When I watched the first episode of the second season I was surprised by how much the show has changed since the end of the first season. The last three episodes of the first season that we watched had such energy and impact that the slow reorientation at the start of the second season is hard to deal with. There is always a little bit of investigation the viewer has to do at the start of a new season. You have to see how much time has passed and what has changed but the scale of that change in The Wire is unmatched by any show I have seen.
I think that the refocusing of the show could serve to attract new viewers and lose old ones. New viewers can start to watch the show without the same amount of confusion if they joined in the middle of the first season. There is still a lot of background to know but the amount of new characters and a new area of Baltimore helps them catch up. The old viewer might be more disoriented looking for their favorite characters. Not to mention they are busy lamenting the break up of the team. Simon’s decision to change the series so drastically was very brave and it makes for more active or at least alert viewers. The Wire audience must be more committed to the show in order to stick with it through these transitions because at first the series could seem as though it was losing momentum.
Seeing how the change to the docks was made makes me more convinced that McNulty is a protagonist because he connects the Homicide office and characters with the docks. He is working as a unifying factor. An argument could also be made for Baltimore as a protagonist because of all of the new characters that the anchor for the series is Baltimore itself.