Posts Tagged ‘review’

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

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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

poster
Can we just forgive Mel Gibson already?

I know he made The Passion of the Christ, but I can forgive him for that.

Oh yeah, there’s all that racist stuff too. But he was drunk! Who among us hasn’t said some stupid shit when we’re drunk? I regret virtually everything I’ve ever done when drunk. There’s a kernel of truth in the saying that the real person reveals themselves when intoxicated. As a fan, I’m happy to have Mel Gibson back in my life.

crazy-smile

Get the Gringo is Mel Gibson at his best. His booze-soaked, chain-smoking best.

The premise is stunningly simple. Mel Gibson’s character is simply known as either the Driver or Gringo. He was the getaway driver of a robbery gone bad. Get the Gringo opens with the Driver leading the police on a chase with a dying accomplice bleeding all over the millions in their car. In a last-ditch attemptr, the Driver evades the cops and crashes the car into and over the border wall in order to get easier treatment in Mexico. The laughably corrupt Mexican cops that catch him take the millions in stolen money and throw the Driver into their shitty prison system on false charges—hoping to bury him forever. The setup of the story is nice and breezy.

Essentially, this is a revenge movie where Mel Gibson makes sure his enemies get their comeuppance. And oh shit, comeuppance is had. Mel’s character is the only white guy (hence, the Gringo) locked up in El Pueblito, which is a Mexican prison where the inmates run the asylum. If you have enough money, you can bring your family into the prison to live with you—while the kids can even continue going to school on the outside. The Gringo gets the lay of the land and starts to exploit his surroundings to improve his stature in the prison.

Get the Gringo has an enjoyable pace, but I found myself more in love with the acting than the actual story. Mel Gibson exudes charisma. This is the typical kind of gruff character that Mel Gibson knocks out of the park. Despite being an arguably shitty human being, I find Mel Gibson to be an extremely likeable actor.

the-driver-and-the-kid

As great as Mel Gibson is in Get the Gringo, this movie is so memorable because of the Kid (played by Kevin Hernandez). I’ve seen Kevin Hernandez is a few things since this movie, but Get the Gringo will likely be the height of his career. Honestly, it feels like one of the best performances from a young child actor. The Kid has special privileges in El Pueblito because he is the only match for a liver transplant that the criminal leader of the prison, Javi (played by Daniel Giménez Cacho) needs—due to all of his drinking. No one can touch the Kid, and he can’t leave like the other kids. The budding friendship between the Gringo and the Kid is the highlight of this movie.

Most child actors are shit. I think reasonable people can agree about that. They’re kids, they can’t be trusted to be any good. What child should be working at that age? However, Kevin Hernandez perfectly encapsulates this character. He’s a wise-cracking, tough kid on the outside, but you can see he is scared to death on the inside. In his current circumstances, there’s nothing the Kid can do to save himself or his mother. But he wants to try to do so by killing Javi. He has no choice. His liver is no longer his own. Once Javi gives the go-ahead, they’ll cut the liver out of the Kid and transplant it into Javi so he can ruin another this one too with his binge drinking.

Naturally, the story snowballs and you find out more about the robbery gone bad. The Gringo stole those millions from an evil fuck named Frank (played by master of greasy creepitude, Peter Stormare). Frank wants that fucking money back. Nothing will stop him. Get the Gringo is wise to let Stormare chew scenery and gloriously over-act. Peter Stormare is phenomenal in everything, and I will fight you if you disagree.

There’s a few other solid performances from supporting actors, but the biggest secondary contribution comes from Peter Gerety. If the name isn’t familiar, maybe the many chins of Peter Gerety will remind you that he was the hefty Judge Phelan in The Wire. I’ve been grossed out by Gerety ever since I heard his character in The Wire say he “would love to throw a fuck” into a female character. The mental image that conjured will haunt my nightmares. Gerety is operating at peak creepiness as the Embassy Guy poking around in the Gringo’s business.

smoking

Get the Gringo is a fun action adventure. This is the exact fucking type of movie that we as a nation have missed out on in the name of morality. Most people in the movie business are probably pieces of shit. I don’t care. Movies aren’t real. I can disassociate someone’s real life from what’s happening on a screen. It’s acting. Some people are weirded out by Tom Cruise now. Like Mel Gibson, Tom Cruise exudes charisma and he’s always entertaining in movies.

Maybe Mel Gibson still is a piece of shit. But people can change. His past, present, or future isn’t going to impact my enjoyment of his films. Get the Gringo is a fine example of the pure fun that we can have from watching Mel Gibson get back to work. Give the man some room to breathe and the freedom to perfect his craft.

freedom

4.5 out of 5 stars

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

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