In a marathon that screwed up my sleep schedule for the rest of the week, I finally finished Season 4 of The Wire the other night.
I have so many thoughts about it, almost all positive. I think the high point of the season was the one I blogged about a couple of entries ago, when Michael walks that inevitable descent into charred adulthood. The rest of the season almost felt like falling action after that climactic moment, but maybe because I just felt like Michael was the soul of the season. My colleagues at work disagreed - they saw Randy as the central character. I hear he's returned in Season 5, and look forward to seeing how he's ended up. When Randy is dropped off at the group home, I felt a pang of remorse for the real kids I know who have been in and out of group homes. Randy's home seemed a much nicer one than the one the kid I wish I could adopt has been put in this month. The soundless scene in which Carver beats his car horn after realizing he can't do more for Randy was just stunningly powerful to me.
I loved how the show portrayed well-intentioned and hard-working adults in the Baltimore Public Schools system, a system that still manages to chew up kids and spit them out. The show's portrayal was fair: the BCPSS is an underfunded system that wants to do more for its kids; on the other hand, any attempts at creativity and thinking outside the box are usually shot down because of public relations concerns. The teaching to the test certainly rang true - it's something I was pressured to do much of last year, and the ridiculous, ill-planned benchmarks we still get this year are further evidence for an over-emphasis on testing instead of learning. I loved descriptions of North Avenue as the "Puzzle Palace," and, of course, the line, "He just went out on a limb for you, and this system knows how to handle a chainsaw." That being said, I've never heard of turning up the heat to make the kids drowsy (indeed, I doubt our old boiler room would respond to much of anything besides random working).
Duqain and Namond, you never would have imagined they ended up where they did at the end of the season. I loved the trajectory of the character of Namond, and Dookie just broke my heart. I've never heard of the system sending students up to high school in the middle of the school year, and hope it doesn't really happen; Dookie's resolution would seem to be commonplace if it did. Kids already have a huge detachment issue with middle school - several of my 9th grade students still visit their middle school teachers all the time - and pulling the rug from under them in the middle of a school year seems cruel. Not that it's beyond the system.
Honestly, I found the Carcetti campaign somewhat interesting, but the connections to O'Malley just seemed too obvious to me. I'm not sure if The Wire stepped outside of reality enough to examine it. I mean, when Erhlich showed up as a guard in Annapolis, I just thought Simon was banging us over the head with the similarities.
I wished we had gotten to know the teachers better. We see the intriguing lives of the cops, but I wanted more than just the one scene of Prez at home. I wanted to know more about that tough lady who all the kids were scared of, or about that awesome Assistant Principal (the type of AP I've never had and always wanted).
Now, I might have a chance to go watch all the episodes of The Wire on demand at someone's house, and then get the only experience of my life of being able to watch this great novel of a television show live, and engage in the water cooler conversations that go with that. I'm wondering if it's worth it, though. Watching the television show alone, figuring it all out on my own, has been a really rewarding experience, and I may want to stick with it. We'll see.
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