The Wire—Season 1

the wire season 1 dvd cover
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Great series, great characters, gritty

Great but finding its feet

the wire season 1 title card review episode guide

Who’s listening?

Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West) has a plan.  He wants to bring down Avon Barksdale (Wood Harris) and the man behind him Stringer Bell (Idris Elba).  Pulling strings, McNulty is able to get a team together under Cedric Daniels (Lance Reddick) to put a wire on Barksdale’s operations…but bring down Barksdale and Stringer might go deeper when political corruption, bargaining, and the law get involved

The Wire—Season 1 aired from June 2, 2002 to September 8, 2002 on HBO.  The series was met with critical praise and is often listed in the best television series of all time.

Though often eclipsed by HBO’s The Sopranos, The Wire is equally gritty.  Unlike something like The Sopranos, The Wire manages to delve into all areas of the crime, from the dealers, the upper-management behind the drugs, politics, police, and the law…and it presents it in a way that you can see almost everyone’s side…but leaves it up to you to agree with it or not.

the wire season 1 episode 11 the hunt wallace michael b jordan

Well, at least I get to play Creed…

The seasons (like most of the seasons of The Wire) is highly character driven.  You have the two family essentially with Barksdale/Stringer’s crew and McNulty/Daniels crew.  The writing is in a way that balances quite fairly and really builds your interest…something that is important for the series.  If you see the drug dealers as “just punk drug dealers”, it just becomes a police show.  If you see the police as “good guys” or “crooked”, it can become preachy or a bad cop show…The Wire manages to keep it rather neutral with bad guys on both sides of the aisle…even main characters.

The cast is strong…really strong.  The biggest problem with The Wire is that there are too many characters that you want to know more about.  The writers do such a great job craft their characters and the actors present them in a way that it actually hurt The Wire.  You can’t really pick out the “Best Actor” in The Wire because they all have moments of greatness (it does feature a young Michael B. Jordan as Wallace who has shot to fame in recent years).

the wire season 1 bubbles the cost andre royo

Poor Bubbles just can’t catch a break…

The show does hit some visual bumps a little early when the creators were trying to find their feet.  There are some rather cheesy “security cam” shots like in an elevator scene where they tried to boost the idea of surveillance, but most of that gives way to just better storytelling and letting the grittiness of Baltimore (which almost becomes a character itself) help tell the story…you have people selling drugs still living in squalor.  Drugs isn’t necessarily a way out…it is a necessity to live for some of the characters.

The Wire is a great series.  Despite being a great season, The Wire—Season 1 isn’t even The Wire at its best.  As it grows and develops, the series changes and morphs.  It is a must for fans of dramas…just hold on tight, try to keep a scorecard of characters, and let The Wire play.

The Wire—Season 1 Complete Episode Guide:

the wire season 1 episode 1 the target stringer bell court idris elba dominic west

“The Target”

1.1       The Target Airdate:  06/02/02

D’Angelo Barksdale (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) is cleared of murder charges with the help of Russell “Stringer” Bell (Idris Elba).  Detective James McNulty (Dominic West) stirs up interest in Avon Barksdale (Wood Harris) and Stringer Bell with Judge Daniel Phelan (Peter Gerety)…leading to conflict with his boss Major Bill Rawls (John Doman).  Detective Shakima “Kima” Greggs (Sonja Sohn) works with Detective Ellis Carver (Seth Gilliam) and Detective Thomas “Herc” Haulk (Domenick Lombardozzi) and learns from her boss Lt. Cedric Daniels (Lance Reddick) that they are going to be going to investigate Avon Barksdale.  D’Angelo learns that he’s been bussed down to the Pit by Bell and his uncle.  Reginald “Bubbles” Cousins (Andre Royo) and Johnny Weeks (Leo Fitzpatrick) work to con dealers at the Pit…but sometimes cons go wrong.  A team is assembled, and Stringer and Barksdale are the targets.

the wire season 1 episode 2 the detail kima herc carver seth gilliam domenick lombardozzi sonja sohn

“The Detail”

1.2       The Detail Airdate:  06/09/02

McNulty goes to Judge Phelan to try to spin the murder of the witness in the Barksdale case into more work.  The operation’s new office is open and Daniels realizes that he’s been sent the castoffs of other departments…leading Daniels to go to the state’s attorney Rhonda Pearlman (Deirdre Lovejoy) for help.  Kima works with her informant Bubbles to get pictures on the dealers in Barksdale’s organization.  D’Angelo is brought in for the death of the witness which causes friction between D’Angelo and his cousin.  A night out with Carver, Herc, and new recruit Roland “Prez” Pryzbylewski (Jim True-Frost) leads to a riot at the towers which could jeopardize the case.  The murdered witness makes the papers and puts McNulty under suspicion.

the wire season 1 episode 3 the buys dangelo lawrence gilliard jr

“The Buys”

1.3       The Buys Airdate:  06/16/02

D’Angelo begins to question the ways of the drug dealing and if it can be done without killing.  Daniels tries to deal with the fallout from the fight at the towers and finds himself forced protect his men.  McNulty and Kima search for information on Barksdale and try to get better equipment.  Bubbles helps Carver go under cover.  Daniels learns that the operation might be cut short as he’s pressured to bring in dealers…leading to a showdown with McNulty.  Rhonda finds a late night visit from McNulty isn’t just a personal call.  As the police stake out the operation, Barksdale has a rival named Omar (Michael K. Williams) looking at his operation…and making a move!

the wire season 1 episode 4 old cases omar boyfriend michael k williams

“Old Cases”

1.4       Old Cases Airdate:  06/23/02

Jay Landsman (Delaney Williams) gives McNulty an opportunity to get out of his detail by handing him an old case…which McNulty and his partner Bunk (Wendell Pierce) discover might unwittingly have ties to McNulty’s detail.  Mahon (Tom Quinn) discovers his injuries from Bodie’s attack have gotten him early retirement, and Mahon plots with Polk (Nat Benchley) on how to get out of the assignment for good.  As Kima and Bubbles search for a possible informant among Stringer’s people, Kima learns about Omar and his attacks on Stringer’s business.  Stringer targets Omar for his robbery and learns Omar’s weakness might be his lover.  Bodie (J.D. Williams) finds an easy out of his arrest but learns of D’Angelo’s past.

the wire season 1 episode 5 the pager bodie dangelo jd williams lawrence gilliard jr

“The Pager”

1.5       The Pager Airdate:  06/30/02

The tapping of D’Angelo’s pager begins as the police try to determine how the dealers are sending coded messages.  Bodie is back in custody and looking at time as Herc and Ellis try to work with him.  D’Angelo wonders if he can ever be considered more than just a gangster.  A break on the ballistics on Buck’s murder could mean solving the cold case.  Kima and McNulty reach out to Omar for help in dealing with their common enemy, but Omar is unaware that the danger is closer than he believed.

the wire season 1 episode 6 the wire computers wiretapping

“The Wire”

1.6       The Wire Airdate:  07/07/02

Omar’s boyfriend Brandon (Michael Kevin Darnall) has been killed by Stringer’s men and McNulty hopes that it is the opportunity the department needs to make Omar turn informant.  Bodie gets out of custody with the help of Maurice Levy (Michael Kostroff) but finds himself in trouble with Herc and Carver.  The wiretap is passed and the detail works to uncover Avon’s coding.  Rawls targets McNulty by trying to bring in D’Angelo for murder and risking the wire…leading to a face-off with Daniels.

the wire season 1 episode 7 one arrest herc carver seth gilliam domenick lombardozzi

“One Arrest”

1.7       One Arrest Airdate:  07/21/02

The stopping of a package by the police yields results on the wire, but also begins to make Stringer suspicious.  Michael Santangelo (Michael Salconi) is asked to target McNulty as McNulty and Bunk use Omar as an informant on one of Santangelo’s cold cases.  Bubbles gets Johnny off of charges and finds that he might want to change his ways.

the wire season 1 episode 8 lessons cedric daniels lance reddick


1.8       Lessons Airdate:  07/28/02

A trip to the market with his kids gives McNulty a lead on Stringer Bell but endangers his kids in the process.  The unit finds that the dealers have caught on to their tap and try to find out how the dealers are communicating.  D’Angelo worries about Wallace (Michael B. Jordan) and his lack of desire to work. Kima and Ellis bring in a big financial by bringing in a senator’s aide named Damien “Day-Day” Price (Donnell Rawlings), but Daniels runs into red-tape that could threaten the whole operation.  D’Angelo’s friends Wee-Bey Brice (Hassan Johnson) and Anton “Stinkum” Artis (Brandon Price) prepare to take over Omar’s territory but Omar has other plans…which raises issues with the alliance with the unit.

the wire season 1 episode 9 game day avon barksdale stringer bell idris elba lawrence gilliard jr

“Game Day”

1.9       Game Day Airdate:  08/04/02

Stringer tries to calm the problem with Omar, and Bubbles considers going clean after stealing a batch that doesn’t work.  Lester looks into Barksdale’s real estate investments and questions where the money is going.  Ellis and Herc make a bust, but when money turns up missing, they suspect each other.  It’s the East Projects vs. the West Projects in a basketball game.  Kima and Lester bring in Shardene Innes (Wendy Grantham) and try to get her as an informant by revealing what happened to Keisha (Shaneera Lawson-Smith).  Omar continues to work over Barksdale’s men and deals with Proposition Joe (Robert F. Chew)…with Barksdale as his payment.

the wire season 1 episode 10 the cost kima shot sonja sohn

“The Cost”

1.10     The Cost Airdate:  08/11/02

Avon tells Stringer how the police have been on him and orders him to back off direct involvement in the dealing.  McNulty learns that Judge Phelan is getting pressure to end the wire and it could cost him his re-election.  Bubbles works to kick his habit and befriends a sponsor named Walon (Steve Earle).  McNulty tries to go after Wallace and McNulty and Daniels find he’s willing to talk.  Omar finds himself down from his gunshot wound and goes to Kima and McNulty for help.  Orlando (Clayton LeBouef) is picked up on a drug possession, and Orlando learns that he’s been cut out.  McNulty finds that his actions with his sons could cost him his visitations.  Omar and Stringer meet and a parley about a truce is discussed…with the wiretap listening.  Daniels is ordered to bring the case by bust and Orlando is used with Kima…but things go sideways.

the wire season 1 episode 11 the hunt police raids

“The Hunt”

1.11     The Hunt Airdate:  08/18/02

Kima has been shot and the search his on for the shooters.  McNulty blames himself for Kima’s ambush, and Bubbles considers losing his sobriety in the search for Kima’s shooter.  Wee-Bay and Little Man (Micaiah Jones) are on the run after the shooting, and D’Angelo worries what that he could be a scapegoat when he get a call from Stringer.  The police search for Savino    and a raid that could threaten the wire might be necessary to save face.

the wire season 1 episode 12 cleaning up wallace killed michael b jordan

“Cleaning Up”

1.12     Cleaning Up Airdate:  09/01/02

Stringer finds himself on the defense and orders his men to only do business face-to-face.  McNulty continues to blame himself for Kima’s condition as Daniels has to keep fighting for the investigation with the potential of advancement.  Stringer and Avon try to locate Wallace, and D’Angelo tries to keep him clear.  Rhonda learns that the investigation has spread to campaign contributions and that her bosses are worried.  The discovery of the body of Nakeesha Lyles (Ingrid Cornell) has Daniels realizing that Barksdale and Stringer are closing up loose ends…meaning Wallace and Shardene.  Daniels finds pushback from Ervin Burrell (Frankie Faison)…which could threaten his career.

the wire season 1 episode 13 sentencing office


1.13     Sentencing Airdate:  09/08/02

Kima awakens from her coma and has identified Little Man but cannot identify Wee-Bey.  D’Angelo turns on Stringer and Avon with the killing of Wallace.  Barksdale, Stringer, and their attorney Levy questions where there investigation is going and how the police got the information…while searching for a new place of operation while D’Angelo’s mother Brianna Barksdale (Michael Hyatt) helps them.  Daniels finds out who the mole in his organization is.  The police move in on Wee-Bey.  The evidence against Barksdale begins to build up…but things have a habit of falling apart.

Related Links:

The Wire—Season 2 Review and Complete Episode Guide

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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