The Wire

Season 1 Episode 1

The Target

Aired Sunday 9:00 PM Jun 02, 2002 on HBO

Episode Fan Reviews (18)

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out of 10
339 votes
  • My thoughts are buzzing...

    I've been meaning to watch this show since I missed it on TV. Hearing the rave reviews (plus knowing that Dominic west & Idris Elba are English!) made me mark it down as one to get 'one I've finally got round to watching the first episode today - and whew. Yeah.

    I can see why some people where completely put off by this episode, and all the 'slow start' comments, but as I'm a huge fan of the carefully built Scandinavian dramas, this was just the kind of episode I love. No big explosions or car chases, but plenty of careful hints for the future, lots of characters who are just outlines as to their personalities and motivations, and a million and one different ways events could go from here. I love the casual humour (McNulty and Bunk are already favourites) and the relationships being established between characters. The 'compare and contrast' scenes between those on either side of the law is fascinating, and shows that people are people, however they make a living.

    I can tell the interdepartmental & interagency bickering & politics is going to give me a headache though! I quite sympathise with McNulty. This gets a 9.5 from me for the way it's set up a detailed world, with subtlety and a deft touch. I can't wait for the rest...
  • Nice start

    The first episode starts a little slow but picks up and starts immediately developing characters and setting up the rest of the season. I will admit it is slow but it will get going if you give it a chance. I will admit based on this first episode years ago I tuned this show out but giving it another chance and so far so good.
  • WTF?

    I was told this show was excellent, superb, captivating...

    The last time I wasted my life like this was while enduring the Pilot of "Men of a Certain Age"...

    Of course, it appears to be authentic, but, to be honest, it is complete and utter crap.

    I will not give this show a second chance.

    The abusive language, the slurred accents, the painstakingly ugly strippers, the hollow clack of the typewriters where there should be computers...

    Truly, the USA MUST be the most magnificent country on the planet...

    Yikes, just watching this one Episode made me realize how lucky I am not to be American!
  • A perfect start to a perfect series. Well paced and wonderfully complex.

    So it began here. The Wire kicked off in slow burning fashion while introducing us to most of the main characters smoothly. This pilot confirmed that while the Wire was excellent it wasn't for everyone, those wanting an action packed fast paced cops and gangsters show were for the most part turned off by the first episode (first few episodes for that matter), therefore the Wire spent it's early years supported by a small tight network of fans who were patient enough to look and listen as the show came into it's intricate own. The Target doesn't introduced the characters one by one all by there lonesome but instead introduces them smoothly intersecting with each other throughout the episode. The court scenes in particular fleshing out the detective Mcnulty's crusade against Stringer Bell and his drug crew. Detective Jimmy Mcnulty is a "real PO lice" (cop that wants justice rather than stats) which is his flaw in life as he constantly ticks off the bosses and drags colleagues and family into his abyss of a life rife with trouble trying to balance work and his family life which is half in the toilet.

    While Jimmy appears to be made out as the primary character of the story there are scenes that remind us that this isn't a one man show. Lieutenant Daniels, Greggs, Herc, Carver and many others are introduced just as well with there own obstacles to overcome in "the Game". Writing is top notch and offers a rich believability that wasn't seen before on any TV show and maintains entertainment values for those willing to stick with it. The intro theme song is catchy and well put together in true HBO fashion (Oz, The Sopranos intro's etc). If your thinking of buying the DVD sets and seeing it for yourself don't hesitate but also remember when keeping up with the story that patience is a virtue.
  • Unpredictably bad.

    This show has been critically acclaimed for years, and people say it is the best series in the history of time. Truly, I'm not buying it. People say this show requires patience, so I will give this show the benefit of the doubt, and watch the rest of the season, but I just expecting something more from this show.

    There really was not much happening throughout the episode, sure, they were dealing with a case and whether or not Barksdale was guilty or not, but nothing really went anywhere. This series premiere was hard to watch, considering it was an hour long, without commercials.

    The scenes just dragged on for too long, and I'm sure this show "pays off" in the end like everyone says it will, but if you had just watched the series premiere back in 2002 for the first time, would it entice you to watch the rest of the series? Doubtful.

    Slow paced, yes, but isn't that kind of the point? I wont rate an episode highly because it's buildup for something big, if it wasn't an enjoyable hour of television, I simply just wont give it a good rating, and this my friends, was not the best series premiere. Lets just hope it "pays" off in the end, like everyone says it will.
  • The start of something very, very special.

    A solid start to what eventually turned out to be my favourite all time tv show. I am writing this review based on this episode alone and not on what I know will follow (which incidentally turns out to be amazing) Hence the reason I have given it a fairly low score. If you are new to The Wire don't expect anything spectacular in this episode or indeed the next few. It is merely setting the scene and introducing a small amount of the vast array of characters which if you will learn to either love or hate. That is if you have the patience. It makes me laugh to see these idiots giving The Wire poor reviews and saying that they won't bother anymore after watching this episode. Good riddance you fools! It really is your loss. Anyway back to this episode. You are introduced to the Jimmy McNulty a Baltimore homicide detective who shows a particular interest in the trial of D'Angelo Barksdale. D'angelo is the nephew of the boss of the Barksdale crew Avon Barksdale and after seeing D'Angelo found not guilty for murder McNulty is keen to bring down the Barksdale crew once and for all. I won't go through the whole plot line – you can do this yourself on the episode re-cap if certain things aren't clear. However in conclusion it would appear that very little actually happens in this episode. But on second viewing this is not the case. If you are looking for a quick fix of actions, car chases and guns blazing then maybe The Wire isn't for you. If however you are looking for a fascinating story, great characters, amazing writing, and completely brutal realism then stay with it. You will not be disappointed.
  • Thorough exploration of the interpersonal workings of law enforcement and the criminal organizations they are pursuing. "The Target" presents two different chains-of-command trying to control their own as they break the rules.

    Most crime dramas draw a sharp line in the sand between law enforcement and criminals, cops vs. robbers, good guys vs. bad guys. While shows such as Law & Order, CSI and its many, many spin-offs may provide a glimpse of the law enforcement community in all its crime-solving glory, they fail to capture the human element in crime and the complex underlying motives and elements which underlie why someone would commit a crime. In HBO's series The Wire, we observe the interaction between police, judicial, and criminal sides battling, not just each other, but amongst themselves over authority & proper conduct in each of their respective realms.

    The trial of D'Angelo Barksdale appears to be a slam dunk with two eyewitnesses giving testimony, but Detective Jim McNulty is not convinced. As he observes the second eyewitness contradict her previous statement, presumably influenced by a group of somewhat unsavory gentlemen sitting in the audience, the case begins to unravel and McNulty's suspicions are confirmed. The man responsible for the testimony is Avon Barksdale, a.k.a. Stringer Bell, sitting quietly in the courtroom wearing dignified legal glasses and holding a legal pad. After a not guilty verdict is reached, he casually saunters up to the losing District Attorney and says, "You have a nice day", as though he were saluting a neighbor. In an ironic twist, the supposed criminal mastermind in control of drug operations in Baltimore, the criminals appear surprisingly civil and in control, while the justice system gets tied up in bureaucratic chaos.

    McNulty is asked by the presiding judge how this happened and what his specific interest is. The detective spills the beans on the man he suspects of being a drug kingpin. This sets off a chain reaction pitting the detective against his own dept. for involving the judge in an inner dept. matter, thus violating the chain-of-command. Meanwhile, the recently acquitted D'Angelo returns to the streets and is demoted by his boss and uncle Stringer for his own reckless actions. The parallel is interesting to watch, as we can observe the inner workings of drug crime and police prevention to discover, in some ways, they are governed by the same rules, only with different motives.

    The show's weave of complex character relationships could not be sustained without a strong cast, and the actors provide the anchor for this sometimes muddied drama. Idris Elba (Stringer Bell) exudes a confidence and control which is quite endearing. Dominic West plays Det. McNulty with a devil-may-care attitude, appealing to the rebellious side of human nature. He conveys the inner struggle over his character's actions very naturally and he commands sympathy and respect through his calm power. Larry Gillard, Jr. particularly shines as the misfit murderer D'Angelo, struggling against his own group as they shun his actions as well as an inner struggle for personal authority.

    The storyline occasionally gets bogged down in the complexities of the chain-of-command with law enforcement, partly due to the slang filled dialogue (both a blessing and a barrier), but mostly because of a few poorly coordinated scene changes with little to no connecting segue. However, the complexity is certainly welcome, as it endeavors to challenge our basic assumptions towards criminal activity and the effort to combat it. The Wire is an undercover look into the criminal world.

    Highs: Intimate human focus on criminals & law enforcement; Charismatic acting ensemble; shuns the black & white emphasis of contemporary crime dramas.
    Lows: Story bogged down by inner complexities; a few trite scenes.
    The Verdict: Thorough exploration of the inner workings of criminals, their motives, and the law enforcement who target them.
  • Easy to miss, but the beginning of something big

    The first episode of "The Wire" - not only the best TV show ever made, but also one of the strongest fictional narratives ever conceived - begins so slow, so careful in the way it presents its story and its characters, that many viewers, including myself, can be easily deceived. When the episode closes, it does with some sort of twist, but it is very much possible that your concluding thoughts might be "So what?". That's what I felt when I saw the episode for the first time, not the least engaged to continue watching a show in which so few things were happening.

    When I saw the episode for the second time, though, something got me hooked. Maybe I was more ready to see what was happening, more open-minded to a show that did things in a different way. Most, if not all, TV shows depend on "cheap" thrills, meaning unexpected, fast-paced events that keep the viewer hooked for next week. I don't blame any show that works like that, be it 24, Lost or even ER, because most of the time it works and fulfills its job: it entertains.

    But "The Wire" does something so different, you easily misjudge it as boring or uneventful. It uses its pilot not to start with a big bang, ready to introduce characters and subplots later during the season, but instead gives us as much time as possible to simply get a feeling for the world it invites us to. We are supposed to get to know these characters, to learn how they think and act, what they feel, long before they get engaged in major plot details.

    Just look at the opening scene, a absolutely brilliant little dialogue between our main character McNulty and a street crook, talking about the murder of a kid named 'Snot'. The scene is not about whodunit or if McNulty is a good detective (though even that becomes clear in a subconscious way), but simply about how these people talk and think. McNulty isn't simply a cop who asks questions to get his case solved, but he's really interested in what is going on the street. And when hears the story of Snot and how he got killed, he shows his distinctive, contagious little smile for the first time, the smile that always says "This world definitely is crazy, but, damnit, I love it."

    The rest of the episode takes us on a journey through all the instances of law enforcement and its clientele: a murder scene on the streets, a courtroom, a judge's office, the main division's of the police, homicide and narcotics, the bosses' offices, the main gangsters base camp, the street level gangsters and finally the customers, the addicts who hang out in empty houses and think about getting money for their next shots. The journey even takes some short glimpses into the private lives of these characters, just to close the circle with another murder scene on the streets.

    By then, we've met all the major characters, some briefly, some more extensively and even though we maybe don't really understand what is going on, what will happen and what actually did happen, we surely get a feel for how this world and its characters look like and behave. And that's exactly the kind of starting point, from which a true narrative can develop, as it does hear for many years to come. The episode is pure exposition which takes as much time as it needs, deliberately not trying to be hyperactive and overexciting. What we learn and see during the following episodes, is how much this plan works out. Because we got the chance to really dive into this world from the get-go, we can get more engaged in it than we ever could be on a conventional show and the excitement and tension that arises from this concept, by far exceeds the one that stimulates our brain for a few seconds. The stories told in "The Wire" are sure to stay in our minds for a long time, even after the show itself has stopped running on our screens.
  • The series begins with a pivotal trial and an early examination on Jimmy's "Screw the rules" personality.

    Watching the series on DVD is both a blessing and a curse. While its nice to have the option of viewing all the episodes at once or in large segments, its also easy to take their presence for granted as the urgency to watch them does not seem as strong. In the case of the first episode, it was the latter. The Target is a very slow episode but it ultimately sets up the season very well. The show always demands a lot out of viewers, but in this case I had to watch it twice. Had I not heard so much praise about the show, I might not have been as compelled to keep watching as there was nothing about this episode that really grabbed me, but in hindsight, its just another link in a long chain of quality. What a fantastic show. Kima is hilarious in this episode.
  • A very complex show's very complex and carefully paced pilot.

    After hearing so much good of this show, I've decided to give it a shot. I thought the start of the episode was a bit confusing. It all made sense as the episode progressed, but for me, there were way too many characters roaming all around minding their own business.

    That being said, from halfway the episode was much better and I started to "feel" some of the characters... especially McNulty. He's awesome.

    Now the plot of the show(or at least the first season) is somewhat set up. It's a bit slow for my tastes to tell you the truth, but the realism makes up for it.

    I like the "feel" of the show. Apart from being realistic it has a very sophisticated feeling to it. The dialouge, the directing, the actors/actressess all make you feel like the writers behind this show know where they are going. Definitely not recommended for the younger audiences, but not because of the violence or vulgar language. Simply because if you're looking for fast moving plot or action you won't find it here.


    + Superb writing, good plot
    - Bit slow, can be confusing if you're not paying full attention
  • The Wire starts

    During the trial of D'Angelo Barksdale, a mid-level dealer accused of murder, the prosecution's star witness recants her testimony, resulting in a not guilty verdict. After the trial, Detective James "Jimmy" McNulty explains to Judge Phelan how he suspects the Barksdale crew for a slew of related murders. When the judge contacts McNulty's superiors about this revelation, McNulty is taken to task for his indiscretion. Meanwhile, D'Angelo is free to return to work, but he soon discovers that he's been demoted. I enjoyed the first episode but I was slightly dissapointed, I like the characters, the acting and the storyline I cant wait for it to develop into something great. edit. seen the next two episodes and it is amazing great series.
  • ... Wars End.

    I have heard rave reviews of this show, and so decided to take the plunge with the pilot episode. Although it does not really do that much, it most certainly got my attention.

    I really did like the introduction of McNulty – the tough detective who cares even "when it ain't your turn". He inadvertently kick starts an investigation into potentially the largest drug-dealing operation in Baltimore.

    Comedy plays a strong role throughout this episode and it made the subject matter easier to deal with. The reaction of McNulty's superiors was hilarious. "These are for you McNulty" and "The deputy likes dots".

    The "bad guys" were kept complex – as were the "good guys". It was really interesting to see glimpses of different moral "codes" on both sides of the line.

    The Baltimore cops are poorly equipped and in the dark at the start of this investigation. The typewriters were both funny and scary.

    This episode draws out the chessboard of Baltimore, and puts the first pieces into action. The question is: "Will this war have an end?".
  • An introduction to the deep and engaging world of Baltimore policing, crime, workforce politics, schools, journalism and especially community as a microcosm for all of America.

    Every single episode in this series ought to have a nine or above. This is, quite simply, the best series I have ever witnessed on television and very likely the best around period. Hopefully my review will push this, the only episode below a nine, over that brink and make it very likely the best reviewed television series on this entire site. The pilot episode is especially revealing and pivotal after being rewatched when the series is concluded, as the message, the feel, the humor, and the deep-seated sorrow and frustration are omnipresent even as early as the first few minutes. "This America, man"
  • For years I have heard rave reviews of The Wire, but never watched an episode. I decided to start from the beginning with the pilot, and, while it was enjoyable enough, it failed to grab me like The Shield's pilot did. I'll give the show another chance..

    I can see the potential for this show, but the pilot was slow and difficult to follow. Hopefully, this will pay off in ensuing episodes. I like the sprawling cast, and I like the realistic depictions of the street-level war between the cops and the drug trade. I also like the intimate glimpses into the behind-the-scenes workings of both camps- most programs only show one side. It's obvious that McNulty is going to be the focus of the show, but he doesn't seem to be the most interesting character to me- the criminals actually fascinate me more, especially Stringer, Dee and Avon. What does that say about me, I wonder...
  • A slow burning start with real characters.

    The first episode of 'The Wire' is not an easy one to get into. The show is intensively character driven and very relaxed in pacing so on first watching it can make you feel like "what's the fuss about this show?" In fact I almost put down the series after watching this episode because I felt little had happened, but a recommendation from a friend made me carry on watching. I am glad I did.

    On rewatching the sheer brilliance of the episode is clear from the start. It can seem hard to get into because it's so very different from other shows out there. McNulty's passing interest in D'Angelo Barksdale's trial becomes the spark that starts smoldering. While it isn't until later episodes that things really catch fire, it's this episode that starts the ball rolling.

    What is clear from the outset is the shows dedication to portraying realistic, flawed and understandable characters. From McNulty's sheer disrespect of authority, his partner "Bunk" Moreland's wry observations and humour to Bodie's street smart attitude there is an incredible attention to realism in personality. Combined with this is something that's truely special in any show, it treats you as an intelligent human being who can understand events, drives, goals and actions without having them explained. So many shows feel the need to help the viewer 'understand' what happens, but right from the get-go 'The Wire' says to you "You're smart enough to understand yourself." This is refreshing, but also can make it harder to access for viewers who prefer less cerebral entertainment.

    When you've finished watching this first episode it is best to reserve judgement, consider it to be the match that lit the fuse. Enjoy the characters, dialog and story. However much you enjoyed the first episode, you will enjoy later ones to an even greater degree. It just keeps getting better as the season progresses.
  • The Target is the beginning of The Wire. It not only starts of the season but gets you ready for what's to come in the season, it also partially sets up the other seasons of the show. We meet the characters and the detail and what there after.

    The first ever episode of The Wire, at the time of writing this review i think this is a great episode. When i first watched it though i thought it was quite slow and not much happening. I found it quite hard to watch. However, i stuck through it and i am glad i did. This is a truly great show and a great episode. This is where it all began, this is the episode that starts this truly great show. If you have watched this and didn't really like it i would advise you to watch it again and maybe the next 2 episodes. You will not be sorry, most people i know found it a little hard to get into but its well worth it. I have not spoken to anyone that did not like this show.

    D'Angelo Barksdale is found not guilty of murder at the start of the episode, with a little help from his uncle and his crew in the court. McNulty gets the whole thing started by mouthing of to the judge about what just happened in his court. McNulty went outside the chain of command by talking to the judge and not his superiors. This is a common thing in the rest of the season, McNulty going up against the bosses. A detail is started to investigate Avon Barksdale, D's Uncle. There are lots of other little parts in this episode that introduce us to the characters and set up their role in the rest of the season. The detail mainly consists of what appears to be idiots and drunks, not many good police, this is true in some cases but some of the detail surprise us. By the end of the episode the detail has a strategy mapped out to arrest Barksdale, McNulty disagrees, telling them they will never get Avon this way. This is an ongoing struggle through the episode and season, McNulty going up against the bosses to show them he knows best and is smarter than everyone. The bosses don't want a long case, they want a quick charge and that's it.

    This sets the stage for the rest of what is truly a great season. The actors are mostly unheard of character actors, they do a great job and really play there parts well. Making this all the more enjoyable.
  • A black criminal gets away with murder, only to kill again(the only person who dared testify against him). Very good for morale!

    Man, get real! Where do these high ratings come from? This episode (the first and only one I've watched) is downright lame. That's right, you heard right, it's lame. Do yourself a favor, and watch it again with an open mind. It is all too obvious that the actors are merely acting. Especially in the use of profanities, the acting is just laughable. You just FEEL that this is not what's happening in real life. Call me a bigot if you must, but I feel the over-the-top high ratings are just there because it is politically correct to rank a show very high that has a 90% black cast. I think the acting is very mediocre. Compare it to the s
    acting in the Sopranos. Notice anything different? If not, this review is not for you...
  • Slow pilot episode but necessary to setup the story line . The show gets greater along the episodes, keep watching a few episodes before making a definite opinion about the show . Keep your kid's ears shut if they are to watch the show becau

    First of all this show is for adult audiences (essentially because of the Platoon-like sentence structures - a mother-**** every two lines)
    If curse language doesn't bother you keep on watching this show .
    This episodes sole interest is to introduce the show ,by presenting basically all the characters, and setting up the story ... Although there are more interesting developments later

    If you like "The Shield" you should find some interest fo this show, although the Wire is more " realistic".
    The Wire also carries the ambiguity about who really is the good guy but to a smaller extent than the Shield

    A good Cop show for people who like shows showing another "reality" where you actually get really hurt or dead when shot , and don't run a mile when having been shot 10 times .

    Hope my english is good enough for all

    Enjoy the show