Posts Tagged ‘Wendy Grantham’

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

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

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.