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Series Review

Limited Series

Aired On: HBO
Release Date: 04/25/22
Crime. Drama.


"Tells the story of the rise and fall of the Baltimore Police Department's Gun Trace Task Force and the corruption surrounding it."


I love my hometown of Baltimore, Maryland. Charm City, The City that Reads, The Greatest City In America are just a few of the nicknames and slogans this city has been known by earnestly over the years. Most people probably see the city of Baltimore as “Murderville” or as one of the heroin capitals of America, both of which are unfortunately and tragically accurate. The most well known connection to Baltimore besides the best crabcakes in the world and our football and baseball teams–the Ravens and Orioles–would be the show HBO made Baltimore famous for: The Wire. The creators of The Wire are back this time for HBO’s newest mini-series, We Own This City


If you are a fan of The Wire, this show is definitely for you. Be mindful, though, of the casting of characters who were known in The Wire. If you are a casual fan of the show you will recognize these people and maybe even remember what season they were in, or, like my boyfriend (a superfan) you will shout during an episode “Poot! What is he doing? He’s supposed to be working at a Foot Locker now!” All jokes aside–seriously, it could be hard to separate the characters from their previous roles, but every performance is so committed and real, by the time you are a few episodes in, it does not matter because you will be wrapped up in this true story of crime, corruption, and political drama. 


We Own This City almost acts like a little sibling wannabe 6th season of The Wire, but in reality it is based off of former Baltimore Sun writer Justin Fenton’s book of the same name. The series kicks off with a monologue from Wayne Jenkins (Jon Bernthal), a cop who we will come to know as the corrupt ring leader of the Gun Trace Task Force in the department. This task force is made up of plainclothes officers who did whatever they wanted, whenever and however they could.The corruption goes to unbelievable levels of dysfunction, greed, cruelty, and danger. In every scenario they would find a way to benefit from anyone they came across, stealing money, guns, drugs and anything else they could get their hands on at the scene, sometimes behind closed doors, sometimes in broad daylight on the streets of neighborhoods. The storyline bounces back and forth in the timeline mostly focused on the course of Jenkins career, slowly unveiling the FBI uncovering these crimes. Bernthal’s performance of Jenkins will put you in a trance; his accent is the best imitation I have ever heard from someone who did not grow up in Baltimore, second only to Josh Charles, a Baltimore native who plays another corrupt cop, Daniel Hersl. Jenkins truly did not believe what he was doing was wrong, he felt the city owed him what he was taking and he didn't care who or what stood in his way to get what he thought he deserved. 


As public as the police corruption came to be, considering what you may have seen on the national news cycle about the uprising in Baltimore in 2015 after the death of Freddie Gray, there are still parts to this story to be told. The behind the scenes story is showcased well and balances out the narrative overall, displaying the politics behind the corruption, the FBI tracking down these officers and gaining wire-tapped evidence, and the Justice Departments desperate plea to change funding and systemic issues that have existed in the BPD for years. The unique thing about this story is the casual way the guilty cops tell their story, like in a “yea we did it, so what? Everyone is doing it” type of way. Don’t let that casual attitude fool you, though–there are still unexpected twists and turns and moments that will leave your jaw on the floor because you cannot believe what you are actually seeing is true. 


We Own This City, a 6-part miniseries, could have benefited from two additional episodes when it’s all said and done. Although I feel that the story comes to a halt too soon by wrapping up major storylines with text on screen explanations, and almost glossing over a questionable and still unconfirmed death (suicide or homicide?) of one of the main characters, I still loved every minute of the show–maybe I’m just hometown-biased.  However it is still a perfect fit for those who are fascinated with crazy true crime stories, or, those who are craving a companion piece to The Wire and want to step back into that world.

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