Having seen the street-level stories in the last three seasons, we are left wondering why such incredible characters chose the life they did – and this season gives the answer. Season 4’s main focus is a group of middle school kids in inner-city Baltimore. It expertly observes the school system’s corruption and how they are simply there to funnel kids in and then out, with no worry about what happens after. Without the school there to help, what else is there? Well, with Randy, we see the police provide no help, and ultimately cause his downfall. With Namond and Michael, we see that the parents are at fault, which ultimately is due to government corruption that provides no real help to anyone but themselves. This season provides an answer to why things are as they are, and it is one of the most emotionally devastating and masterly crafter seasons of television ever.
Final Thoughts on The Wire
In the world of police brutality and government corruption that we live in, The Wire is able to provide an unbiased view on what leads to the plight of so many minorities, drug addicts, and working-class citizens of America. It does this with respect towards every party, showing the layers of complexity that make them all distinct individuals. The writers also created some of the most memorable, sympathetic, morally complex, and likable characters on television, from McNulty to Greggs, Pearlman to Daniels, Avon to Bodie, Bubs to Doukie, and Namond to Michael. The plot stretches from season to season, weaving absurdly intricate plots in a realistic and exciting manner. You come out of each investigation astounded by the talent of every member of the cast and crew. Finally, one thing that seems to be often overlooked, is how it is shot. With many sterile-looking studio productions from companies like Netflix, to those going for epic scale awe-inducing shots, The Wire gives us a real, gritty street-level view, with brilliant framing and camera work. In conclusion, The Wire is a show that should be watched by everyone, as it will give you the perspective you need on important issues, and is honestly some of the most fun you’ll have watching TV.
Season 1 Review: Here
Season 2 Review: Here
Season 3 Review: Here
Season 4 Review: Here
Season 5 Review: Here
See other TV/movie reviews or what I plan to watch next here: Review