Gabriel and Robert have been telling me for months that the HBO series, The Wire, is one of the greatest and most significant cultural inventions ever. The way Gabriel has tried to get me to commit to watching the entire series is to tell me how intelligent and moving it is, while at the same time warning me that it can move slowly, that it may seem like nothing is happening for stretches at a time, and that I probably have to give it five or six episodes before I am allowed to give up on it.
I was like, "Um, that's really no way to sell someone on a TV show." And I declared, "Five or six motherfucking episodes?! No way! If I'm not hooked by episode one, then I'm not wasting my time!" So I avoided the series for a long while.
Then Robert started talking about it and used a different tactic. He compared the series to my favorite TV show, 24, which seems like sacrilege to do. But he insisted that the plot twists, the affection you have for the characters, and the emotional complexity in The Wire are comparable. But he too said I had to give it like four or five episodes.
I told them, "Three. That's it. Three. That's above and beyond the call of duty. If I don't love love love it by episode three, I'm gonna use pictures of Dominic West as a dartboard."
Episode One: It's good, but not great. Yes, kind of boring. And the writing is kind of obvious in its attempts at metaphor and depth.
Episode Two: Better. The plot is getting more complicated, and the characters are getting more interesting.
And then it was halfway through episode three that sold me on the series. It's a scene set in a Baltimore housing project between three drug dealers. The lead drug dealer assigned to that project, explains the game of chess to the two others with humor, complexity, and metaphorical impact that transcends genre. Yes, the subtext is so obvious that it becomes text, but I think that's why it works so so well. The characters are well aware at what the subtext means, which makes it doubly funny and subtly heartbreaking:
If you're not allowed to play videos at work or wherever you are, check this clip out at home. It's worth it.