As “The Wire” Season 2 begins, Stringer Bell is still loose and in charge of operations for the Barksdale crew. Rather than rally the group of lawmen in pursuit, Detective Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West), Lt. Cedric Daniels (Lance Reddick) and most of their details are relegated to the sidelines. Instead, the lens turns to Baltimore Harbor as the location of a dying American city. The people of Barksdale were replaced by dockworkers, a move described by Alan Sepinwall in his book “The revolution was televised” as “the most important move the series has ever made”.
Through the likes of labor leader Frank Sobotka (Chris Bauer), his shrewd nephew Nick (Pablo Schreiber) and the perennial failure Ziggy (James Ransone), the show’s new point of view was another microcosm of the conflict linked to drugs but, as the cumulative effect of the episodes themselves, amassed into something greater, gaining the authority to condemn all the institutions involved but a few of its individuals. “Part of the game,” says the show’s professed maxim.
Sepinwall’s book gives an account of Simon’s headspace on the eve of season 2:
“When they asked us what we were going to do if we came back, I said, ‘Now we’re going to build a city.’ I remember going to see Ed (Burns) and saying, “Next season has to be about the working class and the death of work.” By making the death of work part of the dynamic, it’s no longer about the bad guys deciding they’re going to be drug dealers because they’re bad, it’s about the economic imperative.”
Without the deployment in other urban systems at play in this great American decadence, Simon asserts: “It would be a detective show”, and nothing more.