Once upon a time, Bodie and Poot had to murder their best friend Wallace. Once upon a time, Jimmy McNulty was a great detective an a crap human being. Once upon a time, Ervin Burrell ruled the Baltimore PD with a time-tested formula of stat-juking. Once upon a time, someone did something very bad to Michael, and someone else did the same to Chris Partlow. Once upon a time, Michael still had all of his soul.
If life on "The Wire" travels a circular path, with the same events happening over and over, then "Misgivings" followed the backwards arc, with one character after another confronted by something they either did or had done to them in the distant past.
Bodie used to think he had no choice but to kill Wallace. Now, having inadvertently sent Little Kevin to his death, you can see him beginning to doubt that act, even as he tries to defend it to Poot. That shot of him alone on the corner after Slim Charles told him the news spoke volumes. Bodie once dreamed of advancing to the end of the chess board and becoming a king. Instead, he's a soldier with no army, little future and a past he's beginning to regret.
Also talking one way while his mind is going another is McNulty. In by far his biggest showcase of the season, he keeps extolling the virtues of being a simple beat cop, of having "the one true dictatorship in America," but man, did he look pleased to be doing detective work again, even on something as minor as a series of church burglaries. But as he told Daniels at the end of last season, the same thing that made him a good Homicide police also ruined him for any other kind of human interaction; if he gives in to the obvious temptation, will he stop being the responsible grown-up who inspired such lustful regret from Elena?
Much higher up the food chain, we have Burrell and Clay Davis trying to backdoor Carcetti. For two men who are such political survivors, these guys can't read the new mayor at all. How many times has Tommy said that he wants to move away from chasing stats and towards quality arrests? And what's Burrell's big idea of "some police shit" to impress the new boss? An initiative designed to do nothing but pad the stats through an ironically-titled series of "quality of life" arrests that don't improve the quality of anything. The sad thing is, with Clay, Council President Campbell and the ministers on his side, Burrell may have the juice to survive even though Tommy and Norman have him and Clay completely figured out.
The heart of the episode -- or lack thereof -- came in the advancement of Michael's story. You don't come back from arranging for a murder, even the murder of your own molester. That look he flashed his mother as he went to bed was the look of a man enjoying the power of death. That way leads to becoming another Chris Partlow, and as we saw, Chris and Michael have a whole lot in common. A long time ago, some man -- maybe a father figure, maybe a prison inmate, as the conversation with Bug's dad alluded to -- hurt Chris so deep down that he has turned himself into an ice-cold killing machine, just as Michael threw himself into the boxing to protect himself. Chris' gentle professionalism with his victims -- his desire to not cause any more pain than is absolutely necessary -- also makes far more sense in this context. Chris' savagery with Bug's dad was so out of character that it not only jarred Snoop, but made them both abandon the efficient, untraceable corpse disposal method they've been using all season.
And now Michael's bound to these two. Damn. Damn.
While Dukie has receded to the background lately, Randy, Namond and even Donut continue to find trouble. Poor Randy was a half-second away from escaping Herc's incompetence scott-free, but then Snoop had to remind Marlo of the evils of snitching. By the end of the hour, word of his alleged sins had already spread back to his own math class, and if the cold shoulder is the worst Randy suffers, he's going to be indescribably lucky.
Namond, meanwhile, finds an unlikely ally in Bunny, while his mom continues her bass-ackwards Mother of the Year campaign. She's angry that he didn't have to spend a night in jail! Given what we know about the both of them, it's not surprising, but still horrifying. Chris and Snoop are practically saints next to De'Londa. It's sweet, though, to see how far Namond and Bunny have come since the alluded-to days of "Mr. Colvin, sir? Fuck you!" I can almost -- almost -- see the school board's point about the merits of a program that would, at best, prepare less than half of its students to return to regular classes in a year's time, but just look at the progress being made by Namond (and, to a lesser degree, Darnell and Zenobia). And what good is it going to do to throw the unteachable part of the group back into GenPop? They won't learn any more and they'll just go back to disrupting everybody else. Sigh...
On roughly the same despicable level as De'Londa is Officer Walker. We already knew he was a thief and a bully, but breaking a little kid's fingers? Even a little kid who just stole a car and crashed it into a dozen parked cars?
(Side-note, and feel free to skip if you're in a hurry: I asked Simon whether Walker was deliberately written as African-American, and if so why, and he said, "Walker was conceived as black because tellingly, when Ed and I were on the Corner in West Baltimore, we noted that many of the more brutal, more shady patrolmen were actually black. Why is this so? Hard to say, but perhaps a mercenary or brutal patrolman is camouflaged in some sense if he is African-American. A white officer engaging in predatory practices in the ghetto would be subject to all kinda of racial, us-against-them stereotypes and stigmas. With a black officer behaving so, the racial politics are rendered moot. And from the perspective of some black cops, many of whom have working class roots and who have reached their newfound authority by having to eschew the temptations of the street and keep to a moral code, there is often, I have found, a contempt for the black underclass that some white cops would not dare exhibit. It's perhaps easier for a black cop, having reached his station in life, to heap contempt on those who have not done so, saying to himself, I did it, why the hell can't they. White cops, as outsiders, may not be subject to the same self-conscious judgments... (Walker) is more a function of class-consciousness, then race-consciousness. I get a sense that people who still think police brutality is linked to racism, rather than classism are about ten years behind the street.")
And I realize I've gotten through the bulk of this review without even mentioning the event which provided its subtitle. Bubbs' payback of Herc is really the bare minimum that our resident MCU lunk has coming to him. The minimum. But it sure was nice to see, wasn't it?
Some other random thoughts:
- Language parallel #1: Bodie and Sydnor essentially give the same advice to Little Kevin and Herc: get out in front of your mistake if you want to survive. Little Kevin goes through with it and dies for his trouble; Herc half-asses his confession and takes the out Marimow gives him.
- Language parallel #2: Herc gets upset when the minister calls him "son," just like Spider did with Cutty back on election day. Something tells me Herc wasn't raised in the most nuclear of families.
- Omar's practically turning into Lester Freamon with all this patient surveillance of Marlo's crew and Slim Charles -- which, I suppose, makes Renaldo the Herc of this Bizarro-MCU. I don't even want to picture the full implications of that. Moving on...
- Burrell & Clay Davis: "'Police shit'?" "Well, whatever it is y'all do for a living."
- Bunny threatening to take Namond's balls: "I'll cut 'em off, give 'em to Dolly in a jar. Don't doubt me, boy."
- Namond & Bunny: "Eddie Haskell? Who dat?" "You are, son."
What did everybody else think?