This past Spring, David Simon sat down for a long, fascinating interview with Alan Sepinwall on how The Wire has been received in the four years since its finale. At the end of the interview, Sepinwall asked if there were any parts of the show that the audience did not properly understand, and Simon went right to the idea of corruption. He specifically mentioned Rawls and Burrell. These two bureaucratic titans consistently served as antagonists to the more independent-minded detectives like McNulty and Freamon. But that doesn’t make them corrupt.
Out of all of the episode titles from throughout The Wire’s run, “One Arrest” is undoubtedly the most puzzling. It suggests a decisive moment when, after months of painstaking labor, the detail finally takes down one of the players in the Barksdale crew. This should be the moment where the wiretaps finally start yielding tangible results. The problem is that there are clearly two arrests in the episode: Kevin Johnston and Bird.
As I mentioned earlier this week, I see “The Wire” as the essential episode of the series, and so I thought this would be a good time to discuss the shared title. “The Wire” is a literal reference to the investigation technique used by the detectives, and it draws particular focus to the superiority of complex surveillance over traditional buy/bust methods of investigation. This superiority is suggested in some of the other possible meanings of the word–a wire as a conduit for information, or a medium of connectivity.