The Rules to This Game

by Peter Honig

I mean, there are some rules here, right?Omar

When I think about my long term goals for this blog, I keep coming back to Freamon’s immortal line: “We’re building something here, Detective, we’re building it from scratch. All the pieces matter.” Beyond the literal reference to the Barksdale case, this line also speaks for David Simon and Ed Burns and the fictional version of Baltimore that they build. At the same time, Freamon also seems to be addressing the viewer, subtly hinting that there is a lot more to the show than what is immediately obvious. The key is to give each detail its rightful value. It’s all pertinent.

In The Glass Bead Game, Nobel Prize winner Hermann Hesse invented a game “capable of expressing and establishing interrelationships between the content and conclusions of nearly all scholarly disciplines.” I may not be quite that ambitious, but I believe that the same can be done within a single work, especially one so massive and dense as The Wire, a show which itself revolves largely around the game metaphor.

A blog, with its ability to flexibly organize and arrange its pieces into various shapes, is perfectly suited to just such a construction. I hope to use this blog to build a whole new approach to The Wire.

So here are some pieces and rules for the Glass Bead Game that I am building for The Wire:

  • Major Pieces:  I will write six longer pieces per episode, starting with Season 1, Episode 1 and ending with Season 5, Episode 10. I will publish three pieces per week. I will also publish six shorter pieces per episode. For each episode, I will discuss the following:
    • The Opening Scene
    • The Epigraph
    • The Title
    • The Final Image
  • The Connections: I will make extensive use of tags and categories to enable searching according to:
    • Episode and Season
    • Characters
    • Conceptual motifs (such as surveillance, hierarchy, games, etc)

My basic approach to the show:
A lot of current television writing revolves around criticism and evaluation. What are the strong points of an episode or a season? What are the weak points? Who are the best and worst characters, scenes, lines? For the purposes of this site, I will dispose of these questions and operate on a simple assumption: It’s all great. I am treating the show as if there is value to every line, every episode, every character, visual image and plot element. Beyond that, I will keep my opinion out of it.

This leads to the second basic rule: It’s all significant. As an English teacher, the one question I always get is “did the author really mean that?” I have two answers to this: “Yes” and “It doesn’t matter.” The first answer speaks to the fact that an immense amount of thought goes into every detail of a work of art, especially forms as collaborative as television and film. The second answer speaks to the fact that art goes much deeper than the author’s intent. If I see something that has meaning to me, then it has significance, even if it didn’t consciously cross the creator’s mind.

If you don’t see the same meaning that I see, then I invite you to share your own interpretations in the comments section, where we can continue the discussion.

And one final rule, about spoilers:
Last year, my brother finally began watching The Wire, and he made the mistake of searching online for more information about the show. First, he Googled “The Wire (character x)…” and one of the suggested searches completed it with “…death scene.” Then, he went to IMDB and saw that another major player starred in only 37 episodes, giving away a clue to his fate. He got hit with two major spoilers for the simple sin of wanting to know more about the show (and maybe the sin of waiting so long to watch it).

This got me thinking about the challenges of watching an already-completed show in the age of spoiler-saturated web sites and search engines. So, for my brother and all others who have yet to experience The Wire, I will make this site spoiler-free. I may hint at future events, or discuss low-level details, but I will do my best to avoid spoilers that give away significant plot points. I also ask that any commenters refrain from spoilers.

So those are the rules. I hope you play this game along with me, and I welcome all comments and input as I build this site, brick by brick and piece by piece.

4 thoughts on “The Rules to This Game

  1. I just started watching The Wire last week (I know, I know…), and just finished season one tonight. As you point out, it’s so hard to look up anything about an old show without having things ruined for you (this happened for me in a big way when I finally got around to watching Buffy a couple of years ago), so it’s such a pleasure to find a site where I can read about the show without worrying about spoilers. Thanks so much!

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