The first two episodes of HBO’s police drama, “We Own This City,” feature a dead man riddled with bullets in an alley and a drug lord whose wares leave behind a trail of bodies, but the real mystery is something else, says a Washington Post review. The miniseries takes its title from a declaration uttered by a Baltimore cop: Wayne Jenkins (Jon Bernthal), who rises through the ranks while planting drugs, committing assault, stealing from lawbreakers and ordinary citizens alike, showing his fellow officers how to get away with it. The big question isn’t what he did but why his superiors considered him their “golden boy” and turned a blind eye to his misdeeds for nearly a decade and a half.
Adapted by David Simon and George Pelecanos from Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton’s nonfiction book, “We Own This City” is a spiritual sequel to “The Wire,” exposing the institutional rot that renders reform just about impossible. Freddie Gray’s name is invoked early and often, though less as a victim of police brutality than a marker after which law enforcement dug in its heels even harder against reform while residents grew ever more suspicious of them. In the opening scene, Jenkins stands at a lectern, discouraging other officers from using excessive force. In the next one, he threatens to beat someone up with a baseball bat. According to the show, the only real achievement of the political energy around police in the past few years might be their newfound adeptness at parroting the talking points the public wants to hear. “We Own This City” is a portrait of how police corruption destroys a city, draining its coffers to pay settlements, disillusioning the citizenry and emboldening officers to act without regard to law or morality.