Wednesday, December 26, 2012

I DON'T WANT SOME AMORPHOUS SERIES DETAILING SOCIETY'S ILLS. IF YOU LEAVE EVERYTHING IN, SOON YOU'VE GOT NOTHING: Forgive me if "Unconfirmed Reports" (Sepinwall, AVClub) is the first episode of The Wire in a long time (ever?) that mostly didn't work for me.

First off, what did work? Bubbles' painful efforts at sobriety. Walon seems to be one of the few unambiguously good characters on the show, and what he knows is that the Steps matter, and cannot be taken lightly. And it was good to see Avon again, as well as St. Sen. Clay Davis feeling some pressure. Plus, as some commenters have noted, this isn't the first time we've seen Dee Dee, whose sharing opened the episode: in season 3's "Moral Midgetry," we see her fairly cleaned-up and buying an eight-ball in Hamsterdam; late in season 4, she's buying cigarettes from Old Face Andre's store and talking about her pimp. (Never would have noticed myself.)

But between alcoholic McNulty and reporter Scott, you've got ambitious people creating fictions that'll be more sellable to the powers that be than the messy, unpopular facts, in institutions trying to do more with less -- but if I wanted to see that movie, I'd find Shattered Glass on tv again. It just feels a bit been there, done that (and McNulty's stuff seems extreme even for him at his worst), and the Marlo/Chris/Snoop/Michael stuff feels like more of the same, with Michael in the D'Angelo role of questioning why things have to be the way they are.

The shades of grey are separating too cleanly into black and white, whether in the newsroom, Homicide, or City Hall ... it's been a long time since Carcetti did anything admirable, and the cost of his rejecting the state's money just keeps adding up.

Finally, my title quote. Things are just getting a bit too meta in Baltimore, and by the time you get to season 5 you shouldn't have to justify the series' existence. Harumph.


  1. Marsha10:21 AM

    I tend to agree with you - I'm waiting for the newspaper stuff to acquire some nuance. I'm also wondering if I have Citizen Kane syndrome over this - have I seen too many of the things that derived from this such that I find the original hackneyed? Or was it hackneyed a the time? I can only imagine that Scott and McNulty are going to intersect neatly here, and as McNulty invents whatever it is he's inventing here, Scott is going to cover it without digging too deeply and it's all going to spiral out of control, and then at least our morality play will develop some interesting dramatic tension, but if this is going to be an entire season of railing against newspapers for trying to make money and survive at the expense of old-fashioned deep investigative journalism, I'm not going to have a lot of patience for it.

    As you note, most of the rest of the episode was sort of meh. I'm not that interested in Marlo and the Greek, except as it relates to our MCU friends, and I'm *really* unhappy to see McNulty going this far off the deep end (though Bunk is killing it). Chris/Snoop/Michael isn't warmed over, and Carcetti needs to stop trying to become governor already, and it's all ringing very false to me right now.

    But so long as they keep focusing on Bubbles' journey, I'll be transfixed. Andre Royo has been extraordinary in playing all the many colors of Bubbles, and, unlike a bunch of the other plotlines, this one is ringing very, very true. I suppose the real-life existence of the role of the sponsor is a real gift for narrative television - it allows for open conversation about emotions that are otherwise entirely internal, and for exposition and explanation that would seem very forced if we didn't know that there's a thing called a sponsor in real life. (Wow, am I saying things in a clunky way today.) Anyway, no matter what else they do, I'll turn in for a long time to see where Bubbles is headed.

  2. Jordan12:13 PM

    I love the Bubbs-Walon relationship. Their talk on the park bench in season one(?) kills me. I know the show has caught some flack for casting a bunch of musicians, but casting the real life recovering heroin addict Earle (who looks every year of his hard living) as the sponsor was pretty inspired (even if they referenced his real life with his character name).

  3. The Bunk/McNulty stuff killed me. Why would Bunk just walk out and not try to stop McNulty from messing with the body? Yuck.

  4. Watts5:38 PM

    Well, I fell asleep watching this. Which is the first time that's ever happened with a Wire episode.