This Valentine's Day I have watched the end of season 4 of The Wire with Deborah. Not traditional romantic fare, perhaps, but compelling it is. And certainly not without love themes. Indeed, love is the driving force of several characters and, at times, the plot itself. So with less than half an hour left of the 14th, I thought I'd write a bit about the love I've seen. All that I write is without knowledge of what happens in the fifth and final season. So be kind if you know more than I!
I will start with the example which links most to my degree - the Spartan love we see in Omar. Omar; beloved of Obama and, well, anyone with any taste. He is quite clearly a Spartan warrior - intelligent and fearless in equal measure, his younger male lovers learn from him and grow in their own violent education. Their mutual love makes them more powerful than the gangsters on whom they prey and, indeed, means that any death is revenged. Love is his power.
We see a similar, if less powerful, version of this in the comradeship in both dealers and police. Gangs, when working properly (i.e. prior to season four and the extreme violence of Marlo's reign) show men working together and looking out for one another. Likewise, police look after their own. But most interestingly in this season you see police and gang members come together in their shared experience...almost a shared love of their city. So Bunny and Wee-Bey are able to communicate and understand each other. And this understanding allows them to act in a way that encourages the growth of Namond into a good man away from the violence of the corner.
Familial love, though, is not always positive. We see Brianna unknowingly force D'Angelo into a position that leads to his destruction. Bubble tries to create a family of sort with Sherrod, but, in the tradition of great classical tragedy, thanks to events outside of his control, kills him. These failures of love contrast with the positive family lives shown in Bunny, Beadie etc.
Talking of Beadie, she represents a redemptive love which is surprisingly rare in the narrative arch of The Wire. And I would not be surprised at all if it doesn't last. Even so, living with Beadie and moving away from the moral problems of detective work, McNulty is able to find redemption and happiness...even peace.
Finally, proper romantic love can be found. Daniels' romance with Rhonda is both touching and powerful. They complete each other and benefit from each other's qualities. It could be argued that this is as redemptive for Rhonda as McNulty's is for him. In this case, though, the relationship feels stronger. Neither character feels a need to change their lives in order to change themselves. They recognise the truth of each other and love each other for that.
This is in no way an end to the love shown in the programme. The love of chess, for example (that scene from the first season was so well formed I will never forget it), the love of traditional work shown by the stevedores, the love of power and respect, and the love of mumbling shown by Marlo and his crew. But it's now the 15th and I must sleep.
Here's hoping that wherever you are and whatever you have been doing, that your day has been filled with the very best kinds of love.