The Walking Dead: Season 2 (AMC, 2011-12)

The Walking Dead‘s six-episode premiere season felt like a snapshot of a greater program to come. From a narrative standpoint, the show successfully examined both the collective scope and individual cost of civilization’s rapid disintegration in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. While segments of season one felt incomplete and rushed, The Walking Dead always managed to pay homage to horror/western tropes while making them feel new again, even dangerous. Showrunner Frank Darabont, fired from his post in July of last year, instilled a sense of lived-in dread and solace by advocating a profoundly cinematic style of filmmaking (tracking shots, wide angles, etc.) and effects (such as lens flares) for precise dramatic pacing.

Full review at Slant Magazine 

The Wire: Season 5 (HBO, 2008)

The Wire looks long and hard at the wide-ranging falsities ravishing modern day social institutions (the police department, city hall, and most notably the media), ranging from the most minute white lies of fabricating a quote to the grandiose corruption within the highest echelons of bureaucracy.  As usual, the devastating ramifications of this trickle down effect fall directly on the shoulders of the innocent, the naive, and the weak, creating an intricate urban mosaic plush with drama and tragedy. Creator’s David Simon and Ed Burns have fashioned a worthy ending to what many believe is the finest piece of media in the last decade, engaging the numerous characters through moments of finality and clarity before dimming the lights over the locale’s epicenter, the shifting landscape of Baltimore. The Wire, with its sprawling scope and fascinating parallels, is not just about the human cost of the drug war, shady politics, or education cuts. It deals with the circularity of the entire process, where ignorance and arrogance spawn generations of ill-equipped professionals and cynical civilians, leaving everyone caught in a lie. Together, this tandem slowly dances the community towards a grave of irrelevance, shaking the very notion of human interaction to the core. The Wire reflects the most complicated and calculated aspects of human nature in shades of grey, but never loses sight of its greatest idea; that the dark and muddy waters of truth might lead to a newfound propensity for hope.

The Wire: Season 3 (HBO, 2004)

Stringer Bell falls, Tommy Carcetti rises, and host of other dynamic events occur in the masterful and brutal Season 3 which focuses almost entirely on the theme of loyalty. Most distinctively, the show moves away from the police procedural angle and toward political jockeying, both on the streets and at City Hall, showing how similar politicians and gangsters can be. Loyalties are tested in every setting, from the conflict between new hood Marlo Stanfield and the Barksdale Crew, to the upcoming race for Mayor of Baltimore, which has vast repercussions from top to bottom. The Wire takes it’s time in developing these complex relationships and improves on Season 2’s somewhat stale re-visioning and breaks new ground with intricate arenas outside but equally important to the CID Unit. After thirty episodes or so, The Wire stands far and above all cop shows because it looks at the connection between all social and cultural institutions, showing the contradictions of power and the citizens who get lost in the shuffle, no matter how brutal the sight.

The Wire: Season 2 (HBO, 2003)

While a bit repetitive, Season 2 takes the brilliant formula of Season 1 and churns out some new angles of criminal activity down at the Baltimore Port with similar procedural brush strokes. But as the overarching story moves forward, The Wire provides increasing amounts of tension while most major characters begin to develop beyond their surface archetypes. The addition of the highly underrated Amy Ryan is a masterstoke as well. One of television’s finest.

The Wire: Season 1 (HBO, 2002)

Wow! My initial impression of The Wire and its opening salvo can be compounded into this one word and an overall feeling of admiration. Like Six Feet Under and Deadwood, The Wire constructs a fascinatingly inclusive environment of characters, in this case the drug dealers of West Baltimore and the local Narcotics Unit attempting to bust them. But the veins of story don’t stop there. The Wire spreads to the political spectrum, the legal angle, and potentially so much more (I’ve learned that the proceeding seasons enter other areas of social struggle around town, i.e. schools, the wharf, city hall!). This epic television show does not merely comment on the contradictions of urban life, where dealers, Senators, and lawyers seem to be bound not by power or ideology, but by money. It’s so much more than that. The Wire, like many of Michael Mann’s films, sets out to present “the game” of criminals and cops, including the codes, boundaries, and consequences involved, and how life outside this professional realm isn’t nearly as satisfying. You aren’t alive unless you play “the game”, and at the same time it can end your life in a jarring, violent, sometimes unseen moment. Season 2 is on the horizon. Wow indeed.