Once upon a time, back before it looked like HBO needed to be shamed into ordering a fourth and, especially, a fifth season of "The Wire," David Simon had plans for a miniseries called "The Hall." It would follow Tommy Carcetti, Clarence Royce and Tony Grey in their race for mayor, possibly include some other "Wire" characters in small roles, then have Tommy in office to start season four.
"The Hall" obviously never happened, and so Tommy's miracle victory had to be folded back into the show proper, bumping up against the four boys, the rise and fall of the MCU, Marlo's ascendancy, Bubbs' new business, etc. That's an awful lot to squeeze into 13 episodes, but Simon and company have managed it.
For this one episode, however, Tommy's story dominates, leaving a little wiggle room for Namond's forced entry into the family business, Randy folding like a card table for Ms. D, Marlo getting one over on Herc, and Omar trapped in an episode of "Oz."
But let's start with Tommy. Because of this show's cynical worldview, not to mention Tommy's philandering and narcissism, it would be easy to peg his campaign as one massive ego trip. Maybe that's what it was at the beginning, but he definitely cares now about trying to fix the city, and his victory over Royce was a rare "Wire" instance of the good guy coming out on top. (It's not a spoiler to say that Tommy will win the general election, since even the show treats that as an afterthought.) Now, whether Tommy can actually accomplish anything in the same broken system that rewards the Burrells and spits out the Bunny Colvins, I don't know. But the moment when he got the call and told his wife the good news was really quite moving -- especially because it was the first time Tommy realized what he was in for.
Again, if you want to be cynical, you could say that Tommy turned Theresa down simply to avoid a potential scandal now that he's on a bigger stage, but I think there was more to it than that. He wanted to sleep with her, even began kissing her a second time after he initially broke away, but the weight of running an entire city -- not to mention his intimate moments with Jen in the days leading up to the victory -- has him thinking that maybe it's time to be a better person. By the way, I like that Theresa was enough of a grown-up to both understand and not be offended by the rejection.
And speaking of behaving like grown-ups -- sort of -- I loved the scene with Clay Davis at the victory party, yukking it up about how he went easy on Tommy and Norman. It's easy to laugh about that stuff when you've won, but Clay is also like the scorpion from the fable about the frog. What do you expect when you give money to this guy? Being a greedy double-dealing sleaze is just his nature, you know?
Clay ripping off the campaign also neatly paralleled Dukie and Donut blowing off mailbox-stuffing duty once they realized that Randy had already been paid. Randy was my favorite of the four boys going in (the smile when he thought up the piss-balloon gag was what did it), but the moment when he watches Dukie head off to Lake Trout, then turns around to finish the job won me to his side forever...
...which, of course, makes it even more painful that Ms. Donnelly has put him into such an awful position. Snitching on kids for tagging is bad enough in the world Randy lives in, but snitching on a murder is practically a capital offense. You could see how terrified Miss Anna was at the possibility of other kids finding out what Randy did. But Ms. D is a guardian of the system, albeit a well-meaning one, sort of the school board equivalent of Sgt. Landsman. In fact, the scene where she got Randy to break down felt an awful lot like seeing Munch or Pembleton get a confession in The Box. ("How do you know? You weren't there.") As always happens on this show, it's little moments that wind up having unintended consequences; if Paul and Monell hadn't been so dismissive of Tiffany when they and Namond passed her in the hallway, she doesn't go crying rape to the cops and Randy doesn't wind up getting squeezed like this. Poor, sweet kid, but Cutty saw it coming when he shook his head at Randy giving up the graffiti artist a few episodes ago.
Simon said that Cutty was one of the characters who got the shortest shrift when he had to incorporate the election back into the series. I imagine, for instance, the writers could have done a better job establishing how lousy it was that Dennis' wham bam thank you ma'am lifestyle chased Spider away from the gym and back to the street. Instead, it was used mainly to illustrate one of the reasons why Michael is so uncomfortable around him. Cutty's "Yo, boy, I love the women!" comment to Michael seemed out of character the first time I saw it, but after going back and watching the scene at the boxing match where all Michael could talk about was girls, this was just Cutty's clumsy way of trying to bond with a kid who's being resistant to the mentoring idea.
As bad as I felt for Randy, the kid who has the worst plight at this moment is Namond. Yeah, he talks a lot of crap and is easily the least likable of the four, but when he has a mom like De'Londa, how else was he going to turn out? The money fawcet gets shut off by Brianna (given her feelings towards Avon, I'm surprised she kept paying this long), and rather than getting a job or anything else that a responsible parent might do, she shoves her 14-year-old son out onto the street and orders him to start moving drugs so she can maintain her blinged-out lifestyle? Awful, awful woman. You have to get up early and work really hard to make yourself the worst parent in a scene involving Brianna, but I think she pulled it off. (Brianna may have talked her own son into taking a 20-year sentence to avoid destroying the family business, but at least D'Angelo was a grown man more capable of making his own decisions.)
Finally, we have Omar trapped in a hell of his own making. Sure, Chris set him up for the jail stint, but Omar's done plenty over the years to merit a humble or twelve, yet he's gone and pissed off practically every drug player in the city. If he didn't have Butchie -- and, through Butchie -- those two gigantic (and, I'm guessing, gay) trustees, he probably wouldn't survive a single night in lock up.
Some other random thoughts:
- Herc is finding new and different ways to be a screw-up. He couldn't possibly be so dumb that he believed Marlo would pick up a package himself, could he? Oh, that's right: he could. Sorry, must have been thinking of somebody else.
- Welcome to day one of the U of Maryland pilot program. Nice confrontation between Namond and Bunny, though Namond's solitary metaphor wasn't quite right. This isn't prison; this is Hamsterdam. They're separating the troublemakers from the rule-abiding kids, and then going to work to see if the troublemakers can conduct themselves in a healthier way.
- Hey, it's McNulty! Who knew he was still on the show? Nice bit with him offering Omar the phone, especially Santangelo's "You some kind of Democrat or what?"
- In the review copy, Norman suggests countering the slumlord ad with a doctored photo of Royce in a motel room "with a dead girl and a live boy." Did that survive to the air version? With the Foley scandal, I had a sliver of doubt that it might get cut, less for being tasteless than for being a distraction.
- Simon insists on using music rarely, and only if it starts off from a real source, like Prez listening to "Walk the Line" while documenting the MCU's progress in the port case, or, here, Cutty jogging through a whole lot of election day business while he has Curtis Mayfield on his headphones. A very apropos choice for old-school Cutty, since the young pups who don't want to listen to his stories about how things used to be probably only know the song as the sample Kanye West used for "Touch the Sky."
- Reverend to Tommy: "Moses will do for now. We'll save Jesus for your second term."
- De'Londa to Namond: "I ain't take no for an answer!"
- Namond to De'Londa: "You just did."
- Det. Crutchfield on the anxiety brought by a visit from command to the Homicide office: "I need a minute just to unclench my asshole."
- Rawls to Landsman: "American democracy. Let's show those third-world fucks how it's done."
- Namond figuring out the purpose of the pilot program: "Ready for GenPop. This is prison, yo. And we in solitary and shit."
- Norman (entirely for the delivery): "'Moolies'?"
- Bodie to Namond: "Damn, boy. Your mama's what niggers call a dragon lady... Gave me some insight, though... Why you is what you is."