Previous to watching The Wire, I’d seen the entire Sopranos series 2.5 – 3 times. I’d heard a lot of people talking about The Wire being as good or better than The Sopranos, so I thought the best way to figure it out was to watch The Wire.
Having seen the entire series, I’m going to give the nod to The Sopranos as the better series. Here are my reasons (Spoiler alerts galore)…
– I found the situations more plausible in Sopranos. In the Wire there were two instances where the body count went through the roof. The first was when the Far Eastern immigrants were found dead, and the other was when Marlo started piling up the bodies. I lost count of the number of bodies they found when they started going house to house (~20? ~30), but I imagine that there would be more of an uproar. Granted, I’m a liberal living in Seattle, so maybe I’m wrong on that, but I stand by it. Also, when the Fat Cop (Landsman?) let Bubbles go, saying he’d suffered enough – that seemed highly unlikely. That guy was a jerk to everybody he came across, and that was the only instance he showed any humanity. The story arc of Omar bothered me a bit too. He was a very calm, calculated man, and I don’t believe he’d let him emotions get the better of him to the point of being killed by a child. Most of the other characters I would have believed, but not Omar, our modern day Achilles.
Speaking of implausible situations, I don’t see how Omar Little would survive ripping off drug dealers. Every slinger with a gun would be out after him, and I don’t see it working out that well for him.
In the Sopranos, there were very few instances of such implausibility. There was the scene with the Russian guy that got away and was completely forgotten, but I didn’t find that to be over the top. Maybe the scene were the Stripper was beaten to death, but only maybe.
– There were more stronger seasons of The Sopranos than there were of The Wire, and I think the last episode of The Sopranos was particularly strong. From conversations with many people, I may be the only person particularly fond of the ending of The Sopranos, but I did think it was brilliant. Season One of The Sopranos was fantastic too – much better than first season of The Wire (which was also very good – just not as good.)
– There were better, stronger (as in more developed) characters in The Sopranos. Tony and Carmela were very well developed, as were more minor characters, such as Dr. Melfi, Christopher and Adriana. There were some strong characters in The Wire, specifically Omar and Bubble. I really like the Omar character, especially how his character was exceedingly badass macho but also openly gay. I don’t watch much TV, but I don’t recall a character such as his on TV. Bubbles was also a very well done character. I didn’t particularly enjoy the McNulty character. It seemed like he was all over the board – sober sometimes, drunk others, but without any sort of back story to flesh out these changes. I found the Marlo character to be a bit underdeveloped (where did he come from, why wasn’t he stopped earlier by other drug dealers), but I did find him to be a terrifying character – the most out of either show. A true psychopath (witness the scene with the Security Guard, who ended up dead later.) The Sopranos had several characters that were hard core, starting with Tony Sopranos (the scene were he ended Christophers life…), but also his mother and sister, Little Ralphie, etc.
– I think people were more able to get behind The Wire because of three things. There was a clear theme every season (Newspapers, Schools, etc.), all of which were “pressing social issues.” And since each season was so clearly delineated, there was a more clearly defined story arc. If you were to come into season four, you could be up to speed and enjoy the season on it’s own, and then there was a clear payoff at the end of each season. I felt like The Sopranos didn’t have as much of a demarcation from season to season, and that it benefited from a longer continual viewing. Lastly, there tended to be the innocents in each season – teachers! reporters! kids! blue collar workers! – that made it easy to root for. The Sopranos didn’t tend to have sympathetic characters – maybe a few, but only a few.
That’s why I think The Sopranos was a better TV than The Wire.