The Wire: Season 1 (2002)


Season 1
The Wire

Critics Consensus

Though it takes its time getting started, The Wire is worth the wait, spinning a connective web of characters and delivering no-holds-barred commentary on some of America's unsettling societal problems.



Critic Ratings: 34


Audience Score

User Ratings: 1059

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Air date: Jun 2, 2002

When Detective Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West) sits in on the murder trial of D'Angelo Barksdale (Larry Gilliard Jr.), it piques the curiosity of the judge (Peter Gerety). D'Angelo gets off, despite testimony from one eyewitness, after another witness changes her story. The judge calls McNulty into his chambers to explain his interest in the case. McNulty tells the judge that D'Angelo's uncle, Avon Barksdale (Wood Harris), is a drug kingpin who runs the Franklin Terrace, but no charges have ever stuck against Avon and his crew. In fact, McNulty claims there are ten unsolved murders in the area that can be traced to Avon. The judge calls to complain to the higher-ups in the Baltimore Police Department, and McNulty finds himself called on the carpet for breaking the chain of command. He gets reassigned out of homicide to a special unit created to bust Barksdale's operation. The unit is headed by the ambitious Lieutenant Cedric Daniels (Lance Reddick), who warns McNulty not to cross him. Also in the unit are narcotics officer Shakima Greggs (Sonja Sohn), a good cop, and knuckleheads Ellis Carver (Seth Gilliam) and Thomas "Herc" Hauk (Dominick Lombardozzi). McNulty thinks the only way to bust Barksdale is to set up surveillance and work their way into the organization, but Daniels wants to settle things quickly with a widespread "buy and bust" operation. Meanwhile, D'Angelo finds himself busted back down to the street for all the trouble he's caused. The crew he's running, which includes the ruthless Bodie (J.D. Williams), viciously beats up a junkie who tries to pass off some phony bills. Another junkie, Bubbles (Andre Royo), visits his badly beaten friend in the hospital, where he runs into Greggs, and offers to help the cops in their investigation.

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Air date: Jun 9, 2002

Detective "Bunk" Moreland (Wendell Pierce) gets a new homicide case, and the victim turns out to be the witness in the D'Angelo Barksdale (Larry Gilliard Jr.) murder case. McNulty (Dominic West) tells the judge (Peter Gerety) about it, hoping he'll get the department to devote more resources to their investigation. Daniels (Lance Reddick) wants to do the investigation right, but Deputy Commissioner Burrell (Frankie R. Faison) just wants it done quickly. Daniels does manage to get more men, but they're castoffs from other departments, including a trigger-happy screw-up, Prez. While Bunk and McNulty pick up D'Angelo for questioning in the murder case, Greggs (Sonja Sohn) uses her informant, Bubbles (Andre Royo), to get photos of the leaders of the Barksdale crew. McNulty and Bunk convince the remorseful D'Angelo, who wasn't directly involved in the murder, to write an apology to the murder victim's family (who are an invention of the cops). But D'Angelo's lawyer shows up and puts a stop to things, and later, his cousin, Avon (Wood Harris), warns D'Angelo not to worry about the murder. That night, Carver (Seth Gilliam), Herc (Dominick Lombardozzi), and the new guy, Prez, drunkenly decide to go down to Franklin Terrace and stir things up. Things get ugly quickly at the high-rise housing project, and the cops end up seriously injuring a teenager and ducking for cover as bottles, television sets, and other junk is hurled down on them from the apartments above. The next morning, McNulty picks up the paper to find a headline about the witness being murdered. He tries to tell Daniels that he had nothing to do with it, but Daniels has bigger worries on his mind.

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Air date: Jun 16, 2002

D'Angelo (Larry Gilliard Jr.) sees Bodie (J.D. Williams) hassling a junkie, and complains about his customer service skills -- "You just gonna take his money all day and treat him like a dog," the conscience-stricken D'Angelo tells him, "You can't tell me this sh*t can't get done without people beating each other, killing each other...." One of his cops maimed a teenager in the projects and Lieutenant Daniels (Lance Reddick) learns the case will go before a grand jury. As a reward for protecting the lousy cop, Daniels is promised more resources for his investigation. McNulty (Dominic West) needs more information on Avon Barksdale (Wood Harris), but can't even obtain a photo of the drug kingpin. The team gets a break when they learn that Barksdale used to box Golden Gloves, and one resourceful cop finds a photo of him on an old poster. McNulty sits down for a chat with Bubbles (Andre Royo) and Greggs (Sonja Sohn), who tells McNulty that she's a lesbian. Bubbles helps another cop prepare for an undercover buy, which is successfully made. But the cop never gets to see anyone who matters. Nevertheless, Deputy Commissioner Burrell (Frankie R. Faison) wants a massive raid, a search and seizure at the housing project the next day. It's clear to McNulty that his superiors will be happy with a few low-level busts. He goes to see the state's attorney, Rhonda Pearlman (Deirdre Lovejoy), that night and asks about cloning a beeper. They end up in bed together, for what is clearly not the first time. Meanwhile, D'Angelo's crew gets robbed of their stash while he's on a sandwich run. McNulty refuses to go on the raid the next day, and the cops get nothing. Later, McNulty meets FBI agent Fitzhugh (Doug Olear) and gets alarming news about Daniels.

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Air date: Jun 23, 2002

After making a bunch of low-level busts at Franklin Terrace, the task force find themselves unable to get anyone to testify against Barksdale's crew. Bodie (J.D. Williams) is taken to a juvenile facility, where, unnerved by the presence of many D.C. bangers, he quickly escapes. Sergeant Landsman (Delaney Williams) asks McNulty (Dominic West) and Moreland (Wendell Pierce) to look into an old shooting that he thinks may be connected to D'Angelo Barksdale (Larry Gilliard Jr.). Avon Barksdale (Wood Harris) wants the thugs that robbed his crew to be "put on display" when they're caught. Bubbles (Andre Royo) gets a glimpse of McNulty's complicated life when, on a rare trip to the suburbs, he sees the addled cop arguing with his ex-wife. "There's a fine line between heaven and hell here," he tells McNulty on his return to the projects. D'Angelo, challenged by Bodie, tells his crew about the girl he murdered across town for Avon. The judge (Peter Gerety) keeps the pressure on Burrell (Frankie R. Faison) for meaningful arrests in the case. McNulty and Moreland investigate the old murder scene, and, communicating only through profanity, quickly determine how the crime was committed, and even find a slug and a shell casing. McNulty works on getting permission to clone a dealer's beeper. Freamon realizes that the phone number he's found is D'Angelo's beeper number, and McNulty begins to realize that Freamon is a very good cop. Wondering why Freamon was moved from homicide to the pawnshop unit years ago, McNulty asks him, "What'd you do to piss 'em off?" "Police work," Freamon responds. A drunken McNulty later visits Greggs (Sonja Sohn) at home, where he interrupts an intimate moment between her and her girlfriend, to thank her for helping him with the beeper cloning situation.

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Air date: Jun 30, 2002

A glimpse into the world of Avon Barksdale (Wood Harris) shows how careful the man is about the use of phones and pagers. McNulty's (Dominic West) squad gets permission to clone the crew's beepers, and they start monitoring the project payphones to see what numbers are being called. But the phone numbers they get from the pagers are in code. Stringer (Idris Elba) tells D'Angelo (Larry Gilliard Jr.) that Avon thinks there's a snitch in his crew, and that's how Omar (Michael K. Williams) knew where the stash was. McNulty and Greggs (Sonja Sohn) stake out Omar's van. Carver (Seth Gilliam) and Hauk (Dominick Lombardozzi) catch Bodie (J.D. Williams) again, and unsuccessfully play good cop/bad cop to try to get him to talk. D'Angelo takes his girl across town to a fancy restaurant, and feels out of place. She tells him, "You got money -- you can be whoever you say you are." Bubbles (Andre Royo) goes to visit Johnny (Leo Fitzpatrick) in the hospital, and tells Johnny he's become a snitch. The slug McNulty and Moreland (Wendell Pierce) found at the college girl's murder scene matches slugs from two other murder cases, including that of a member of Omar's crew. A friend of the murdered girl tells the cops that Avon owns the strip club, Orlando's. McNulty and Greggs finally meet up with Omar and his boyfriend. Omar, who knows they're using Bubbles as a snitch, coolly gives them a piece of information to help them nail Avon. Later, two dealers from the pit recognize Omar's boy in an arcade, and alert D'Angelo, who in turn tells Stringer the news.

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Air date: Jul 7, 2002

Omar's (Michael K. Williams) boyfriend, Brandon (Michael Kevin Darnall), is found dead and on display, having been beaten, tortured, and maimed. When Wallace (Michael B. Jordan) sees the mangled body, the direct result of his actions, he's traumatized. When McNulty (Dominic West) and Greggs (Sonja Sohn) find out about the murder, they go looking for Omar, hoping to turn him in. Wallace expresses his feelings about the killing to D'Angelo (Larry Gilliard Jr.), who tells the boy to "let it go." McNulty's boss in homicide, Major Rawls, wants him back in the unit, and gives him a week to wrap up the Barksdale case. The narcotics team finally puts a wiretap on the low-rise pay phones, and they start to gather info about Avon Barksdale's (Wood Harris) crew. Bodie (J.D. Williams) has a fast-talking lawyer, who manages to get him sent home. Herc (Dominick Lombardozzi) and Carver (Seth Gilliam) spot him on the street and fly off the handle. But when they find out he was released, they give him a ride home. Johnny (Leo Fitzpatrick) gets out of the hospital, and immediately involves Bubbles (Andre Royo) in a robbery scam. D'Angelo finds out which members of his crew are stealing from him. He demotes them, but he doesn't tell Avon about it, because he wants to avoid "drama." McNulty demonstrates questionable parenting skills when he brings his kids with him to meet with Omar, who tells the cops he'll testify against the Barksdale crew. Rawls decides the homicide unit will bring shaky murder charges against D'Angelo, even if it ruins the narcotics investigation. When Daniels (Lance Reddick) is pressured by McNulty to go over Rawls' head to save their case, Rawls sets out to destroy McNulty. Baltimore police commissioner Ed Norris has a cameo as a disgruntled cop.

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Air date: Jul 21, 2002

The unit manages to decipher a message about the low rises being resupplied with a new shipment, which they manage to intercept. The young dealer arrested by the unit turns out to be the same boy that lost an eye due to the extracurricular activities of some members of the squad. Lieutenant Daniels (Lance Reddick) tries to reach out to the boy, to no avail. Rawls is determined to punish McNulty (Dominic West), but Santangelo doesn't want to dig up dirt for him. McNulty updates Judge Phelan (Peter Gerety) on the case, and he okays another 30 days on all the surveillance. McNulty and Bunk (Wendell Pierce) find another witness to the Gant shooting, who corroborates what Omar (Michael K. Williams) told them. Greggs (Sonja Sohn) helps get Johnny (Leo Fitzpatrick) out of a jail sentence, and later he and Bubbles (Andre Royo) attend an N.A. meeting, where Bubs decides to try to clean up. Stringer (Idris Elba) comes down to the low rises to shake things up after the bust, pulling out the pay phones the cops have tapped, and issuing new instructions about pay phone use. The disgruntled Orlando (Clayton LeBouef) wants to go behind Avon's (Wood Harris) back and make a dangerous deal with D'Angelo (Larry Gilliard Jr.). The cops arrest Bird (Fredro Starr), the suspect in the Gant shooting, and when he continually mouths off to them, the interrogation turns ugly. Santangelo's conscience gets the better of him, and he tells McNulty that Rawls is after his job.

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Air date: Jul 28, 2002

McNulty (Dominic West) again demonstrates his questionable parenting skills. Out shopping with his two boys, he unexpectedly spots Stringer Bell (Idris Elba), and sends the kids on a "front and follow" to get the dealer's license plate number. Avon (Wood Harris) torches Omar's (Michael K. Williams) van, but they can't find the man, and later, he strikes back at them. Wallace (Michael B. Jordan) has stopped working in the pit, arousing the concern of Poot (Tray Chaney), who talks to D'Angelo (Larry Gilliard Jr.) about it. The unit busts a man leaving the projects with 20,000 dollars in cash, but when he turns out to be an aide to a state senator, Deputy Burrell (Frankie R. Faison) orders Daniels (Lance Reddick) to let the man go, and angrily decides to shut down the operation. Judge Phelan (Peter Gerety) gets wind of this and asks McNulty and Greggs (Sonja Sohn) about it. He pressures Burrell to keep the case going. D'Angelo is convinced to tell Avon about Orlando's (Clayton LeBouef) coke deal, which gets Omar into a lot of trouble. D'Angelo goes to a party, where one of the dancers from Orlando's meets an unhappy fate. He doesn't tell Sharmaine (Wendy Grantham), the dancer he's been seeing, what happened, but he does express his unhappiness with his business. "Nothing good to it but the money," he complains. When Omar's "loose cannon" behavior jeopardizes the operation, McNulty, Greggs, and Freamon (Clarke Peters) call him in and politely ask him to back off. Stringer makes a similar suggestion to Avon regarding the dangerous Omar. McNulty asks Bunk (Wendell Pierce) to lie to another detective for him in order to keep Omar out of trouble, which Bunk reluctantly does. A drunken Bunk later tells McNulty, "You're no good for people, man."

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Air date: Aug 4, 2002

Stringer (Idris Elba) repeats his advice to Avon (Wood Harris), telling him to call a truce with Omar (Michael K. Williams) until things settle down. But Avon is worried about what people will say if they see Omar walking around. D'Angelo (Larry Gilliard Jr.) talks to Wallace (Michael B. Jordan) who admits that he wants to give up the life and maybe go back to school. D'Angelo encourages him, saying he's got brains and a good heart. Bubbles (Andre Royo) and Johnny (Leo Fitzpatrick) are surprised to see a speaker from NA, Waylon (country-rocker Steve Earle) at the towers awaiting a new drug shipment. Waylon explains that he's there trying to help his nephew get clean. After another drug-stealing scam goes wrong for Bubbles, he decides to try to kick again. Herc (Dominick Lombardozzi) and Carver (Seth Gilliam) confiscate about 20 grand from Wee-Bey (Hassan Johnson), but it seems like small change to Avon's operation. Daniels (Lance Reddick) calls the detectives on the carpet when it appears that some of the money is missing. Freamon (Clarke Peters), Prez (Jim True-Frost), and Sydnor (Corey Parker Robinson) go on an exhaustive search to see where Avon hides his money. The unit spots Avon at a local basketball tournament, but he quickly evades them when they try to follow him home. Freamon and Greggs (Sonja Sohn) bring in Shardene (Wendy Grantham), who's distraught to learn that the body of her stripper girlfriend was found in a dumpster after Stinkum's party. She tearfully confronts D'Angelo -- who lied to her about the girl's whereabouts -- before walking out on him. Omar gets Avon's cell number, and Wee-Bey's code, from a rival drug dealer, and makes his move on Avon.

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Air date: Aug 11, 2002

Bubbles (Andre Royo) is trying to stay clean. Waylon (Steve Earle) from NA gives him some advice. Avon (Wood Harris) and his crew want Omar (Michael K. Williams) dead, but Avon tells Stringer (Idris Elba) to get the word out to Omar that they want to call a truce and parlay. Rhonda Pearlman (Deirdre Lovejoy) tells McNulty (Dominic West) that the case is hurting Judge Phelan's (Peter Gerety) political career. D'Angelo's (Larry Gilliard Jr.) baby's mama is moving in, but he's still trying, unsuccessfully, to reconcile with Shardene (Wendy Grantham). The unit finds out the pager number for the stash house, and they stake out a pay phone in Pimlico. Orlando (Clayton LeBouef) gets busted in a sting, trying to buy cocaine from the state police. Avon sends a lawyer, not to bail Orlando out, but to have him sign away ownership of the strip club, because he's not a clean front anymore. McNulty tracks down Wallace (Michael B. Jordan), who's still shaken up by what happened to Brandon. Wallace tells the cops that he pointed out Brandon to Stringer the night of the murder. McNulty's ex-wife, Elena (Callie Thorne), calls him into court to limit his custody rights after she finds out about his using their young sons to follow Stringer. Stringer meets with Omar (who's wearing a wire), and tells him that Avon (whom Stringer doesn't identify by name) will let Omar live if Omar stops stealing from him. Omar doesn't buy it, and leaves town. Shardene tries to get information about Avon's operation for Freamon (Clarke Peters), but the dealers won't let her get close. Greggs (Sonja Sohn) goes on an ill-advised buy-and-bust operation (ordered by the Deputy Commissioner) with Orlando. This episode was directed by Brad Anderson (Next Stop Wonderland).

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The Wire: Season 1 Photos

Tv Season Info

A complex crime drama set in Baltimore, Maryland, that follows the thread of a single police investigation, from the perspectives of both law-enforcement officials and the criminals they're pursuing.

News & Interviews for The Wire: Season 1

Critic Reviews for The Wire Season 1

All Critics (34) | Top Critics (18)'s a drama that gradually teaches you how to watch it, in the same way a great novel lets you know how to read it.

Mar 27, 2020 | Full Review…

This smart, profound series becomes increasingly engrossing -- it's Homicide and NYPD Blue taken to a darker, more complicated level.

Oct 21, 2019 | Full Review…

The Wire's first season is methodical and deliberate to an almost perverse degree. Like the Avon Barksdale investigation, it's built piece-by-piece.

Oct 21, 2019 | Full Review…
Top Critic

The Wire is well written and powerfully performed, but it is also infused with a contagious hopelessness.

Oct 21, 2019 | Full Review…

The series is beautifully detailed, rich in humour, and filled with full, rounded characters.

Oct 21, 2019 | Full Review…

If I were from there, I'd really be offended. As it is, I'm not from Baltimore, so I'm put off only by [creator David Simon's] new show, which demonstrates, if nothing else, that even the vaunted HBO can cough up a dud once in a while.

Oct 18, 2019 | Full Review…

Because the ensemble cast is so huge, it's initially difficult to keep track of who is who, but the show is slowly, deftly defining characters and in the process showing that what separates the good guys from the bad guys is not so distinct.

Oct 21, 2019 | Full Review…

The lack of a prominent face in the ensemble further complicates keeping track of who is who, and while the actors work hard, the lackluster material makes it difficult for anyone to shine.

Oct 21, 2019 | Full Review…

Stick with The Wire, at any rate, and you'll get a series that not only is the best on HBO, but also the channel's most lifelike.

Mar 5, 2019 | Full Review…

Baltimore is not just a stand-in for Western civilization or globalized urban rot or the American inner city now given the cold federal shoulder in the folly-filled war on terror, though it is certainly all these things. Baltimore is also just itself...

Nov 5, 2018 | Full Review…

The Wire is comfort television for cynics and paranoiacs.

Jun 21, 2018 | Full Review…

Season one is powerful because it affords those in the projects the same level of humanity as it does the police, if not more. And while it fashions a compelling crime story, it does so while acknowledging the strictures of red tape.

May 22, 2018 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Wire: Season 1

  • Oct 05, 2020
    I don't know how it took a pandemic for me to finally watch this show, but I'm ecstatic that I finally watched it. The first season does an incredible job setting the stage and introducing the vast array of characters and depth of the bountiful plots and subplots to come, as the wealth of Baltimore's political and criminal surface world and underworld are inextricably linked from the mayor down to the most seemingly insignificant of drug addicts.
  • Aug 30, 2020
    Season 1 of The Wire was a brilliant delving into the societal complexity surrounding police departments, criminals, addicts, and the black community in America. It rarely strays into one-note stereotypes and portrays nearly every character with careful moral ambiguity. The plot starts quick and exciting and never lets up, leading to one of the most fun, thought-provoking, and well-crafted seasons of television I've watched. 4.50/5.00 Full Review:
  • Aug 09, 2020
    An almost unbearable slow-burn makes us see more than 5 episodes to understand that we are watching a master piece of television.
  • Jul 27, 2020
    Good acting, great job catching the street aspect. I'd give it a better rating if the show didn't glorify police brutality in such a major way. It's like the writers just thought it was funny. By the time you get done watching these crooked cops beat the hell outta everyone they suspect of anything you're like, damn, no wonder they're such criminals.
  • Jul 25, 2020
    Thought episode 1 was incredibly slow. Was advised to give the show time. I did. 5 episodes in and I can't do anymore. Stories are interesting but pace is painful. Acting is superb but offset by terribly slow movement.
  • Jun 28, 2020
    A good introduction to an awesome show.
  • Jun 24, 2020
    Given the way The Wire ramifies and grows after the first season, it's pretty important that Season One introduces the tendencies and behavior of the core characters, as well as its ground setting (the streets of Baltimore) without shrouding in complexity. This is a patient drama of case building against the impetus of organised crime and leaves you nothing but thirsty for more.
  • May 30, 2020
    Extremely slow going . Subsequently , it takes a lifetime of getting into the plot and large amount of characters . However , for me it took till about episode 9 and then the whole series sprung into life . From there it was pretty much edge of the seat stuff .
  • May 19, 2020
    What does 'The Wire' do other crime drama series don't? It feels real and it is not sugar coated. The first season puts in a polarizing dynamic with various characters, including police officers, judges, elected officials, street thugs, organized criminal masterminds, and others. 'The Wire' doesn't hold back. It doesn't promise a grand resolution for the war on drugs. And that is what makes it a must-see.
  • May 08, 2020
    It's kinda slow for the first few episodes, but it becomes increasingly more investing and intense as the season progresses and takes a realistic approach in portraying the Baltimore drug scene and has critical sociopolitical commentary.

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