Posts Tagged ‘Leo Fitzpatrick’

basketball-game

Game Day starts with an opener featuring Avon Barksdale and Stringer Bell securing a promising young basketball as their ringer for the East vs. West Baltimore Projects Basketball Game. It’s a brilliant idea that I imagine emerged from the real-life stories that serve as the inspiration for The Wire. While they are watching their ringer practice in the school gym, Stringer is still advocating for a truce with Omar—temporarily until he pops his head out so they can kill him. The struggle between Stringer and Avon is a struggle between business and the street.  It is Stringer’s professional mentality opposing Avon’s desire to stay true to his roots as a gangsta.

In The Pit, D’Angelo meets with Wallace since he hasn’t been around to work. When pressed, all Wallace can manage out is that he doesn’t wanna play no more. In his mind, this game just got real. Wallace spotted the stick-up boy (Brandon), which got him killed. Then Stinkum just got dropped in the street. Wallace is just a kid.

If Wallace is accepted back into school, he would be 16 years old entering 9th grade. But with the odds against him, D’Angelo still advises Wallace to follow through and go back to school. D’Angelo sees the potential in Wallace and he knows Wallace has a good heart—unlike the rest of these street urchins who won’t amount to anything.

money

Meanwhile, the investigation (specifically Lester, Pryzbo, and Sydnor) starts to follow the money. Their mission reads like one of Lester’s wet dreams. In order to follow the money, Sydnor searches for any leads connecting to Barksdale and Pryzbo has to go down to the corporate charter office to look up the charter papers for those corporations or any LLC tied to Barksdale. Systematically, they are tasked with finding Avon’s storefronts and property holdings. While Sydnor and Pryzbo are buried nose-deep in paperwork, Lester is pulling the campaign finance reports for any citywide election to uncover the reach of Barksdale’s influence into the local political realm.

Checking in with our resident drug addict, Bubbles comes up with an ingenious plan to steal a drug dealer’s stash. Bubbles climbs up on top of a house with an overhead view of the drug runner listening to music and waiting for the next customer to step up. Bubbles uses a hook on a fishing line and dangles it over the bag while they aren’t paying any attention. Of course, someone steps up to buy so Bubs is caught as he’s stealing the stash, but he escapes while some innocent person is mistaken for the thief and they’re beaten mercilessly in the street. But the last laugh is on Bubbles because the stolen stash is baking soda. Such is life out on the streets.

sneaky-bubbles

The investigation is beginning to bear fruit when they take more money out of the hands of Barksdale’s operation. Herc even contemplates stealing part of the money from the stash they hit, but Carver wisely points out that leadership would know immediately. Naturally, this leads to Herc and Carv moronically losing two stacks, and Daniels calls them in his office to call them out for it. Despite not intentionally stealing the drug money, these doofuses still give the appearance of corruption and greed because the stacks fell out of the bag in their trunk before they could turn in their haul. Fortunately, Herc and Carver find the missing money after frantically searching their car.

Before the big community basketball game foreshadowed in the opening sequence, Omar is out doing Omar things on the streets. Y’know, menacing society. Regardless of the bounty on his head, Omar is still coming after Barksdale. When Omar literally huffs and puffs outside of a Barksdale stash house, their weak crew just drops the drugs out the window. Yes, Omar is the big fucking bad wolf. Never a dull day for Omar.

The rest of Balmer seemingly shows up to the East vs. West Baltimore Projects Basketball Game. Basically, this is a game of bragging rights between Prop Joe (East) and Avon (West). It’s a relatively friendly tradition. Avon gets a great dig in at Prop Joe for wearing a suit to look like a fat Pat Riley.

Avon: What’s up, playboy? How come you wearing that suit?
It’s 85 fucking degrees out here and you trying to be like Pat Riley.
Prop Joe: Look the part, be the part, motherfucker.
Avon: You walking around with a fake fucking clipboard.
You can’t even read a playbook. Be for real.

look-the-part-be-the-part

Almost everyone in the neighborhood shows up to the game—including the cops. This shit is for pride. The game also serves as an important introduction to Proposition Joe. When the Eastside is losing at halftime, Prop Joe offers Avon to double-down on the bet. Once Avon agrees, Joe wisely unleashes his secret ringer off the bench to crush the Westside. There’s also a foul on the final play, but poor unfortunate soul refereeing the game doesn’t make a call. Avon emasculates the guy who is only trying to do a job. Avon even has the audacity to say the guy should stand up for himself and never allow any old motherfucker to get in his face. Excuse me, Avon Barksdale is not just any old motherfucker. If that referee bucked up publicly to Avon, he would have been laid out right there on the court. Take your shit sandwich and eat it with a smile of appreciation, ref.

After suffering another humiliating loss in the annual basketball game, today doesn’t seem to be Avon’s day. Omar turns the Barksdale stash he stole over to Prop Joe in exchange for a number to contact Avon and a code for one of his people (Wee-Bey). Omar’s endgame is simple: he wants to kill Avon. Avon is always ultra-careful, but he’s vulnerable. When the call comes through, Avon treats himself like everyone else so he walks outside to the payphone. But it’s a fucking trap. Omar uses Avon’s carefulness to lure him outside. However, Wee-Bey comes back from his fast food run to save Avon at the very last second. As a result, Omar catches one in the shoulder, which forces him to flee and abort his assassination attempt on Avon.

Once again, Wee-Bey proves that he’s the only Bey that matters.

wee-bey

Quote of the Episode

“And here’s the rub: You follow drugs, you get drug addicts and drug dealers. But you start to follow the money, and you don’t know where the fuck it’s going to take you.”
– Lester Freamon

lester-and-pryzbo

One Arrest is the turning point for the detail’s investigation into the Barksdale crew.

At the opening of this episode, Lester and Pryzbo are showing everyone how they’ve cracked the code that the Barksdale crew uses when they’re talking on the phone and even just sending numbers to a pager. In this instance, they have the drop on the heroin re-up being delivered to The Pit. This is the first sign that the detail is a step ahead of Avon Barksdale. But they have to play it carefully so they don’t reveal their investigation to Barksdale.

Herc and Carver pull over Stinkum delivering the package, and they intentionally let him get away once the runner hops out. The dynamic duo chases down the runner because he has the stash on him. Stinkum drives away, but all of the back-up follows the runner through The Pit and he is tackled him with the drugs still on him. It’s revealed that the runner is the kid missing an eye thanks to Pryzbo’s drunken assault. He now wears an eye patch.

the-runner

In classic fashion of The Wire, the show takes a brief break from the serious festivities to highlight the creepy, perverted demeanor of someone who is supposed to be in a respectable position, Judge Phelan, towards Assistant State’s Attorney Rhonda Pearlman. I’m assuming this is a throwaway scene to show the shit women have to deal with in the “man’s world” of policing and prosecuting. When she leaves the room, Judge Phelan practically jizzes his pants and moans, “Jesus, I would love to throw a fuck into her,” to McNulty—after Phelan just finished belittling McNulty in front of Pearlman to assert his dominance/superiority. It’s these little scenes that add nice moments of levity, but they always seem to serve some sort of higher purpose.

The arrest that this episode’s title seemingly refers to is the investigation clamping down on Bird (played by Fredro Starr). It wouldn’t have been possible without cooperation from Omar, who is out looking for revenge on anyone and everyone associated with Avon Barksdale. It doesn’t hurt that Bird was trifling anyway—killing a working man not involved in the drug game. That shit doesn’t sit well with Omar. Since no one else can or is willing to step up to identify Bird as the shooter, Omar volunteers to be charitable with his recollections.

bird

Thanks to Omar’s help—especially with knowing where Bird likes to get high—the detail sets a trap that culminates in a hilarious sequence where Lester smashes a fucking bottle of booze across Bird’s face to take him down. It doesn’t make Bird’s face look any better. Bird is one ugly looking motherfucker, and he has a mouth to match.

Bird is caught with the gun he used to kill the working man (back from the pilot episode). He’s still not willing to give up any information. At this point, nothing can help Bird escape his cage. He will be locked away forever now for killing a state’s witness. As Bird is getting the shit beat out of him by Daniels, Greggs, and Landsman, Omar is supplying Bunk will all sorts of juicy details on any crimes he can remember. After all, murder stay murder.

One of the reasons I love The Wire is the range of quality supporting characters and the depth of each character. To this point, Bubbles has largely helped to further the story by being the informant that assists the investigation. But now Bubbles is starting to gain some perspective. There’s a little bit of hope bubbling up inside him. He doesn’t know how to get clean or stay clean, but you can visibly see that desire light up in his eyes. This is also the episode that introduces the audience to Walon (played by musician/artist Steve Earle)—his character is a recovering drug addict that drops down wisdom such as, “I know I got one more high left in me, but I doubt very seriously I have one more recovery.” You can see his story resonate with Bubbles when he’s talking to everyone at the Narcotics Anonymous meeting. Even though Bubbles and Johnny tied off and got high that morning, Bubbles steps up when the NA leaders asks if anyone has 24 hours clean or a sincere desire to live. He fucking steps up.

johnny-and-bubbles

While Bubbles is showing signs of wanting to get his life together, poor Wallace’s life is falling apart. Wallace isn’t working. He can’t hang around his friends. He barely comes out of his room. Wallace is shown tying off and shooting up in a futile attempt to forget about the role he played in the stick-up boy’s brutal murdered.

In The Pit, everyone is panicked. After the investigation gets the runner and lets Stinkum get away, the Barksdale crew is suspicious and decides to change things up. Near the end of the episode, Stringer comes through with Wee-Bey and instructs them to rip out the payphones in The Pit. The wire is dead on those payphones, but they’re only addressing a symptom instead of focusing on the real sickness. The Barksdale crew has no idea how many eyes are on them now, and they’re vastly underrating their risk and exposure.

Have no fear, good ol’ Rawls is still doing his best to fuck over McNulty and the ensuing investigation. Rawls is so hard up for Jimmy’s badge that he’s basically blackmailing Santangelo to give him dirt on McNulty—or solve an old cold case to give Rawls the clearances he wants. One of Santangelo’s old cold cases actually gets solved by Bunk and McNulty when Omar is recounting every recent unsolved street murder he can recall. It’s finally the straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back as Santangelo reveals Rawls’ plan to fuck McNulty. With the investigation heading in the right direction, what choice does McNulty have but to continue? He can’t come crawling back to Rawls and kiss his ass. Even that probably wouldn’t save his badge. All he can ask himself is “what the fuck did I do?”

code

Quote of the Episode

“A man must have a code.”
— The Bunk

wallace-witnessing
Now that the investigation is finally up on the wire, they’re starting to find themselves in the right place at the right time. Unfortunately, that doesn’t help Brandon. They were too late to make a difference. Omar’s boyfriend, Brandon, is strung up like a deer on the hood of a car in the projects during the opening of this episode.

It’s the display Avon wanted everyone to see. A spectacle of his brutality.

While police alarms are commonplace in the hood, that sound usually comes from the narcotics unit. In this case, the familiar wail is resounding from the murder police. Wallace is going through the daily routine of getting his brothers and sisters ready for school when the commotion is taking place. Apparently, Poot also lives with Wallace (probably out of plot convenience since they put the hit in motion by spotting Brandon), and they both see the body on display as the younger kids are leaving for school. While it was effective as a message to the community, Wallace cannot get the image out of his head. There are some things you can’t unsee.

Although the burden is already starting to take a toll on Wallace, D’Angelo is still in his own world–spending several hours in front of the mirror trying to find the right clothes. It wouldn’t even take his new stripper girlfriend that long to get ready. D’Angelo is absorbed in superficial appearances. If he looks the part, he’ll act the part.

dangelo-and-wallace

Meanwhile, we’re witnessing the depressing, downward spiral of Wallace. Since he’s actually a good kid, Wallace feels responsibility for his part in Brandon’s death. D’Angelo can brush off his role as another day at work. But the whole experience is eating Wallace alive. Whenever he closes his eyes, the only thing he sees is the spectacle.

While the message was effectively delivered to everyone on the street, the investigation is trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together. They know they have the parts, but they have to put them in a certain sequence to make sense of it. In order to use the evidence from their wiretaps, the investigation has to be in multiple places at once–on the rooftops to see who is on the phone and in the office listening to the content.

When confronted with his rampant alcoholism, Polk is given an ultimatum by Lt. Daniels–do your fucking job and get drunk on the rooftops during surveillance or walk away in shame and dry out on medical leave. Ever the hard-worker, Polk takes the easy way out and leaves the detail. Both Polk and Mahon have now fucked off.

Back in The Pit, Avon, Stinkum, and Stringer make a cameo to reward D’Angelo’s boys for eyeing the stickup boy, Brandon. Unbeknownst to Stringer and the higher ups, D’Angelo swept the thieves on his payroll under the rug because he didn’t want Avon to send a message and make a spectacle out of Sterling and Cass. D’Angelo is trying to quell any drama but the action makes him look weak, which is why he hides it from everyone but Wallace.

Prior to The Wire, I never noticed any other work (television or movie) that utilized security footage as transitions. When people refer to The Wire as a cinematic TV show, this is a prime example of what they’re talking about. The show’s artful direction provides various perspectives and vantage points. This type of presentation also fits with their focus on surveillance. Even when you think you might be alone, there’s always a set of eyes watching.

omar-in-the-office

Thanks to hours of surveillance to watch whoever is on the payphones, the investigation is moving forward and filling out their board. Barksdale’s crew is becoming a little too lackadaisical and they will slip up. Omar is looking to exploit that vulnerability when he pays the investigation a visit after the ritual torture and execution of Brandon. He is a man of vengeance. With a timeline from Omar, Lester’s keen attention to detail connects the dots and the investigation knows they have the evidence. To tip the scales even more, Omar claims he witnessed Bird killing the working man from the end of the first episode. Omar is not afraid to testify in an open court. We’re talking about someone who grabs a shotgun and strolls down the street robbing drug dealers. A few questions won’t rattle Omar.

Right as the investigation seems to be focusing their sights on Avon Barksdale, Rawls decides to bare his ass and make life unbearable for the investigation. Why? For the clearances. Rawls is willing to fuck up everything and use McNulty’s own evidence to go after D’Angelo Barksdale instead of the bigger picture–Avon.

Rawls wants to pursue unwinnable charges on a few murders for the sake of statistics. It will blow up the entire case on the Barksdale crew. Daniels is their last hope for salvation. Can the case be saved in the final hour from the jaws of Rawls’ destruction? Daniels appeals to the higher ups to go over Rawls’ head and fight for the case. With Burrell’s blessing, the wire remains up and the case is intact…for now. The cost may very well be the long-term viability of Daniels’ upward mobility, but he feels the guilt for the investigation being a day too late on the taps.

Shit is getting personal and becoming real. They’re in too deep to turn back now.

johnny

Quote of the Episode

“If you ain’t got dreams, Bubs, what the fuck you got?”
– Johnny

contemplative-avon

This episode introduces the depths of Avon’s carefulness. When leaving one of his side piece’s place, Avon is searching for anything and everything suspicious—including two teenagers talking on the corner. Wee-Bey derides Avon’s attitude as pure paranoia, but Avon would be stupid if he wasn’t looking out for himself.

I like a drug dealer who errors on the side of caution. That is something I can get behind. I appreciate the hustle. While Avon is wisely on his toes, the investigation is finally taking a step forward by cloning D’Angelo’s pager. Now they can get to the real police work of inching higher and higher up the Barksdale chain.

In the streets, Omar is back up to his old tricks.  He doesn’t stay quiet for long.

Omar is whistling “A-Hunting We Will Go” with a shotgun in hand when operating a flush-and-run on an Eastside crew. Things are too volatile with Barksdale for Omar and his boys right now. During this episode, John Bailey gets blown up off-screen so we’re down to only Omar and his boy toy, Brandon, at this point.

omar-cheese

It’s the fine details that make me love The Wire and keep me coming back for more. One such beautiful scene involves a drunk Polk sneaking a sip of booze from his flask in the office when he hears the copier go off behind him. After being terrified that he was caught drinking on the job, you can see the sweet relief on Polk’s face turn into a dumbfounded expression when he sees Pryzbylewski awkwardly at the copier. Pryzbo looks completely and utterly useless because he’s photocopying a fucking telephone—with zero explanation.

However, Pryzbo’s surefire idiocy is revealed to be brilliance as he’s the one who cracks the code used by Barksdale’s crew. Thanks to his genius at word searches and puzzles, this mope discovers that the code is derived simply from the place of the numbers on the phone—in particular, skipping over the 5 in the center. Since it doesn’t involve math, the little hoodlums can easily wrap their minds around the code. Simple and effective.

In addition to those fine details, I also love hearing a joke mid-punchline. The Wire offers plenty of those juicy nuggets. Landsman’s line this episode is, “The bear said, ‘You didn’t really come here to hunt, now did you?’” I’ll never have any idea what the fuck he was talking about. But knowing Landsman, I assume it was crude and offensive. My eyes are also scarred from seeing his massive ass crack this episode. That disgusting fat fuck.

With such a depressing subject, The Wire sprinkles in some much-needed humor. The audience is only gets a brief glimpse into McNulty’s myriad of marital problems. Fighting over the kids is the cause highlightd here. When shooting the shit with Greggs, McNulty bitches, “You would think a less enlightened man than myself, a cruder man than myself, a man less sensitized to the qualities and charms and value of women—a man like that, not me, but a man like that—he just might call her a ‘cunt.’” This leads to the first of a few drunken furniture assembly scenes.

bodie

In the Pit, it’s heartbreaking to see Bodie throw a bottle at Wallace’s head and have it smash next to his face.  All because Wallace was playing with a toy in the courtyard instead of focusing on his responsibility. It drives the point home that this is their reality. It shouldn’t be, but it is and they cannot get caught slipping. Wallace seems to be cut from the same cloth as D’Angelo while Bodie is a straight-up gangsta. J.D. Williams is terrific as Bodie—I remember him fondly as Wangler from HBO’s Oz. When dealing with Bodie, Herc and Carver are hilariously in over their heads. He’s just too bad for their off-brand little-boy bullshit, man. Bodie calls them out for their botched good cop/bad cop routine and talks shit to their faces. He has no issue with taking a beating. Bodie is basically a boy, but he acts like a man. A man that does not give a fuck. It’s what growing up in the game does to you.

Near the end of the episode, Wallace and Poot are making a food run when Poot spots Omar’s boyfriend, Brandon, from the stick-up at The Pit. The hit is then put into motion. After Wallace contacts D’Angelo who contacts Stringer, the investigation has evidence to tie the Barksdale crew to this inevitable murder.

They just have no fucking clue yet because no one was up on the wire.

lester-shrug

Quote of the Episode

“I don’t wanna go to no dance unless I can rub some titty.”
– Lester Freamon

season-1

If the opening scene telling the story of Snot Boogie doesn’t draw you in, what is wrong with you?

When the setting shifts to the courtroom gallery of the D’Angelo Barksdale case, you can see the rivalry and sense of mutual respect between Detective Jimmy McNulty and Stringer Bell within 5 minutes. It’s a casual smirk from Dominic West to Idris Elba (after Stringer shows his superhero sketch that says “FUCK YOU DETECTIVE”), but that body language says more than any words. It’s a showing of appreciation that warms my heart because it’s a microcosm of how I feel about this show, The Wire—the greatest show in the history of television.

When I was in college, my best friend introduced me to The Wire. In high school, I introduced him to HBO’s Oz and we reveled in the ridiculousness of that prison soap opera. I’ll always appreciate that passing of the torch. I’ve made it my mission to share great TV shows with others in order to return the favor. You live a better life once The Wire is part of your lexicon. There is so much to savor about this show, which is why this is my fifth time around. Now I get to share it with all of you and walk down memory lane recalling my journey with the show.

No TV show has ever been as successful at bouncing between characters and keeping the story moving as The Wire. Somehow, this show never wastes a scene. Well, at least that was the case until Season 5, but let’s enjoy the ride before focusing on how the train horrifically derailed from the tracks.

Maybe I’m biased as a result of my earlier admission, but The Target is the best TV pilot. More than 20 diverse, vibrant characters are introduced while setting up the story of the cops, criminals, drug addicts, and how their interplay shapes the City of Baltimore. Bodymore, Murdaland. There’s nothing like it.

bunk-and-mcnulty

Many of the characters and incidents in The Wire come from David Simon’s book, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets. The authenticity shines through. The first season focuses on the pervasiveness of drugs in the inner cities. The problems caused by both the gang violence and misguided police priorities in the bullshit War on Drugs helped to cripple our society. For cops, following chain of command makes their dick bust concrete.

David Simon’s creation is an in-depth exploration into the true fucked up nature of our modern world. It will be interesting to re-watch The Wire in light of recent current events. Y’know, where mistrust between cops and the people they are supposed to serve and protect has led to black bodies laying dead in the streets. I wish we still had a show like this going to shed light on these dark corners of the American experience.

Near the end of the episode, Bunk and McNulty are getting drunk by the train tracks. When talking about this newly opened, sprawling investigation into Barksdale’s drug operation, a drunk McNulty is pissing on the tracks with a train barreling down at him. With his typical cavalier attitude, McNulty steps out of the way just in time and expresses his commitment to work the Barksdale case “the right way” and take down the whole fucking thing.

When Jimmy McNulty puts his mind to something, sit back and watch the master at work.

pissing-on-the-tracks

While The Wire is a slow burn, The Target starts off and ends with a bang—both literal and figurative. If you didn’t like the taste of this pilot episode, then you need to get your palette cleansed. The Wire is not a police procedural. David Simon rips those shows to shreds, and this should be enough to ruin that formulaic structure for anyone who watches this unique brand of storytelling. The Sopranos gets so much undeserved credit when people mention great HBO shows, but there were entire seasons of wasted, filler material. The Wire is an efficient machine.

Please take this initial step and start the journey with me to watch (or re-watch) The Wire. The corruption and dysfunction of our institutions has intensified because they are no longer relevant. In this country, the way we think about and approach important societal issues is laughable. Our prison-industrial complex is a prime modern example. Private institutions profit off the imprisonment of non-violent drug offenders. No one gets healed in jail. Those who are sick only get worse. While The Target is only the beginning, The Wire delves deep into the War on Drugs by using the Barksdale drug operation and the Baltimore Police investigation as the gateway.

In light of 9/11, The Wire accurately predicted the government response shifting from the War on Drugs to the War on Terror. Both of these wars are unwinnable. Most people are still in denial about that undeniable fact. Like a recovering drug addict, the first step of solving a problem is realizing there is a problem to be solved.

A lot of the apathetic masses are content to continue not giving a fuck.

bunk-smdh

Quote of the Episode

“There you go, givin’ a fuck when it ain’t your turn to give a fuck.”
– Det. Bunk Moreland