So many phenomenal scenes punctuate The Wire—too many to keep track.

These scenes are like deafening exclamations that makes the show’s particular point resonate with people and thus permeate the boundaries of space and time. That’s not bullshit hyperbole. The Wire’s story is still eerily relevant. I could make a case that the crux of this show is more important today because people are finally starting to realize the societal issues we have and how we are making them worse. Case in point: the pervasiveness of drugs in inner cities, the lack of support in those communities to help those who are struggling, and the insane philosophy of policing that is more concerned with appearances than the actual matter of serving and protecting.

It’s still incredible that Season 1 initially aired 14 years ago on HBO.

If you’re searching through each season looking for memorable scenes, Old Cases offer two superb examples.

The first instance happens in the introduction as Herc is trying to push a desk through the doorway of the investigation’s office. One-by-one, other officers come to try to help. No instructions are given—just classic berating of one’s manhood for not being able to do the job. After a few minutes of hopeless effort from both sides, the desk hasn’t budged an inch. Expressing his confusion, Herc casually comments that he could move the desk by himself, but it must have gotten lodged and now they’ll never get the desk in. Everyone is in disbelief. No one bothered talking to one another to learn they were trying to push it through the doorway.

desk

On one side, officers were pushing. On the other side, officers were also pushing rather than pulling to work together. It’s a perfect microcosm of the police’s mentality—and the investigation, specifically. The team is actively working against each other by the simple virtue of not communicating with one another.

Miraculously, the only one who sits back and surveys the scene is Ol’ Lester Freamon. Cool Lester Smooth stays where he his while polishing his dollhouse furniture. It’s as if Lester is drinking in the stupidity surrounding him.

Elsewhere, Greggs and McNulty are doing what they can within their legal ability to pressure the Barksdale crew. But the investigation remains woefully unprepared for the force they’re facing. With the help of the Assistant State Attorney, the maximum sentence is pursued on a Barksdale drug dealer who was arrested with one gel cap and one vial. Despite the laughable volume of the product, the drug dealer is facing a 5-year sentence because of his prior record. It doesn’t matter, he takes the years without flinching. While this is a subtle scene, it shows the reach and strength of Avon Barksdale. The low-level drug dealer could’ve easily flipped to save himself.

But what would there have been to save? Rolling over would have only put a target on his back.

The Barksdale crew doesn’t fuck around. After the crew in The Pit was humiliated by Omar’s rip-and-run, Avon puts a bounty out for Omar and his boys. Avon wants a show—he wants to put Omar on display so that everyone knows that fucking with the Barksdale crew will get you got. Y’know, like those “cracker motherfuckers do when they kill a deer.” Just like the cops don’t know who they are messing with, Avon vastly underrates his nemesis.

omar-and-boys

In stark contrast to the story told about his brother (No-Heart Anthony), Omar is all heart. A “cocksucker with a lot of heart” doesn’t even begin to describe Omar. When an addict comes around crying about how her check is late, Omar brokers a deal and enables her to get her fix. Omar recognizes her game, but he has soft spot and cares for the kid. In this game, having a heart makes you exploitable. As fucked up as it is, that baby’s best hope is probably that drugged-out mom. There’s no respite to be found on the streets or in foster homes.

While the investigation is discussing their next step, Cool Lester Smooth whips his dick out on the table when he reveals to everyone that he found a pager number during the raid on The Pit. Lester also verified that the number is for D’Angelo Barksdale. For the investigation, this is a monumental step since they can now try to clone D’Angelo’s pager and develop a record of all the incoming/outgoing calls. It’s the main reason that the Barksdale organization is so careful and doesn’t use phones because they don’t want a paper trail as evidence.

Once you find a thread, you can unravel the whole operation.

Going back to the memorable opener, the police still need to be on the same page or all this fine work will be for nothing. Even after convincing Daniels that the wire is the only way to go, the investigation must still find a way to work the case without the intervention and interference of leadership. This case is not going to be won with street buys. It’s all building momentum towards an intensified game of cat-and-mouse.

The Wire beautifully juxtaposes this set-up with the story of how Lester Freamon ended up in the Pawn Shop Unit after working Homicide. Realizing that he has an ally in the field of natural police, McNulty takes Lester out for a drink to pick his brain. Lester ended up shuffling papers because he dared to do police work. When told not to include a robbery in a murder case (due to personal ties to the acting Commissioner), Freamon refused to heed that warning. When the case was done, Lester was locked up in the Pawn Shop Unit for 13 years…and 4 months.

Cool Lester Smooth is a constant source of sage advice. He’s also the type of man who declares he has to go to the bathroom by saying, “I gotta take a tinkle.” Most writers dream of creating this type of rich, illustrious character while David Simon just shits them out during his morning constitution.

kresson-case

With time to truly ruminate on the developments of this episode, Old Cases is an early favorite for mention on the list of Best Episodes of The Wire. It’s amazing to see how the story is advanced while also taking the time to flesh out several characters and immerse yourself in this world. If you’re searching for another iconic scene, McNulty and Bunk are here to indulge you. This is the episode where McNulty and Bunk visit the Kresson crime scene, which previous detectives completely bungled.  It’s also the scene where they communicate using only variations of the word “fuck.” McNulty and Bunk accurately recreate the events of the murder and find the evidence hiding in plain sight.

In The Pit, Bodie makes his way back home after escaping juvy.  That badass grabbed a mop and bucket, and walked right out the damn door.  Bodie is right too when he bristles and says that D’Angelo would still be there if it were him.  Of course, D’Angelo can’t stand to be one-upped, which is why he reminds Bodie that he was the one who just got off on a murder charge.  As a result, D’Angelo decides to tell the boys the story of how he killed Deirde Kresson.  Tap, tap, tap.  This scene comes across as so transparent like D’Angelo is trying to convince himself.

After studying this scene closely, Bodie seems skeptical.  I don’t think I ever noticed it before, but it makes sense.  Bodie appears to be one of the few self-aware characters on the street.  Guys like D’Angelo and Stringer are preoccupied with what others think because they rely on other people believing their bullshit.

Bodie knows he’s a soldier in this game.  It’s the only thing he’s ever known.

heaven-and-here

Quote of the Episode

“Thin line between heaven and here.”
— Bubbles

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