Thanks, internet gods.
Most cop shows start with a dead body, or at least the process by which the victim of the week became such. The lumbering juggernaut that is the Law and Order franchise operates using this structure, leaving the investigation and possible conviction for the remaining part of the hour. The Wire diverges from this at the outset, however; the victim, one Snotboogie, is already lying cold (the first image we see is his blood, lit blue by flashing police lights). By the end of the open, we'll have found out how it happened, in a dramatized re-telling of a real story David Simon heard during his year spent embedded within the Baltimore PD's Homicide Unit. Its this blending of reality and fiction that gives the show its authenticity; Simon's background is in journalism and he, and his staff, are committed to telling a story that, if it didn't literally happen, could feasibly have happened (with one or two exceptions).
|Giving a fuck...|
|...when it ain't your turn to give a fuck.|
I wouldn't draw the conclusion that the show wants us to be dispassionate about death in the same way that the police might, on the whole, be. The show has some incredible death scenes, and chances are that unless your favorite character is 5-0, he or she might not make it out alive. This is a tragedy, after all, and those typically end in blood.
This is not going to be a series of plot summary posts, I promise, but it is a lead-in to the last of our deaths for this first episode, which is that of William Gant. The final scene of the episode is D'Angelo noticing a crowd of people gathering, looking at Gant's corpse. We're then given a flashback, the only one of the entire series, inserted at the urging of HBO, who believed audiences wouldn't be able to connect the dots that far back (and fortunately something the show eschews in the forthcoming episodes). We see Gant on the stand and then fade back in to his body, while D'Angelo watches and realizes that this man was killed for speaking the truth. There's a lot of that in The Wire.
We see that death weigh on him in the second episode, "The Detail." Bunk and McNulty pick him up and take him off to an interrogation room, because he's the most likely suspect and because they don't even know what Barksdale looks like at this point (although Bunk could give a fuck about Barksdale and really only cares about solving the Gant killing). Bunk and McNulty browbeat and manipulate D'Angelo, but you get the sense that of the three, the young hustler is the one most affected by it. "The Detail" features no additional deaths for our total, but it does continue D'Angelo's trajectory toward some kind of awareness that, as another character will say later, "there's games beyond the fuckin' game." D'Angelo and McNulty, in addition to being words Firefox doesn't recognize, are presented as the dual protagani of the first season, but D'Angelo is the one who changes the most over that span (McNulty will change, but his path is long and torturous and takes much of the show's length to unfold). The Gant killing is the beginning of his journey.
Death Toll: 3
Death Average: 1.5 deaths per episode