"This is a tomb. Lex is in there."
Well, halleh-damn-lujah! Finally, finally, finally, Lester figures out about the vacants. And it was so much sweeter because we had to wait so long for it -- through Lester spending several episodes wondering where all the bodies are, through him looking everywhere in town but the vacants, through Herc putting his hands on the nail gun and still not getting it, etc., etc., etc. You have to be extraordinarily patient to love this show, but Simon and company understand the virtues of delayed gratification.
While Omar, Bubbs and Bunk are flashier, slightly more obvious choices, Lester has always been at or near the top of my favorite characters list. It was a pleasure to see him using that great brain of his for something other than assembling dollhouse furniture. You could tell that he had mentally checked out during his most recent stint in Homicide, and then Daniels went and gave him a reason to care again. Two beautiful nearly-silent Lester sequences: him reopening the MCU (along with the intercuts of him opening the subpoenas with the people in those files being introduced to Tommy), and, obviously, him walking through that vacant lot, walking stick in hand like some kind of Biblical wise man, finally figuring out what Marlo was doing with the bodies. (This was punctuated beautifully by Bunk's "Ah, fuck me!" Lester's the smarter member of that team, but not by very much.) It pains me to think of how much progress he could have made on Marlo, Chris and Snoop if it wasn't for Rawls and Marimow.
This being "The Wire," of course, we have to get about 17 bad developments for every good one. So while Tommy and Daniels are sprinkling fairy dust through the city, Michael is going more fully to The Dark Side, Randy's secret is out in the open, Dukie is about to be expelled from the safety of Prez's class, Bunny's class is being shut down, Bubbs and Sherrod continue to take beatings from their nemesis, Burrell is weaseling his way back into power, and Tommy is getting hit with a $54 million dinner check from the school board.
First, we have Michael snatching The Ring from Officer Walker, and in a manner that even Namond considers reckless. (Namond wouldn't have the nerve to try anything, but he'd talk like he did.) I'm assuming he got the gun from new mentor Chris, and you could see how dismayed Chris was to learn that his protege had stuck up for snitching Randy.
Meanwhile, Randy and Dukie are both good and rightly screwed, just in different fashions. It nearly broke my heart when Randy whimpered, "I'm not a snitch" after his beating, and especially when he asked Prez if calling the cops would make things better, when Prez's face showed that it wouldn't. (I know Carmelo Anthony -- he of the infamous cameo in the "Stop Snitching" DVD -- is a big fan of this show; maybe witnessing Randy's plight will make him and others realize that treating snitching as a crime far worse than murder is completely insane. But probably not.)
Poor Dukie, who was finally blossoming in Prez's class, gets banished from the place where his friends are, where his own mentor is, where his computer is, etc., as some kind of unwanted reward for getting good grades. Is a teacher at the high school going to let him sit at the computer all day? Give him a spare lunch? Launder his clothes? Maybe, but the look on Dukie's face suggests that teachers like Prez are rare indeed.
And how's Namond supposed to deal away from Bunny's guidance? The move to shut down the special class isn't a shock, given how characters on this show are so afraid of any change in the way of doing business, but damn. With Bunny, Namond almost seems like a normal kid who's never so much as walked past a corner; away from him, and with the pressure from his evil mom, he could be heading Michael's way.
Over at City Hall, Carcetti has one of those two steps forward, eight steps back episodes. He may be getting short-term results from some of the city agencies (and not to Ervin Burrell: that was actual "quality of life" improvement happening there), but that kind of trick doesn't have any ongoing currency unless he can weed out most of the complacent management. And despite the sales pitch to McNulty, Santangelo and the rest of the Western, I don't know that he has the stones or political muscle to really do it. He's already inching towards keeping Burrell in power. If they can work out some deal where Burrell handles the political stuff and leaves everything else to Rawls, and eventually Daniels, it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, but it's a sign that Tommy's plans for reform only can go so far.
After the two big Lester scenes, the highlight of the episode was the latest confrontation between Omar and Prop Joe, complete with another theatrical exit gesture by Omar. (If I thought I had the coolness to pull it off, I do believe I would be throwing around, "Now go ahead and write my ticket so I can tip on out" at the dry cleaner, restaurants, etc., etc.) As bored as Renaldo has looked doing surveillance the last couple of weeks, he was eating up his man's showiness in that scene. That's why they get up in the morning -- and why they occasionally have to go to the bathroom in a stolen cab.
Some other random thoughts:
- Those scenes where Bubbs' nemesis beats on him were hard enough to watch the first time, but going back and revisiting every episode for the purpose of these reviews, I keep having to resist the urge to just fast-forward through them. It's like the guy doesn't even exist; he's a nightmare come to haunt Bubbs and Sherrod. Just brutal.
- Il Returno de Cheese! Good to see Method Man back in action. Really hard-core fans may notice that Cheese and Randy both have the last name Wagstaff, and Randy's bio on HBO.com begins with this: "Having lost his mother to the streets at a young age and having never known his father, reputedly an eastside corner boy who later became a major drug trafficker..." Hmm is all I can say for now. Hmm.
- How much of Bunk and Lester's good cop/bad cop routine with Herc and Prez was genuine anger on Bunk's part, and how much was play-acting? I lean towards the latter, especially with the way Bunk was able to turn on the charm and get Prez to give them the info they needed on the way out the door.
- Good: Tommy quotes "Bull Durham." Bad: he quotes the "announcing my presence with authority" line, which implies he identifies more with Nuke than Crash. Maybe it's one of those short guys envying the tall guy things.
- Another hmmm: McNulty and Bodie are suddenly lunching together, talking shop, realizing they share a hatred of Walker, etc.
- Hell hath no fury like a Rawls scorned, does it? Tommy would have been much better off not stringing him along quite so much, methinks.
- Carver looked especially pained at learning the results of giving Randy to Herc instead of Bunk.
- Donut and Randy on planting condoms in Walker's car: "That'll send a message." "Yeah, but what kind?"
- Tommy after meeting with the ministers: "Yummy! My first bowl o' shit!"
- Omar offering toilet paper to Renaldo: "Whether you squat in an alley or sit on a porcelain throne, don't really change the moment, now, do it?"
- Bunk telling Daniels what Homicide needs: "More women! Loose women!"
- Dukie surveying the aftermath of Michael's brawl: "Guess them books are good for something."
- Kenard, on the subject of Namond's new 'do: "Man, do I look like a faggie?"