5 Shows that got better after losing main characters

5 of 6

The Wire

Over the course of its five seasons, HBO’sThe Wire established itself is one of the best ensemble dramas on television. And in exploring that ensemble, it painted on an extremely detailed portrait of life in urban America in the 2000s. However the beginning of the show’s run, its focus was somewhat narrower. The show’s first season chronicled the Baltimore police department’s investigation into the Barksdale drug running operation. And the operation’s lead investigator was Detective Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West).

An alcoholic, philanderer and dedicated antiauthoritarian, McNulty was very much stereotypical cop show protagonist. He didn’t play by the rules, but he got results. Thankfully, the series would complicate that trite characterization by depicting the consequences of McNulty’s poor life choices. After three seasons of being a dogged investigator, he took an assignment as a patrol in season four and or to get his life together. And consequently, McNulty stopped being one of the show’s characters and became a recurring player.

Surprisingly, The Wire didn’t hurt for his absence. The show’s ensemble was so well developed by that point that it didn’t lose any urgency or emotional resonance by having its former protagonist recede into the background. In fact, the series fourth season, which examines the intersection of street crime, the school system, and local politics, is arguably its strongest.