The Wire Season 2 Episode 1-2 Review

This is a review for Ebb Tide (episode 1) and Collateral Damage (episode 2) of the second season of the HBO television series, The Wire. There will be spoilers. For my primer of season 1, click here.


Jimmy McNulty is back.


After fighting with everyone he could find, even himself, in season 1, Karma (and Rawls) bites him back. McNulty is with the City Marines, towing party yachts and making pathetic knots. The good news for him is that he’s not pushed his new senior, Diggins, into his crosshairs yet. I’m betting it wouldn’t take longer than halfway through the season for that to happen.

Image courtesy: Wikipedia

Like all managers, Colonel Rawls, Jimmy’s old boss, has a far more positive appraisal of himself than his colleagues and staff give him. And having suffered at his hands, Jimmy is ready to pick up any and every chance to get back at him. It so happens that a dead girl is found floating in the water, and the City Police dump it on the state, citing jurisdiction. Another 13 girls are found dead in a container at one of the loading decks. The pathologist declares their death as an accident, which means no homicide investigation needed. Jimmy digs around and makes sure all 14 of them are dumped on the Baltimore City Police, enraging his former colleagues. This isn’t making a getting back together easier for him. I guess we can safely say Jimmy’s gone way beyond that stage.


Before watching this show, I was unaware that clearance rates (the percentage of cases that are solved) are such a big deal for American police forces. That may be the case in India too (unlikely), but I have no idea. Also, I like how the show brings in the Greek and Polish immigrant communities into the story. Two of the characters in these communities are from the first season, which provides a nice bit of continuity. The Polish community is the working class at the ports, and the show makes a fine job of explaining the crisis they, and, by extension, the whole of Baltimore’s port is facing.


Also, it’s good to have almost all the (living) members of the cast from the previous season back for the gig this time too. The folks who were at the creamy positions have managed to stay there, or even go higher, while the rest have largely gone down in the dumps. It’s a nice bit of realism in the fiction because want as we might, actions have consequences.


One of the living guys who hasn’t returned yet is Omar. Bunk’s hot for him, because they need him to testify at the Gant murder trial. Surprisingly, Jimmy isn’t much interested in finding him out, despite Bunk asking him to do so on multiple occasions already. Maybe it’s the bitterness against his department, having been shunted out of his job. Another way for McNulty to get back at Rawls, even if that means Bunk and Lester become collateral damage. To be fair to Jimmy, he put Omar on a bus to New York, and maybe now he has zero idea where the Shotgun-slinger is.


Daniels is putting in his papers, which is another indictment of how broken the system is, and how it crushes everyone. If he does become a lawyer, I expect him to come up against some of those who cut him down. Wouldn’t that be some sweet payback!


I’m interested in seeing where Jimmy and Rhonda’s relationship goes in this season. We’ve known McNulty as an imperfect hero, a brilliant policeman and a less-than-savoury partner and colleague, and there’s no dialling down on either of those aspects this season. His response when she asks him about their fling is, in a microcosm, the true representation of who he is as a person. What he said was true, and there’s some goodness too in wanting to make his broken marriage work. But surely that’s not the thing to say to your lover when you’re half-naked in her bed. His undiplomatic nature is both endearing and frustrating for the characters and the viewers.


Also returning is the Barksdale crew, both the incarcerated members and the ones handling the business in the meantime. I’m unsure how, if, they are going to be woven into this season’s storyline, given the bad guys this season are far removed from the world of the Westside projects. I guess their story might be carried forward in the background for the future seasons. I’ve long been a fan of Idris Elba. Like in season 1, he exudes the intensity and screen presence that is his hallmark now. Also, the ‘business brains’ part of his character is getting more time now that Avon is in jail, and it’s pretty clear that this person is not just smart, but successfully handling the demands of walking the twin worlds of blue-collar and white-collar crimes simultaneously.


After dealing with the drug trade in the first season, the show turns its harsh gaze towards the seaport system. As expected, there are avenues to indulge in corruption, there are organised gangs working to make money on the side, and there are officers like Major Valchek who have no shame in bringing the might of the police force upon members of his own community for an imagined slight. None of the schemes or excesses of business or character surprised me one bit, but the fact that the show manages to be this realistic, while keeping the entertainment factor high, is what constantly blows my mind.


I’m also excited about the new cast member, Officer Beatrice Russell of the port police, who looks like she might be McNulty’s new partner. She seems naïve as far as investigating techniques are concerned, given she’s not from homicide, but I’d expect her to play a decent role regardless. Speaking of roles, now that McNulty has managed to get the case to Bunk and Lester, what role could he have in the investigation himself? Does this mean Bunk and Lester would be the main lead this season? My money would be on Jimmy butting his way in by hook or by crook.


Lastly, I read in an article that there is no one single lead for the series overall, and that the city of Baltimore itself is the main character. While Baltimore is indeed the focus of the show, being the location and having its various facets examined season after season, so far, Jimmy McNulty has been the chief protagonist. Whether that changes this season remains to be seen. What’s certain is that we have another season, and a solid opening couple of episodes to usher us in. The game’s going good.
If you have watched these episodes, let’s strike up a conversation in the comments section. You can also find me on Twitter @bloggeray23.

Thanks for reading.


    1. I couldn’t believe for the first few episodes that they kept Jimmy away from the main action, so to say.

      Have yet to watch the last three episodes, but it’s been as good as the first season so far.

      Thanks for the comment. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Right? The show really breaks some rules in the best way. I like what you said about Baltimore being the main character. They are so set on telling the cities stories that they feel no obligation to normal storytelling modes and methods.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. True. I think the bit about the complete show being one big American Novel rings true as we go around watching the episodes.

          And rules? What are they, this show seems to say.


          1. The book is on my to read list. I’m wondering how many stories were from his actual experience. I might do a write up on that if it turns out to be something. But if it’s the American Novel it’s a dark one that’s for sure.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Er, I think I probably misinformed you some way. Is there a book too based on the show?

              I’m pretty sure his experience as a reporter came in handy with the show, as also Ed Burns’.

              So far, it does seem dark. There’s no attempt at escapism.


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