This is one of the best seasons of television I have ever watched. Even if the preceding two seasons were inadequate (they were not), slogging through them would be completely worth it to get to this. After the odd but understandable change of pace in season 2, season 3 gets back to the main story and cast from the first season. The drug task force assembled at the start of the series is once again investigating the Barksdale organization as Avon Barksdale was released from prison. While this was a great story line by itself, this wasn’t the main draw. It was all about the free zone. SPOILERS!
Avon and Stringer Bell (Idris Elba) had a growing schism. Stringer was trying to branch out, becoming a legitimate businessman investing in real estate. With the two heads pulling in opposite directions, this caused majors problems for their crew. A side plot was also running concurrently. Major Colvin, 6 months shy of retire, had an interesting idea to reduce crime in his area; creating and monitoring a restricted area where drug selling and use was essentially legal. Using some abandoned buildings on the far side of Baltimore, drugs could be purchased, sold, and consumed. Anyone caught selling or using outside that area would be harshly punished. Any other crimes committed in the area (such as theft, murder, etc.) would not be tolerated. The free zone was called Hamsterdam, as the idea was modeled after Amsterdam.
Instead of fighting the crime, they condensed it to a smaller area, removing it from other parts of town. The season’s political slant showed the ramifications eventually, as the experiment was kept hidden from Colvin’s superiors. What started off as a good idea spiraled out. Drug use brought with it prostitution and rape. A dead body was moved across town as Colvin’s order, showing how far he was willing to go to protect his experiment. Like all things, everything ended when the media, politicians, and Colvin’s superiors caught wind. Outraged that he legalized drugs, the police swooped in with full force, arresting everyone and having the building quickly demolished. Colvin, who thought he was untouchable, was demoted, dropping his pension, and his new job in security was lost.
The writers did an excellent job showing why such a thing would be a good and bad idea. Colvin was right, crime had completely dropped in his area. Hustlers were no longer staking out corners, vagrants didn’t clutter the streets. Things did improve. Condensing such horrors to a small area brought with it all the damage and destruction that typically comes with drug use, but on a grander scale. I’m of the opinion that people are going to do what they want regardless. I say let them. I think in doing so they waive the rights to certain levels of health care and such. To be clear, I don’t condone drug use in anyway, but as long as they’re not hurting other people, who cares? It’s typically the measures taken to avoid the law that bring with problems.
To be clear, I enjoyed the many story lines throughout the season. Stringer Bell and his inevitable confrontation with Omar and Brother Mouzone, Avon inciting a gang war, and even Dennis Wise trying to create a boxing gym to keep kids off the streets. Everything was done extremely well. The Hamsterdam plot stuck out more for me because of the real life parallels and questions it drew.
I need a nap.