Posts Tagged ‘Maria Broom’

Anything noteworthy happen in the news this past month? It’s good to have The Wire back in my life.

After a brief hiatus, we’re checking in with Episode 8 of 13 in Season 1. The aptly named Lessons is an expert lesson in writing and directing. No show has ever been as adept as The Wire at handling a handful of storylines overflowing with characters. Game of Thrones makes an attempt, but they fail awkwardly to give equal attention to developing characters and even whole storylines (ahem, Dorne). The Walking Dead is the fucking worst at this task—often alternating entire episodes that focus on a single location or character (if you’re lucky, you at least get a group of people for an episode). Oz did an admirable job, but The Wire is the unquestioned leader.

I know it’s hyperbole to say that every episode of The Wire feels like a movie. This first season isn’t nearly as cinematic as the show grows into later, but every episode is so jam-packed with enjoyable material that I find it more entertaining than most movies. The Wire never feels dull or stretched out when it briskly jumps from character to character (all fascinating in their own ways) to weave an overarching narrative. And the cherry on the top of this delicious television sundae is that the story actually means something. It’s not just one big circle jerk.

This episode opens with our favorite functional drunk Jimmy McNulty enjoying a day at the market with his boys. A little nugget for my enjoyment was the name drop of Melvin Mora when the boys are trying to match Baltimore Orioles players to their numbers—such as DAVID SEGUI! While at the market, McNulty spots Stringer Bell so he goads his kids into playing front and follow to track Stringer Bell.

family-mcnulty

Even though he’s a criminal, I think it also shows that people (at least McNulty’s crazy ass) aren’t necessarily scared of Stringer Bell. He’s a bad dude, but String isn’t one to personally get his hands dirty. Of course, McNulty loses his kids while they are tailing Stringer—he has to stay out of sight so Stringer doesn’t recognize him. Fortunately, McNulty’s oldest son follows Stringer to his car and writes down his license plate number. Fucking Family McNulty.

With the license plate number, a bewildered McNulty tracks Stringer down to night class at the local community college. This buster is taking an Economics 101 course, and McNulty hears him getting a lecture about the elasticity of a product. In this episode, we also see Stringer trying to run a clean printing/copying place as a front with the typical Barksdale riffraff as the employees. Naturally, we see Stringer lecturing these mopes about the elasticity of their product because it’s not like the street—people can and will go elsewhere for the service.

Checking in with the investigation, Carver is earnestly studying for the Sgt.’s Exam while Herc is “reading” a titty magazine. Although Pryzbo has been a valuable member from the office (especially with helping crack the code), he’s still seen as a joke and garners no respect from his peers. Herc and Carver disregard a logical suggestion made by Pryzbo because it came from him, but they follow through when it’s in the form of an order from Kima—she has the stripes on her uniform. It’s all about chain of command, shitbird.

Wee-Bey, Stinkum, and Savino ransack where Omar’s place and find pictures of him with his boy toy. They also torch his van, but Omar is watching from a safe distance. To the Barksdale crew, Omar is just a fag, but they are severely underestimating him. Although Omar is seething with anger, he’s patiently waiting for his opportunity to strike. The Wire doesn’t get enough credit for crafting such a wonderful character as Omar—for my money, he’s the best character in television history. Sure, Omar is gay. But it’s only a part of his character. He’s a man with a code. He literally robs drug dealers and gives to the poor. Everyone on the street despises Omar, but they have to respect him to a degree because they are terrified when he comes around with that shotgun whistling a tune.

wallace

On the streets, we continue to see Wallace circling the drain. It’s another heartbreaking scene where Wallace is coming off a high and one of his siblings is in his room asking for help with math homework. His younger sibling can’t understand the math problem, but has no problem accurately taking the count in a similar hypothetical scenario posed by Wallace. Why? When the count be wrong, they fuck you up. Wallace has had enough with this life.

Meanwhile, the investigation has stumbled on another important find when they catch Ashy Larry driving out of the projects with thousands in drug money. If you recall, we previously met Ashy Larry as the crooked driver for Senator Clay Davis. The Barksdale crew’s drug money has far-reaching tentacles. If you follow the drugs, you’ll find criminals. If you start to follow the money, you don’t know what the fuck you’ll find.

poot

A nice throwaway scene in this episode happens when Wee-Bey, Stinkum, and Savino scoop up D’Angelo to celebrate by eating out. Tiny little Poot is adorable when he’s the de facto leader left in charge when D’Angelo leaves for a bit. Even though he’s standing on the couch in The Pit, Poot still only looks like he’s 4’5”. When the boys are eating, there’s another enjoyable nugget when Wee-Bey drenches his food in hot sauce. Wee-Bey nonchalantly says, “The trick is not to give a fuck,” before choking on the scorching hot food.

Near the end of the episode, Wee-Bey and Stinkum are on the trail of Omar—attempting to carry out a hit. However, Omar pops off first and nails Stinkum while wounding Wee-Bey in the leg. Omar leaves Stinkum laying dead in the street, but he graciously allows Wee-Bey to flee. He made his point. “You come at the king, you best not miss.” Stinkum’s death screws the investigation since they had him hanging on a charge. As a result, they pull in Omar for a meeting because his name is out there as responsible for Stinkum’s murder. It’s a fucking phenomenal scene where Omar outlines the truth of his world: “it’s either play or get played.”

bunk-trace-evidence

Lessons even manages to bring The Bunk into the fold. Cole caught Stinkum’s murder, and McNulty gets Bunk to lie for him by telling Cole that they have the murderer on the wire. However, they have to hold onto the name until they can give it up later—when they won’t give it up. Bunk carries that weight, but he also forces McNulty to lie for him by telling his wife that Bunk caught a murder and he’s out working tonight. Basically, Bunk has to get blackout drunk and fuck some bimbo at the bar to deal with Jimmy’s lie. One of the best drunk scenes in The Wire also happens here when McNulty is called to the bimbo’s home to retrieve Bunk. He even has to stop Bunk from burning the rest of his clothes—trying to get rid of the trace evidence because they smelled like pussy. Like with any drunken stupor, there’s a sliver of truth when Bunk proclaims, “You’re no good for people, Jimmy.”

Sweet dreams on the bottom bunk bed, Bunk.

omar-no-doubt

Quote of the Episode

“You come at the king, you best not miss.” — Omar

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

mcnulty-in-the-pit

The Detail starts to slowly reveal details on some of the game’s more substantial players.

It’s like unraveling a tightly wound ball of yarn—piece-by-piece. However, the boss (Avon Barksdale) remains largely out of sight. Avon is like a black unicorn. The myth and legend supersedes the man. The investigation into Barksdale doesn’t even have a picture of him. It’s pathetic. To them, he is a name without a face.

Since Avon is virtually untouchable at this stage, the cops try to get to him through his nephew. D’Angelo is adjusting to his demotion to running The Pit after almost ending up in jail on a murder charge. Lawrence Gilliard Jr. is captivating as the conflicted criminal compelled to stay in the family business of drugs and violence. It’s all he knows. But D’Angelo is as soft as butter. He wasn’t made for the game. Although it’s inadmissible in court, the slightest bit of pressure gets D’Angelo feeling guilty so he writes an apology letter to the victim’s family. It’s beautiful teamwork between Bunk and McNulty to carefully craft a strong line of bullshit to rattle D’Angelo.

dangelos-letter

I must comment on the phenomenal choice to almost exclusively dress D’Angelo in a turtleneck sweater. In that one seemingly minor decision, they convey the point that D’Angelo isn’t cut from the same cloth as Avon. He is out of place in this world, but he’s powerless to change his circumstances. He is expected to continue the family tradition. But you can start to see that D’Angelo has a good heart by how quickly he’s consumed by guilt—even though he’s not directly responsible for the death of the witness who testified in his murder case. Deep down, he knows who ordered the hit and D’Angelo is overwhelmed by the burden of that responsibility. D’Angelo is just trying to survive the game, but he’s finding out that it’s not a game at all. This is all terrifyingly real.

The slimy, weaselly lawyer for the Barksdale crew arrives just in the nick of time. Maurice Levy is epitome of a shitbag lawyer, and Michael Kostroff excels in the role. I feel like Kostroff’s filmography is stocked full of similarly-themed creeps—it’s his niche. I want to slap the smirk off his smug fucking face.

Seriously, I cannot stress how impressive The Wire is as an accomplishment. I don’t know how it’s possible to make so many high-caliber, movie-quality episodes. It’s a treat to go back and re-watch this TV show because it’ s a new experience each time. Since I know the story, I can really focus on the acting this time around and see how the characters bring everything together. There are too many great actors to name in this ensemble.

Even Nat Benchley (as Det. Polk) and Tom Quinn (as Det. Mahon) are rock-solid as drunk worthless sacks of shit. Polk and Mahon are dead weight meant to tie down the investigation. While it doesn’t seem that challenging in the grand scheme, Benchley and Quinn—two actors who I cannot recall seeing before or after this series—are extremely effective as believable, everyday drunks. Fucked up, but somewhat functional. Their eyes are squinted and stare far-off in the distance as their heads bob while trying to maintain the aura of sobriety during a meeting. The only contribution they make to the discussion is to ask about who approves overtime.

polk-and-mahon

In my research, an interesting tidbit of trivia is that “pogue mahone” is an Irish expression that roughly translates to “kiss my ass.” Although it is the name of one of their albums, The Pogues also considered calling their band Pogue Mahone. Polk and Mahon are nods to the Irish expression as well as The Pogues—whose music is often featured. Prior to The Wire, my awareness of The Pogues came from a Stephen Lynch song mentioning the hideousness of Shane MacGowan—he is quite possibly the ugliest man alive. But they’re an iconic Irish band.

Unlike any other show, The Wire created strong supporting characters and cast phenomenal actors to fulfill the roles. When I say strong supporting characters, it doesn’t mean they are all thoughtful or great at their jobs. The bumbling idiots are just as fun as the cool, calculated detectives. In particular, The Detail highlights the depths of Pryzbylewski’s incompetence, which now features an unintentional firing of his weapon inside to go along with intentionally shooting up his police car. Eventually, Przybo pistol-whips a kid in the eye with his gun in this episode. Somehow, he still seems to be one of the more innocent cops—especially with Herc coming off like a petulant child bitching and complaining about everything. Without question, Lt. Daniels has been given nothing worthwhile (save for a few exceptions) to operate this investigation. They have no hope of a substantial bust with their current approach.

If they can avoid tripping over their own feet, the investigation has potential.

Some damn fine police work can pick up the slack for a lot of shitbirds.

rawls

Quote of the Episode

“What the fuck did I do?”
– Jimmy McNulty