The Wire – Evaluating the Political Career of Thomas J. Carcetti

I’m not an expert on American politics, especially American politics at city and state level, but is it really possible to go from a City Councilman to Governor in the space of 6 years? (That’s my rough calculation, in Season 3, when we first saw Carcetti, he said he’s been a Councilman for 3 years. The mayoral election took place in Season 4, so I’m guessing he became Mayor after his 4th year as a Councilman. In Season 5, people were complaining that Carcetti was too busy running for Governor after only 2 years as Mayor, which gets us to 6). The people of Maryland must really love Tommy Carcetti.

If The Wire is a lesser, more conventional show, Carcetti might have been used to show how a good man is corrupted by a screwed-up political system. But The Wire is ambiguous about Carcetti from the very beginning (I would argue though that the ambiguity disappeared completely in Season 5. He really is just another crass, opportunistic, lying, promise-breaking politician by that point). There are moments when I thought he was being absolutely sincere about fixing a problem, only for him to turn around and use that issue in an opportunistic way to further his political ambition (without actually doing anything to fix the problem he’s railing about). I guess you could say that’s par for the course for a politician, but like Cedric Daniels, I was suckered initially into believing that he’s something different. Mostly it’s due to little moments – Carcetti playing Battleship with his daughter in the middle of the mayoral campaign, Carcetti taking a walk with his wife just before the election result is announced, Carcetti looking Cedric Daniels in the eye, looking so earnest and confident and promising A New Day in Baltimore and for the police force.

It’s great to see Carcetti squirming. Aidan Gillen is GREAT in this scene, but he’s always good anyway, even (or maybe especially), when Carcetti is at his slimiest.

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Aidan Gillen, Tommy Carcetti and Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish

I think it’s supposed to be a mystery whether Littlefinger would end up betraying Ned Stark in Game of Thrones, but the minute I saw that he’s played by the same guy who was Tommy “whiny Mayor” Carcetti in The Wire, I knew the answer already. Aidan Gillen is fantastic in both parts, though. As much as I end up hating Carcetti, he had his moments of great charms and heartfelt sincerity. Maybe that’s why I end up hating Carcetti so much, despite my usual cynicism about politicians, in Season 3 and early Season 4, I did sort of believe that maybe he’s not so bad after all. One showdown with the Governor later, he proves to be just as slimy as the rest of the politicians on the show.