For the first time on television, The Wire on HBO was a truth-telling series, which told exactly what it was like growing up in a ghetto. For the first time, a show where the canvas did not limit the characters the world allowed for them, and for the first time, a series about drug dealing and ghetto was more than just unnamed people buying and selling drugs.
The reason this show is still the best crime drama series and one of the best TV shows ever is because of the visceral, real-life portrayal of the characters and not an over the top representation most other series opt to. By that measure, The Wire is riddled with amazing characters and equally amazing actors portraying them.
The Wire is the show which will always be regarded as the best ever to do it, the way David Simon blended five different topics into five different seasons and showed the impact of how these different topics affect our everyday life is both ingenious eye-opening. But none of this could’ve been achieved without great characterization of the actors, so, here are our top ten characters from The Wire, the reason we watch.
10. Clay Davis
Though he was on the short side of the spectrum, when it comes to actors playing a character in the show, still 'Clay Davis' is one of our favorites from the show. You probably already know why it is the case, “Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-it,” many tried, and many failed trying to copy the head-to-toe corrupt senator, and we are blessed to see such portrayal on-screen from a seasoned actor who is now known by just a two-syllable word.
9. Avon Barksdale
'Avon' was first seen as your run of the mill, every crime show’s drug kingpin but he is so much more than a drug kingpin. No actor is allowed to play a character for an extended period of time when it comes to a fleshed-out drug dealer, and finally, this show allows Avon to shine and give him something to work with. He is not just a drug dealer; he is a passionate man whose relationship with Stringer was the best thing about the series’ first season. Avon was also a proud man and a talented as well as worthy adversary for police and other dealers. By the way, he is also super cool; it is another aspect of the character, which makes him so awesome and beautiful.
8. Marlo Stanfield
While Avon was such a menacing villain because he was both a passionate man as well as a terrifying presence, 'Marlo' was on the other side of Avon. He was menacing, and it was the only thing he knew how to do, the chilling way he disposed of people is still one of the terrifying aspects of the character. One line in particular shows who Marlo is as a person, “Do it or don't, but I got someplace to be.” It was his response to whether or not they should kill Bubbles. Just an utter disregard for human life is why this character is one of the best in the series. The reason why he is better than Avon is simple, Avon was bogged down by drama and emotion, but Marlo wasn’t attached to anything, all he ever wanted was to stamp his name somewhere in Baltimore.
7. Duquan “Dukie” Weems
The reason 'Dukie' is such is a great character is because every time we see him, he breaks our hearts. Dukie is just a sweet, smart kid who doesn’t belong in the tough neighborhood, and it seems 'Prez' is going to help him by taking him under his wing, but it was not to be. The way the writers flesh out this character and show the realistic version of how life works in the inner cities is so heartbreaking and realistic both at the same time. A simple lesson is taught from this particular character, you either leave the ghetto, or you will just become another cog in the machine. And people like Dukie can’t afford to leave the ghetto, so they fall back to either using or selling drugs.
6. Howard “Bunny” Colvin
'Howard' was a hard-ass Lieutenant who needed to do things his way, and it was during the run of the series he becomes more of a father figure to everyone involved especially 'Namond Brice' who he adopts and takes away from the corners. Howard was a good character who wanted to serve his neighborhood, and he did it exactly when the Lieutenant almost legalized drug dealing within a certain restricted area. He was the creator of 'Hamsterdam', and when the top brass found out, he gracefully fell on the sword and retired.
5. Jimmy McNulty
'Jimmy' was more of a protagonist of the show, lead character if you want to call him that but he was also one of the more interesting characters in the show. McNulty is a hardnosed don’t follow the rules, and insubordination was his key tool to make his point heard, which results in him getting kicked off the homicide division. We love McNulty because of what he does in the final season of The Wire; those events are just funny and mind-blowing. Maybe the character was based loosely on a real-life person who makes this role even more fleshed out and interesting.
4. Reginald “Bubbles” Cousins
Another character based on a real-life person, 'Reginald “Bubble” Cousins' is probably the only character in the whole show who is on a redemption path. The reason we love him so much is, Bubbles is someone so real in a series full of almost real characters, it just hits the heart. We all know someone who is struggling with drug abuse, Bubbles is the representation of the person we all know, a little worse but still someone who wants to be better. All through five seasons, Bubble is on a path to redemption, and by the time the series ends, we see him getting invited upstairs by his sister to join her family for dinner. For the first time, Bubbles sister trusted him and opened the basement door and allowed him to meet her daughter. We were crying for the man, and it was tears of joy; finally, he was complete; finally, he made it.
3. William “The Bunk” Moreland
Just read these lines 'Bunk' said in the show, “A man must have a code,” “The bigger the lie, the more they believe.” And also one of the best speeches in television history, “As rough as that neighborhood could be, we had us a community. Nobody, no victim, who didn't matter. And now all we got is bodies and predatory motherfuckers like you. And out where that girl fell, I saw kids acting like Omar, calling you by name, glorifying your ass. Makes me sick, motherfucker, how far we done fell.” Bunk is also the reason we got the famous “fuck” scene where McNulty and Bunk say nothing but “fuck” to each other for the whole scene. Do you want to hear some catchphrases by the character? Well, here it is, “What the fuck did I do?” “You happy now, bitch?”
The “strictly suit-and-tie motherfucker” as he likes to call himself is the moral compass of the show. He is what we want as a police officer who wants to do his job and not harm anyone else. Bunk is the only good thing about the whole situation the people in the series are in; he is the reason we watch. Bunk is also the reason why we fell in love with the show in the first place.
2. Stringer Bell
Like Bunk is the Moral compass of the show, 'Stringer' is on the opposite side of the character. He would rather let others get their hands dirty than to get down and clean the mess up himself. The reason Stringer is such a great villain is almost everyone in the neighborhood was born into drug dealing, they got no choice but to deal drugs, but Stringer wanted to become a drug dealer. He wanted to learn the business so he can move out one day and become a legit businessman. Whatever the case, he was still a bad guy and one person who we rooted for even when we knew he was a despicable character. Even the actor who portrays the character, Idris Elba, fells like Stringer is worshiped when he should be despised. But it what good villains always do, they make you root for them, and it is exactly why Stringer was such a menacing presence in the show.
1. Omar Devone Little
Who else can take the top prize other than the Robin Hood of Baltimore? The answer is no one. 'Omar' is not only the greatest character on The Wire; he is the greatest character in television history, there was never anyone like Omar, and there will never be anyone as such. Sawed-off shotgun a long jacket, du-rag, a nasty scar on his face and a cigarette hanging out from his mouth, the only person in the whole world the drug dealers were afraid of was Omar. When Bunk said, “A man must have a code,” during Omar and Bunk’s first meeting in the police station, Omar agrees with him. Omar lives by a code, and the code is what resulted in his downfall, but “Omar’s coming yo!” is still one of the greatest lines in television history.
It is rare for a TV show to bring in and juggle so many complex characters and at the end of the day, do justice to all of them. The writers never stretched and allowed the characters to take them places instead of taking character places for narrative purposes. The Wire will always be the greatest show in television history, the reason being the plethora of amazing characters the show assembled and provided us with the joy of watching.