The Wire: The Complete Series (Blu-ray Review)

The-Wire-Blu-Ray1The acclaimed HBO crime drama The Wire is now on Blu-ray in its entirety. Yes, there has been a level of controversy surrounding the widescreen remaster for the series, but the fact is – The Wire can now be seen in HD and it is glorious. David Simon’s fantastic series presents five seasons worth of story concerning the city of Baltimore in the new millennium and how that functions from varying perspectives. It is a great series for fans to revisit and those previously unaware of its greatness to finally check out on Blu. This Blu-ray set is fortunately up to the task of presenting the whole series, along with plenty of extras to round out this great package.


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As mentioned, The Wire is an American crime drama series set in Baltimore, Maryland. The series presents a variety of stories that revolve around a set of criminals, law enforcement officers, and politicians. It features a wide variety of characters and makes great use of all of them. Each season handles a different institution of the city and they do a wonderful job of fleshing out the world created under the watchful eye of Simon and his team.

David Simon has said that despite its presentation as a crime drama, the show is “really about the American city, and about how we live together. It’s about how institutions have an effect on individuals. Whether one is a cop, a longshoreman, a drug dealer, a politician, a judge or a lawyer, all are ultimately compromised and must contend with whatever institution to which they are committed.” That is a great summation of the series, which many regard as one of the greatest television series ever made.

The Wire arrived at a time early in the realm of HBO original programming. The Sopranos had already been receiving plenty of acclaim, but other shows, such as The Wire were making their stamp as well. With that said, few shows as amazing as The Wire have been given as little recognition, as far as major Emmy’s or Golden Globes are concerned. Yes, the show has received awards that mean more for a lot of people, including a Peabody and various critics’ awards, but The Wire has essentially held up more as an underseen, but widely high-regarded gem.

It is hard to really dive into the series, without mapping out the whole thing, but it suffices to say the storylines may or may not be fairly straightforward, but there is so much more to take away from it, as far as its themes and the acting are concerned. Dysfunctionality within the system is a large part of what allows this series to thrive so effectively. The struggles between varying individuals of equal, higher, or lower rank make it a series that is essentially very cynical about institutions as a whole. Additionally, surveillance is a key element to the plot of the series overall. The show may be dated in that regard, but The Wire does serve as a time capsule of sorts as well. That said, while the technology has evolved, it is very interesting to see how many thematic elements have and have not changed for better or worse.

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As far as the cast is concerned, this is a show that is full of amazing talent. There is a reason many get excited when they see actors from The Wire pop up on shows like The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, The Office, Boardwalk Empire, and True Blood, let alone all the movies many can now be seen in. Dominic West, Idris Elba, Wendell Pierce, Michael K. Williams, Lance Reddick, Andre Royo, Amy Ryan, Chad Coleman, Aidan Gillen, and Larry Gillard, Jr. are just a handful of the great talent found in this series and they are all great. In fact, this may be the best series to feature British actors doing American accents. Think of all the people that actually thought Idris Elba was American, before seeing him in Luther or wherever.

Part of what helps in this area is the realism. The show keeps things as realistic as possible in regards to how process and action is depicted. This is not a cops and robbers show about big shootouts and triumphant court cases. Even the use of characters evolves every season, as there is not really a lead character. The Wire simply exists as a series of stories connected by various characters it is nice to check in on. They are handled as real people, with no attempts to deliver cliché one-liners, massive exposition dumps, or flashbacks to really heighten the sense of reality of each hour-long episode.

How else can I recommend this show? The Wire is absolutely terrific. Even if the second and fifth seasons are a bit underwhelming compared to the fantastic first, third, and fourth seasons, you still get a show that is incredibly consistent. It is well acted, incredibly well-made, and not really a series that has been repeated or imitated quite as well. Sure, there are other great series that have come along before and since, but The Wire is one of a kind and easily continues to live up to being one of the true greats.


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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Clarity/Detail: As pointed out at the top The Wire received a bit of controversy for being converted to widescreen for its HD transfer. You can read more about David Simon’s thoughts on that, but just know that regardless of the sense of principle one may have about the change, The Wire looks great. Obviously anyone that is coming to this show for the first time will not notice a difference, let alone really feel that they should change this to a full screen presentation on their big flat screen TV, but the opinions are out there. Regardless, the picture is incredibly sharp, with an obvious level of care put into making this early 00’s series look as good as possible.

Depth: This show rides the line of looking like a TV series and a true cinematic piece of work, but the depth of field on Blu-ray really gives this show a pop that has you continue appreciating what it has to offer in this format.

Black Levels: The black levels are deep and inky throughout.

Color Reproduction: The show is neither very colorful nor is it a saturated crime drama. The Wire was filmed as straight-forward as possible and as a result, the amounts of color look quite good when they are present.

Flesh Tones: The facial textures come across incredibly well, which is fitting given the varying drab locations characters find themselves in. You also get a lot of nighttime and outdoor scenes to really allow for variety, but the look of the actors is always consistently strong.

Noise/Artifacts: Nothing of note, especially given how well-preserved the grain is. That’s not a flaw, just a great way to hold onto the original look of the series.



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Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French, Spanish, German DTS 2.0

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, German, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish

Dynamics: There is less to say about the audio, but the series features a very solid set of audio tracks for each season. The approach to the series from a fairly realistic standpoint means there are not big dramatic musical moments taking place throughout and the action content is not high. Basically, this means the audio tracks do enough to preserve what you need to hear, but the show has never been about blowing you away on a soundtrack level.

Low Frequency Extension: The LFE channel output is strong when the show requires it. There are not many big set pieces, but the series gets that extra bump, when required.

Surround Sound Presentation: Enough is done to provide a well-balanced mix. The show is incredibly dialogue-heavy, which is clear from the center channel focus. That said, enough is done to take advantage of each channel, when necessary.

Dialogue Reproduction: The dialogue is mostly loud and clear. That said, there are times when the realism means understanding some of the more authentic accents, let alone listening to characters mumble a bit more than you’d like.



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The selection of extras is decent enough. Each season gets a share of commentary tracks and the final season includes new sets of extras that fans will definitely want to check out.

Features Include:

  • Season One
    • Audio Commentaries on episodes 1, 2, and 12
  • Season Two
    • Audio Commentaries on episodes 6 and 12
  • Season Three
    • Audio Commentaries on episodes 1, 2, 3, 11, and 12
  • Season Four
    • Audio Commentaries on episodes 1, 4, 6, 11, 12, and 13
  • Season Five
    • Audio Commentaries on episodes 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, and 10
    • The Wire Reunion (HD, 85:04) – Recorded at PaleyFest in 2014, this is an excellent look back at the series, with a large portion of the cast and a lot of fun seen being had by all. Great for fans to check out.
    • The Last Word (HD, 27:03) – A 2008 documentary that looks at tabloid journalism in the 21st century, based on The Wire’s fifth season.
    • The Wire Odyssey (HD, 29:02) – The cast and crew reflect on the first four seasons of the series.
    • Prequels (HD, 6:01) – Some neat little additions for a few of the characters.


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It is not often that one goes out of their way to stress when a show deserves to be regarded as one of the best ever, but The Wire deserves that kind of love. It is a masterful show and it looks great on Blu-ray. The extras are solid enough as well, but this is a series to watch for sure. Pick it up when you can and enjoy a brilliant, multi-season crime drama.

Order Your Copy Here:

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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