Rather than lead you in with some corny bit or reference to an overused moment from The Wire, I’ll let creator David Simon take it from here.
“The Wire was intended as a critique on the war on drugs, which is, as far as I’m concerned, just a war on the poor. But it’s also a piece about what happens when institutions move away from their intended purpose to govern all of us in the best possible way. When they start to become self-preserving, to serve people’s ambitions and get away from their missions, you get a dystopia of the kind we depicted. Above all we wanted to criticize the war on drugs by depicting the war on drugs, but in the end using the dystopia was an argument for the city in another way, or we hoped it would be.”
From June 2002 to March 2008—the show actually just celebrated its 15th anniversary—The Wire was something different. There were no villains of the week, no truly happy endings, and no shying away from realism. This was a ballad about an American city that had its highs, but was more so buried in a trend of lows because of everything that was interconnected.
Today, we’re going to see how well you know The Wire because, really, anyone can tell you that Omar has a shotgun or certain actors wound up on The Walking Dead. All we’re going to say is that there are MAJOR SPOILERS for every season. So, if you’ve missed even a single episode, this is not the time to take this quiz.
Ready? Let’s do it!
Which character appears in most of the episodes?
With five seasons each of double-digit episodes, The Wire was able to finish the series off at a round 60. As McNulty prepares to drive off into the sunset–both literally and figuratively–we watch as characters we’ve grown to know and love over five seasons prepare for the next stage of their lives. Some take new jobs, others get promoted, and the ones we hate end up benefiting big time. You still suck, Scott. Which character from The Wire appeared in most of the episodes.
Omar Little's favorite cigarette brand is
Are you whistling Farmer in the Dell? I am! Though McNulty may have the suave charm and Stringer is endearing as he tries to make the best of two very different worlds (and Idris Elba's performance is fantastic), everyone loves Omar Little. Even Barack Obama loves Omar! An early potential villain who, instead, turns out to be an anti-hero, Omar is almost always seen with his signature shotgun, trench coat, and a pack of cigarettes. What's Omar's favorite brand of smokes?
Who said this? "There's games beyond the fucking game."
Thanks to it airing on HBO rather than FOX or AMC, The Wire could get away with all of the swearing it wanted (without it ever getting too annoying or forced), and this is no exception. At one point, Avon Barksdale is in a meeting with others in his organization when the conversation changes to 'the game' and what got them there—reputation, so the names could ring out. At one point, a character says, "there's games beyond the fucking game." Who said that?
Jimmy McNulty's kids are named
While Jimmy McNulty is great with soliciting women and handling his alcohol, he's far from being the best parent. Unlike fellow detective William 'The Bunk' Moreland, Jimmy is more often than not absent from his kids as a result of work and his drinking. Early on, his two sons aspire to be like their father, but they're indifferent towards him by the show's final season. Although Jimmy does try at times to make things work, his personality is too much. What are his sons' names?
True or False: The 'n' word is never used on the show as a derogatory term
Again, part of what makes The Wire so great is its language and authenticity. And, part of that is how the 'n' word is used by the black characters as a sign of the times. From Namond and the boys of summer, to the drug dealers running the city, a word that still has people divided in 2017 is thrown around in all sorts of contexts. However, is that word ever used as a derogatory term by a specific character?
Which career does a police officer on the show NOT take after leaving the BPD?
One of The Wire's overarching themes is change, which the Baltimore Police Department experiences in both positive and negative ways over five seasons. As members of the BPD retire or are forced out, many of the characters we come to follow around and enjoy take on new jobs; although, those like McNulty find themselves lost without police work and the thrill of the case. Regarding confirmed characters who leave the BPD for any number of reasons, which job do we NOT see one take?
Finish this Omar Little line: "Y'all should've seen me in Sinai Hospital while they stitching her up, lying about why somebody wanna shoot me down the street..."
In addition to Omar's signature shotgun and Newports, the 'Robin Hood of Baltimore' also is full of memorable quotes and snarky responses. Here, though, Omar is far from a joking mood after an assassination attempt on his life (on a Sunday, no less!) nearly takes the life of him and his grandmother following church. Not only is Omar angry at the Sunday truce, but he's furious that his grandmother now has to worry about why people are coming for him. How did Omar follow this excuse?
Which actor donned a fat suit for his character?
As one would expect from a show like The Wire, method acting and pulling out of all the stops were extremely prevalent during filming. J.D. Williams, who played Bodie, hast told stories of being in the ghetto late at night and nearly losing his life, while Andre Royo (Bubbles) was given a package of heroin and told that 'he looked like he needed a fix' by a drug dealer. One actor, however, donned a fat suit for the filming of their character. Who was it?
This character from the early season does not reappear in season 5.
For the final season of The Wire, David Simon and friends made it a goal to check in on characters who, even if they didn't have a role in the hunt for Marlo or the fake serial killer case, once played a vital role in the show. From seeing where each of the Boys of Summer have ended up to taking a final visit to Cutty's gym, some characters are in great shape, while others are probably better off dead. Who do we NOT run into?
Frank Sobotka keeps a dartboard in his office with a prominent face on it. Who is Frank aiming at?
Though season two is often the most divided among fans and critics, many have fallen in love with the ballad of Frank Sobotka, a man still trying to live the American Dream in a time where the ports and human labor are falling behind. Even if it means selling his own soul, Frank will do whatever it takes to make sure that his friends and family are looked after. When in his office, Frank will occasionally play darts and aim for a picture on it. Who's in that picture?
Who said this? "My word is still my word, in here, in Baltimore, and in any place you could think of calling home."
One could argue that Baltimore is run by the police or by the drug dealers, but it's a city run by reputation and respect. It is why Omar, even on a morning where he's going to buy Honey Nut Cheerios, can scare dealers into giving up their stash. It's also why the schools are in such dysfunctional shape, aside from when the truly intimidating figures come out. At one point, a character makes a threat about how strong their word is in Baltimore. Who says this?
True or False: Roland Pryzbylewski is the only officer on the show to fire his gun.
Some have speculated that if The Wire were to air in 2017, the arc and ballad of Roland Pryzbylewski might upset a lot more people. And, really, they're definitely right. For as good of a teacher that Prez became, his various gaffes as a police officer–shooting up his own car, committing police brutality, and even killing another officer–all get brushed away because of Stan Valchek, his powerful father-in-law. In the show's five seasons, is Prez the only officer to fire his gun?
Finish this Omar Little line: "I got the shotgun, you got the briefcase..."
This is another classic Omar line that comes in what many call his greatest scene. Agreeing to go on trial as a witness in the Baltimore Police Department's case against Marquis "Bird" Hilton, in season one, Bird had not only killed state's witness William Gant, but also brutally tortured Omar's boyfriend, Brandon. So, out for revenge in a way that will benefit everyone, Omar takes the stand and listens as attorney Maurice Levy calls him amoral and a leech...before Omar points out they're not that different. Finish this line.
What is Stringer's reasoning to Colvin for giving up Avon?
From the second they're first introduced, it's easy to see the differences between Stringer Bell and Avon Baksdale. And it's even easier to spot that the differences are going to lead to problems. One Avon arrest and one D'Angelo murder later, the two betray one another. Avon lets Brother Mouzone–who Stringer had previously sent Omar on–know where Stringer will be one day. Stringer, on the other hand, agrees to be a CI and gives Bunny Colvin information on Avon that will put him back in jail. What's his official reasoning?
Sticking with Stringer, which class is he seen taking at a community college?
Part of those aforementioned differences is that while Stringer does rarely slip back into older 'hood' habits, the man is also trying to culture and educate himself by taking classes at a local community college. The star student, Stringer, takes the lessons he learns and tries applying them to the Barksdale Organization in Avon's absence. And while it takes the soldiers time to understand Robert's Rules, Stringer's lessons wind up working. Which class is Stringer physically seen taking in seasons one and two?
Who said this? "It's all about self-preservation Jimmy, something you never learned."
Jimmy McNulty is far from the perfect person, especially when it comes to respecting the chain of command. While some shows would glorify McNulty for constantly trying to do what he believes to be the right thing–and what winds up getting the best results for the Baltimore Police Department and the city–he winds up in more trouble than he can imagine for never obeying that chain of command. Who tells Jimmy this? "It's all about self-preservation Jimmy, something you never learned."
What was D'Angelo Barksdale's grandfather's name?
If you go on YouTube, you'll find a video about D'Angelo Barksdale titled "Born Into The Game," and that's the perfect way to describe Avon's nephew. There are times when D'Angelo will act hard, but he's not made for this life. However, he has no choice because this is a life his family has made for themselves from nothing. We're not only talking about Avon, as D'Angelo's famed-in-story grandfather was a legendary drug kingpin. Can you remember this person's name?
True or False: Snoop Pearson is the show's only female villain.
Stephen King called Felicia 'Snoop' Pearson "perhaps the most terrifying female villain to ever appear in a television series," and we're not disagreeing with him here. Full of creative language and someone who accepts death as a natural part of life, Snoop is potentially even more of a dangerous hitman than Chris Partlow because of her nonchalant attitude. Chris will reassure victims that it'll be quick and clean, but Snoop will gladly and openly talk about death. Nice! Was Snoop The Wire's only female villain?
Police enforcement in Bunny Colvin's district is referred to as...
Even if people are torn on Howard 'Bunny' Colvin's Hamsterdam idea–and there are, surprisingly, a fair number of people who think that Colvin's 'corner kids' class in season four should have been cancelled–everyone can at least agree on one thing: he got people to listen. Obviously, Ellis Carver listened to Colvin's advice on how to be good police. But the drug dealers, their soldiers, and the children all listened to what Colvin wanted to try. Even McNulty looks up to Colvin! What do officers in Colvin's district refer to their enforcement as?
Which former baseball player would Herc admittedly have sex with?
Well, it's impossible to talk about the Western District Way without focusing on Thomas 'Herc' Hauk. Starting off in the Narcotics department alongside Ellis Carver and Kima Greggs, Herc is a divided character among fans for his love of brutality, his bad police work, and him joining Maurice Levy's team in season five. Although we see Herc on a date in season three, there's a popular fan theory stating that he is, at the very least, bisexual based on his interactions with Carver and other men. Herc even admits he'd have sex with a former baseball player. Who's that specific baseball player?
Speaking of Herc, what part of his backstory is revealed in season 5?
By season five, Herc's importance has been knocked down big time–Domenick Lombardozzi is still listed in the opening credits, however–but he still has a major impact on the story through serving as a private investigator for Levy. Remorseful for his earlier behavior on the police force, we see a side of Herc that has come with maturity, although he is definitely still working for both sides. Herc reveals a bit of his backstory in season five. What was that revelation?
This is not the name of a New Day Co-Op member.
Come season three, Stringer Bell has partnered with Proposition Joe and, attempting to use some of the skills he had learned in his macroeconomics class, begins the New Day Co-Op. Simply put, the most powerful drug kingpins in all of Baltimore come together–if there's any beef, they solve it 'like democrats'–to buy the most powerful product. Which of the following characters is NOT in the New Day Co-Op? Here's a hint: Think about the meetings Marlo conducts in season five.
To get the FBI on Stringer's trail, Fitz puts this as Stringer Bell's given name.
There's definitely some symbolic elements to the car scenes between Jimmy McNulty and Terrence Fitzhugh (a friend of Jimmy's who works in the FBI), but we'll avoid turning this into a high school literature class. But, if you're interested, try to decipher the symbolic element in that picture. Anyway, Fitz owes the MCU a favor in season three and, as the group prepares to bring the Barksdale's name, changes Stringer's name so the FBI will think he's involved with terrorism. Who does Roland Bell become?
Which nursery rhyme/lullaby does Kima tell her son in season 5...with a Baltimore twist on it?
At times, Kima Greggs reads a lot like Jimmy McNulty, and that's actually a short plot arc in season three when she realizes that she's not too different from her fellow detective. Absent for a good portion of her son Elijah's life after leaving her partner, Kima tries to do better in season five after rescuing a small child from a shootout. To close an episode, Kima and Ellijah participate in a nursery rhyme with a Baltimore twist. What was it?
Let's talk politics. Which character is asked to vote on Election Day in season 4 but declines for having a criminal record?
Oh, Tommy Carcetti, what would Baltimore do without you? Actually, whether or not him being the right choice for Baltimore's mayor is another conversation, the political stories of seasons three and four that lead up to the election are a common favorite among fans. During Election Day in season four, representatives for each of the three politicians–Carcetti, Mayor Clarence Royce, and Tony Gray–are asking people to vote. One of the following characters is asked to vote but declines because he was in prison. Who was it?
How large is the school budget deficit that Tommy Carcetti inherits in season 4?
Surprise, surprise! Carcetti wins the election in a city that has a 9:1 Democrat-Republican ratio (and wins with 81% of the vote over a Republican only referred to as Crawford). All seem to be going smoothly as Carcetti promises a new day to Baltimore and its civilians, but is met with a major problem that Royce left behind—the schools have a budget deficit in the millions. And, we're not just talking two or three million. Just how high is the deficit?
Why does Carcetti refuse to take the money offered by the Republican governor?
With the city's schools in desperate need of funds, Carcetti and Norman Wilson take a day trip to Washington D.C. to meet with the Republican governor over a potential loan. It's not the ideal situation, especially with Carcetti potentially planning his own run for Washington in 2008, but this is something that he has to do, right? Well, Carcetti ends up turning the money down, although there are a few reasons why his aides have. What's Carcetti's own main reason for walking away?
Who says this? "Business, always business."
Another overarching theme from the police force to the corners is that things are "just business." McNulty getting banished to the boat after going against the chain of command? Just business. Stringer turning on Avon in season three? Just business. It's not that things are personal. It's that things need to get done, even if it's not the outcome everyone wants. Late in season two, a character is asked whether he's taking a trip for pleasure or business. His response? "Business, always business." Who said this?
McNulty goes undercover to a brothel and is caught having s*x with two prostitutes. His reasoning in the police report?
It's easy for many fans to forget that if Lt. Daniels hadn't rescued McNulty from the boat, then everyone's favorite Irish-American alcoholic was likely going to quit the force. Luckily for Daniels and the newly-formed Major Crimes Unit, McNulty sticks around and is used as an undercover agent for a brothel in season two. As one would expect from McNulty, he accidentally ends up sealing the deal with two workers and has to write a police report. What's his reasoning?
What is Marlo's street name?
Although he may lack Stringer Bell's charisma or Avon Barksdale's surprising amount of humanity, Marlo Stanfield is awesome. Given how much younger he is than both Stringer and Avon (characters seem to speculate that he's in his mid-20s, and he's referred to as 'the boy Marlo'), that he could lead a successful war against both and take Baltimore for his own is absolutely amazing. Earlier in season three, we get a brief shot of Marlo's police profile and his street name. What was it?
True or False: Marlo never openly commits a murder of his own.
Obviously, we've talked about Snoop as a soldier for Marlo, and we've briefly mentioned Chris Partlow; so it's easy to think that the newest kingpin has all of them do the work. Yes, Marlo can certainly handle guns, but nearly every murder we see being carried out by the Stanfield Organization is by Chris, Snoop, or Michael. At any time from his introduction in season three to his final appearance on the Baltimore streets, does 'the boy Marlo' ever commit a murder?
Where was 'Prez' working prior to being detailed in season one?
Oh, Prez, you are a mess. When Lt. Daniels asks for more manpower in season one, he's sent humps. Although in Prez' case, he has to bring him along as collateral for acquiring Leander Sydnor from auto theft. Fans will remember Prez for all of his faults on the show, but he was working some place in the department as a result of shooting up his car and calling in a false report. What an idiot. Where was Prez working on?
What (or who) does Jay Landsman compare Lester to?
All things considered, Jay Landsman is not a bad man. Sure, he screws McNulty over by telling Rawls that the Irish-American alcoholic doesn't want to work on the boat, and he is a bit too vile at times. But Landsman wants to keep the homicide board away from the red. Who can blame him? When Lester, who uncovers the greatest Baltimore mystery since the Colts leaving overnight, wants to investigate vacant homes for bodies left by Marlo's crew, Landsman says no. So, when Lester ignores him and does it anyway, who or what does Landsman compare the detective to?
Who said this? "Deserve got nothing to do with it."
Along with all the other themes mentioned, 'deserving' something has to be up there as well as a common motif that characters acknowledge. Does McNulty deserve to be exiled to the marine unit? No. But he was. Does Daniels deserve to be demoted for going against Burrell and bringing in a hell of a case? No. But he was. In the season's penultimate episode, one character finally mentions the idea of deserving a punishment, remarking that, "deserve got nothing to do with it." Who said that?
The Wire is described by David Simon as a show about...
It's only right that we end this quiz with something from David Simon, the show's creator and one of the most impactful people in television history. Like with anything, people will take different things away from The Wire–for me, it is one of the few shows on television that has had no problems shying away from realism without forcing it–but Simon looks at the show and says that it's about something in particular. Can you tell us what that is?