In Defense Of Frank Sobotka & Season Two Of ‘The Wire’

07.10.13 4 years ago 68 Comments

Frank Sobotka - The Wire - HBO lead

Frank Sobotka deserved more credit. First go-round with The Wire I spent untold hours ripping Frank, the docks, the unions, and Season 2 from belly to blue collar bone. He was the worst, they were the pits, Season 2 was the boring Black Sheep of the aptly superlative-laden Best Series Ever. The Greek? Bleh. And what do I care about Ziggy’s unctuous, erratic behavior or the plight of the Stevadores Local 47? You mention union dues and Right-to-Work to the early-20s LC Weber and you’d see eyes cloud over thick as cataracts.

Ah how the times, they do a-change.

Equate my attitude then to the fashion of the time. My take on The Wire was as baggy and bloated as a XXXL Phat Farm tee, as limited in scope as a pager, and as brand new as McNulty wondering aloud “What’s a text message?”

I’m revisiting The Wire in the 2013 installment of my annual summer series box-set binge. As I watched D’Angelo, Bodie, Poot and Wallace learn chess and wax philosophical on the Season 1 orange velour couch, the crush of dread pressed in as I realized the Sobotkas’ woes were mere episodes away.

I barely batted an eye as Season 2 came around and McNulty pulled a purple body from the water. I couldn’t renew an interest in the season, other than to say it was the bridge by which I would cross over to the immaculate Season 3. I would stomach Season 2. And besides, I could preoccupy myself as I was neck-deep in Internet self-diagnosing all of my perceived maladies. Every mole had to be triple checked against pictures of melanoma, my skin crawled with various forms of blood clot and cancer, my chest was heavy with heart disease, infections and untold allergies.

Frank Sobotka - The Wire - HBO 2

Bills were piling up on the kitchen table in a disorganized ream of “I’ll get to that later.” The heat poured in at levels second only to the unseasonable inches of relentless rain, and I wondered if the foundation on our new home would hold. Cement block can only retain so much, right? And who knows what will happen to our perfect little marriage when we start a family? But we’re in our 30s, how much longer can we really push that boat down stream?

Yes, I had many things at my emotional disposal before Brother Mouzone rolled into town.

But then Frank Sobotka drew hard from his cigarette at his threadbare desk chair. His corrugated shipping container office stood stark among concrete slab landscaping. A crinkled manila envelope two-inches thick with cash sat rubber-banded in his desk drawer — earned as it fell of the back of a truck and headed for a lobbyist who would half-heartedly extol the virtues of canal dredging to lawmakers who should give a damn and who could do something. But won’t.

Frank Sobotka - The Wire - HBO 4

Ugh. I feel you Frank Sobotka.

It’s not that I am Frank Sobotka or that I even pretend to identify with his written existence. But with a wave of age so too comes a more clear understanding of the anxieties of life. All of the road blocks that appear. All the expectations of family and friends. All the responsibilities one shoulders to make others feel safer and more secure.

I should have known David Simon wrote Season 2 for a reason. I always figured it was sort of an accident, made clear by the lack of follow-through with those characters and plot lines. But just as a good book reveals more and better detail with a reread, so too does The Wire — and Frank Sobotka — become more nuanced with a revisit.

What can I say, the show is perfect… aging like a fine wine or Cheese Wagstaff. With time, Bubbles becomes more familial. Kima becomes rougher. Omar becomes softer. Even Ziggy becomes more recognizable. And Stinger Bell? Well… that once hard sonofagun becomes more like a 40 degree day.

Relive and binge on it again and you’ll see everything evolves with The Wire, especially the viewer.

Photos: HBO

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