The Wire: The Complete Second Season

Despite receiving an insane amount of critical acclaim by virtually every medium of entertainment media, "the most unvarnished, uncompromising and realistic police drama ever" seems lost in a world of ever-sub-dividing impracticable crime lab procedurals and the lengthy shadows of HBO brethren The Sopranos and Six Feet Under. It's a shame, but it doesn't diminish the greatness of The Wire, which may be dismissed by the uninitiated as "just another cops and robbers show" in an era rife with cops and robbers shows (which, granted, upon surface impressions The Wire appears to be), but it is in actually one of the most plot-heavy, in-depth, elaborate, character-driven shows on television, focusing not just on cops and robbers but on an America in a state of decay, as examined in its Baltimore, Maryland (Bodymore, Muderland) setting. This makes it not just one the best cops and robbers dramas but simply one of the best shows ever. While season one followed the exploits of a hodgepodge Baltimore police unit investigating a notorious drug crew, unwittingly digging too deep and uncovering political corruption while balancing it with a heaping amount of personal drama, season two casts its net wider. Focusing on the blue-collar divide and the corruption within America's unions (in this case Baltimore's stevedores) while still focusing on the fallout of season one, season two keeps many of its main and peripheral characters from the first season while adding a heaping number of new ones. It can get overwhelming for the uninitiated, with the large number of players (cops, drug dealers, higher-ups, blue collar workers, lawyers, criminals, etc.) but The Wire's strength is its ability to balance its ensemble with multiple plots while giving equal time to "the law," "the port" and "the street," respectively. Unfortunately, the genius of the show isn't expounded upon in any supplemental features. Save for the episode recaps (not useless but not really an extra), there are only two commentaries on this 12-episode triumph, one from the acting team of Dominic West (troublemaking man-boy/police officer Jimmy McNulty) and Michael K. Williams (Omar, the baddest homosexual "rip and run" artist around), and another from producer Karen L. Thorson and editor Thom Zimny. As expected, the actors are more entertaining to listen to, offering a congratulatory, humorous and slightly informative track (Omar's scar that divides his face is real), while the editor and producer give a more technically-oriented account, discussing shots, sound design, composition, etc. However, neither offers insights into any of the show's themes or aspirations. Still, while not receiving the treatment it deserves in DVD form, the box-set gives those who overlooked The Wire another chance to discover its greatness. (HBO/Warner)