Twelve years ago, perhaps the greatest series ever to grace television made its debut.
HBO had a gem on its hands in The Wire, though almost no one watched while it was on the air, a reality that kept the series constantly on the chopping block. Thankfully, enough people tuned in to keep the gritty show airing for five seasons.
The Wire, created by David Simon, highlighted the grim reality facing some of the nation's largest cities. Places that once were the crown jewels of industry are now dying slow, painful deaths that no one — police forces, hallowed halls of academia, or political chambers — can help avert. (A reason, perhaps, for the lack of audience? The stories are a little too close to home, and play out like a too-real reality show you badly want canceled.)
Still, even six years after its ending, the show sparks debate about its larger-than-life-characters, who felt so real, it's almost difficult to distinguish fact from fiction. Smartly, HBO is bringing The Wire back to life, in a manner of speaking. Starting Dec. 26, the network will marathon all five seasons of the series, this time airing a remastered HD cut of the show. There won't be any new episodes or an alternate ending, but this is a chance for fans to re-watch the show — or check it out for the first time — in a new, sharper format.
In honor of all of us Wire fans being forced to live on our couches for days this holiday season (thanks, HBO), and some of you newcomers who are playing catchup on the show you heard about but never watched, here are the cast members of every season of the show, ranked from least to most likable.
Let the rebutting begin!
46. Russell "Stringer" Bell (Idris Elba)
Where do I begin here? The second in command to a Baltimore drug kingpin, he violates all the rules of the game. Among other grievances, he put the hit out on Wallace and one on D'Angelo, and after he had D'Angelo killed, HE STARTED SLEEPING WITH HIS BABY'S MAMA. Who does that? A loser. And miss me with the bit about how hot he is. STRINGER BELL IS STILL A HORRIBLE PERSON. (But he did have the line of the series. Can't front.)
45. Kenard (Thuliso Dingwall)
What do we say about this kid? He's a little guy who got seduced into a life he shouldn't have. And in the end, he takes out one of the most central figures on the show. For that, we hate him. And if you missed this small moment, then you missed yet another chance to understand how brilliant creator David Simon is. My God.
44. Marlo Stanfield (Jamie Hector)
Pretty much one of the worst people to ever walk the streets of Baltimore is this guy, and that's saying a great deal. He's a rising drug kingpin who has no code — moral, street, or otherwise — that he follows. He cares about NO ONE but himself. And he will literally kill or have someone killed who he thinks is getting in his way. Also, don't play when it comes to his name, yo.
43. Calvin "Cheese" Wagstaff (Method Man)
42. Maurice Levy (Michael Kostroff)
41. Spiros "Vondas" Vondopoulos (Paul Ben-Victor) and The Greek (Bill Raymond)
Ugh. These two are the real culprits for the drugs infesting Baltimore. And a bunch of other illegal crap that'll turn your stomach.
40. Proposition Joe (Robert F. Chew)
39. Brianna Barksdale (Michael Hyatt)
She's going for mother of the year here. Her son, D'Angelo, is serving time because she insisted he do so in order to help save his uncle's business. She's likely the reason he followed in the family business, because there are several moments where we get that he doesn't really want to do this. (His uncle is Avon Barksdale, who also is a Baltimore drug kingpin.) In short: She's horrible...
38. De'Londa Brice (Sandi McCree)
37. Jay Landsman (Delaney Williams)
36. Avon Barksdale (Wood Harris)
Perhaps Avon himself said it best, he is just a gangster. (And for years, he was SO good at it.) He managed to avoid having so much as a smudge in the system for years before the Baltimore Police discovered that he was the one running things on the westside. The closing moments of this scene — the final one with Stringer and Avon — is gripping. Even if you don't know what's about to come next, you do. And you're not sure how you feel about it, right? (Because, again, Stringer is evil.)
35. Beadie Russell (Amy Ryan)
She's simple. But she was just what Detective Jimmy McNulty needed to help combat his womanizing ways. It helped a little that she also was a cop. A little. Also, at the end of the day, she just wanted the right thing to happen.
34. William Rawls (John Doman)
33. Nick Sobotka (Pablo Schreiber)
The criminally ambitious dockworker is the nephew of Frank Sobotka. Not sure what to make of him (or what happened to him!).
32. Clarence Royce (Glynn Turman)
31. Tommy Carcetti (Aidan Gillen)
30. The (Other) Journalists (David Costabile and Thomas McCarthy)
Thomas Klebanow and Scott Templeton had a poignant story line in the final season. We see the downfall of American newspapers (as Simon, a former newspaperman sees it!), and how something as important as getting it right takes a backseat to ambition.
29. Clay Davis (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.)
Where do we begin with this guy? He's a corrupt politician who plays Stringer Bell (well, that's OK) but also plays his constituency, which of course is the far bigger crime here. But his favorite word? It makes an appearance in every episode he's in.
28. Chris Partlow (Gbenga Akinnagbe)
27. Snoop Pearson (Felicia Pearson)
Snoop is one of TV's more interesting characters. She's a murdering son-of-a-gun, and it all seems to come so easy to her. Along with Chris, she helps to train who they're hoping will be the next assassin in Marlo's camp. Turns out, it doesn't exactly work that way. (But your hair looks good, girl.)
26. Roland Pryzbylewski (Jim True-Frost)
25. Bodie Broadus (J. D. Williams)
He's actually one of the favorites (even though he killed Wallace on the orders of the evil Stringer Bell!). He was a corner boy — he began at 13 — but we see him starting to make a turnaround once he was forced to work for the unscrupulous Marlo. Unfortunately, his life ended before he could make that next step.
24. Wallace (Michael B. Jordan)
Poor Wallace. He never had a chance, did he? He was a teenaged drug dealer in the Barksdale Organization when he decided that this wasn't the life for him. After fleeing to live outside of Baltimore, he ultimately came back. And it cost him his life — at the hands of his BFFs. (Well, really Stringer Bell.) One of the series' most heartbreaking scenes ever.
23. William (Bunk) Moreland (Wendell Pierce)
This homicide detective — the murder police, as he often says — is great with quick quips and looking out for his partner, McNulty. But he's also a standard bearer when it's all said and done. Also, this scene explains much of what you should know about how McNulty and Bunk work together.
22. The Boys of Summer
21. Randy Wagstaff (Maestro Harrell)
20. Frank Sobotka (Chris Bauer)
19. Namond Brice (Julito McCullum)
18. Duquan "Dukie" Weems (Jermaine Crawford)
One of the kids we meet in Season 4, Dukie is homeless and is teased for not being sanitary. Ultimately, Michael becomes his BFF and helps him out. Sadly, as the series ends, we learn he's heading down a dark path after he and Michael part ways.
17. Michael Lee (Tristan Wilds)
16. Rhonda Pearlman (Deirdre Lovejoy)
15. Ellis Carver (Seth Gilliam)
14. Thomas "Herc" Hauk (Domenick Lombardozzi)
See above. He's not the brightest bulb. But he has a good heart. He ultimately helped to take Marlo and his crew down, even after he left behind his life as an officer of the law.
13. Augustus Haynes (Clark Johnson)
12. Lester Freamon (Clarke Peters)
11. Cedric Daniels (Lance Reddick)
10. Slim Charles (Anwan Glover)
9. Howard "Bunny" Colvin (Robert Wisdom)
8. D'Angelo Barksdale (Larry Gilliard Jr.)
7. Roland "Wee-Bay" Brice (Hassan Johnson)
Wee-Bay is an interesting fellow. He's the guy you call when shit goes down. He kills people for Baltimore's most notorious drug dealer, but you kind of like him in spite of it all. Bay also is loyal and trusted and really, really cares about his fish. And his son Namond.
6. Dennis "Cutty" Wise (Chad Coleman)
A reformed criminal who is proof that the system could possibly work. After serving 14 years in prison, Cutty returns to the streets of Baltimore, this time working for the Barksdale Organization. He tries to work as a day laborer, but then returns to the street life before deciding that he's no longer the soldier he once was. He links up with a church deacon and opens a boxing gym for the neighborhood kids, hoping to be a good influence on them. He also loves the ladies.
5. Kima Greggs (Sonja Sohn)
Detective Griggs is another rich character from David Simon's crafty mind. She's a lesbian on the force who has commitment issues with her longtime partner, who is ready to start a family. When Kima is shot (while undercover) and is in critical condition in the hospital, the major crimes unit that she works on almost unfolds without her.
4. Reginald "Bubbles" Cousins (Andre Royo)
3. Brother Mouzone (Michael Potts)
It was almost fitting that this little guy — along with one of the show's best-written characters — was the man who ended Stringer Bell's life. That final scene was breathtaking. And the fact that much of his muscle is mental is impressive. (Though if you test him, you will get shot at close range with a shell filled with rat shot. Just ask Cheese.)
2. Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West)
The major crimes detective is on a mission to do good. In the series' end, he discovers that because of depleting resources he has to, um, make up a few crimes in order to get the real baddies off the Baltimore streets. Not exactly the most ethical thing known to man, but he's a good dude. Also, the ladies love him. And he loves the ladies.