Jimmy McNulty – HBO’s The Wire


Role: An impulsive, arrogant, and proud homicide detective with a disdain for his superiors and the “chain of command”, McNulty is also one of the brightest detectives in The Wire. His hard work and intuition are usually key in breaking open the big drug cases that take place over the course of the The Wire.

During a lot of the series Jimmy’s private life is also in shambles as he struggles with an alcohol addiction, frequent affairs & one-night stands, problems making his child support payments, and more.

Actor: Dominic West. (Fun Fact – Did you know that Dominic is actually British and puts on an American accent for The Wire).

What Seasons: Jimmy is in seasons 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 (though his part in season 4 is quite diminished compared to the other seasons).

Best Scene: The famous scene from the first season when Jimmy and his partner Bunk Moreland investigate the murder scene in the kitchen of a Jane Doe 20 year old female victim using only curse words that start with the letter “F.”

My Favorite Quote: “What the *curse* did I do?” Jimmy says it multiple times over the course of the series. The fantastic thing about the quote is that more often than not he knows exactly what he’s done:-).

Best Foil / Rival: Stringer Bell. From the beginning of the first season, Bell and McNulty are going after each other – each one trying to outsmart and get the better of the other. Whether it is run ins at the court house or at the grocery store, their bump ins are always classic and it is quite apparent that despite their hatred for the other, there is a definite mutual respect for the other’s intelligence.

Analysis: Jimmy is regarded by many critics as the principal character in The Wire… but in a rather atypical way. He isn’t a protagonist, but actually more of an “anti-hero” (as described by Shelly of The Guardian). McNulty is smart, a charmer, and has great relationships with his peers (though definitely not with his bosses); at the same time, he is also quite immature and at times unable to control himself. We cheer for him during the series, but we also hate him for many of the things he does. Brilliantly designed and brilliantly played, McNulty isn’t simply one of the main characters in HBO’s The Wire – he is one of its finest.