(The following is by guest post author Rodney Herring, an assistant instructor in English and Rhetoric, whose weblog may be found here.)
What's up with the title The Wire? I mean, having a wire up provides the detectives with a kind of talismanic assurance, and the capacity to surveil their "targets" is fundamental to the Major Crime Unit's operations. Still, doesn't the title reflect an almost unsupported (and unearned) privileging of the police? The series is nearly unique and certainly daring in showing the ineptitude of the police, sometimes from external forces and sometimes from individual incompetence or corruption, so it's not particularly pro-BPD. Moreover, many of the episodes involve no wire at all, and plotlines such as the atrophy of the Baltimore port, the Stringer/Avon business/gangster showdown, and the Hopkins study of Tilghman Middle School all proceed smoothly with or without a wire. And yet, the show is called The Wire. Why?
That's one of the questions that has been on my mind since I began watching the series. Another has to do with what is far and away the most common evaluation I hear: "The Wire is the best television show. Ever." A couple of friends have muttered this dispassionately and a bit wearily, as though they've come to the conclusion (which they should have all along recognized as unavoidable) only after sustaining vigorous disputation from other fans. (One friend tried to sell the show to me by saying, "It's like Deadwood, but more relevant." Hmm.) In any case, at a certain point, I began to wonder about these people's judgments. Although I can't find any reason to say they're wrong, something still bothered me.
That point and that something roughly coincide with the end of Season 3. But I probably should have seen it coming, at least as early as this moment in All Due Respect (3.2):