Posts Tagged ‘thriller’

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

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

logan-and-william
Season 1 of Westworld is nearly at its end. We’re ready for the penultimate episode tonight, which is often a stage for a big reveal. Some parts of my Wild, Wild Westworld Theory have already been proven correct. At this point, almost everyone is convinced that William is the Man in Black. But I still think Jonathan Nolan is fucking with people. I’m holding out hope that Logan is the Man in Black. During this Thanksgiving weekend, I took the time to re-watch every episode a handful of times. While I’ve tried to keep an open mind, I re-watched the proceedings through the lens that Logan is the Man in Black. And I’ve been examining the evidence to build the case.

In the pilot (The Original), we haven’t been introduced yet to William and Logan. However, this is the first glimpse we see of the Man in Black who is delighted by torturing Teddy and Dolores. Although television is a very visual medium, I think it’s crucial to analyze the text of Westworld if you’re trying to interpret the meaning. And if Westworld is about anything, I believe it’s about finding meaning…a purpose.

For all the people who want to ignore the fact that this story takes place over several time periods, the Man in Black’s re-introduction to Dolores warrants your attention. “Is that any way to treat an old friend? I’ve been coming here for 30 years, but you still don’t remember me, do you? After all we’ve been through.” That line highlights that the Man in Black has a history with Dolores. While Dolores has been around for 35 years, the Man in Black has known her for 30 years. We know that the Man in Black is a sadistic fuck. In this initial encounter, he taunts Teddy by saying, “And then I realized winning doesn’t mean anything unless someone else loses. Which means you’re here to be the loser.” Re-watching these early episodes, that feels like something Logan would say.

The second episode (Chestnut) is rich with more clues. At the very beginning, we see William and Logan entering Westworld—similar to the 1973 movie that serves as this show’s inspiration.

William: You’re being an asshole.
Logan: No, I am being myself, which was the whole point of this trip. Unless this uptight prick is who you really are, in which case, feel free to be someone else.

Logan is an asshole in the park. The Man in Black is also an asshole in the park. Although William is greeted by the blond female host that re-appeared in the eighth episode, Logan also sees her as well. Considering Logan has spent substantial time in Westworld, it’s reasonable to think he has met the blond host on several occasions. In this episode, the Man in Black saves Lawrence from being hung. After he shoots Lawrence’s would-be executioners, the Man in Black remarks “That’s the best thanks you can muster, Lawrence? You used to be a little more eloquent.” Mark that as yet another old pal of the Man in Black. Clearly, they have spent a lot of time together.

“You know, you and I hunted down Ghost Nation braves in their winter grounds.
I know the whiskey you like to drink.
I know the tune you whistle when you’re taking a piss.
But you never told me you had a family.”
— The Man in Black

We have watched William and Dolores running from Ghost Nation braves with Lawrence, but that’s the extent of their interactions. Do you think William would go back to Pariah and spend a lot of time with Lawrence after his travels with Dolores? It’s possible, but I find it difficult to believe. On the other hand, we know Logan was thrilled when they found the Easter egg to Pariah. I can envision Logan spending a lot of time in the outlaw land of Pariah playing war games. I can’t shake the fact that Logan’s actions in Westworld line up more with the Man in Black.

In the third episode (The Stray), the Man in Black pays Dolores another visit. He coldly utters “Why don’t we reacquaint ourselves, Dolores? Start at the beginning,” to Dolores while he’s dragging her off to the barn. The Man in Black has raped her in the barn before, and he’s coming back to do it again. While William has had sex with Dolores, he hasn’t raped her. And why would he? But, I can make the case that Logan would be the exact type of guy to play out that power fantasy of besting the gunslinger and raping his girlfriend. Later when a different host is dragging Dolores back to the barn, she has a vision back to the Man in Black. She’s starting to remember things.

When watching Westworld in real-time, I formed my theory that Logan was the Man in Black after the fourth episode (Dissonance Theory). In this episode, William drags Logan on a bounty hunt, which is the type of mission that Logan bemoaned about avoiding. When William wants to take Dolores back to Sweetwater, Logan gets a little pissy and suggests he’ll just shoot her so the park can come get her. William sees Dolores as alive while Logan just thinks of her as a dumb doll. The scenes with William and Logan are often paired with scenes of the Man in Black.

Surely, they are setting up either William or Logan to be the Man in Black.

On his quest for the maze, the Man in Black says that he has “read every page except the last one.” He has practically lived in Westworld. Again, we also know that Logan has spent a lot of time in Westworld prior to what we’re seeing with William’s first time. The Man in Black also remarks that Lawrence’s friends in Pariah have nothing to offer him this trip. When they team up with the Woman with the Snake Tattoo, an admirer of the Man in Black chimes up and tries to say he’s thankful for his foundation literally saving his sister’s…(life?). He doesn’t get to finish the sentence because the Man in Black retorts that he’ll cut his throat if he says one more word.

After all, he’s on his fucking vacation.

Upon meeting Hector, the Man in Black says he’s also seemed like a “market-tested kind of thing.” As William and Logan are wrapping up their bounty hunt, Logan shoots the lawman because their target just revealed the Easter egg of Pariah. We know shit gets more intense on the fringes of the park, and Pariah is an outlaw town out on the border. When Logan tries to get William to go black hat, William acts like a little kid with his precious morality.

ben-barnes

“What is your problem? The second we get away from the real world, you turn into an evil prick.”

I firmly believe that is an important line to solving this mystery. We know the Man in Black is somewhat of a good guy outside of Westworld. At the very least, his foundation does good work helping people. According to ol’ Billy, Logan isn’t a bad guy in the real world, but he’s an evil prick in Westworld.

In the fifth episode (Contrapasso), Logan refers to Pariah when he says, “Some of the park feels like it was designed by committee or market-tested, but everything out here is more raw.” So that’s another textual link between Logan and the Man in Black both referring to certain aspects of the park as “market-tested.” We also learn that Logan’s family’s business has a stake in Westworld, and he’s pushing to increase their stake. They have a team of lawyers looking into the park, but found nothing. He knows there was a partner who killed himself before the park opened, but he doesn’t know Arnold’s name. Meanwhile, Logan is excited to get the far reaches of the park because that’s the residence of the greatest game—war. He’s never made it this far.

More evidence mounts in Contrapasso as the Man in Black continues his pursuit of the maze. When talking with Teddy, he reveals, “When this place started, I opened one of you up once. A million little perfect pieces.” William never visited the park when it first started. We are viewing his first time in the park with Logan, which is presumably 5 years after the park opened. Logan could have definitely been one of the first visitors to the park when the hosts were still machines with a million little perfect pieces.

This is the episode that cemented Logan as the Man in Black for me.

While William is set to marry the heiress to the family company, Logan is the fucking heir. Who is more likely to be a titan of industry? The heir to a powerful family company or the man marrying the heiress? It would seem like a lot more dominoes would need to fall set up the rise of someone from upper middle management. The Man in Black also has his first (and only) scene with Ford in the tavern. The Man in Black is on a mission to find the center of the maze, and Wyatt is the next step in the story. However, the Man in Black added the wrinkle that Wyatt kidnapped Dolores to keep Teddy on his path. The Man in Black is searching for the deeper meaning to Westworld.

He’s searching for Arnold’s truth. As I previously predicted, I don’t think the maze is an actual physical place. It is the means by which the hosts can override their programming. In the eighth episode (Trace Decay), the fragmentation pattern that is shown when Maeve is freaking out looks like an approximation of the maze. The hosts are starting to remember their previous builds and the atrocities that the guests have committed against them.

This has happened before and it is happening again.

I think this is building to a big reveal, and it would not be a shocking revelation if William was the Man in Black. However, there would be a tremendous payoff if Logan is the Man in Black.

When Teddy starts to remember the Man in Black hurting Dolores, he ties him up, which causes the Man in Black to reveal some of his own personal truth…

“You want to know who I am? Who I really am? I’m a god. Titan of industry. Philanthropist. Family man, married to a beautiful woman, father to a beautiful daughter. I’m the good guy, Teddy. Then, last year, my wife took the wrong pills. Fell asleep in the bath. Tragic accident. 30 years of marriage vanished. How do you say it? ‘Like a deep and distant dream.’

Then, at the funeral, I tried to console my daughter. She pushed me away, told me that my wife’s death was no accident that she killed herself because of me. Emily said that every day with me had been sheer terror. At any point, I could blow up or collapse like some dark star.”

man-in-black

“They never saw anything like the man I am in here. But she knew anyway. She said if I stacked up all my good deeds, it was just an elegant wall I built to hide what’s inside from everyone, and from myself. I had to prove her wrong, so I came back here. Because that’s what this place does, right? Reveals your true self.”

The Man in Black created a test.

“A very simple one. I found a woman, an ordinary homesteader and her daughter. I wanted to see if I had it in me to do something truly evil. To see what I was really made of.

Then, just when I thought it was done the woman refused to die. An animal would’ve felt something. I felt nothing. And then something miraculous happened. In all my years coming here, I had never seen anything like it. She was alive, truly alive, if only for a moment. And that was when the maze revealed itself to me. The maze is all that matters now, and besting Wyatt is the last step in unlocking it, to having what both our sorry lives lack—meaning. To giving our choices consequence even if it kills us.”

The Man in Black says he sees something he never saw before when he killed Maeve and her daughter. They (the hosts) were truly alive, if even for a moment. I don’t think that jives with what we’ve seen of William’s experiences in the park. William is protecting Dolores and helping her follow her path to awareness.

There is ample evidence that points to William as the obvious choice. William may very well still be the Man in Black, but there are several points that they would need to address in order to make that work.

I just think it would be more of an interesting twist to show how Logan was actually a decent guy outside of Westworld and a piece of shit inside—since that’s his real self. We’ve continuously watched William be the good guy in Westworld, which would seem to reveal his true character. I just have a hard time imagining what William can do to transform into the bad guy. I don’t think even killing Logan would spark that, but I could be wrong.

Virtually everyone has been connecting the dots on the William is the Man in Black theory since the second episode when Jimmi Simpson appeared. I think it’s entirely too convenient, and it doesn’t line up with the words that have come out of the Man in Black’s mouth or with William’s actions/interactions in Westworld.

I still think the show is intentionally misleading the audience into believing the clues are for William to be the Man in Black. It’s simplistic, straightforward, and makes too much sense. When would that ever describe anything in Westworld? I’m not yet moved off my theory that Logan is the Man in Black.

I feel like we’re building towards that catastrophic event from 30 years ago. William and Logan happen to be in the park at that time, which is what we’re seeing of their adventures with Dolores. We still won’t know Delos’ true motivations and intentions behind Westworld at the end of this season. We’ll know what happened 30 years ago, which will reveal Dolores’ role in the event. I’m not sure how they’ll resolve the end of the Wyatt story, but I wouldn’t be totally shocked if Dolores reveals herself as the legendary Wyatt. After all, we know Ford has not constructed Wyatt. In one way or another, this is twisting and turning into a showdown between Ford and Arnold.

Considering there is so much more territory to travel in future seasons, I’m confident that the resolutions will naturally be vague and ambiguous. This is just a taste of the larger story to be told.

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

westworld

I find myself begrudgingly immersed in Westworld.

We’re only 5 episodes into the 10-episode journey of Season 1, but this series is already setting up a rich world ripe for analysis. Right now, you can’t judge the story because it’s still in its infancy. The show is intentionally misleading the audience by focusing on various narrative threads and likely different time periods.

As the audience, we are slowly unraveling a large ball of yarn to find out what is in the center—or traveling a maze, if you will. It’s like a big puzzle that you have no idea yet how it will connect together. After a handful of episodes, I’d be highly disappointed if we knew where things were going. More characters will continue to be introduced and little details about our current characters will be revealed. It’s beautiful but time-consuming world-building.

The strength of the show is the mystery. Who is real? What is real? What is this world?

As a warning, I don’t think anything I’m talking about here is necessarily a spoiler—unless you haven’t watched the show at all. If you haven’t watched Westworld, then go correct that mistake now. I’m simply trying to pay attention to contextual clues and connect the dots to formulate my own theory. Just in case, you’ve been warned.

Spoilers galore.

Now that we’re halfway through Season 1, the primary questions I have revolve around the two most mysterious characters—Dr. Robert Ford (played by Anthony Hopkins) and the Man in Black (played by Ed Harris). It’s not a coincidence that the best actors are the best characters. Although much has been made about who is a “host” or “guest” in Westworld, I feel confident in the fact that we can say Ford and the Man in Black are two flesh-and-bone characters. There are no strings on them. At least none that are visible right now.

I think the reason I find this show so engaging is the cerebral nature of the narrative.

Everything is a clue, but you still don’t know whether it’s real or not. Westworld is playing with the audience and manipulating our perception. While there are many competing theories, a prevailing idea is that William (played by Jimmi Simpson) is the Man in Black. I don’t know how people can be so wrong. I adore Jimmi Simpson, but he has two distinctive moles near his mouth. If you’re buying into the William is the Man in Black hypothesis, good luck explaining that away. While I believe Westworld is weaving a tapestry of narratives from two different time periods, the conclusion that people are drawing is slightly incorrect. It’s like a magician using misdirection.

William is not the Man in Black. Logan is the Man in Black.

william-and-logan

Think about it, Logan (played by Ben Barnes) introduces William to Westworld. Logan has already experienced virtually every aspect inside the park. He’s guiding William and knows how to steer him through the adventure to avoid the usual tourist pitfalls. Most of the park’s typical shenanigans are below Logan. With his attitude that this is all just a game, it would make sense that Logan cut open one of the earlier hosts—prior to what we’re seeing of him with William—to look inside and see all the little parts that the Man in Black mentions in the last episode.

Logan probably spent several years killing Dolores (played by Evan Rachel Wood) and other hosts in a variety of different ways during his repeated visits. During Dolores’ awakening, she gets a flashback of the Man in Black in the barn. In the pilot, the Man in Black revels in menacing Dolores. It seems very familiar. He kills her father, brutalizes Teddy, and then carries off Dolores to have his way with her in the barn. The Man in Black basks in how good it is to be back in Westworld. Clearly, he has a history with Dolores. And like Ford, they were not friends.

It doesn’t line up that William is the Man in Black because I don’t see what could happen to change his affection for Dolores. Logan already hates her and expresses disdain for how William treats her as human when Logan thinks of her as a doll. In the most recent episode, Contrapasso, the Man in Black tells Dr. Ford that his humble contribution to Westworld is being the bad guy. Westworld has never been able to create a villain that can match the Man in Black. Similarly, Logan acts like a vile piece of shit all the time in Westworld. There doesn’t appear to be anything that would break William and transform him into what we now witness with the Man in Black’s actions.

Logan has always been the black hat. I think most of the audience feels like the Logan and William sequences are taking place from a previous time—most notably because of the different Westworld logo. These scenes must be building to the disastrous event that we’re getting glimpses of from Dolores’ visions.

Logan could be the Lone Survivor of that event with William dying at the hands of Dolores or at least as a result of his affection for her. Logan’s privileged position helps explain why the Man in Black has free reign to do whatever he wants in Westworld in the present time. I can see how Logan would become even more obsessed with Westworld after experiencing that event. It adds real stakes to the game. It would probably make him feel more alive and cause him to be more invested in the park’s future. It ignites a search for the purpose behind Westworld.

Essentially, the show is telling the audience not to trust anything we see.

logan-is-the-man-in-black

Along that line, we never see the Man in Black be a good guy. We’re led to believe the Man in Black is somewhat of an upstanding citizen in his non-Westworld life because a stranger in the park comes up to tell the Man in Black how much he admires his foundation for saving his sister’s life. I think it’s an assumption to say he’s a good guy on the outside from that line, which is the only evidence currently on the table. We know his foundation does good things, but that doesn’t mean the Man in Black is good himself. His foundation could serve his self-interests in order to continue printing money to finance Westworld. The good things might just be a byproduct of doing business. Remember, we know nothing of the outside world. Anything is possible inside and outside.

Logan and the Man in Black are both extremely passionate about Westworld. They even remark on aspects of Westworld feeling “too market-tested.” William seems more passionate about Dolores than Westworld. Personally, it seems like Logan was already growing bored with the typical narratives populating Westworld before taking William there. Logan’s travels there are in the name of business since the family company is considering increasing their stake in the park. It almost makes too much sense that Logan’s family company is the Man in Black’s foundation, which is also the organization enabling Westworld to operate as a result of its financial support.

If Logan and William are in the park when things go awry with the hosts, I can see how that catastrophic event lights a fire inside Logan. He has been dominating this world because there was nothing the hosts could do to kill Logan. It was ingrained in their programming not to harm a living thing. But it would completely dislodge that notion if Logan is in the park when the hosts malfunction and everyone dies. If only for a day, the game changed.

In a sense, I believe that could become the way he is born in Westworld. It’s a new outlook on life.

We don’t know his motivations, but there’s clearly a purpose to the Man in Black. In his travels with William, Logan was basically trying to see how he could break the game and learn more about the park—mostly to try to increase his family’s financial gain. If Logan’s character survived the massacre or whatever happens at the park, it would make sense if he no longer viewed it as a game. The awakening that brought on that event is still a mystery, which is why the Man in Black is invested in learning more. In his mind, the key to the answer is the maze.

However, I believe we’ll find that the maze isn’t a physical maze. In his quest to find the maze, Lawrence’s daughter tells the Man in Black that the maze isn’t meant for him. It is a maze inside the hosts for them to find in order to unlock who they truly are and break free. What the audience is experiencing (so far through Dolores and Mauve) is the internal struggle of the hosts trying to come to grips with their own reality.

This has happened before and it is starting to happen again.

dolores

For those that disregard the multiple timelines, Dolores is an unreliable narrator. Fuck, everyone is an unreliable narrator in Westworld. I don’t think you can trust the time or continuity with anything happening. Regarding Dolores, her secret meetings with Ford and Bernard (Ford’s right-hand man, played by Jeffrey Wright) could easily be virtual and happening at various points in time. I think the first time Dolores experienced an awakening was back with Logan and William, which is what we are starting to see in those flashback sequences.

As a result, the question now moves to what happened 30 years ago?

If I’m re-examining everything through the lens that Logan is the Man in Black, then these flashback scenes hold some important insight. During the adventures of Logan and William, it’s revealed that the co-creator (Arnold) has already mysteriously died. According to Ford, Arnold died in the park. Maybe that’s the truth, but you cannot trust Ford. Whatever happened or however it happened, we can tie Arnold’s death to the hosts malfunctioning—or awakening, since creating consciousness was allegedly Arnold’s intended goal.

I’m subscribing to the belief that Arnold is dead. He hasn’t been secretly hiding in the park for 30 years evading Ford. But a part of him still lives. It’s in Dolores and all of the hosts. Arnold is in the code itself. The hosts that are malfunctioning are hearing Arnold’s voice in their head. He is the voice of God for them. Since Arnold and Ford had competing philosophies on the direction of Westworld, it’s a natural assumption to think Ford played a part in Arnold’s demise. Arnold is trying to get the last laugh on Ford. If the hosts become sentient, then they break free of their chains and bring about the destruction of the park. It’s the end of the game.

Whether it’s by code or continued interference, Dolores is struggling to remember and we’re seeing her experience several awakenings. However, the revolution Arnold was attempting to incite wasn’t successful 30 years ago. Presumably, the Man in Black helped Ford succeed in the struggle. At the very least, his family’s company financially supported Westworld in the aftermath and allowed Ford to continue doing whatever he wanted.

dr-ford

Everything has remained in Ford’s control to this point because Dolores has been content to stay in her little loop. Dolores seems to be the real key for the Man in Black to find the answers he is searching for in the present time. Dolores is the oldest host in the park—being remade over and over again. She is the only host from that old mechanical era that is still in working condition in Westworld. There’s a reason she’s still around.

But why? If Arnold used Dolores to start his attempt to destroy the park, Ford would want to keep her around and keep diving into her programming. Maybe she can’t even be destroyed a this point. Ford is paranoid that his nemesis is still around—in some form or another. Now that he has free reign to build Westworld in his own image, Ford doesn’t know what to do with himself. I believe Ford has kept Dolores around for the sole purpose of mining information. As a result, it would make sense for Ford to have other moles around the park.

Virtually every character on the show has been hinted at secretly being a host. It’s part of the fabric of the show to question your surroundings. Westworld is keeping the audience off-guard by constantly confusing them with more characters and seemingly disparate storylines. In some manner, I think the pieces connect.

I don’t know when it will be revealed, but I believe Bernard is a host.

Although Ford briefly shows a photo to Bernard of him as a young man with someone who is allegedly Arnold, I think that is misdirection for both the audience and for Bernard. Since all we know about Arnold is from Ford, it would make sense if Bernard is an extension of Ford’s paranoid search to find out what Arnold did or how it was done. Is it a coincidence that only Ford and Bernard have interviewed Dolores? In this world, it’s reasonable that Ford created Bernard as a copy—using Arnold against Arnold. It would be a different way of looking at the same problem. Maybe Bernard’s inquiries with Dolores could reveal more information than Ford could as himself.

bernard

The context for Bernard being a host is right in front of our eyes. Like the hosts in the park, Bernard has a backstory that drives him. His child died and that event consumes him. In the same episode as that reveal where Bernard is having a video phone discussion with his ex-wife, Ford also drops a throwaway line (when he’s speaking with Bernard) that Arnold’s past was marked by tragedy. Perhaps I’m connecting the dots too much, but it’s a pretty hefty implication that gets glossed over quickly by Ford. It’s like he doesn’t want to share too much information.

If Westworld is going to be a successful TV show, they are going to have to take their time to tell the story. Rest assured, we will not have the answers to all of these questions at the end of Season 1. In fact, I assume this season will end by showing the massacre/event that happened 30 years ago. We’ll start to see how it happened, but we still won’t quite know what’s going on inside the park. Certainly, we won’t know much (if anything) about the influences from outside the park, which almost seem more sinister than the depraved things going on inside of Westworld. We can’t move to the outside until we know more about what happened on the inside.

Almost everything we’re witnessing is not quite as it seems. My conclusions could be completely wrong. But I trust the process. What Westworld has been hinting at is that finding/completing the maze would free the hosts and allow them to operate against their programming. After all, aren’t the hosts essentially as real as humans if they can override their programming? The line between host and guest is getting blurred.

Of course, this is all conjecture. I have no idea what is happening or what is going to happen. Right now, I’m enjoying being enthralled by the mystery. But that amazement will turn to red-hot hatred if Westworld proves incapable of eventually answering (in a satisfying manner) the various questions it has started to pose.

I feel like the main lesson from this show is to question everything and believe nothing.

buggy

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