If HBO’s glorious “We Own This City” generally seems like a footnote to “The Wire,” it’s large as a result of the latter is likely one of the finest dramas within the historical past of the shape. It’s additionally a result of that sprawling narrative unfolded throughout 5 seasons and this one packs a brutal punch in solely six hours. As soon as once more, David Simon and George Pelecanos have turned to the streets of Baltimore, this time telling the true story of the Gun Hint Job Power of the 2010s, a deeply corrupt group of cops within the Maryland metropolis, most of whom at the moment are in jail. In some ways, “We Own This City” is even extra cynical than “The Wire”—it thematically jogged my memory of the nice 2017 documentary “The Force,” which principally makes a case that our policing establishments in this nation have been so basically damaged for generations they will be mounted. Sparked by a jittery live-wire efficiency from Jon Bernthal and anchored by extremely good dialogue, “We Own This City” is a stand-out mini-series in one of the vital crowded intervals of “Prestige Drama” in years.
Based mostly on the e-book of the identical title, “We Own This City” stars the exceptional Bernthal as Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, the Henry Hill of this group of gangsters with badges. Bernthal performs Jenkins as extra of a craven opportunist than a superb sociopath. He actually believes that he’s serving the better good and so if he takes some money from a bust and even nabs some medicine or weapons to promote the aspect, who’s getting harmed? As he spirals deeper into his model of narcissistic injustice, he takes better dangers to guard himself, together with planting proof and defending violent fellow officers. Bernthal is the important thing to “We Own This City,” capturing this man’s deep insecurity in his shifty eyes—watch the scene wherein Jenkins witnesses a Freddie Grey protest getting extra intense to see the fixed worry on this man’s soul. Bernthal, Simon, Pelecanos, and director Reinaldo Marcus Green (“King Richard”) perceive that males like Wayne Jenkins are inherently weak, the type of people that make the most of others to guard their self-interests. It’s a riveting efficiency.
In fact, it wouldn’t be a Simon mission with no sprawling ensemble. Different officers on the GTTF that get caught up in the corruption investigation embody characters performed by McKinley Belcher III, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Rob Brown, and Josh Charles, who are very efficient because the man in the workforce who appears essentially the most like he may be serial killer Daniel Hersl. On the opposite finish of the spectrum, there’s Sean Suiter (Jamie Hector), a man who Simon and Pelecanos clearly have sympathy for as a cop who might have gone in a special route if the system wasn’t so basically damaged. One aspect of the political spectrum is probably going to take a look at “We Own This City” as anti-cop propaganda, however that will be inaccurate as a result of the present consistently feels prefer it’s attempting to paint how probably it’s for issues just like the GTTF scandal to occur when it turns into simpler to do the incorrect factor than do the best one. What “We Own This City” actually captures is how police corruption doesn’t take loads of effort—it’s really more durable to do the best factor.
Nicole Steele (Wunmi Mosaku) discovers this as she investigates the case for the Division of Justice. Mosaku is the type of waste as a personality designed primarily to push the narrative—ditto Dagmara Domincyzk as an investigating FBI agent—and I didn’t love the chronological jumble of the narrative. Simon & Pelecanos’ work could be onerous sufficient to observe, and it’s straightforward to get misplaced in how far down the rabbit gap Jenkins has gone due to how a lot of the story jumps around in time. In fact, that is intentional, probably as a result of they didn’t need this to really feel like one man’s rising villainy and extra of cloth of continuous corruption.
“We Own This City” is finest appreciated in memorable snapshots—extremely well-written scenes that pull again the curtain on the corruption of absolute energy. The ultimate two episodes deliver Treat Williams into the fold as a retired detective and the connection to his sensible “Prince of the City” feels intentional. Corruption isn’t new. And even with the GTTF disbanded and despatched to jail, the damaged system continues to be there ready to create one other Wayne Jenkins.