Thursday, 2 October 2008

The Wire and Homicide

Still thinking about The Wire.

One of the interesting cross-overs to Homicide, which Wire creator David Simon started working on late in season 4, are certain character beats that Simon seemed to find interest in and re-arranged to suit his own purposes. It's not a lazy retread, is simply seeming to use elements of character and situation that seemed to have a pulse that could be re-arranged for other purposes. If you know Homicide, some characters in The Wire are descendants of a kind.

From late season 4 until end of season 6 episode "Fallen Angels", Homicide had an expansive drug war act, it tied to the actions and frustrations by some of its detectives fighting for arrests in the Baltimore drug war. It was a dynamic that was the spine of many late Homicide episodes, while David Simon was working on the show (although the show-runner was Tom Fontana, and that plot was unlikely fully a Simon creation) Although this plot-line went on a little too long in season 6, it had many great episodes and moments, including the dubious shooting down of drug kingpin Luther Mahoney (the actor who played Mahoney, in a humorous touch by David Simon, plays the ME, cutting up all the bodies dropped throughout five seasons of the Wire). The dubious shooting of Mahoney was Simon's idea.

The central pairing of The Wire, McNulty and Bunk, do seem to have ties to the Kellerman and Lewis partnership of Homicide (these were the two in the middle of the Homicide drug war). You have a white cop who's intelligent, divorced, good at the job but capable of staggering bad judgement and paranoia (McNulty stages a fake serial killer to get more money for an investigation, also alienates his bosses and friends at every turn out of selfishness and need to feel that he is pure and intelligent while they are fools, while Kellerman makes the bad shooting of Mahoney, almost kills himself due to wounded pride, gets a corrupt judge killed by his actions, as well as his police office shot up). McNulty and Kellerman are Irish-American, cause major damage in a Baltimore drug war that obsess them, yet it is something they know they can't really affect, as that world and its problems have causes that are far beyond what they do in their job. They are always telling people how proud they are to be cops, to be on the hunt of some kind. They are loud about passions and hatreds. Yet they over-react, cause damage to themselves, colleagues, the police department and end up off the force without even getting their pension. With both there seems to be personal demons that are being exorcised through the drug war, is some sort of psychological addiction. Their partners, Bunk and Lewis, are African-American career police with goatees, who know the limit of the job, look on appalled at what their white colleagues manage to do. But they are still affected, eventually haunted by their world, drawn in personally by their partner's recklessness. To be honest, one of the elements I found to be a tad predictable about The Wire is suspecting McNulty's fate, due to how he was working in a lot of ways in relation to Kellerman. (I'm wondering if both were based on a real life cop)

It's quite interesting how much repeats yet in other ways how it eventually develops. The Wire cop McNulty, in what seems to be a darker show, more expansive show, that takes on press, politics, schools, the docks, escapes with an easier fate. He is thrown off the force but has a family to fall back on, seems at peace with not being a policeman, still has ties to his old cop community, even though they don't work together any more. Kellerman was a character who loses his friends, is hated by most of the police for what occurred in the drug war, never really had a family that was worthwhile, is obviously a haunted near-alcoholic.

Two excellent idiot-obsessive cop characters from Baltimore.

1 comment:

jo nathan dudley said...

Yeah I'm missing the show too. Luckily, I've got all 5 seasons of The Wire on DVD and the channel WGN plays reruns of Homicide every weekday. Good observations about the two Irish detectives.