Wire 106: S01E06 “The Wire”

With this discussion of the eponymous episode of season 1, Paul and I wrap-up the pre-season for the Wire 106 class—a themed version of ds106 being taught at UMW, but up for anyone to play along. The class officially gets underway this coming Monday, the 25th. We’ll be continuing the discussion of episodes 7, 8, and 9this coming week as folks settle into their online digs. We started discussing the episodes a couple of weeks early because we wanted to get a head start on our process. I think we’ve started to get into a rhythm. Paul shares his close readings of the visual, audio, and filmic elements through his awesome blog posts about the episodes. And I try and dig in on some thematic and cultural references around those same episodes. The post from each of us feeds into a discussion of that episode during the week.*

I think this rhythm provides a good model for the semester. One difference is we’ll be inviting both UMW students and interested open, online participants to join the party as well. In fact, enrolled students will be expected to be a part of at least three episode discussions over the course of the semester, and lead at least one. That’s one of the benefits of starting a bit early, having something resembling a plan 🙂


Returning to our discussion of the episode, I think the epigraph frames the broader frame Paul and I have been returning to again and again for the first six discussions. All the pieces of each of these episodes matter. Paul’s close readings unearth so many visual and aural details you might otherwise miss. The gutted Wallace sitting on a gutted coach. The continues references to pawns and chess visually to complement D’Angelo’s analogy of the game of drug dealing with the game of chess. The wire as not just a tap on a series of pay phones in the projects, but the means of survival for packs of abandoned children in the condemned rowhouses of West Baltimore.

In this episode Lester is schooling Prez on how to listen to the wire, how to search for a deeper understanding of what’s pertinent and what’s not. It can be argued the episode is doing the same thing for the audience. Admonishing us to watch it closely, read it deeply, and search for broader signs of “conspiracy” —to quote Lester. The game being played in downtown Baltimore has drastic implications on the rest of the city as the two images above illustrate, and it’s our job to struggle with that. So, this was a good episode to end the preseason of the class on—a reminder that all the pieces matter and this semester will be all about close reading and making art from those readings.

* One of the things I really want to do is ditch Google Hangouts, and we’ll see if I can accomplish that.

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