What The Wire Possesses That Breaking Bad Doesn’t: Reality

Posted on Aug 25 2013 - 2:42pm by Isaac Chipps
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the-wireJimmy McNulty is the most fascinating character in the history of television.

There, I said it. Yes, better than Tony Soprano, George Costanza, Jack Bauer, Homer Simpson, Ari Gold, Carrie Bradshaw, James Kirk, Barney Stinson, Don Draper, and yes, even Walter White.

At this point you’re probably wondering what this has to do with sports. The answer: absolutely nothing. As Bag of Chipps continues to evolve over the next year, we will continue to bring you the best content and writing the blogging world has to offer. But with our evolution comes change. With that, Bag of Chipps is striving to open are interests areas to more than just sports, because there are equally fascinating parts of the world that need to be tackled and analyzed by good young writers, and that’s what Bag of Chipps is all about.

So back to my bold statement. McNulty over the great Heisenberg? Really? Are you on drugs?

Yes. Yes. And no, I’m clean (Bag of Chipps writers don’t use PED’s, we’re just really good at what we do).

I must admit, I jumped on the Breaking Bad bandwagon quite late in the series’ improbable run of brilliance. Last fall I spent a large part of my time trying decide if I should read my assigned books for class, or watch an episode of Breaking Bad; Breaking Bad won every time, in a landslide I might add.

I fell in love with the characters, the drama, the dialogue, and the fascination of watching an ordinary man turn into pure evil. I was like every other Breaking Bad fan that exists: obsessed with Walt, in love with Jesse, afraid of Gus, indecisive about Hank, and of course, I hated Skylar too.

I am as anxious as all of you to watch the final episodes of Breaking Bad. Even after playing out every scenario in my head, I still have absolutely no idea as to what will happen in the final episode. I just know that all good things must come to an end.

Like every obsessed Breaking Bad fan, I talk about the show more often than I really should.

Bryan Cranston as Walter White.

Like every obsessed Breaking Bad fan, I talk about Breaking Bad more often than I should. I was at work one day this summer talking to another intern about Breaking Bad, when he mentioned to me the show called The Wire. I had heard about it before, but I knew nothing of it. He said it was the best show he’d ever watched, and he highly recommended that any aspiring journalists see it for themselves.

I took his word for it and I watched the pilot. At first, I didn’t get it. The Wire didn’t have the “grab” or appeal right out of the gate. It didn’t “catch my eye” like the first scene in Breaking Bad where Walt comes out of the trailer with no pants on and is saying his goodbyes to his family on camera.

No, it certainly wasn’t anything like Breaking Bad, but I kept with it, hoping the show would open up and keep me interested.

It took about three episodes, and then I was hooked. As an aspiring journalist, I have always had a curiosity to want know more and to understand the things beyond me. The Wire supplied me with that curiosity, and ever since my life hasn’t been the same.

For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, The Wire is a show that takes place in the corrupt city of Baltimore, Maryland. Where people are bodies, police care more about their “stats” than being as Lester Freeman calls it, “good po-lice,” and the city is held in contempt by the game that is the powerful and dangerous drug empire.

But it’s more than just that; simplicity is something show-creator and former Baltimore Sun reporter David Simon has no time for. The Wire delves into much more than simply the nuances and troubles of the inner city urban crime life; it tackles the problems of the people behind the curtains too.

The Wire follows the extensive drug trade in Baltimore.

The Wire follows the extensive drug trade in Baltimore.

The Wire digs deep into the personal lives of all the central characters, giving us details that no ordinary man or woman would want us to know about themselves. We see the struggle between being “good po-lice” and following the chain of command, alcoholism, fidelity, poverty, race, politics, and pretty much everything that the game of life throws at us along the way.

When Breaking Bad ends in a few weeks, I may shed a tear (at this point I can’t say if it will be a tear of joy or sadness). But when the doors close on this marvelous chapter in my life, all that is Walt’s legacy will disappear, all of Skylar’s horrible life will cease to exist, all of Jesse’s turmoil’s will be resolved, and all of Hank’s struggles will come to an end. That’ll be it, and our lives will move on.

When The Wire ends for me (I have just finished Season 3), it won’t end for the city of Baltimore. Although The Wire is a fictional story, it tells the story of the real world and the terrible life and times of the Baltimore corners.

When I’m finished watching The Wire, there will still be drug addicts getting high, corrupt police officers and elected officials taking bribes to look the other way, drug kingpins rolling bodies like they don’t mean a thing, and low-level players still slinging on the streets.

Where Breaking Bad is a sick obsession that we talk about for hours on end praising Vince Gilligan and Bryan Cranston for the work they’ve done, The Wire gets no talk at the dinner table or at the bar. Why? Because we’re Americans; we don’t want to talk about the “real problems” at hand like the ones The Wire exposes.

How many people know someone like Walter White?

How many people know someone like this man?

Let me ask you a question. How many of you know someone like Walter White? An average middle-age man who suddenly becomes the greatest meth cook since the drug war first began? Think on it.

Let me ask you another question. How many of you know someone like Jimmy McNulty? An average middle-age man who uses his work to forget about his problems at home? Who’s great at his job from 9-5, and awful at everything else? Someone who abuses alcohol and sex to forget about all of the problems that exist in his world?

We all know someone like Jimmy McNulty. None of us know someone like Walter White.

I won’t lie and pretend like now that I’ve watched part of The Wire I know everything about corruption, politics, drugs, or police. I know very little. But after watching this amazing show, I know something. I know that society has it priorities in the wrong place and there is whole other world out there that I know nothing about.

Walter White is a fascinating character and Breaking Bad is a great show, but it won’t change the way we think about methamphetamine or the terrible people who produce this drug. None of us are going to think for a second longer about the ramifications of what real life Heisenberg’s have done, or what real life Jesse Pinkman’s suffer through day-in and day-out. Simply, we don’t care. Worse, we glorify it.

The Wire has shown me that there is no such thing as the perfect man, the perfect criminal, or the perfect city. Sometimes the good guys win, most of the time the bad guys get away, and there’s always a link in the chain.

All I know, is that when Breaking Bad is finished and I no longer have anything to look forward to on Sundays, I won’t be staying up late at night wondering why nobody went after Walter White sooner, or why Skylar protected a drug kingpin and laundered his money for so long.

The Wire is a work of fiction, but the real world looks a lot like the streets in The Wire.

The Wire is a work of fiction, but the real world looks a lot like the streets in The Wire.

When I’m done watching The Wire, I’ll still be thinking about Wallace, the kid who in season one was killed by his friend Bodie because he was a loose end to witnessing a horrific murder and was struggling with the reality of “the game.”

I’ll still be thinking about McNulty, his charismatic personality, his distaste for authority, his brilliant police work, and his messed up life outside of carrying his badge.

I’ll still be thinking about Bubbles, the smooth-talking drug addict informant who can’t break away from his Heroin addiction and his petty crime work.

Lastly, I’ll still be thinking about all of those kids who walk the streets where crime is everywhere, joining “the game” is the only way to survive, and where politicians and police don’t give a damn about their constituents who can’t even afford to eat a healthy meal.

As a white Jewish kid from the upper-middle class suburbs of Columbus, Ohio, I can’t even begin to fathom how the other half-lives. But after watching The Wire, I want to know more. I want to know how they live, I want to know how they make it through the day, and I want to see if I can do something to change the status quo. Breaking Bad could never spark that interest in me.

Breaking Bad will end September 29th, but The Wire will never end. If we take a second to really think about what that means, maybe that’ll put our lives in a little different perspective.

3 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. avatar
    Ross 22 September, 2013 at 3:50 pm - Reply

    First off, Ohio love! I stumbled across this article while looking up images of Walter, haha. I like what you have to say, and you’ve provided me with an extra push to finally watch the Wire.

    However, I think you’re only half-right about Breaking Bad holding up no mirrors. It’s rarely overt, but when you watch the cutthroat way the drug business works, and watch the addicts who keep coming back despite the legal repercussions, I think everyone should be asking themselves, Why are we letting the laws make the meth market so horrible? Illegality doesn’t suppress usage, it just protects marketshare for the most ruthless players. Legalize it, and those men would have to compete with legitimate businessmen who would conduct their affairs in the light of day, under public scrutiny. There would no longer be a reason to tie up loose ends, and users would be legally targeted not for what they chose to do to their own bodies, but for any harm inflicted against others as a result of their use/addiction.

    Now that my little libertarian exposition is over, I’d just like to add that while your writing is pretty decent, you should do another grammar/word choice check. I just skimmed the article again and found 7 errors.

  2. avatar
    Peter Monaghan 18 October, 2013 at 2:39 pm - Reply

    I agree with you on all counts. I don’t know how old you are, but you should try and learn as much about the world as you can, all the time, if you want to write for pay.

    Think about this: if you were born tomorrow, what sort of world would you want to be born in?

    In the world we’ve got today?

    Or in a world you can make better by the 70 or 80 years you’ve got left?

    Because if you were born tomorrow, probability says, you wouldn’t be born in Ohio. Or even in the United States. You’d be born on the edges of the Sahel, in Africa, in some disease-ridden, war-torn, poverty-infested country, where people risk their lives every day to get the chances we’ve been given, just by birth!

    You ever looked at Queen Elizabeth, or some other rich person, and said, “isn’t she lucky? Isn’t he lucky? To be born with all that power, to be born into riches and comfort.”

    Well, we are ALL Kings and Queens in the middle-class we’ve ALL been born as Kings and Queens if we were born in Columbus Ohio, USA, or Canada, or in Australia (where I was born). You know what the chance is, if you’re born tomorrow, that you’ll be born in a family that earns over 50 grand a year? It’s less than 1 %.

    If you were born again 100 times, one time you’d be born middle-class. The rest, you’d be born into poverty. Most people, including those who are born while I have been typing, are born into disgusting poverty.

    It hurts me deeply that people are risking their lives and their families lives, to travel to our countries from the Third World, to take the most menial jobs. And we lock them or send them home, sometimes to be butchered by religious fanatics or tribal enemies, sometimes to die slowly from poverty or violence.

    Parts of Baltimore are Third World, so are parts of, probably, many cities in the United States.

    A journalist can change public opinion. A journalist is a truth-teller and he changes the way people view the world. Good journalists are in short-supply.

    The more you learn the better you’ll be, anyway, regardless of your political views. A right-wing Republican would agree with that, so would a left-wing socialist.

    I am a synthetic organic chemist (like Walter White was before he did illegal stuff), so obviously a great deal of Breaking Bad seems a bit silly to me. Also, I don’t make illegal drugs, I am part of a research team trying to cure Alzheimer’s, and I’d like to continue research into that work.

    Sports journalism is important too – regardless of what some people say, entertainment is important. I wouldn’t watch the Wire if I didn’t want to be entertained. I wouldn’t read novels or biographies or anything. I wouldn’t watch cricket or soccer or any other sport – and I read a lot of sports journalism myself.

    I think the principles I’m espousing here are relevant to any and all walks of life, and I hope you take them on board. I look forward to reading your blog in the future,

    All the best,

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