Monday, January 7, 2008

Carcetti for President

Thanks, Tripp, for inviting me to blog here. I think it's one of your best ideas, and hopefully Angela and the others who join us have a lot to say. You forgot to mention you were inspired to start this by last year's Slate blog (they're doing it again, in case you haven't noticed). I've enjoyed the Slate blog, but I sometimes think they focus too much on the social implications of The Wire and Simon's source material. They always return to The Wire as a social mirror, reflecting the real city of Baltimore and the American urban experience. While I love that aspect of the show (I admit it would be a far less weighty and important show without it), I think their blog can fall short of discussing how beautiful the show is as a stand-alone work of television art. That's not saying I don't think those bloggers believe it is; they clearly love the show as much as everyone else. They just get hung up on the real-life of it, the stats, you might say. I'm not one for the stats, but then again I haven't read any of Simon's non-fiction. Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems to me the kind of discussion on the Slate blog is typical of those about The Wire. Maybe someone could explain to me why this is? Why this obsession with the stats and the non-fiction roots of the show? Is it not, by itself, beautiful? Is this why it hasn't won an Emmy? Because the sociological overshadows just how perfect it is as a show?

Until then, on to episode one...

While I think the quasi-religious experience you had watching the opening scene sounds like a blast, I can't help but point out that when the original episode aired on Sunday there was a "previously on" clip before the shot of Bunk's splendid face. I do, however, agree with your impression of the opening scene. Simon writes great openings. This may be the most overtly symbolic opener of the series, though. The message, as you said, is this is a season about lies. But Bunk isn't merely lying to the suspect in this scene. He is molding a lie so that another will see it as truth. It is more dangerous than the simple boy who cried wolf, and I think we'll see that season five isn't about only lies, but also the smoke and mirrors put up to present those lies as truth. It will be about the great lengths people go to turn their lies to truth, and the equally great lengths others go to expose their machinations. Ultimately, it will ask the question: does truth exist at all in Baltimore? Or is it all just sound and fury, signifying nothing.

I think we might already know the answer, but I expect the path the show takes to be brutal.

One of my questions going into the season was how Simon would use the kids. Randy, Michael, Duquan and Namond broke our hearts in season four, and I needed to know how their lives turned out. So far, we know Michael is earning his keep for Marlo and Duquan is still living with him, working on the corner and taking care of Michael's younger brother, Bug. Is it just me, or does Duquan look a lot older now? Michael doesn't seem to have aged a bit, but Dukie is taller, and he no longer has that baby face. No intention on the writers' part presumed (words can't make a kid older), but Duquan's appearance has me optimistic. In this episode Michael takes him off the corner, telling him he can earn his money taking care of Bug. When Duquan asks him what he's supposed to do all day, with Bug at school, now that he's off the corner, Michael tells him his days are his to do whatever he wants. I really hope he goes back to school. He at least looks old enough to stand up to those ninth grade bullies. Maybe he pays a visit to his old teacher Prez to help him get back in the system?

Michael and Duquan were the two kids I was sure would appear in season four. Namond might get some screen time, too; his story didn't seem like it came to its natural end in season four. But Randy - oh it makes me shiver just to think about it - Randy, I'm not so sure we'll see him in season five. When Randy gets beat up during the montage at the end of season four, you get the feeling that it's just going to be more of the same for him for many years. I hope The Wire proves me wrong, but I don't hold out hope it will. It is an unforgiving show. Take McNulty; he's drinking again. Why? Because that is what McNulty does. Believe me, the fan in me wants to see him redeemed, but It would be bad writing to have him do real police work sober.

Before I go, I want to take issue with some posts I read at Slate today about episode one. The bloggers there are unsatisfied with the portrayal of the staff at The Baltimore Sun. One of them wisely points out that perhaps this is due to the fact that they are reporters themselves writing about reporters on television, and are thus predisposed to find the characters trite and cliche. Well, I'm not a reporter, and I have no problem with them. After one episode, they remind me of the dock workers. I didn't care much about Frank, Ziggy and Nick at first, but by end of season two I cried for them (I really did cry for Ziggy).

I like "Gus" Haynes (City Editor). He has a good sense of humor and a likable, as opposed to patronizing, been-there-done-that attitude. And, unlike the blogger at Slate, I LIKED the moment with Alma Gutierrez when she looks up the proper use of the word "evacuate." I work in a business of words too - Publishing - and when I'm corrected by my older colleagues I only truly accept the new information once I've looked it up myself. It is a humble and private moment of self-reflection and growth, and I think that's the intention of the scene. When her young, male cohort asks her what she's talking about, you'll note she doesn't tell him.

As for Marlo and Sergei, I think the king is trying to go around the co-op to find a direct line to the drugs. Do you remember the scene last season when Marlo met with Spiros? He probed him for a direct connect to the drugs. Marlo has been going along with co-op out of necessity only, and I think he's going to try to get to the drugs through Sergei.

You're probably wondering now, what's with the title of this post. Carcetti for President. Well, throughout the first episode I was struck by the eerie similarities between our favorite fallen mayor of Baltimore and the golden boy of the Democratic primaries, Barack Obama. Carcetti promised "A New Day'; Barack: "Change We Can Believe In." They're also both racially atypical. Carcetti a white mayor in a black city and Obama a black presidential candidate in a white nation.

It's a strange coincidence that we Wire fans, many of whom I assume are Democrats (because Republicans are really more the Dancing with the Stars crowd), are watching Carcetti come to terms with the obstacles that lie between the old ways and his new day as Barack, a Wire fan himself, presents to us that same message of change. I hope, for our sake, Barack's a better closer.



Sulzman said...

Yeah, I thought about that too. I'm not holding my breath that Simon is an Obama supporter, although I could be wrong. So far, Obama seems to be doing pretty well. But then again, Carcetti also new how win a campaign. Actually doing the job ends up defining him in ways he would never have accepted as a candidate. I could also be wrong about Simon. After all, its not like he's presenting Royce as a better alternative (is Royce the Hillary to Carcetti's Obama?). Anyway, good stuff.

eidylon said...

BTW - I know quite a few Democrat-voters who also watch Dancing, Bachelor/Bachelorette, Idol, etc.