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I have now finished all five seasons of The Wire, and all I can really say is that it was brilliant television. It's dramatic, certainly, but in the proper sense of the word - the drama in The Wire builds slowly, and what you think must be cast-iron plot-arcs get undercut brutally with life on the streets' inevitably senseless killings. There were definitely moments in the series where something unexpected happens to a character you really ... are invested in (to say that you 'care' about them might imply an inappropriate idea of fondness), where you go 'Bu.. Wh..?'

Which is good stuff.

But it's really the characters that make this show:

Stringer Bell: second in command of the Barksdale Empire, he's trying to make it as a legit propery developer (the irony seems to escape him), but discovers that trying to escape your past is a tricky thing. And Stringer has a lot of past that wants to catch up with him. There are some glorious moments in S3 between Bell and Avon Barksdale, where it's clear that the two's motivations in life (Avon just lives for the gangster lifestyle) are going to lead to a falling-out.

Jimmy McNulty: doesn't play well with others; McNulty is the homicide detective who kicks the whole series off by going behind his bosses' backs to get a friendly judge to demand that the police investigate Barksdale. McNulty's an 'end-justifies-the-means' kinda guy, and nowhere is this more apparent than in Season 5, where you learn just how far he's prepared to go to get what he wants.

Bunk: rarely seen without his pinstripe suit and chomping on a cigar - he looks even sharper with the fedora, Bunk is real Po-lice, and is something of the voice of conscience in the final season. One of the most memorably scenes in S1 is of Bunk and McNulty checking out a murder scene - the dialogue and interplay between the two just speaks of absolute partnership and skill, although the rational mind suspects that the scriptwriters wrote the scene on a bet.

Lester Freamon: when McNulty's machinations result in the department being tasked with setting up a detail to investigate Barksdale, management elect to staff it with the waste of spaces and cast-offs that litter the place. Freamon is one such person, who's spent the last 13 years (and 4 months) placed in the pawn shop department but, it seems, mainly spinning a lucrative sideline by making dolls' house furniture at his desk. However, there's more to Freamon than meets the eye, and as Daniels says in a later season, Freamon is the Major Crimes Unit. Turns out that Freamon is, indeed, real Po-lice, and that the pawn shop placement was vindictive retribution for upsetting his superiors in an earlier case.

William Rawls: speaking of vindictive superiors, Rawls starts off in S1 as the vindictive commander of the Homicide unit, and man is he gloriously, unrepentently, bullyingly nasty! There's a scene after one of McNulty's colleagues has been shot, and McNulty's taken it very much to heart as being his fault: Rawls' consolation scene is sheer genius, and yet at the same time demonstrates integrity... in a sort of twisted way. Watching Rawls mercilessly tear his subordinates to pieces in the COMSTAT meetings in S4 is also a sort of guilty pleasure of the show.

Rhonda Pearlman: it's a cop show, centred mainly around the drug trade in Baltimore, so there aren't that many female characters. Pearlman is the District Attorney who ends up working a lot of the cases that Major Crimes brings to bear - she has a history with McNulty (and is part of the reason for his divorce), but he's not exactly good to her, but that's mostly back story. Pearlman really comes into her own during S5, although she's an ever-present throughout.

Ziggy Sobotka: in S2, we move to the city docks, to investigate potential corruption/smuggling/trafficking there. Ziggy is the union leader's son, and as is mentioned more than once, 'that boy's not right'. Ziggy's an idiot, and yet remarkably human and vulnerable. S2 had a host of interesting and intriguing characters, and was on the whole a pretty bleak storyline, but the whole would be much less without Zig.

Snoop: like I said, there aren't too many female characters in The Wire, but props to the show for making one of them the absolute stand-out most terrifying person I've ever seen on TV. Snoop is one of Marlo's hench-people, and it's not her skill that makes her scary so much as her complete 'other-worldness'. Chris, her partner, is a classic hard, hard guy, but it's Snoop that scared me, in every single scene that she was in.

Proposition Joe: Avon Barksdale ran East Baltimore. Prop Joe had the West Side; an aging drug-lord, running his empire from an appliance repair shop, Joe comes across as almost gentlemanly, until you get an insight into the control he exerts on operations, and how he has no compunctions about double-crossing people, and getting threats eliminated.

Omar: absolutely freakin' rocks.
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