Thursday, February 28, 2008


As the fifth season comes to its inexorable end (with episode nine by FAR being the most intense yet), you start to explore every possible scenario that could wrap up the series. Guessing may seem silly on a show that's known for its unpredictability, but it sure is fun.

So I have an interesting theory to propose. Subscribers to HBO OnDemand were able to view three prequels: one of a young Omar robbing a man waiting for the bus in 1985 Baltimore; one of a young Prop Joe making business deals at his school in 1962 Baltimore; and one of Bunk and McNulty meeting for the first time in 2000 Baltimore.

It is most certainly not a coincidence that the main characters of the first two prequels have perished so far this season. So what could this last one mean? I have a few ideas (death of a partnership, McNulty's career, etc.) But, I would like to hear what everyone else thinks. Could they actually kill off McNulty or Bunk?

Two moments

Two moments I thought of that aren't on your list:

Du'quon, Randy, Namond and Michael in the vacants - "see, not special dead...just dead."

Landsman in the cube with Ziggy.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Just like a forty-degree day

Here are my nominees for the best moments...they are heavy on 3 and 4 but what can I say, those are my favorites. I have not bothered with any from 5 yet, as I know I'll need more distance from it before I can make any judgments. Most of these should be self-explanatory (at least in terms of what scene it is) and I'll defend any of them if asked.

-Snoop learning about the nail gun in 4

-Colvin's paper bag speech

-Freamon and Bunk discovering Marlo's vacants secret

-The opening scene of the series

-Omar and Bunk's meeting on the bench in 3

-Sobotka's argument with his lobbyist ("We used to make shit in this country")

-Marlo's encounter with the store security guard ("You want it to be one way")

-The last meeting between Avon and Stringer "We don't need to dream no more."

-The alleyway stand-off between Omar and Brother Mouzone

-The interaction between Bubbles and Landsman in 4 (it's actually two scenes but they're so goddammed good)

Honorable mentions:
-Brother Mouzone's interaction with Cheese in 2 (left it out cause it's not terribly meaningful, just funny/badass)

-Colvin's speech about police work and what it's become to Carver in 3...left it out cause it's just him ranting again and the paper bag speech is better

-Prez and Freamon's "All the pieces matter" conversation for obvious reasons, I left it out cause it's basically just that line.

-The infamous "fuck" scene...cause that's just too easy.

-Freamon and Bunk talking to all the apparently non-English speaking sailors from The Atlantic Light

-The death of Wallace...cause that also seemed just too easy.

-Slim Charles and Avon in the finale of 3..."If it's a lie, then we fight on that lie."

They gonna beat on your white ass like it was a rented mule

First of all, this might be sabotaging ourselves, but I thought it'd be nice to see another blog with our goals that, incidentally, is (no offense to the other posters) way, way better than us (not to mention much older).

Apparently, in the new or upcoming issue of Vibe, and on a post at the aforementioned blog kicking this one's ass, there's a list of their top 10 favorite Wire moments. I say we do something similar. As the other blog says, there are plenty of obvious ones (Stringer's death, D'Angelo's chess game, all the montages, etc. etc.) so perhaps we might avoid those. I say we each post a few, maybe even ten, then we try to decide which are OUR definitive ten.

I have a few ideas that I'll post shortly.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Socratic Method

(NOTE: there are some who read this blog, and some who post on it, who don't have/choose not to watch OnDemand, so they've only seen up to episode 57, "Took", so please everyone else no spoilers...this would be, as of right now, anything that happens in episode 58, "Clarifications")

Re: his last post, specifically the final paragraph, I totally agree with, uh, Mr. Sulzman.

David Simon has said many times that "The Wire" rips off writers he knows can't sue him: The Greeks. No, I don't mean Vondas and the old guy with the beads who's "not even Greek", I mean those old-school motherfuckers who thought every time they looked up to see an overcast sky they'd pissed somebody off up there.

In ancient Greek tragedy, the idea of Fate, indifferent and all-consuming, is the motivating factor that moves the stories along. The gods up on Mt. Olympus sling curses, hurl lightning bolts and inflict all manner of plague and pestilence upon the hapless humans below, and often for no discernible reason other than, much of the time, boredom.

Fast forward several thousand years and Baltimore is the new Athens or Thebes; instead of Zeus, Athena or Apollo the new gods are faceless, postmodern institutions-the police department, City Hall, a city newspaper, the school system or even the drug trade. No matter where you are in this world, there ain't much chance of getting ahead, and honestly it's hard enough just making sure you don't get your head blown off (to varying degrees of figuratively) in your day-to-day life. You probably won't get to "make something of yourself", but if you can cope with whatever your station in life is, you'll probably be more or less okay. There are exceptions of course, but actually the more I think about it the fewer I think there are; nearly everyone who gets fucked in "The Wire" (certainly every major character) in one way or another deserves it.

Now don't jump on me. Wallace didn't "deserve" it in season 1, and neither did, say, Bubbles in any season but S4 in particular (assuming nothing too awful happens to him in the final two episodes eeeeks). This is true. And Sobotka wasn't the most honest and noble of men but is there anyone who thought justice was served when that fucking undignified cargo net usually used for fish and boxes pulled him naked and brutalized out of the Patapsco? Did D'Angelo deserve dying (and being made to look like a suicide, no less) in a dank, shitty prison library simply because Stringer Bell THOUGHT he might rat on them...someday?

No. But, off the top of my head, there's only two people who were truly fucked in the show that didn't deserve it (ripple effects, e.g. the parents/kids/loved ones of someone who gets killed or something don't count, I only mean characters we've met): one is the little kid who gets killed by the stray bullet during the gunfight between Bodie and co. and the rival corner boys in S2, and Randy Wagstaff's foster mother (who, in case anyone wasn't sure, actually did die from burns and smoke inhalation). Both are total innocents AND, more importantly, neither did anything to incur the wrath of "the gods".

Bubbles, in season 4 (actually late in S3 but basically in 4...I only bothered to make the distinction so that you nitpicking bastards don't take me to task on it) decides to try and ease up on the dope and try to make a real living. Easing up, as he knows, ain't all that easy, and neither is making a real living when he's spent who-knows-how-many years living the game for real out on the street. So, like a true American, he sees a natural money-making niche for himself as a traveling discount all-purpose convenience store, and so he finds himself a shopping cart and Bubbles' Depot is born. Of course now he's sticking his head up, trying to change his station in life, break out of his caste, and the gods take notice and wag their celestial fingers in the form of an un-named assailant who beats the crap out of him and steals his money, goods and hard-earned drugs every time. Ironically enough, from the assailant's perspective, what's more American than that? Anyway, rather than quit, Bubbles keeps selling, and the "bad boy" keeps beating. Finally, at his wits' end, STILL instead of quitting, Bubbles endeavors to remove the "bad boy" permanently...and we all know what happens then.

Do you see where I'm going with this? It's the same thing Dario (I can't call you Mr. dude, at least not until we're in our 30s and/or a professional setting) was talking about at the end of his post. Colvin tried two ways of reforming a broken system, one each for seasons 3 and 4, and what happened? Basically, nothing. His ideas, because they actually were fairly good ones, worked, but nobody cared and they shut him down. That's how he got fucked. Now, this isn't the same as getting brutally beaten daily and accidentally killing your only friend when you try to retaliate, but it's on a scale. I don't think Carcetti, for another instance, will get killed, and since he's probably too astute a politician he'll probably never even be fired as Colvin was, but we see the price he has paid. His ambition for power used to be neck-and-neck with his desire to actually "make a difference", but each episode we see it slipping further and further away. It's not his fault and I don't blame him (one thing I really wish "The Wire" hadn't done was, unbelievably, make me understand and thereby some of the time actually hate less all the politicians); he probably still wants to make a difference but knows he can't if he loses the next election because he spent all his time actually trying to fix things rather than kissing the appropriate rings, cheeks, and other less desirable areas. It's not like those who have the kiss-needing locales are wrong either, they want their particular issues heard, but they add up. They add up to more time than anyone, even the mayor of a major American city, has.

I don't think I need to overly explain the other instances, do I? Sobotka tried both stepping outside his ordained duties to make money illegally and tried affect real change in a time and place that wouldn't allow it. Of course too he was too proud to give in to Valchek over that stained glass window, even though even a suburban white boy like me knows it ain't worth it to mess with the cops, even when they're unconscionable assholes (here's something maybe you didn't know-a great many of them are, it's the kind of job tailor made for good, moral, noble and upstanding men but also for unconscionable assholes). Finally, he decided to rat on his criminal buddies, and all moral judgments about snitching aside it would've been fine had he not gone against all his better logic and reason and met with them that very night.

Wallace tried to toss off his entire previous life and get out of the game, which actually would've worked had he not gotten lazy and/or scared and skipped back to Baltimore. He didn't "deserve" his fate, but he certainly brought it about.

Stringer hit the glass ceiling, as it were, when he realized the drug trade was a finite growth industry and when the growth inevitably stops, there aren't many options and none of them look good. He was smart enough to know that, but not smart enough to immediately make the transition into, essentially, a completely different world. Thinking he was too big for the one he was in and not knowing he was too small for the one he strove for, it led to his downfall.

Bodie? Well, Bodie tried to fit himself into a square hole when he knows damn well he's a round peg. It is no surprise when he gets pissed off and bucks...and it's no less a surprise when he's gunned down. D'Angelo is even simpler-he just said he wanted out. Voluntarily and for no reason other than itself, he wanted out, and as we know that didn't sit well with certain individuals. There are many, many other examples but I think those are the best, and even if they aren't they're enough.

And of course there's McNulty. Every goddammed year, often more than once, it's always McNulty. The central theme of his character, where everything he is comes from it seems to me, is summed up by his/Bunk's quote from the very first episode: "Giving a fuck when it ain't your turn." Nailing Avon/Stringer might have been a good idea, even, gulp, "the right thing to do" in a bullshit high-school classroom-morality sort of world (although, ha, not one in Baltimore) but it was too much for him to take on, so the gods crushed him. In season 2, same basic thing. Then, in season three it was even worse-the gods decided to go even harder on him...and let him win. Avon went to jail, probably for a good long-ass time, Stringer dies and the majority of their crew goes away, and then what? Nothing. He expected maybe a Jimmy McNulty Day parade. Kegs busted out. His name on every officer's lips, saying "Man, Jimmy McNulty? He is natural police." Maybe he is...I am unsure/leaning towards he falls just short of it, and by it I basically mean Freamon but maybe he is. No matter. It's not enough.

So what is? Well, Lester told him already. "A life, Jimmy. It's the shit that happens while you're waiting around for moments that never come." And he STILL hasn't learned, has he? This time, though, it'll be harder for him to get away, and assuming he doesn't the upcoming fucking (sounds like a song by The Eagles of Death Metal doesn't it) will be much harder, and, ah, shall we say, far more comprehensive.

I think one of the main themes of the show is for people to accept their station in life. Not that they shouldn't aspire to do more, but only to do what they know is in their grasp, because, let's face it, when you exceed your grasp 9 times out of 10 you're gonna fail. This makes for amazing TV but extremely depressing material for all us wannabe "artists" of all stripes. Well what the hell, I knocked out this thing easily enough. On the other hand too, if no one ever risked anything we wouldn't have the light bulb, or the iPod, or Penicilin, or them newfangled horseless carriages. Or "The Wire", as I'm sure David Simon would claim (though we know better). Or, to be fair, the atom bomb, or anthrax...or heroin.

And therein lies my favorite tie-in between "The Wire" and the ancient Greek classics of those wild, pre-Christian days: the Greek chorus. You remember them, those anonymous fools standing off to the side, always saying shit but usually only pointing out the obvious, and only later did you realize they were all in mourning, speak-singing a funeral dirge for the characters, the country, the world, humanity itself, driving the point home such that it couldn't be laughed off, ignored, or even have little choice but to see the situation as it is, to awkwardly grope with its enormity, and make what little sense of it your mind will allow.



"Plymouth ROCK yo!"


Monday, February 18, 2008

A Season Coming Together

I haven't posted on here in awhile. Last episode was the first time when I really felt the season starting to come together. Consider the following: The third and fourth seasons were both driven by social experimentation, trying to remake the rules to make society better. In Season 3 with Hamsterdam, in Season 4 with the "street" classroom. Both of these were clear attempts to make society a better place. In Season 5 we have McNulty and Freemon rewriting the rules, but up until this season it was hard to see how the fake-serial-killer storyline was actually constructive. It just seemed like a couple of people, frustrated with their jobs, selfishly fucking with the system. This past week, that changed. McNulty's story finally got legs. And it transorms into more than pure selfishness. McNulty has become a goddamn soup kitchen of police manpower in the homicide department. In the most recent episode we see how utterly depleted the homicide unit has become, not just with Bunk's lab evidence, but with all the detectives who come to McNulty asking for more manpower.

One of the weirdest aspects of the episode is that Lansman seems to KNOW that McNulty is deferring manpower for other projects and ACCEPTS this indiscretion.

Lastly, however, in the most recent episode we see McNulty becoming overwhelmed with the responsibility of keeping his secret intact and properly exploiting the resources his fabrications have produced. One of the dramatic motifs Simon loves returning to, is the anxiety of the creator when his creation comes to life. Like Bunny Colvin, who becomes the "mayor" of a "city of pain," or Tommy Carcetti who looks crestfallen when he gets the phone call that he will be mayor, McNulty is another figure who tries to change the system, only to realize its inherent uncontrollability upon taking the reins.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

To: Katie

Regarding your post:

We know what the theme of the season is, Bunk told us back in episode 1: the bigger the lie, the more they believe. This is, obviously, where Simon and co. are going with this, and I think it's an important point. As far as the investigation has gone at this point, with all the evidence, who would even THINK to question if this killer is in fact real or not? We have several bodies, all linked through the various ways Freamon and McNulty linked them, and we have the "killer" calling both members of the Baltimore Sun and the police department. We know it's fictitious, but no one else does. Keep in mind, too, that people want to believe it. In the "CSI", "Law and Order" "Dexter" America, we love our serial killers and find the whole sick, macabre thing thrilling. Now Baltimore has one, and I imagine its citizens feel more than a little excited. Why, at least at this point, question it?

Which brings me to my next point. In the time span of the show, the killer thing has only been happening for a few weeks, a month and a half at most. The evidence keeps piling up and Freamon (if not McNulty) is smart enough to make it all look convincing. The con would not hold up under long, protracted scrutiny, of course not. They don't want it to. However, as we are seeing, it is rapidly escalating and getting out of control. In these last few episodes, Katie, we may very well find out you are correct: we see that it's not realistic and wouldn't work when it doesn't, when McNulty and/or Freamon are caught, to one degree or another. I hope they pull it off, but the odds are against them.

The one thing I'm wondering is if they plan to pin all these "murders" on someone...and who that will be. It's going to be an exciting three weeks.

My moment of revelation

Tripp is always telling me about those moments when he's watching "The Wire," when it's like lightning has hit him. It can be the way a character looks at another, it can be a one-liner, it can be Chris Partlow asking Rhonda Pearlman for directions to the clerk's office at the courthouse. He has a lot of those moments. I have only had one.

Dukie has gone to Cutty to toughen up at his gym. Cutty is one of those characters who, at first, seems to have escaped the corner. Just as he was about to be released from jail, he met Avon Barksdale, who respected his work and what he'd heard of him. Cutty returned to the streets after leaving prison, acting as muscle (and sometimes brains) for the Barksdale organization. After witnessing a brutal beating of a (very young) suspected thief, he was disenchanted and decided to get out. He began working as a day laborer for a landscaping company. At the same time, he fixed up a gym in which he aimed to teach corner boys to box. He was hoping to show those boys that there is life outside the corner, reputations, the game, and violence. He is certainly seen as a father figure for many of the boys who come to his gym.

Cutty has been one of those characters who speaks more through actions and facial expressions than with words. The look on his face when he was losing Michael said more than words could have. The way he watched Grace from afar as she went about her daily things showed his thoughts better than he could have spoken them. His intense stare has been well-utilized on the show.

For this reason, it was surprising for me to see him speak so candidly with Dukie. Maybe he sees some of himself in Dukie. Maybe he senses the potential that we saw in Dukie when he was in Prez’s class. We’ve seen that Cutty clearly knows (like Dukie) what it’s like to feel out of place (or maybe “ill at ease” is a better description) on the streets. But Cutty has seemed so driven and consumed by his gym that we haven’t wondered how he feels. We thought we knew.

When Dukie shows himself to be a poor boxer, he sits dejectedly with Cutty. Cutty, like Prez, makes general statements about there being more to life than the corner. “The world is bigger than that; at least that’s what they tell me.” For the first time we see that Cutty doesn’t consider himself part of the world, despite his departure from prison, his holding a job with a legitimate company, and his relationship with a nurse. Dukie follows up with, “how do you get from here to the rest of the world?” The conversation ends with Cutty saying, “I wish I knew.”

This knocked the wind out of me. The show quickly moved on and I missed the next few minutes, because my heart was breaking for Dukie. This exchange harkened back to one of the themes of “The Corner,” in which David Simon shows that it’s not the getting clean that’s the hard part, it’s staying clean. We act like there aren’t two worlds; one for addicts and one for the rest of “us.” We act like Dukie should just be able to go back to school, learn, go to college, get a job, and pull himself up by his bootstraps. That’s the American way, right?

The truth is that doing any one of these things is nearly impossible for Dukie, let alone all of them. And it’s not his fault, much as society acts like it is. This moment has haunted me since I first saw it. It’s an amazing bit of writing that was acted perfectly. I hope I’m not the only one who can’t stop thinking about it.

Mrs. McNulty?!

After Jimmy's behavior, you can hardly blame her for wanting David Wain (or that other guy.)

How much leeway I give the Wire (none)

I have to admit that I like Law & Order. Sometimes I like shows like that; they're easy to watch, you don't have to read into them too much, and everything is wrapped up neatly by the end of the episode. Each episode is isolated and one doesn't need to have watched the show previously to "get it." The show is fiction, and obviously so (though often based on real events). So when they have the daughter of a psychologist who studies serial killers becoming a serial killer herself to get her dad's attention, it's OK with me. When an adopted girl's parents are killed and her biological mother tries to take custody of her, only to attempt to kill her for her inheritance, it's OK with me. But when "The Wire" has Jimmy McNulty inventing a serial killer and playing the entire city, it's not OK with me at all.

Until now, "The Wire" has been real to me. The places and people are very real representations of life in Baltimore (aside from the fact that some scenes are shot in places like Midtown-Belvedere and supposed to be on the west side; I'll have you know that Tilghman Middle is four blocks from the Lyric Opera House). But this serial killer crap has me pissed. I'm hoping that David Simon can wrap it up with some stroke of genius in the next few episodes, but for the first time, I'm doubting him.

I was devastated when Prop Joe was killed. I debated the fate of the co-op. I cried for Bubbles when his sister kicked him out of the house when she left for work. I got pissed at Herc for letting Randy slip through the cracks. This is all very real to me.

But cops making up murders so they can work on other murders? It's one thing to exaggerate something to make waves or headlines, but to entirely fabricate it? I just can't get on board with it. It seems too tenuous, too ready to break at any moment, not to mention that I just can't make myself believe it. This season has been exciting, but for this one facet. I know from talking to Tripp that this arc hasn't ended yet (he has On Demand; I don't), and I'm disappointed.

Everything else is exciting, and everything else seems to be building in a credible way. But this just doesn't seem real to me. I hope Simon can make it real in the last few episodes.

Safe Sex

I came across this yesterday by accident and it left both Tripp and me speechless. At first I thought it was some kind of ridiculous joke, but apparently it's not. I don't know what's worse: the creepy smile on Sonja Sohn's face, or the terrifying, horror movie voice they give Robert Wisdom.

Chris Partlow

I'm friends with Gbenga "Chris Partlow" Akinnagbe on MySpace...don't laugh, I know I'm a geek. I asked him a few weeks ago via message if he'd read our blog, maybe even comment, and a few days ago he sent me a message. He said he tried to post but couldn't figure it out cause he's "a simple killa" and asked me to post this:

"thanks for the love and the message on myspace, forgive the delay in response. its good to see people who take time to dissect all the levels of the show. thank you for the support!"


Amazing. If he ever reads this, thanks quite a lot. When I first got that message I had to wait ten minutes or so for my head to stop spinning.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sonja Sohn: Babe

City Paper this week printed an article about "20 Babes Whose Babeness Matters," in response to the yearly February release of the Sports: Illustrated swimsuit edition. At number 14 is the wonderful Sonja Sohn, with this bit (the first four words might be the best part):

"14) Sonja Sohn

Part soul, part Seoul, all hot--Korean-African-American Sonja Sohn's interpretation of police detective Kima Greggs is one of the most finely nuanced performances on television today. The mix of intelligence, strength, tenderness, and humor she brings landmarks the role as a lesbian icon and an instant classic. Are you really, seriously not watching The Wire?"

See the rest of the article here.

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Real Scott Templteton

In season five's fictional newsroom, most of David Simon's attacks on The Sun are pretty obvious: the editors' concern with Pulitzers, narrowing the scope instead of broadening it and the buyouts, particularly the firing of veteran reporter Twigg (based on Simon himself, no doubt).

And then, of course, there's newbie reporter Scott Templeton. From the onset, there was something shady about his character and, after the first few episodes, it became painfully obvious that he was fabricating stories. In between writing sensationalized pieces about 13-year-olds in wheelchairs and making up react quotes, Templeton is in cahoots with top editors.

Though Templeton himself is full of shit, his character is far from fictional. Though unconfirmed, it appears that Simon based him on former Sun reporter Jim Haner. Haner, who happened to be tight with one of Simon's foes William Marimow, specialized in urban affairs and investigative reporting. He was a three-time Pulitzer finalist, but was often criticized for his fluff pieces that didn't accurately portray the city. His "reporting" led The Sun to print numerous retractions and Simon has openly questioned his ethics.

Clearly, City Paper was the first jump all over him, with moves such as bestowing him the Best Parallel Universe award in 2000. However, the more informative piece came a month later in their department "Media Circus." The very balanced "Throwing Stones," written by Tom Chalkley, describes Haner from all sides, but leaves one thing undeniable: he is the real Scott Templeton.