Craig’s Top Five TV Moments #1 – The Wire

A new addition to Craig’s Cinematic Critique is a spin-off category which celebrates the many television shows that I have lauded. While I’m a huge fan of film, television also plays a part in my experiences of the media spectrum and hopefully in time I can develop myself as an all-round critic rather than looking at one subject. Originally I wanted to write articles about each television programme I’d watched but instead I have chosen to simply do Top 5 Best Moments from each show. Though many of the programmes focused are sitcoms, I’ve decided to pick a drama as my first contender which goes deep in being gritty and realistic to make groundbreaking television. We begin by going way down in the hole. Behold….The Wire! (Warning there be spoilers….)

”I’ll do what I can do to help y’all, but it is either play or get played”

                                                                                    – Omar Little



From the beginning of The Wire, many audiences were used to the sight of ghetto gangsters and drug-dealers but most times we never got to understand their actions. But they would explained with great depth in this iconic scene of the first series where Avon Barksdale’s nephew D’Angelo teaches the rules of chess to his colleagues Bodie and Wallace. Though chess is quite a dull game, D’Angelo’s lesson about the way it’s played sees him compare the pieces to that of the criminal empire he and his uncle are part of. There is so much analysis focused on with this scene and when you look back on this moment after the show’s end, a lot of irony is shown in what happens to these young men who are ‘just part of the game’.



While The Wire was praised for its dark, gritty narrative, it also achieved a variety of laughs from some of its lighter moments. Strong contenders for this included McNulty’s seduction of a mannequin and Senator Clay Davis’s constant use of the word “Sheeeeet!”. But a bittersweet moment soon becomes a hysterical one in this classic scene from the finale where McNulty is caught up in the silly ‘dead homeless guy’ plot. But the Baltimore Police show how to throw a good ‘wake’ as they salute the ‘death’ of McNulty’s police career in style with the use of the Pogues playing out in the background. Seeing Dominic West’s trademark grin as he lies on the table hearing the stories about him from Landsman adds to the fun that the actors must have had in their last big scene together.



This angry speech from one of the show’s more guilt-ridden characters sees detective Ellis Carver finally lose his rag with the scum of Baltimore during a raid as he berates them for their selfishness. Carver proves to be one of the more flawed supporting characters of The Wire as his actions show in later episodes but here he displays the law-abiding determination that he and his fellow officers have. It’s this moment that represents the reason why the Baltimore Police Department keep plugging away at these criminals no matter how many sacrifices are made along the way during the five series of the show. At the same time, it’s rather bad-ass too from a character who normally keeps it cool!



It’s easy to see why Omar (Michael K. Williams) is considered one of our favourite TV characters. His bad-ass approach to anyone who dares to ridicule him becomes the highlight of this classic moment when he is grilled on the witness stand by lawyer Maurice Levy in a testimony towards criminal Bird. What should be a simple witness statement soon turns into a class battle between Levy and Omar as the anti-hero compares his criminal actions to that of Levy’s. “I’ve got the shotgun. He’s got the briefcase”. Never has a quote been so true in the eyes of the law. It was any wonder Omar was so popular when you had such a cool actor in Williams portraying him and this sparring duel scene is something to behold in terms of on-screen dialogue.



Series 3 was probably my favourite of The Wire and this moment from the penultimate season finale proved just why. With the Baltimore Police closing in on Barksdale and his crew, McNulty knows that by snatching Stringer Bell, they can all but expose the corruption of Baltimore especially Senator Clay Davis. However Omar has other ideas as he and Brother Mouzone decide to confront String inside an empty building leading to one of TV’s most thrilling showdowns. His actions make him one of the more detestable individuals  on the show (even more so than his boss Avon) and his comeuppance had to come sooner or later. But it is the cold and calculated confrontation from his two attackers and the acceptance of his fate which makes this scene so memorable particularly with the consequences for the rest of the show’s narrative. McNulty’s reaction to his death only adds to the frustration for him and the Baltimore police in missing out on the chance to land one of the city’s biggest criminals and only extends the ‘game’ for a further two series.

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