Omar Little and moral complexity

Kenan Malik in Pandaemonium:

It’s not often that a shotgun-wielding thief and killer comes to be seen as possessing a moral core. But then it’s not often that you have a character like Omar Little. Or an actor like Michael K Williams to bring him to life. Or a TV series like The Wire that allowed both character and actor to breathe.

The death last week of Williams, possibly of a drugs overdose, has robbed us of one of the most subtle, supple actors of our time. He was outstanding in a number of roles, from Boardwalk Empire to Bessie, from The Night Of to The Road. But it was his portrayal of Omar Little that truly lives in the memory.

The Wire was one of those TV shows that broke the rules of what TV should be, in terms of tone, narrative and pacing, “a television show that thinks it’s a novel”, as the New York Times suggested. But it was much more than that. There are few works in any medium that have more successfully burrowed beneath the skin of our age, exposing that spot where race, class, power and despair coalesce to entrap the human spirit and curdle the American Dream.

More here.