Everybody’s favorite season of The Wire is Season 4. I mean, it’s certainly not The Wire Season 2. You kidding me? Nobody likes that season. In fact, when our very own Sean O’Connell interviewed the cast for the 20th anniversary of The Wire, pretty much all of them picked season four as the best season. And look, I get it. Season 4 covers the education system, and how it’s done such a disservice to not only the children, but also the entire city of Baltimore. None of this is lost on me.
In fact, as a teacher myself who can relate to a lot of the problems seen on the show (it’s definitely closer to reality than a lot of teacher movies I’ve seen), I understand why that’s most people’s favorite season. But, do you know what? Remember how I said that nobody likes Season 2? Well, that’s not true, because it's my favorite season of The Wire. Yes, the one at the docks! And, while I know that’s the season that a lot of people tend to skip over when they re-watch the series, I just can’t get enough of it, and I have five reasons why.
Oh, and major spoilers for a 20 year old show. You’ve been warned.
It Doesn't Feel Like Any Other Season Of The Series, Making It Truly Stand Out (For Better Or Worse)
When I wrote my article on the best episodes of The Wire, it struck me just how much I was holding back by only putting two episodes from Season 2 on that list, because honestly, four or five episodes in the season are probably my favorite in the entire series. But, I know how controversial Season 2 is. From the intro alone (which I’ll get to later) where we start seeing shipping containers and 18-wheelers, you can tell that this was going to be a very different season than the first one, and it’s definitely different from Seasons 3, 4, and 5, which all feel much more interconnected.
Season 2, which still has fan favorite characters like Stringer Bell, Avon Barksdale, and the Baltimore Police force, also now has stevedores, and it deals with topics like unions, sex work, and crime pouring in from outside of the city. We get introduced to characters like Frank Sobotka, played by True Blood’s Chris Bauer, as well as his nephew, Nick Sobotka, played by Pablo Schreiber, and Frank’s son, Ziggy, played by James Ransone.
Now, I know, I know. Ziggy is just the worst, but through his character (And I’ve definitely KNOWN people like Ziggy throughout my life, unfortunately), the tension keeps ratcheting up since both Nick, and Ziggy’s father, Frank, are doing their best to keep Ziggy from getting himself killed. It’s a really bizarre season when compared with the others, and it stands out like a sore thumb, which I really like, but I understand why some people hate it.
It Shows A Side Of Baltimore That I Never Would Have Even Considered If Not For This Show
One reason why I find The Wire to be a better show than Breaking Bad is because The Wire actually has something to say, whereas Breaking Bad is just an overall great series from start to finish on a narrative level. And, while Season 1 of The Wire is about the drug trade, Season 3 about politics, Season 4 about the education system, and Season 5 about the media, I deeply love Season 2’s look at the working class of Baltimore.
A lot of times, I felt that The Wire truly showed how hard black people have it in this country, and how the system works against us in several different ways. But, Season 2 shows that the white working class has their own struggles, too, as this is a dog-eat-dog economy.
Watching Frank Sobotka take illegal risks to get some money to support his crew adds an extra layer to the series that we don’t really see in the other seasons. And the Jane Doe storyline is compelling when it comes to sex work and human trafficking. Season 2 is my favorite season because, like Season 4, it feels like it extends outside of Baltimore and is making more general points about the entire country and not just Baltimore, which I can’t get enough of.
Frank Sobotka Is Low-Key One Of My Favorite Characters In The Entire Series
Poor, poor Frank Sobotka. His death has serious Jimmy Hoffa vibes. In fact, when I was watching the gangster epic, The Irishman, it reminded me of Season 2 of The Wire, as Frank was digging his own grave for much of the season by taking such major risks.
Like all of the characters on The Wire, Frank is a truly complex character, and you understand why he’s making the decisions he’s making, even when you know that it would probably be best if he didn’t deal with people like The Greek. Frank Sobotka might not be Omar, or McNulty, or Stringer Bell, but when it comes to compelling characters in the series, he’s definitely top-tier for me.
Its Arc Feels The Most Self-Contained Out Of All Five Seasons
Here’s the thing about the other seasons of The Wire. They all feel very intertwined. So, I’ll sometimes forget which episode is which when it comes to what season they might be in. Also, the effects of something like Carcetti in Season 3 moving up with political aspirations has some unseen ramifications in Seasons 4 and 5. But, the second season feels like a more self-contained story outside of the whole Barksdale stuff, and Brother Mouzone toward the end.
In fact, the whole storyline involving Ziggy and Frank is wrapped up, for better or worse, in the season, and so it almost feels like its own separate story from the rest of the series. This is one reason why a lot of people I know who love The Wire say that they’ll skip it upon a re-watch, as they’ll say that once was enough. But, once is definitely not enough, and it’s a season that definitely deserves a second (or even a third) chance.
It Contains My Favorite Intro Out Of All Five Seasons
Each season of The Wire has Tom Waits’ song, “Way Down in the Hole” as its intro, but only Season 2 has the original, Tom Waits version. I think it’s fitting, because his voice sounds very rugged and working class.
Plus, I just love the imagery in this intro. This version takes us to a very different side of Baltimore, and I remember on my very first viewing of the series of just how captivated I was by seeing the city at work in a totally unique part of town. Still, to this day, it’s my favorite intro in the entire series.
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Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.