For me, the principal problem with The Wire is the feeling of journalistic hipness it constantly projects, which cumulatively fosters a smug sense of sophistication about the way that big-city corruption is said to function in Baltimore. Even when this smugness seems warranted, I question the sort of defeatist self-satisfaction it frequently promotes in the viewer, similar to the cynicism that remains so central to the appeal of the Godfather films.
Despite The Wire’s density, it is rarely difficult to follow, yet—crucially—the dialogue remains free of clunky exposition. The logical conclusion to draw from this is that The Wire is a fine example of pure visual storytelling, which is surely a key facet of both successful television and cinema.
Revisited seven years after its finale, “The Wire” — a show whose ambition and scope are matched by its skillful editing, pungent dialogue, deep ensemble and overriding sense of place — feels less timeless than perpetually and disturbingly timely.