HBO’s We Own This City Series Review: Is The Series Connected With ‘The Wire’?

The show's opening segment, directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, appears to be benign on the surface, with a police sergeant delivering a speech to a group of trainees on the proper and incorrect methods to reach the quotas established by their superiors.

In addition, Bernthal's Sgt. Wayne Jenkins qualifies his remark by stating that such kinds of wanted interactions violate no laws and result from little more than impulse and illogical reasoning. However, the point is still very much intact.

We Own This City is a film about the underhandedness of stating something with a grin while thrusting a dagger into someone else's back; it is a film about choices, dirty choices, and voluntary ones at that; it is a film about options, bad decisions, and willing ones at that.

When Will the Film We Own This City Be Released?

We Own This City
We Own This City

On HBO, We Own This City begins at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Monday, April 25. HBO Max will have the show ready to watch when it premieres. After the May 30th finale episode, the remaining five episodes of this limited series will be shown on the following Mondays.

Sky Atlantic and NOW in the UK will air the series in the summer of 2022, although no specific date has been announced. Once we have confirmation, we'll let you know.


We Own This City
We Own This City

Following the death of Freddie Gray, a young man who sustained fatal injuries while being transported in a police van after being arrested for the possession of an unloaded knife in 2015 in Baltimore, We Own This City is an adaptation of the book of the same name by reporter Justin Fenton.

The film is a confrontation with the state of Baltimore — and, more importantly, with its police force — in the aftermath of Gray's death. There has been a shortage of officers in the Boston Police Department, and as a result, the city has begun to lose control over those willing to work.

As a result, a small group of officers in the Gun Trace Task Force find themselves stealing from those they arrest, falsifying overtime hours, and generally acting in the role of dirty cops, and they are fired.

However, even though I am not aware of Simon's earlier work on The Wire (welcome to being born in 1998), this does not feel like a barrier to entry into this program.

Given my fondness for Show Me a Hero, something is refreshing about how he and Pelecanos approach contemporary crime drama. Their collaboration with Green, whose work on last year's King Richard garnered severe Oscar buzz, results in a thought-provoking examination of a broken system that asks “how did we get here?” and “how do we stop this.”

We Own This City
We Own This City

With upwards of three, four, or five narrative lines being followed at any given time, the series has a lot of information. The series follows a difficult road to the final conviction of several plainclothes Baltimore police officers.

Accordingly, the show's timeline can get disoriented and regress, jumping between years and pursuing lines of investigation that may leave some viewers perplexed if they give the half-hearted attention that some have been accustomed to in the streaming age.

Having said that, when things go off, they do so in a spectacular manner. In contrast to the book, We Own This City is driven by the emotion of the situation rather than the facts of the problem.

However, it does so in a way that does not overdramatize the situation's authentic roots — something rare in a world where procedurals are crammed into every available time slot most major networks can manage.

It strikes a delicate balance between the sterility of interrogation rooms and the filth of the crimes being done, resulting in a sickening jumble of citations, arrests, and subpoenas that culminates in scenes that will make your stomach drop out from beneath you.

We Own This City
We Own This City

In the role of Nicole Steele, Wunmi Mosaku brings a wealth of experience from several UK crime dramas to American audiences. Nicole is a member of the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division and a new face amongst the various FBI agents and members of the Baltimore Police Department in the series.

As a lady who is so level-headed that it's almost hard to see her keep her calm, she's an excellent choice for the role, especially since she was so brutally misused in last year's Loki.

A woman in her position, battling tooth and nail against every obstacle she faces, would be expected to collapse and let her emotional sideshow. Yet, she remains the series' grounding wire, always calm and constantly listening to the other characters.

This season's excessively packed cast is co-led by Mosaku, who plays the ideal counterpoint to Bernthal's boisterous, loudmouthed Sgt. Jenkins, the plainclothes police officer, finds himself at the center of the Gun Trace Task Force affair.

Both Mosaku's Steele and her efforts to establish a consent decree in the city of Baltimore and Jenkins' transformation from family man to trainee cop are the focus of the series. When The FBI apprehends Jenkins for racketeering, he looks at his arresting officers and asks, “Do you know who I am?”

We Own This City
We Own This City

It's safe to say that Jenkins is a complete 180 from Bernthal's last two appearances, supporting parts in films such as King Richard and Netflix's The Unforgivable. He very much portrayed the boy-next-door type, occasionally taking a back seat to the action and nodding.

The character of Jenkins, played by Bernthal, smiles, yes, but underneath the smiles lies the most depraved snake oil salesman imaginable, a Baltimore Police Department “golden boy” who has managed to skim thousands of dollars from the tops of monetary seizures without blinking, let alone the guns and drugs.

That being said, the thing about Bernthal is that no one type of character is more or less effective in his hands than another, whether soft-spoken or combative, supporting or leading man.

He commits himself to every part he plays, whether it's as a tennis instructor, a history teacher, or plainclothes police, with the same intensity as the previous. That is still the case with Jenkins, and there's a reason Bernthal's name is prominently displayed above the credits, to put it another way.

He is the king of the five-minute performance, and he shines even in the shortest of scenes. Even though he has the loudest mouth on the show, every inch of his performance uplifts those around him, a cast that includes standouts Jamie Hector, Darrell Britt-Gibson, and Dagmara Domiczyk, as well as Josh Charles, who plays a role that is entirely out of character.

We Own This City
We Own This City

The series is a 180-degree reversal for Green, who shifts his focus away from directing King Richard and back toward the law-enforcement dramas that characterized his directorial eye when he made his feature film debut with Monsters and Men in 2018.

Living with these characters is harrowing; watching even the most well-intentioned become embroiled in something so widespread that it pollutes water miles away from the source is heartbreaking, and Green's penchant for dramatizing even the most innocuous of moments is what drives this series. It keeps your eyes glued to the screen even though your stomach might turn.

All of the actions taken by the characters on-screen have a sense of urgency to them, whether they're completing paperwork, invading a residence without a warrant, or dealing with memories from their past.

We Own This City focuses high and tight on a gut-wrenching downward spiral that does not conclude as one would expect but rather with the harsh realization that nothing has changed in the process.


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There is a charge against each man, everything is wrapped up in a legal bow, and yet there is no sense of catharsis for audiences, which is perhaps the only appropriate way to conclude a story like this, one that epitomizes a system that we are still dealing with and will continue to deal with for years to come.