It should be obvious
by now, but I've been pretty hyped about the new season of The Wire
that started this week. HBO sent out the whole season to critics, so it seems like half the writers I know have seen the whole run already (although thank lord noone's seemed to let any big spoilers out of the bag), but I'm kind of glad I'm going to have the next 3 months to soak up each episode one at a time and anticipate the next one. Of course, I'm impatient enough that I watched the first 2 episodes as soon as they went On Demand, on the Monday before officially premiering the following Sunday.
As much as advance press has focused on praising the teenage actors joining the cast for the public school plotline this season, I think it's gonna take me a few episodes to really warm up to these kids. Part of it is that none of them (except for Donut, the kid who steals the car in the next episode, who's also a rapper signed with K-Swift's label) is played by a Baltimore kid, and it kinda kills some of the authenticity for me. Even if you've never been to Bmore, you can watch Boys of Baraka
and get a good basis of comparison for how kids of that age from this area act and talk. When Namond says he's going to Mondawmin Mall, even the way he pronounced it just didn't sound right to me. In the two half-hour specials about The Wire that HBO's been airing for the last couple weeks, "It's All Connected" and "The Game Is Real," there's a great part where the kids talk about getting their scripts and being bewildered by Baltimore slang like "how you gonna carry it?" and using "Yo" as a pronoun (in the same way that you might use "he" or "she" or "dude" or "homeboy"). It's good to see the show focusing on these kinds of linguistic details, because as meticulous as The Wire is with continuity and creating a realistic, lived-in universe, the lack of Baltimore accents has always been the big exception that's bugged me. Most out-of-towners have no idea that there even is a Baltimore accent, much less what it sounds like (for me, the way "ooh" vowel sounds are pronounced is the most obvious characteristic), so it doesn't pierce the realism as much as if, say, a movie took place in the South but everyone sounded like they were from New York. And I do understand that, as perfectly cast as most of The Wire's characters are, it's ultimately better to go with the best actors they can find anywhere than just the best ones they could find in Maryland. Still, it's always bummed me out that, aside from the countless extras and small speaking roles filled by local folks, only a handful of recurring characters (Proposition Joe, Snoop, Sergeant Landsman, the Deacon, Ed Norris as Ed Norris) are played by Baltimore natives. I guess people are just impressed enough that McNulty and Stringer Bell don't speak with English accents that they don't think about whether they sound like they're really from Baltimore (although in the first episode, with all of the scenes of Carcetti getting pissed off and yelling, I think Aiden Gillen's Irish accent broke through a couple times).
That said, the first couple episodes are a really promising start. Some great understated humor in some scenes (the receptionist who won't even try to pronounce Pryzbylewski's name, Freamon's "there's an election this year?", the looks that Prez and Bubbles exchange in the school), a lot of interesting setup for things to come. The scene with Daniels and Pearlman in the 2nd episode is great, a real moment of intimacy between them that hasn't been shown before, especially the way Daniels clowns on Freamon. Weirdest thing about the first episode was two seperate scenes of Bunk jokingly engaging in some homoerotic/homophobic innuendo with fellow officers. Not necessarily anything new but it was just weird that they put that in there twice in one episode. Are we being set up for something later on, like the glimpse of Rawls in the gay bar back in Season 2? So many seeds were planted in the first episode that it's almost easy to forget that a lot of key characters hadn't been seen yet -- Bubbles didn't show up until the 2nd episode, and there's still no sign of Omar or Avon (is Avon gonna be in this season at all? They followed him in jail during Season 2, but a lot of that was leading up to him getting out, which I assume isn't going to happen again.) Can't wait to see what happens next.
Labels: Baltimore music