David Simon’s HBO series The Wire has been ranked among the greatest television ever produced, and no small amount of scholarly writing has gone into explaining why. The Hooded Utilitarian has yet another penetrating analysis of the series, but this one presumes that, rather than an acclaimed premium cable show, The Wire was a long-forgotten novel of Victorian squalor and crime written by one Horatio Bucklesby Ogden.
It sounds funny, until you realize it’s not that big of a leap. The word “Dickensian” has often been applied to Simon’s treatment of modern Baltimore, so a more literal examination of that concept, utilizing the same characters and general plot, is really not so farfetched. Among the very apt observations: Omar Little (marvelously portrayed by Michael K. Williams in the series) is not an overwrought caricature but instead a Byronic hero, answering to no one but himself, striding through the streets without a master. Detective Jimmy McNulty (played by Dominic West), while morally questionable, is not a man without virtue, but instead a victim to the corrupt systems he must work within
The piece also sums up the effect of the whole series quite wonderfully:
“To experience the story in its entirety, without breaks between sections, would be exhausting; one would perhaps miss the essence of what makes it great: the slow build of detail, the gradual and yet inevitable churning of this massive beast of a world.
“The genius of The Wire lies in its sheer size and scope, its slow layering of complexity which could not have been achieved in any other way but the serial format. “
If all the literary deconstruction of the series isn’t your cup of tea, you can still look at the badass drawings, among them an image of Omar walking up a Dickensian street with the caption “Omar comin’, yo!”
‘Pages’ of The Wire are reproduced below, but hit up The Hooded Utilitarian for the full article.