Stephen King is definitely a leading authority on all things horror and his expertise isn’t just restricted to the literary world. As someone who is extremely familiar with films and television narratives, having had his own work adapted so many times, King writes as a cultural critic from time to time and his opinions on the latest elements of popular culture are always fascinating to read.
While praising the critically acclaimed HBO masterpiece The Wire in a wonderfully written 2007 opinion piece, King called it one of the greatest achievements of the 21st century. He is definitely correct because The Wire is television at its most powerful, depicting a microcosm of modernity where children learn to kill and sell drugs before they learn the alphabet.
King wrote: “In David Simon’s version of Dante’s Inferno, Hell is played by Baltimore and all seven of the deadly sins are doing just fine, thanks. Midlevel drug dealers welcome fall by giving their corner boys money for new clothes — a little perk to keep them happy and moving those spider-bags and red-tops. The bigger crooks give to the politicians to make sure the influence keeps flowing. The only difference is the amount changing hands.”
Although most fans of the show fixate on the performance of Michael K. Williams as the iconic Omar, King championed the work of actors Gbenga Akinnagbe and Felicia Pearson. The duo featured as a couple of terrifying hitmen working under a rising drug lord named Marlo Stanfield (played by Jamie Hector) who challenges the status quo of the Baltimore’s landscape of organised crime.
“It wasn’t Marlo who kept me riveted, or kept me plugging HBO’s semi-defective preview discs into my DVD player with increasing dread and fascination; that honour belonged to Marlo’s hired hit team of Chris (Gbenga Akinnagbe) and Snoop (Felicia Pearson),” King continued. “The latter is perhaps the most terrifying female villain to ever appear in a television series. When you think of Chris and Snoop, think of John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, only smart.”
Pearson, in particular, received high praise from King for her enigmatic rendition of a Baltimore boogeyman who kills efficiently and without remorse. Having led a difficult childhood that landed her in prison for murder, Pearson understood the world of crime and the climate of the streets extremely well which was instantly recognised by Williams who recommended her for the job.
King insisted that the power of The Wire is so great that it will be discussed and dissected for years to come: “‘There,’ our grandchildren will say. ‘It wasn’t all Simon Cowell.’ No. There was also Chris and Snoop. Their terrible nail gun. And the empty houses that have become tombs, standing as silent symbols for what has become of some of our inner cities. The Wire is a staggering achievement.”