Compared to Homicide: Life on the Street, with much of the same crew in front of and behind the camera, everything and everyone feels more worn down, stuck. No showy camera moves (save the flashback) no chase scenes and dramatic interrogations in The Box; what we see in "The Target" instead is a lot of meetings and hierarchies of power. On Homicide, Giardello was clearly in charge and powerful from day one; I don't see anyone that commanding on the police side in this Baltimore, thus far.
This is a Baltimore in which no one's bothering to look at the strippers anymore; life just keeps going on, with little incentive to get too excited. The guy who steals money from the craps game every week keeps playing, because petty theft is tolerated as long as there's a decent ass-whuppin' to be had, just like not-cleared murders aren't something to raise a fuss about even when a Judge asks you about them, just like it's okay to shoot a mouse when you have to get rid of a mouse, just like how the police still don't have computers instead of typewriters. And if someone thinks Alexander Hamilton was a President, it's not worth fighting him too hard on it. Givin' a fuck when it ain't your turn to give a fuck is not tolerated in Baltimore.
A pointer from Alan Sepinwall, from his essential "Wire for newbies" recap:
[F]or the most part, "The Wire" took a very different approach to narrative from any series in American history, so much so that it essentially had to teach you how to watch it. The cast is huge -- and the season one cast is tiny in comparison to later seasons, which would bring in new characters from the Baltimore docks, City Hall, schools, newspapers, homeless community, etc. -- and almost everyone you meet will play a key role in the unfolding storylines.