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  • Alas, Poor Villain: Stringer Bell. He does enough heinous things that it's hard to find him sympathetic, but the show nevertheless effectively makes the point that someone with his intelligence, ambition, work ethic, and business acumen could have achieved a lot in life had he been born into an environment better than the slums of West Baltimore.
    • Bodie gets some of this as well. Especially due to his Last Stand.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Tommy Carcetti. He's either a sellout or a well-meaning politican who is forced to make compromises due to events beyond his control.
  • Award Snub: The Wire didn't win a single Emmy and was nominated for only two. This despite routinely being the subject of gushing critical praise and more than once being declared the Best Show Ever.
  • Better on DVD: It's an HBO drama, what would you expect? In fact it's almost incorrect to call this thing a TV show, DVD really serves it that much better.
  • Bittersweet Ending: All of the seasons.
  • Breakout Character: Omar most definitely.
  • Broken Base: Season two, in spades. A number of fans praise it for its unconventional focus on the East Baltimore docks and the Sobotka family, while other viewers dislike it for the same reason; mainly because it takes attention away from the West Baltimore drug dealing to focus on the Greeks and the stevedores. Season five is also pretty divisive, albeit less so than the second season.
    • A lot of people convinced themselves that David Simon had sold out in response to (racist) criticism that there were too many black people on the Wire for white audiences and the new focus on the mainly white areas of East Baltimore to pander to those elements.
      • Interestingly enough around this time the ratings spiked a bit...food for thought people.
    • The flipside argument for season 2's mostly white cast is that the show needed to do that at least once. If they hadn't, the show would have been interpreted as fundamentally about race. But season 2 properly casts the show as being primarily about class.
      • Then again, the sheer number of middle-to-upper-class black characters on the side of law may be enough of an indicator that class is bigger than race.
      • Even with a lot of black cops on the force, it was still all black people committing crime in the first season. The second season was intended to illustrate very blatantly that crime is primarily a classist issue.
  • Commitment Anxiety: One of the reasons why the show wasn't more successful.
  • Complete Monster: Marlo Stanfield. Marlo Stanfield is probably the closest the series gets to a Complete Monster as he has no conscience or respect for human life at all.
    • De'londa Brice is essentially is willing to condemn her only son to most likely either death before age 25 or life in prison just to maintain her comfortable lifestyle.
  • Death of the Author: There have been some arguments that the creator's stated message and moral for the show is not the same as the message that many viewers infer. There was even a Harvard symposium that addressed this at one point.
  • Designated Protagonist Syndrome: McNulty gets this from a number of fans. In the titles of every season Dominic West is listed ahead of all other actors who are then listed alphabetically. However, it can be argued that only three of five seasons really focus on him as a main character (he spends most of season 2 off the main case trying to get back at Rawls with Sobatka arguably being the main character and season 4 has McNulty miss several episodes and off the main case entirely which means from a credits standpoint he definitely is this trope in season 4). Also, in the seasons where he is a central character he frequently shares focus with other characters that are considered more interesting or sometimes have more compelling arcs. That said though, unlike most examples of this trope fans don't really resent the character, he's just not as well liked as some other characters.
  • Downer Ending: With the show's brutal honesty and David Simon's unwillingness to just give the audience what they want, most of the stories in The Wire are an example of this trope with a few, very rare and very happy exceptions.
  • Ensemble Darkhorse:
    • Omar Little. Even Barack Obama has called him his favorite character. Dennis Lehane revealed that he was given the duty of writing Omar's death scene specifically because none of the other writers wanted to be known as the guy who killed Omar.
    • Slim Charles is also very popular for a relatively minor character.
    • During a premier party for Season 5's debut, the loudest cheer for cast/character accrediting went to Michael B. Jordan/Wallace.
    • Pryzbylewski, for some.
    • Senator Clay Davis. In seasons 1 and 2 he's mostly a One-Scene Wonder any time he appears, in seasons 3 and 4 he's much more involved in some of the series' subplots and finally in season five he's a regular cast member appearing in most episodes and even having one mostly devoted to tying up his storyline.
    • Bodie too.
  • Genre Shift: There is humor throughout the show, but Season 5 is driven by absurdist dark comedy as much as drama. It was the only place left to go after the downward spiral of despair the city went through in the first four seasons. Hard to say what makes the better punchline--McNulty's FBI profile or Clay Davis's trial. Or maybe it was Valchek becoming Commissioner.
  • Ho Yay:
    • Herc and some gangsters are messing around with the Make-a-Face program at the station, making their ideal girl. Carver then walks out and the camera subtly highlights the similarity. Not to mention Herc and Carver reuniting in season two.

  Carver (from off-camera): Don't you be grabbin' my dick, faggot!

    • In episode 5 when McNulty gets so excited that Prez has solved the phone number code that he grabs Prez and kisses him on the mouth.
    • If it weren't for Herc and Carver, Bunk might just be the patron saint of Ho Yay.
    • And Avon and Stringer have a Heterosexual Life Partners dynamic in the first season, which gets strained in the second when Avon is in prison and Stringer figuratively gets into bed with Prop Joe without telling Avon, which is treated like Stringer having an affair behind Avon's back.
  • Hype Backlash: Inevitable given its extensive praise as '"The greatest show ever" and the fact that it most definitely is not for everyone
    • There has been a more specific backlash at the people spreading that hype. Stuff White People Like listed it for the many hipsters who swear by the show. OKCLovesTheWire is a Twitter account specifically for repeating the quotes from people who reference it in their OK Cupid profiles to sound deep.
  • It Gets Better: Despite The Wire's peerless quality and impeccable writing, newcomers will be overwhelmed by the staggering number of characters and the molasses slow exposition that unfolds during the first season. The exact point when new viewers' opinion of the show crosses over from "above-average cop drama" to "GREATEST SHOW EVAH!!!" varies - from a few episodes to the entire first season - but the end result makes the initial slog worth enduring through.
  • Magnificent Bastard:
    • Stringer, Proposition Joe, and McNulty attempt it at various times, with various levels of success.
    • Clay Davis is more successful than all of them, carrying out his corrupt schemes and getting away with them scot-free.
    • The biggest in the series, however, is probably the Greek. In spite of all the shit he's involved in, the cops can only connect him with a nickname. Of course, he's not even Greek.
  • Memetic Badass: Omar and Brother Mouzone, in-universe.
    • It doesn't help that Mouzone perfectly fits the description of the suspect accused of killing Notorious B.I.G..
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • "Where's (insert name of thing here) at?"
    • "Omar coming!"
    • "It's all in the game."
    • "Sheeeeeeeeeeeit." There have been posters made parodying the famous Obama Hope poster, with Davis replacing Obama and the word SHIT replacing HOPE.
    • Basically, any and all of the Catch Phrases listed above.
  • Misaimed Fandom: Mcnulty is a fan favorite, but there's a percentage of fans who like him for the wrong reasons. Andre Royo (Bubbles) said in an interview that Mcnulty is his favorite character because he gets all the ass, and many fans agree with him forgetting that his whoring with The Bunk is suppose to be part of his self destructive personality.
  • Moral Event Horizon: For Stringer: What he does to Wallace. And if that doesn't convince you, arranging D'Angelo's death. Dee was one of the only completely likeable members of the Barksdale gang and was on the way up education-wise at The Cut. Then Stringer has him killed and makes it look like a suicide just because he's afraid of Dee ratting to lower his sentence, and he does so without Manipulative Bastard Avon's consent. Not to mention the fact that before and after the hit he spends a lot of the time fucking D'Angelo's girlfriend, and even has the balls to pick up and hold D'Angelo's infant son while he's plotting to have his dad murdered. Holy shit.
    • Carcetti goes from being a decent candidate with ambition not only for high office but also to make a difference, to leading an administration perhaps more morally bankrupt than the one that preceded him. His corruption is complete when he refuses to ask for money from the Republican governor to save the city's education system as this will hurt him politically when he runs against the governor, abandoning the city he promised to save.
    • Marlo was never very far from it to begin with, but all of his early killing were at least related to The Game. Then, in season 4, he deliberately shoplifts a $.25 lollipop while making eye contact with the security guard just to tweak him. When the man confronts him outside the store and basically asks to be treated like a human being, Marlo blows him off. And then has him murdered.

 Marlo: You want it to be one way, but it's the other way.

  • Offending the Creator's Own: Simon, who is Jewish himself, caught a lot of flak for creating such a stereotypically villainous Jewish character as Maurice Levy.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Many praise the show for its realism, however, some critics and opinion writers have criticized the show for going too far in the direction of institutional determinism to the point where it is more bleak than reality.
  • Scenery Gorn: Baltimore.
  • The Scrappy:
    • Kennard, you know what he did... Probably the only justified example of one.
    • Ziggy
    • Templeton
  • Tear Jerker: The fates of Wallace, Frank Sobotka, Randy Wagstaff, Sherrod, and many others. Omar's reaction to the news of Blind Butchie's death. The scenes of Michael saying goodbye to his best friend Dukie and his little brother Bug. And many, many more - let's just say this show will bring on the tears from all but the most hard-hearted viewers.
  • Viewer Gender Confusion: Unless you know that Felicia Pearson is Snoop (the credits don't connect characters to actors), it can take viewers a long time to realize that Snoop is a girl.
    • Well, there's also a brief shot where you see her picture on the unit's case board. It lists her full name as Felicia Pearson.
  • Villain Decay: The Barksdale Crew suffers from this in a major way. The first season has them ruling the drug trade of West Baltimore with an iron fist; but they're dealt a major blow at the end of the season when a many key players (including Avon Barksdale himself) are arrested., the second season already shows occasional disputes over territory between The Barskdale Crew and other gangs, as well as an increasing difficulty in finding a good supplier of 'product'. and the third season has the Barksdale crew under fire from Marlo Stanfield, a ruthless new player in the Baltimore drug game. On top of that there are conflicts of interest between Stringer and Avon that eventually causes a rift between the two of them, culminating in the two of them selling one another out behind their backs. The end result is that Stringer Bell is murdered and Avon is put in jail. Effectively ending the reign of the Barksdales.
    • Avon gets one last hurrah in season 5, when he leverages his control over the prison where Sergei is incarcerated to demand a $100,000 payoff from Marlo before allowing him to set up his own drug connect with the Greek.
    • Which Marlo then sells to the New Day Co-op for $10,000,000.
    • Completely justified however and a great example of Tropes Are Not Bad. The Barksdales' decay is reasonably foreshadowed from the very beginning of season two, showing the differences between Avon and Stringer and how those would eventually tear them apart. The war against Marlo further fractured their relationship, putting Stringer's co-op at risk. The revelation that Stringer had D'Angelo killed pretty much put the nail in the coffin for their friendship. So when Brother Mouzone came to Avon and told him to either give up Stringer or lose his reputation in New York, Avon chose to give up Stringer.
  • What an Idiot!:
    • Stupid, stupid Ziggy.
    • Prez as a teacher falls for every trick in the book when he first starts out (although anybody who's had a new teacher in school knows that this is Truth in Television).
  • The Woobie: Poor, poor Bubbles. Wallace, Randy, and Dukie, none of whom get the rare happy ending afforded to Bubbles. Ziggy and Frank Sobotka also have Woobie qualities.

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