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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Urban > Crime > Police > Racism > Corruption > Cable TV > The Wire: The Complete Series (2002 - 2008/HBO Blu-ray Box Set)

The Wire: The Complete Series (2002 - 2008/HBO Blu-ray Box Set)

Picture: B+ Sound: A- Extras: B Episodes: A

Now considered a classic television drama, fan favorite HBO's The Wire has finally arrived on Blu-ray. Thankfully the series was delivered in Complete Series form, so as to not have to needlessly wait to binge watch. Premiering in 2002, the series ran for 5 seasons (60 episodes) until 2008. The drama chronicles the different institutions throughout the city of Baltimore, Maryland. This in depth look into urban life displays the link between these institutions and law enforcement; often times emphasizing crime within the school system, bureaucracy, and the state of the illegal drug trade.

David Simon's series is a social commentary on the city of Baltimore, exploring every nook and crevice of Urban life; from police force, to drugs, to the (seemingly) benign middle class life. A truly engaging and enlightening series; The Wire manages to highlight Urban decay in a brilliant manner.

Former Police reporter, turned author David Simon was the show runner; creating and writing the bulk of the series. The Wire featured a host guest stars (outside of the regular cast), many of which were real-life Baltimore figures. Using actual experiences and frustrations from his time fighting the bureaucracy at the Sun Times, as well as his friend/writing partner Ed Burns' time spent as a homicide detective. The use of genuine experience gives the series a deep, dark, gritty feel; leading many to call The Wire one of the best series of all time. Another aspect of the series that heightens its realistic feel was Simon's choice to use lesser known (character actors) as the main cast. This allowed viewers to take a journey through crime ridden Baltimore, without being distracted by A-listers. Actors such as Michael K. Williams (Omar Little) and Lance Reddick (Cedric Daniels) coupled with real-life Baltimore officials may not have been 'A-list' celebrities to start, but their performances were exceptional to the point of cinematic.

Staring Frankie Faison, Idris Elba, Dominic West, Michael K. Williams and many more the series blends near unknowns with real life figures to give the series a sense of realism like no series before.

Whereas the series could have easily been another police procedural; instead it used the characters and their complex, messed up lives to propel the series’ stories forward. The stories are rich and full of life; acting more as an exploration into the psyche of a city than anything else. The seasons each stand on their own as excellent; and though some think the final season was a step back, this reviewer thinks each season has its merits that act as an integral part of a whole.

The technical features of this 20-disc Complete Series Blu-ray set are wonderfully done. Beautifully contained in one large box with keep cases inside, The Wire is in line technically and aesthetically with other HBO releases such as The Sopranos and Entourage. The picture is presented in a 1080p, AVC encoded, MPEG-4, 1.78 X 1 high definition that looks great from beginning to end. Whereas somewhat shocking to view a series in full frame at this point; the series remains impressive. HBO has made it a point to showcase that The Wire has been fully remastered in 16 X 9 Full Frame HD using the original 35mm camera negatives. The series has an intentional dark and gritty look (even leaning toward blue/grey scale at times), but this does not distract and in fact heightens the realism. In fact, it is nice to see that the HBO remastering has NOT sterilized the image to the point of diminishing intended grit, grime, and texture. With the series being overwhelmingly dark (taking place a night, in bars, etc.) it is admirably visually prioritized as nothing seems to get lost in the shadows. The solid image continues with crisp, clean detail as the viewer can see every hair, fiber, and body fluid that hits the screen. The audio is equally well done in its 5.1 DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless track using all of the surrounds and putting the viewer in the heart of the action. The crime drama is dialogue heavy and each and every whisper can be heard with ease. Concurrently the crime part of the drama rings through loud and clear with a dynamic track that has solid directionality and panning effects. The music (heavily hip hop) is important to the series atmosphere and here on Blu-ray is masterfully displayed; setting the tone for each scene.

The extras (bonus features) for this set include much of what was on the previous DVD sets released. This set includes:

  • Over 20 episodes of Audio Commentaries by cast/crew on multiple episodes

  • 2-Part Behind the Scenes Documentary [~1 hour]

    • 'It's All Connected'

    • 'The Game is Real'

  • The Wire: The Last Word featurette

  • The Wire Odyssey retrospective

  • Prequels

    • A short look into life for characters before the events of The Wire

  • The Wire Reunion [~85min]

    • Q&A event with cast/crew, as well an opening video featuring Dominic West

In the end, this is an amazing series that deserves a look; whether it is for a first time viewing or a second, third, or fourth time around, The Wire remains an amazingly engaging series. The Wire will CERTAINLY stand the test of time as it emphasizes the people of a diverse and complicated city.

- Michael P. Dougherty II


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