5 awesome complete television series you can binge watch right now

3 of 5

#3. The Wire

It’s the greatest show ever made, and that’s not hyperbole. HBO’s cult classic cop drama, The Wire, accomplishes more in 5 seasons than most shows could get done in 10. With a cast of over 100 characters spread out over the 5 seasons, David Simon’s sweeping narrative of an American city decimated by the war on drugs is still just as poignant.

Each season, The Wire adds a layer to the story of Baltimore. Season 1 is a fairly standard cops vs criminals type show. Well, it is standard in the sense that there are cops and bad guys. Some of the cops are unsympathetic, and some of the drug dealers are incredibly sympathetic. From the start, The Wire blurs the lines between right and wrong.

Season 1 deals with the drug trade in the inner cities and the rise of the Barksdale organization. Season 2 takes a hard left turn as we get to know the dock workers in Baltimore. These men are a crucial part of the drug trade in the city, whether they know it or not. And with the decline in union jobs that have been happening in the nation, they are forced to make choices on how to get by. Much like the drug dealers in season 1, who live in an area with so few options, that drug dealing is basically their only option.

Season 3 brings back the Barksdale crew to an extent, and also introduces us to some new criminals across Baltimore, including the people that have decided to run for Mayor. This season juxtaposes the white collar world of the mayoral race in Baltimore with the poverty stricken, drug addicted people that the politicians have declared war on.

Season 4, the most heart breaking season, introduces us to 4 middle school kids that are the new protagonists for the season. We get to see how not only do the politicians and environment fail these kids, but the school system is hamstrung, and can’t offer any support to the children before they’re sucked into the drug game.

Finally, season 5 takes a more broad look at all these problems as we’re introduced to the news staff at the Baltimore Sun newspaper. Journalists have the ability to set the narrative for the city, and could be talking about the schools or the failures of the “war on drugs”, but budget cuts and declining readership have forced them to take a new route, and the city suffers because of it.

One thing to keep in mind is that characters don’t ever just “go away.” Characters from season 1, both cops and criminals, appear in all 5 seasons. These aren’t anthology seasons, they’re layered. The Barksdales are around the entire time, for example. And the cops from season 1 are still cops in season 5. (Well, some of them, anyway.)

If this all sounds preachy…you’re right. If there is one true negative to the show, it is the overall vibe of “look at what we’re doing, and you should be listening to me!”

But…the show shows us what we’re doing, and how damaging it truly is. Maybe we should be listening. The Wire is available on Amazon Prime and HBO Go.