The episode of The Wire last night returned the series to its customary form. The opening treatments were a little disappointing, and it looked for awhile as if the choice to make this season turn on the newsroom of the Baltimore Sun might have been a bad idea.
But last night we could see The Wire do what it does best, bring together four structural elements that have the effect of creating a vivid anticipation and the arresting question, "what the hell happens now."
The Wire brings together the following elements:
1) There are many parts. the police, journalists, politicians, drug dealers, unions, neighborhoods. Each part has its own parts.
2) These parts are in the words of Weinberger "loosely joined." What happens in one community will have deliberate and accidental effects in all the others.
3) These communities are filled with life-like people whose behavior cannot be predicted. (Bunk and Jimmy last season were the fastest of friends. They are now estranged.)
4) Sometimes, one or two of these people will engage in acts of provocation that must have big structural effects. Spoiler alert! Last night for instance Jimmy decided to fake a serial killer. A journalist faked a quote. (So we get some weird and unlikely reciprocity: what Jimmy, a police, did will have consequences for the world of journalism. What the journalist did will have consequences for a particular police.) A gang leader awakened a gang killer once retired and moved away, and now destined to return.
We are returned to the edge of our seats! We know something big will come of all of this, but because there are so many moving pieces, brought into so many unpredictable relationships, filled with people who will continue to act unpredictably and provocatively, it is impossible to imagine the end of the season.
It is thrilling that TV should play host to this much indeterminacy and complexity. It is thrilling to see that David Simon has invented a non-genre: the police anti-procedural.
Weinberger, David. 2002. Small Pieces Loosely Joined. New York: Basic Books.