Season 1: Gritty police drama touching on larger socio-economic and racial issues. Great performances all around.
Season 2: ZOMG dead hookers that aren’t ever really explained! And confusing, dull union corruption stuff!
Season 3: Good.
Season 4: Really good — as horrible as the murder and drug-trade stuff is, what’s really powerful is going inside public school classrooms and realizing just how broken the system, the teachers, and the families are.
Season 5: McNulty goes crazy and kind of breaks the whole show.
I really enjoyed power-watching the whole thing over the course of a couple weeks. (The frigid winter here in South Korea will do that to a person.) But there were some pretty obvious missteps.
Season 5 is a mess. I guess I can get with McNulty dropping off the wagon, but Lester would never, ever get involved in that kind of evidence tampering.
Season 2 just spins its wheels and introduces way too many new characters. If you can’t be bothered to develop them, I can’t be bothered to care.
The whole “ZOMG newspapers are so important” thing in Season 5 is also stupid. Even by 2008 it was pretty obvious that the newspapers had shot themselves in the foot by ignoring the web.
So yeah, one of the better TV series in recent memory. Amazing performances for sure.