Why you should care

Idris Elba is starring as Nelson Mandela on the big screen, but for some of us he’ll always be one of TV’s most notorious gangsters — the unforgettable Stringer Bell.

Yes, I am one of those people who is going to gasp and grab your arm if you admit to being one of the many who still hasn’t experienced the apex of modern television: “Oh, it’s worth it. You have to watch The Wire.” No really, you have to.

I’m a late convert to David Simon’s complex, novelesque series about crime, police, poverty and politics in Baltimore. “That show looks like work,” I thought. But after lucking into some free premium cable (legit) and catching a rerun, all it took was watching the back end of an episode to know that these were characters I needed to spend more time with. Just like Bubbs before season five, I was hooked.

Watch Idris Elba in the trailer for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

In no small part, I became a fan of the series because of Stringer Bell, played by Idris Elba. Oscar buzz is building over his portrayal of Nelson Mandela, but American audiences came to know the 41-year-old British actor as second-in-command of the Barksdale drug organization. Stringer Bell keeps trying to push his crime family toward greater sophistication, away from the brute force that racks up body count and attracts the law’s attention. Whether he’s trying to convince his partner Avon to forge alliances with rival dealers, or applying the microeconomic theories he’s learning in city college to how his crew works their corners, Stringer is always a man in tension with himself and his circumstances. And it’s mesmerizing to watch

In the clip below, Stringer tries to get his troops thinking like businessmen – and following parliamentary rules for their meeting. Darkly humorous and deadly serious in an instant. If you haven’t met String yet, it’s time for a taste.

Video:

Season 3, Episode 1

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