The biggest challenge of doing these weekly reviews is offering analysis that's not too colored by what I know is coming, and Michael's story has been the toughest example of that. For weeks now, I've been struggling to find ways to discuss Michael's distrust of adults in general and Cutty in particular without giving away the reason. Not that it was some M. Night-level twist -- some people here and elsewhere guessed that he had been molested -- but when you see the fear and hatred burning in Michael's face when Bug's father touches him, everything clicks into place: why he's into boxing, why doesn't want to be alone with adult men, why he's so protective of Bug and Dukie and Randy, etc., etc., etc. And the hell of it is, what's been done to him means that he won't get help from people who are offering it, like Prez, because in Michael's eyes, every man is someone who can hurt him, and he won't let himself be hurt ever again.
The education theme picks up a head of steam with visits to three different classrooms: Prez's math class, Bunny's Corner Boy 101, and Chris and Snoop's Soldier 103b. Every time it seems like Prez has his kids acting like any average middle school class (I had a friend in junior high who absolutely would have taken advantage of the dinks on the chalkboard), he has to witness someone having a nervous breakdown over fractions. Just as Bubbs was told weeks ago why Sherrod couldn't be placed in a grade appropriate to his skill level, Prez is starting to realize how few of his kids are qualified to be studying 8th grade math. The problem is, No Child Left Behind is designed to do exactly that, to focus on stats ahead of actual teaching.
(Here's a question for anyone more knowledgeable of public education than me: why is it considered such a horror for the state to take over the school system? When Prez suggested that maybe it would be a good thing for the kids to fail the test so the state would take over, Ms. Sampson and the others looked like he had just suggested feeding the kids to a pack of dogs.)
Stats are also an issue for Carcetti, who witnesses Baltimore's finest at their lamest, especially the entrapment-esque arrest of the guy on the bike. And yet even as he's meeting with Rawls and Daniels to find a way to move the department away from stat-driven policing, his new pals from the DNC are telling him that one of his top three priorities has to be reducing the crime rate by 10%. That way lies Clarence Royce.
Bunny's classroom continues the deconstruction of the corner lifestyle that the series began with Hamsterdam. Yet even as Namond is trying to claim that the corner lifestyle is no different than Enron or Big Tobacco, he's threatening the life of his new lieutenant, who's so young his voice probably won't drop until the next mid-term elections. (And, yes, we've long since established that Namond's all talk, but the little kid doesn't know that.)
On the policing front, we get to see what happens when the extremely resistable force (Herc) meets the immovable object (Marlo and company). After days of his usual threats and head-busting, Herc winds up giving Marlo the info he wanted and spooking Chris and Snoop into throwing away the dreaded nail gun and other evidence that would be useful if a more competent investigator was on Marlo's tail -- someone like, say, Bunk, whose shredding of the Omar frame was a complete 180 from Herc and Dozerman's bumbling.
There have been complaints that Marlo, Chris and Snoop don't have the personality of Avon and Stringer. I think that's part of the point -- that they've spent their entire lives among the corner culture, and it beat everything else out of them -- but we got a few glimpses of color in this episode, particularly Chris' attempt to school Snoop on the local music scene.
Learning is everywhere. Hell, Rawls even soaked up all of Daniels' lectures about high-level investigations -- if not as something he personally believes in, then as something he knows will be useful in making his move to leapfrog over Burrell. Poor Erv looked even more poleaxed than Royce did when Tommy sprung the dead witness on him in the debate.
Some other random thoughts:
- Omar fans may be aware that Michael K. Williams has a recurring role on ABC's "Six Degrees" as the limo driver's brother, but in the original version of the pilot, the role was played by Cyrus Farmer, aka Bug's dad. Guess the "Six Degrees" people just wanted a "Wire" actor in the part.
- I liked seeing the Homicide detectives' utter disdain for Carcetti, especially Kima getting her small measure of revenge by making him brew a new pot of coffee.
- The Irish wake for Col. Forrester was, much like Ray Cole's wake last season, the result of the actor (in this case, Richard DeSantis) passing away in real life.
- Boy, Prop Joe and Slim Charles were going out of their way to not offend Marlo when they complained about the disappeared New Yorkers. They're working all the way on the other side of town and they're still scared of the guy.
- Prez and Dukie bond over cheat codes. Of course they do.
- When Michael goes to pick up Bug from that rec center, he talks to a Miss Ella. That's an homage to one of the most memorable figures from "The Corner," Ella Thompson, who responded to the murder of her 12-year-old daughter by taking over a neighborhood rec center and turning it into a safe haven for the stoop kids. According to Simon, the real Ella died of a massive stroke (while driving a car full of donated computer equipment to a rec center), so as a little tribute to her, he wrote a Miss Ella cameo into the script and cast Denise "NeeCee" Preddy, who was one of the girls at the rec center when he and Ed Burns showed up in the neighborhood in '93.
- Crutchfield on Omar: "This ain't the motherfucker who came up with 62 ways for the peanut!"
- Bunk on McNulty drinking club soda: "Why don't you suck a dick and get it over with?"
- Snoop's prayer: "Here we lay a couple of New York boys who came too far south for their own fuckin' good."
- Prop Joe using an alias: "This is Sidney Handjerker, with Handjerker, Kevin and Bromberg..."
- Namond to his mother: "Ma! Let me build! Ma!"