Posts Tagged ‘Tom Quinn’

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

The Buys is a shining beacon of police incompetence and corruption.

Are you sensing a common theme among episodes of The Wire?

It’s called reality, this is the City of Balmer we’re talking about here.

After the drunken mess created by Herc, Carver, and Pryzbylewski in the last episode, the investigation is now down two officers as Herc is on medical leave and Pryzbo is on desk duty until the grand jury convenes on his brutality case that resulted in a kid losing his eye. Throw in the bumbling duo of Polk and Mahon, and you have yourself a modern, ragtag group of Keystone Cops. Sadly, that’s a good percentage of the police force.

After two weeks on the job, this pathetic farce of an investigation still doesn’t have a photo of Avon Barksdale. McNulty berates Polk and Mahon to get off their fat drunken asses and go down to the Baltimore City Housing Department to get a picture of a young Avon Barksdale. Naturally, it’s another dead end as the photo is a fake— a picture of an old white guy, decidedly not the drug dealer running half of Baltimore.

avon-barksdale

However, a new hope is found. Pawn Shop Unit refugee Lester Freamon perks up at the mention of Avon Barksdale being a former Golden Gloves boxer when he was younger. In the blink of an eye, Lester shows up to a friend’s boxing gym and then he’s back at the office with an old promotional poster of Avon Barksdale. After showing some natural police work, Lester goes right back to carving and painting his dollhouse furniture.

From the top-down, leadership is applying pressure on Lt. Daniels to wrap up the investigation by street busts. Of course, that strategy isn’t going to lead to any significant finds. The Barksdale crew is too smart to let anyone important handle the drugs. Despite the street knowledge of Bubbles (a drugged out, confidential informant), the investigation is engaging in a near fatal case of self-sabotage with their focus on busts.

On the street-level, all of the action in this episode revolves around The Pit.

D’Angelo is turning things around and The Pit is producing money like never before.  D’Angelo is teaching the boys how to play chess instead of checkers. No, seriously. I’m terrible at chess because I never play enough to remember the rules, but that scene beautifully breaks down chess as if it were the drug game that is their reality.

D’Angelo is starting to show some true signs of promise.

In The Wire, everything good must turn bad. D’Angelo has no idea how many sets of eyes have turned to The Pit. In addition to law enforcement, the most vicious, brutal criminal has now entered the game. Omar fucking Little. While this episode is only an introduction, the audience is made painfully aware of Omar’s fearlessness in the short scene where he stakes out and steals the Barksdale crew’s drug stash in The Pit.

omar-little

This is a man who makes his living robbing drug dealers.

Oh, and the character is gay. Like flaming gay. Omar wouldn’t exist without Michael K. Williams. The prominent scar across the actor’s face is a terrifyingly real result of a bar fight. Michael K. Williams gives Omar an aura of authenticity. He is a menace, but Omar is a man with a code. Now, he’s set his sights on the Barksdale crew.

Omar is a literal Robin Hood robbing the hood.

Right after Omar’s heroics, Deputy Burrell forces the investigation to levy the hammer and launch a raid on The Pit. But there’s nothing to find at this point. The cops cannot get out of their own way. Somehow, the investigation shoots itself in the foot without finding any drugs, guns, or worthwhile evidence…except a number.

Since McNulty opted out of the raid based on the principality of the matter, who else on the investigation would have found the number? I’ll give you a hint: it takes some natural police work.

cool-lester-smooth

Quote of the Episode

D’Angelo: Now look, check it, it’s simple, it’s simple. See this? This the kingpin, a’ight? And he the man. You get the other dude’s king, you got the game. But he trying to get your king too, so you gotta protect it. Now, the king, he move one space any direction he damn choose, ’cause he’s the king. Like this, this, this, a’ight? But he ain’t got no hustle. But the rest of these motherfuckers on the team, they got his back. And they run so deep, he really ain’t gotta do shit.

Bodie: Like your uncle.

D’Angelo Barksdale: Yeah, like my uncle. You see this? This the queen. She smart, she fast. She move any way she want, as far as she want. And she is the go-get-shit-done piece.

Wallace: Remind me of Stringer.

D’Angelo: And this over here is the castle. Like the stash. It can move like this, and like this.

Wallace: Dog, stash don’t move, man.

D’Angelo: C’mon, yo, think. How many time we move the stash house this week? Right? And every time we move the stash, we gotta move a little muscle with it, right? To protect it.

Bodie: True, true, you right. All right, what about them little baldheaded bitches right there?

D’Angelo: These right here, these are the pawns. They like the soldiers. They move like this, one space forward only. Except when they fight, then it’s like this. And they like the front lines, they be out in the field.

Wallace: So how do you get to be the king?

D’Angelo: It ain’t like that. See, the king stay the king, a’ight? Everything stay who he is. Except for the pawns. Now, if the pawn make it all the way down to the other dude’s side, he get to be queen. And like I said, the queen ain’t no bitch. She got all the moves.

Bodie: A’ight, so if I make it to the other end, I win.

D’Angelo: If you catch the other dude’s king and trap it, then you win.

Bodie: A’ight, but if I make it to the end, I’m top dog.

D’Angelo: Nah, yo, it ain’t like that. Look, the pawns, man, in the game, they get capped quick. They be out the game early.

Bodie: Unless they some smart-ass pawns.

mcnulty-in-the-pit

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

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

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

dangelos-letter

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

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

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

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

polk-and-mahon

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

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

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

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

rawls

Quote of the Episode

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