David Simon’s The Wire is easily one the greatest television shows that ever existed. Its multifaceted look at politics, the media, drugs, education and law enforcement gave us colorful characters, memorable moments and a rich storytelling structure.
HBO aired five seasons of the series, which was criminally only nominated for two Emmys. In the aftermath of such a rare gem, fans of the show have been left with a gaping hole that used to be filled with the drunken exploits of Bunk and McNulty. Simon is unlikely to revisit the world of The Wire (and maybe that’s a good thing). But let’s take a moment to imagine what it might be like if some of the characters from the series (which is available to stream on HBO Go and HBO NOW) did, in fact, get their own spin-off shows. (And, yes, Omar Little is here because who else can whistle and wield a shotgun better?)
Definite spoilers here…
Jimmy McNulty & Bunk Moreland
Title: Baltimore Shadows
Synopsis: Bunk and McNulty had a little bit of a falling out in the final season of The Wire when McNulty went off the reservation to create a fake serial killer in order to get more funds diverted into the department. Bunk opposed the strategy, one that ultimately led to Jimmy resigning from the force. When Baltimore Shadows begins, McNulty is trying to find work wherever he can. With his rock, Beatrice, by his side, Jimmy tries his hand at running a small landscaping business. When a man covered in blood runs out of a home he’s servicing, Jimmy happens upon a murder scene. Bunk is given the lead on the case, and with Jimmy as the primary witness, the two strike up a conversation again during a routine questioning.
The incident leaves Jimmy wondering if investigative work is his calling in life, and with the urging of Beatrice, he obtains a P.I. license. For his first case, Jimmy is tasked to follow a man whose wife suspects he is cheating. What Jimmy finds is more sinister: The man may be a killer, and further, he may be tied to the murder case that Bunk is investigating. Jimmy and Bunk pool their investigations together, and begin to uncover that not only are their cases related, but they may have stumbled onto a statewide syndicate of serial killers for hire.
Title: All In the Game
Synopsis: Omar Little met his demise in season five of The Wire, when he was shot from behind in a corner store (damn you, Kenard!). This prequel documents Omar’s rise.
A teenaged Omar and his older brother Anthony live with their grandmother, Josephine, after the pair was abandoned by their drug-addled parents. Omar looks up to Anthony, a drug dealer and thief who teaches his little brother the code of the streets. Unlike his brother, however, Omar’s upbringing is strongly influenced by his God-fearing grandmother, who instills in him a sense of honor and respect. One day, Anthony robs a jewelry store but is later apprehended by police. With Anthony locked up and awaiting trial, Josephine struggles with the bills, no longer receiving help from the older Little while also squirreling away funds for his legal defense. The threat of losing their home is a real one.
Between classes at Edmondson-Westside High School, Omar happens to witness a senior underneath a stairwell handing off some pills to another student while handling a wad of cash. After school, Omar quietly follows the student back to his home, stopping briefly to buy a small box of stockings at a corner store. Remembering a row of bushes that Anthony pointed out as a drop spot for gang members to dispose of weapons, Omar retrieves a small handgun and heads to the drug-dealing student’s home as night falls over the city.
Using a stocking as a mask, he sneaks in through a window, unnoticed, and makes his way into one of the bedrooms that he presumes belongs to the student in question. Finding a stash of pills and cash under the mattress, Omar attempts to escape through the window when an elderly woman catches him. With a knife in hand, the woman slashes at Omar, cutting through his mask, and wounding the young man. Clutching his face, he falls back first out of the open window and into the alley below. Hurt, and bleeding through a large gash on his forehead, Omar stumbles several blocks away when he collapses on the sidewalk. The last thing Omar remembers before passing out is a man standing above him with a pair of sunglasses. The man removes the glasses to reveal a pair of blinded eyes.
“The name’s Butchie, boy,” he says. “I suppose trouble found you tonight.”
With Butchie serving as his friend and mentor, Omar sets off on a life of navigating the treacherous streets of Baltimore while strengthening his acumen for blindsiding drug dealers and contending with a sense of nobility and a growing attraction to the same sex.
Title: Bars & Stripes
Synopsis: When we last saw Avon — the former drug kingpin of West Baltimore — he was arranging for Marlo Stanfield to meet with Vondas, a representative of the criminal empire run by “The Greek.” On the streets, the Co-Op enacted a stranglehold on the supply of drugs in the city, having bought the drug pipeline to “The Greek” after Marlo decides to try and approach a more respectable living. In Maryland’s Jessup Prison, though, Avon is king. Chris Partlow, Marlo’s former lead enforcer — now incarcerated for murder — is brought into Avon’s fold after Wee-Bey vouches for him. Chris and Wee-Bey assume the task of flanking Avon, extinguishing threats from Aryan and Mexican factions whenever they arise.
Unsatisfied with the tedium of prison life, as well as his West Baltimore turf falling into the hands of the Co-Op, Avon begins creating a plan to escape Jessup — with Chris and Wee-Bey — after a prison guard on his payroll mentions a gaping security flaw within the correctional facility. Avon and a handful of the inmates in his faction begin to prepare the escape, the jailbreak set to take place following the final round of an inmate boxing tournament which Avon (once, an amateur boxer) would be participating in.
As Avon’s hands are being taped in a makeshift locker room before the fight, a familiar voice booms from behind him.
“Thought I taught you to wrap the left wrist four times, not three. Makes the jab stiffer.”
Avon turns to see his father, Butch Stamford — the mythical Baltimore criminal who taught him how to box and survive in the streets. Thought to be dead, Stamford was discovered in Delaware under an alias as the leader of a money laundering operation; he was extradited back to Maryland to face charges for a murder that occurred 22 years earlier. Not solely interested in rekindling his relationship with his estranged son, Stamford gives Avon an ultimatum: include him in his escape plan, or risk the chance of his father telling the guards his intentions to flee the prison.
With his plans for escaping pushed back due to the complications of accommodating his father into the scheme, Avon begins to suspect that not only does his father want to use him to flee, but — through clandestine maneuvers — it seems as though Stamford wants to usurp Avon’s position in the criminal food chain. Furthermore, Stamford gets into the ear of Wee-Bey, and Avon’s enforcer begins taking steps to become his father’s right-hand man. With Stamford and Wee-Bey on one side, and Avon and Chris on the other, they’ll have to work together to escape… but that’s where their allegiances end.
Bubbles & Dukie
Synopsis: Bubbles has been clean for over one year now, living out of his sister’s basement, who in the finale of season five, invited him up for dinner. The gesture marked a turning point for the former homeless heroin addict. While volunteering at the soup kitchen he began frequenting in season five, Bubbles hears that Walon — the man who counseled him through recovery — is on his deathbed at the hospital, having succumbed to AIDS. Bubbles visits Walon for several weeks, but upon one visit, he enters the room only to see nurses pulling a sheet over his lifeless body.
Bubbles continues to partake in Narcotics Anonymous meetings every day, while volunteering at the soup kitchen, when he notices a young man by the name of Dukie, shaking and struggling to eat a roll of bread. Bubbles invites him over to his sister’s home later that week for dinner. After the meal, Dukie leaves, and Bubbles follows him only to witness him shooting up in an alley. In Dukie, Bubbles sees a chance to atone for the incident that resulted in the death of Sherrod, a young man who took a poisoned dose of heroin that Bubbles concocted in season four.
A letter from a lawyer explains to Bubbles that Walon left a row home property in his name. The next time Bubbles sees Dukie at the soup kitchen, he tells him that he’s welcome to the spare bedroom in his new home on one condition: He agrees to begin going to NA meetings with him. Aware of the dangers of quitting heroin cold turkey, Bubbles allows Dukie to use in his home sparingly, but the dynamic changes when KeyShawn — his son — appears at his door claiming that his mother left the state. With no place to stay, KeyShawn is invited to room with his father, but now Bubbles has to grapple with fathering his estranged son and ensuring that Dukie becomes clean, all while struggling to maintain his own sobriety.
Now, someone contact David Simon and tell him that one of these pilots needs to get off the ground.