Over the course of episodes 6 through 11 of The Wire, the investigation continues as the police force get closer to Avon and his crew. In these episodes, we see new sides to certain characters, showing that The Wire is more than the average crime procedurals such as Law and Order or CSI. Everyone in the show is a layered character with a multitude of motivations for their actions. Unlike the majority of network television programs, it is impossible to pick someone from the show and simply label them as “good” or “evil”. For example, Wallace, who might be portrayed by most showrunners as a typical lazy drug dealer, is shown to feel immense remorse and sadness from seeing the body of Brandon, resulting in him eventually turning to drug use and leaving the pit. Many others are also expanded upon. Lieutenant Daniels, who had often put his personal goals before anything else, stood up for the case in front of Major Rawls, risking a potential promotion. Bubs tries to get clean, but his addiction constantly pulls back at him. Our preconceived notions about drug dealers and the police are flipped on their heads as it is revealed that Stringer is not only attending a macroeconomics class, but is even participating and providing correct answers to the teacher. In a brilliant decision by the director, this is displayed just after a scene in which Herc and Carver struggle with their Sergeants exam. Here, expectations are subverted as two experienced detectives are lazy and unprepared, whereas the drug dealer is focused and business-minded.
The plot culminates in episode 10 when Kima is shot by a member of Avon’s crew. What follows is evident of the true mindset of the police. That is that the badge always comes first. The police are not heroes who can do no wrong. In episode 7, McNulty, Kima, and others even beat a handcuffed man. Additionally, Herc and Carver often talk about cracking skulls and taking advantage of women. These characters are often shown as selfish individuals, and subpar officers. However, when Kima gets shot, the gang mentality of the police force is exceedingly visible. While an injury like Kima’s would have been largely overlooked if it had happened to a casual civilian, an officer’s injury brings dozens of others to work on the crime scene. Even inefficient detectives such as Herc and Carver contribute without complaints. Major Rawls unexpectedly consoles a grieving McNulty and they temporarily put away their differences. The inclusion of these character’s change in behavior intelligently shows the ‘badge first’ mentality within the police force.
An additional technique that showcases the cleverness of The Wire is it’s subtle music cues. This tactic is most noticeable in episode 6. In the final scene, Lieutenant Daniels reveals to McNulty that he talked to the deputy about putting the murder warrants on hold. He also reveals that Omar gave himself up as a witness in the Gant murder. McNulty smirks and thanks him as the 1962 song “Fleurette Africaine” by Jazz artist Duke Ellington softly plays in the background. According to Duke Ellington researcher Janna Tull Steed, the song came from Ellington’s vision of a beautiful flower blooming. This is symbolic for a variety of reasons. First, it is representative of Daniel’s new motivation as an officer. In the same manner in which a flower blossoms, Daniels blossomed into a more dedicated public servant by prioritizing the investigation and possibly sacrificing a promotion. This music also represents the investigation itself, progressing and blossoming even further due to the help of Omar and the deputy. Lastly, it symbolizes the blooming of Mcnulty’s newfound respect for Daniels.
Another instance in which the music helps tell the story is in episode 11, when D’angelo believes Wee-Bey has been ordered to kill him. During their car ride, the song “Unfriendly Game” by Masta Ace plays on the radio. In this 2001 rap song, the drug trade is compared to a typical football game. Although viewers may initially question why D’angelo would not fight or run from his potential demise, his reasoning is elaborated upon in Masta Ace’s lyrics. He raps, “But if you ask why somebody got slain; Yo, it’s just an unfriendly game.” D’angelo understands the dangerous nature of the drug game, and knows that the loss of human life is just an everyday occurrence. Moments like these showcase the brilliance and subtlety of The Wire, and why it helped to revolutionize television.
Hall, Matt. “The Music of The Wire.” The Guardian, 20 Oct. 2008. www.theguardian.com, https://www.theguardian.com/media/organgrinder/2008/oct/20/wire-television.
Masta Ace (Ft. Strick (EMC)) – Unfriendly Game. genius.com, https://genius.com/Masta-ace-unfriendly-game-lyrics. Accessed 9 Sept. 2019.
Steed, Janna Tull. Duke Ellington: A Spiritual Biography. Crossroad Pub. Co, 1999.
Wallace-Wells, Ben, and Ben Wallace-Wells. “How America Lost the War on Drugs.” Rolling Stone, 24 Mar. 2011, https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/how-america-lost-the-war-on-drugs-170965/.
“Why an Ex-FBI Agent Decided to Break through the Blue Wall of Silence.” USA TODAY, https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/policing/2019/01/31/blue-wall-of-silence-policing-the-usa-cops-community/2604929002/. Accessed 9 Sept. 2019.