Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Wire, "That's Got His Own": Out in the cold

Spoilers for "The Wire" episode 12 just as soon as I hit Costco for a few thousand tissues...

"You gonna help, huh? You gonna look out for me? You gonna look out for me, Sgt. Carver? You mean it? You gonna look out for me? You promise? You got my back, huh?"

Fuckin' George Pelecanos.

Every damn season, the man writes the penultimate episode, and every time he absolutely destroys me. Bodie and Poot killing Wallace. Sobotka driving to his death. Omar and Mouzone taking out Stringer Bell. But none of that was a patch on the four punches to the gut administered in "That's Got His Own." There was another death tonight, poor Sherrod, but it's the fate of the living that really stung.

Randy? His trusted foster mom badly burned and himself bound for a return to the social services system that emotionally scarred him. Dukie? Exiled from the first real home he's ever known, and abandoned by his real family on top of that. Namond? Forced to confront his absolute unsuitability for the corner lifestyle, and kicked out of his mom's house as punishment. And Michael? Already lost, a willing pupil of Chris and Snoop's, a one-time protector who now has no qualms about savagely beating on a little boy not much older than his kid brother.

I say again: Fuckin' George Pelecanos. I know that it's Simon and Burns who come up with the arc of the season and Pelecanos who only serves as their hatchet man each year, but my connection to these characters is so strong that I start talking myself into a grudge against George for not standing up to his bosses and trying to protect these innocents. Maybe "The Wire" is an unchangeable institution like the ones it tries to dissect, one where bad things happen because no one can stop them even if they want to.

But if I can divorce myself from this unhealthy attachment to four fictional kids, I can marvel at the artistry that was used to depict each of them being cast out by the society that promises to nurture and protect them.

Since I first watched this season back in June, the scene that haunted me, not surprisingly, was Carver's endless walk down that Stanley Kubrick-looking white corridor as Randy's taunts echo behind him. (A nice parallel to the "Where the fuck is Wallace?" scene from the similar point in season one. Where the boy at, String?) But just as awful was Dukie's wistful last glimpse back at Prez's classroom (and also the look on his face when he realized his family left him behind -- again), Namond telling Michael he didn't want the package and, later, breaking down in tears at the realization that he's not capable of living his father's life.

But the one that stuck out at me on second and third viewing this week was Cutty turning down Michael's offer to wait for the ambulance. For all that Michael seems lost, taking shooting lessons from Chris, beating on Kenard, shoving Namond, etc., there was still enough humanity left in him that he was willing to wait with Cutty, the man he had feared and loathed from the moment Cutty took an interest in him. In that moment, Michael seemed to finally recognize that Cutty never wanted to hurt him, that if he hadn't been so afraid he could have gotten Cutty's help in dealing with Bug's father and avoided his new career path...

...and Cutty sends him away.

He does it in part because he's furious and in pain, but also because he thinks he's looking out for the kid. And what I saw on Michael's face when I watched this scene again and again is that he doesn't want to go. Again, he finally recognizes what Cutty was trying to do for him, and in this moment, his mentor is sending him away, just like Namond's mom kicked him out, Dukie's family left, etc. Cutty's intentions don't matter, not any more than Ms. Donnelly's good intentions when it comes to promoting Dukie. Michael's finally found an adult man he can trust to protect him, and Cutty doesn't want him there anymore. In that moment, I think, Michael still could have been saved, and Cutty didn't realize it.

And what I love about this show, why I watch it even as scenes like Carver's long walk bash me in the face, are the nuances like that, the fact that I could write pages and pages and pages about what happens to every character in every episode, particularly this late in the season. But since I'm going to write an awful lot about the fate of each boy in the finale, let's move on.

Lester's argument with Landsman, and then the ultimate decision made by Daniels, then Rawls, then Carcetti, represented the clash between the old way of doing business in the Baltimore PD and what Tommy wants to be the new way. Landsman is so terrified of the stats that he won't even run the idea up the chain of command, while Daniels and Rawls recognize a way to make the stats work for them, and Tommy declares that he wants the bodies out just because it's the right thing to do.

Tommy's still enough of a politician, though, to demand that all of them get removed by end of December. But the possibility of a few dozen corpses being pulled out of vacant houses is just a blip on Tommy's radar this episode, thanks to the $54 million shit sandwich the governor is asking him to eat over the school budget. As with so many things on this show, there's no one individual at fault for the missing money; it's just the broken system at work. I'm with Norman: Tommy has no choice but to take the governor's hand-out, 2008 be damned. Is he really that self-sacrificing?

A whole lot of other random thoughts:
  • Because it's a Pelecanos episode, an innocent person has to die, and the short straw goes to Sherrod. Poor Sherrod, and poor, poor Bubbs.
  • And did you catch the mention of Junior Bunk by the arabers? Their description didn't really track with the "Homicide" character; my guess is that there was a real Junior Bunk once upon a time, and Simon liked the name enough to use it twice.
  • The return of Omar's nursery rhyme whistling! Proving once again that he's more than just the man with the biggest gun and biggest guts, Omar outthinks Prop Joe and takes off his entire shipment from The Greek. (Nice little callback to season two.)
  • To repeat a point I made in my review of "Unto Others," it's just staggering the number of inadvertent things that had to happen to put Randy in his current predicament: He had to be out in the hallway when the two boys needed a lookout for their blow job party. The boys had to be so cold to the girl the next day that she called the cops. Prez had to take Randy's problem to Daniels instead of Lester. Carver had to feel guilty for having outgrown Herc, instead of just calling Bunk directly. Omar had to call in his chit with Bunk and Bunk had to piss Crutchfield off enough that Crutch threw out Carver's eventual phone message. Prop Joe had to tell Marlo to steal Herc's camera. Herc had to frustrate Sydnor so much that Sydnor walked out of the Little Kevin interrogation before Herc gave away Randy's identity. Bodie had to convince Little Kevin to come clean to Marlo. And Snoop had to speak up to convince Marlo to reverse his decision about letting Randy off clean. And, on the bitter irony scale, Randy had to be so terrified of losing Miss Anna that he turned snitch, which set off this whole Woody Woodpecker chain of events that led to him losing Misss Anna.
  • Great little moment: Prez fighting back a smile over "Tickle my nuts!"
  • Is Norman the political equivalent of The Bunk? Stylish, suave, funny and he knows how to get the job done more than his boss often does. Given his work on "The Corner," kind of amazing it took Simon and company four seasons to find a part for Reg E. Cathey, but it was worth the wait.
  • Inside joke: the security guard who tells Tommy and Norman that the governor is finally ready to see them was played by Bob Ehrlich, the real-life Maryland governor who was recently defeated by Martin O'Malley (who many view, despite Simon's protests, as the inspiration for Carcetti).
  • Of course DeLonda considers herself a great mom because she always made sure Namond got his Nikes. I quote Mr. McCartney: I don't care too much for money, money can't buy me love.
  • Ms. D has a point about the endless supply of Duquans, but Prez has an equally valid point about this Duquan. Abstracts are nice, but here's a kid who's not equipped to be on his own; what does it hurt the school to keep him in the same grade as his friends for an extra semester?
  • Nice moment seeing an indignant Marimow get his. And for all of Herc's complete inability to Get It (see his whole bit about pretending the orders come from him), he at least was stand-up enough to not drag Sydnor and Dozerman down with him when IID showed up.
  • How do you wiretap a crew that doesn't use phones at all and only meets in well-guarded public places? Laser mics?
Lines of the week:
  • Lester, on the return of the old MCU lieutenant: "That, Sgt. Hauc, is one of the most effective supervisors in our police department."
  • Norman, inventing new lyrics to 'We wish you a merry christmas': "We won't go until we get some, we won't go until we get some..." (EDITOR'S NOTE: Okay, so he wasn't making up new lyrics. Where are you Gentiles to proofread when I need you?)
  • Daniels to Rawls: "Lester Freamon is not in the habit of selling woof tickets."
  • Bunk on Landsman: "That John Goodman off his diet motherfucker was clear."
  • Cheese on Omar and his crew: "He had this one ho pulling guns out her pussy. This shit is unseemly!"

Don't forget: the finale runs 90 minutes, so if you're recording with a VCR (I know, I know), program it accordingly.

What did everybody else think?

62 comments:

Tina said...

Norman is the equivalent of Bunk, but also of Lester -- he's real politics the way Lester is real police. Look at the way he mentors Carcetti in the same way Lester mentored Prez and advised Daniels in previous seasons. And agree how wonderful Reg Cathey has been. Hope there's meaty stuff for him in the next season.

Thanks for the detail on the chain of occurrences for Randy -- unlike previous seasons, the events that end in tragedy come not from greed or power but from just bad luck.

savethewetlands said...

oh my god. i knew this was coming. i just knew it. the minute i saw those kids on the two thirty minute "making of" background episodes before the season started, i knew the "the wire" was going to absolutely wipe the floor with me this season, and now they have done it. my daughter was saying at thanksgiving that "million dollar baby" and "brokeback mountain" had the largest emotional impacts on her of any films ever; i'd have to tell her that one episode from a television show holds that honor for me.

i keep thinking about randy. in many ways i thought he was the most salvageable, the most promising. he was damaged, but he knew he had a good thing with miss anna and was determined not to lose it. his businessman ways were delightful, and he had literally taken the lemons he was handed and attempted to make lemonade from them on a daily basis. now who knows? well, obviously you guys who have seen the ending know, but i don't, and i surely don't have a good feeling about it.

the show has become so much darker, at least to me. i can't believe there was a time i laughed at herc and carver's young cop foolishness, or at bubbs. there has been nothing to smile about for poor bubbs this season. when he reached out, he lost, and when he tried to handle his own problems (tonight), he REALLY lost.

about duquan: as a 25 year teacher, i can tell you that both sides are true and right. when you begin, you really do want to adopt the cases that touch your heart - doesn't matter if you have kids of your own or not. you just have so much, they have so little, and you want so badly to help them have the lives they deserve. then over the years you realize that it's impossible. you don't get harder, you just understand that you can't do it, that there will indeed be another one, and ten more after him, and so on. you do pick out a few here and there over the years - or they pick you out, maybe - and you stay close to them. but that adoption impulse is very strong, especially for a first year teacher. and there are a pitiful number of duquans out there.

seeing stringer get shot was a great deal more shocking to me than anything that happened tonight, but not even the wallace episode comes close to this one for emotional resonance. oh, god.

Anonymous said...

who bombed Randy's house? Random kids or was that a Marlo operation? I ask becasue Marlo seemed to be very whatever about Randy. His only order was to put the word out that he was a snitch. Now his house is getting bombed? what upped the anty? Anything to do with what Randy confessed to Prezbo about what he told the cops with Michael was sitting in the room? Or Dukie mentioning to Michael and Nay that Randy might transfer schools? (basically, what I'm trying to figure out is if Michael had anything to do with bombing indirectly?) I can't see random kids bombing a snitches house. beating him? sure? but bombing the house?

Also, wonder if Randy is going to turn into a Michael. Its clear his good natured-ness is gone. He shrugs off Carver (a don't touch me) the same way Michael shrugs off Cutty.

I used to hate Namond. That charcter drove me up a wall, but I feel so so bad for that kid. so, so bad.

Dukie-- for some reason, i feel like that character isn't really developed-- at least not to the degree that the others are. i didn't feel anything for him this episode and i was in near tears for the other kids. (i cried the first time i saw the ending to this ep. boo-hooed.)

last thought-- the opener was a cheap trick/thrill. after 4 seasons, i can still count the number of scenes i don't like, so i won't hold it against the show. (still BY FAR my favorite show ever.)

great episode. second fav in this season only to the finale, which is hands down the best episode ever. brilliant.

Ok, i lied. gotta go back and check for michael's emotion in that scene. picked up on the compassion, but not the realization that Cutty could have helped him or that he didn't want to go. hmmm.

savethewetlands said...

i'm not sure why cutty told michael to go on. i'm not sure cutty was thinking clearly enough, particularly with a bullet in him which was essentially michael's fault, to tell him to leave in order to protect him. yet i don't think he's the kind of guy who'd lash out at him and just tell him to leave in anger. i don't know.

anon, i agree about duquan. i don't feel that i know him as well as i do the others, either, although i do find him incredibly sad. maybe he doesn't tear me up as much simply because there's no hope there, or i can't see any, whereas with michael at the beginning and with randy all along, there really was. what a deal. what a show. i'm glad this site exists. i don't have anyone else to talk with about it.

Anonymous said...

Minor note: "We won't go until we get some" is actually part of the lyrics to "We Wish You a Merry Christmas". It's in the figgy pudding verse.

Eromitlab said...

I think Michael genuinely wanted to stay with Cutty, perhaps out of guilt (he hasn't been in the game long enough to realize that Monk's conduct was not all that shocking).

Despite his pain, I think Cutty told Michael to leave because Cutty, as a former soldier, knew that Monk would consider Michael's decision to stay to be disrepectful of Monk, to indicate Michael wasn't loyal to Monk, and to be a show of weakness, even if Michael didn't realize what his behavior would communicate. This was another teachable moment seized by Cutty.

Monk respected Michael's request that Monk not finish off Cutty, but staying with Cutty would be an implicit criticism of Monk's decision to shoot him at all. Michael needed to reciprocate the respect Monk showed him.

Note to Alan: Norman didn't make up the lyrics -- they're part of the another verse of the song (the one that begins "Now bring us some figgy pudding").

Seeing the previews to the finale -- looks like it's going to be amazing. All right, it's past midnight -- I'm off to see it via HBO On Demand!

Black Thought said...

While I agree with a lot of Alan's comments, I'm not sure if I agree with his synopsis on Cutty. I felt that at that moment Cutty got shot, he was accepting the reality of the situation, but still looking after Michael. As a reformed banger, I don't think Cutty believes that anyone, especially a young kid is completely unreachable, but Cutty is no fool and he knows the reality of the street. He can relate to, if not understand, Michael's situation, and he understands that in order to survive there can be no middle ground. The police or the gang have no leniency and no sympathy for your internal struggle, no matter what your intentions are. You're either in, or you're out. Anything inbetween can lead to problems (as evidenced by Wallace, D'Angelo, Stringer, and others). I think that by telling Michael to go on, he was trying to protect Mike from second guessing by Marlo's crew and from police intervention (which is never to be trusted if it can be helped). Cutty was showing Mike that he understood the reality and that he had his best interest at heart. This situation had escalated beyond a point of no return and it was in both partys' interest to walk away for now.

Black Thought said...

Sorry Eromitlab if I repeated some of your points. You were a little faster than I was.

Mark said...

I'll have to view a rerun to fully digest and come to terms with what happened to those kids. Meanwhile:

How do you wiretap a crew that doesn't use phones at all and only meets in well-guarded public places? Laser mics?

Remember the "The Conversation", especially the long opening scene in the park? I'm a total layperson, except for some working knowledge of audio equipment, but using multiple shotgun mikes sounds quite plausible to me. There's also the option of wiretapping the area beforehand and post-processing the audio to remove the sound from the boom boxes. Herc's idea of using a camera and a lip reader wasn't that bad either, except that it would have to be done more competently. I don't know how realistic it is for a lip reader to precisely transcribe the dialog -- I was giggling when I first saw that because it reminded me of a Seinfeld episode. I'm sure the FBI will have the appropriate equipment and expertise to deal with this situation. If the MCU started to make use of their (or rather McNulty's) FBI contacts, they could certainly make some progress as far as getting the equipment is concerned.

Unrelated question: What exactly did Omar pull off here? Here's my current understanding of what happened: Omar got Prop Joe to tell him when he would deliver a package to Marlo, then followed Cheese to find out the location of the warehouse where Prop Joe got his shipment from the Greeks. When the shipment was on its way, Prop Joe called Marlo and also called Omar. Instead of robbing Marlo, as expected, Omar instead held up Prop Joe's warehouse. Does that sum it up correctly? I'll have to watch the episode again to remind myself who Omar was following when he got the call from Prop Joe.

Anonymous said...

As to the bombing of randy's house, it appearred to be the same kids who fought him and micheal at school. Also the police were none to subtle in their guarding of his house, so i am sure that increased the animosity towards him in the hood, what with those no snitchin campaigns. Michael could have been a source but I really feel randy's thread is in large part about police/system ineptitude.

In a way randy's plight came at least indirectly from greed. He took money to be the lookout. He was in the hall on the way to sell candy, when they paid him to be a lookout. Later he snitched to save his own hide. He's not stringer but stillit wasn't totally bad luck.

I dont think the beginning was a cheap thrill. It kept me glued to my seat thinking did I miss sonething.

another night of great tv

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it's true that Dukie has been the least fleshed out of the four boys. But, for me personally, I'm most moved by what is happening to him.

Black Thought said...

Mark,

Prop Joe thought he was going to have to give up the drop to Marlo to Omar, or in other words, he was going to tell Omar where and when his nephew Cheese was to give Marlo his cut of the co-op package so Omar could rob him (Marlo). In actuality, and unbeknown to Prop Joe, Omar stake out and followed Cheese in order to steal the whole drug shipment at the transfer from the Gteeks to Prop Joe, and thus, scoring a huge payoff and screwing both Marlo and Prop Joe.

SJ said...

I didn't think that the opening was a "cheap" trick/thrill. Initially I was shocked when I saw Chris and Snoop following Mike, but I had a feeling it was training (remember those guys they were training earlier in the season?).

My only *minor* quibble (first quibble ever for this show) is Sherrod dying that way. As soon as Bubbles woke up I knew that Sherrod had taken the hot shots...I don't know why I just had a feeling. I guess the writers just wanted to make it more tragic for Bubs. Still, it was heartbreaking.

Mark said...

Thanks, black thought, that all makes sense now. By the way, who was the woman on Omar's crew? Was that Kimmy from season 3?

Re Duquan, I think he's the most realistic of the four kids. Granted, his story may not be as complex as Randy's (thanks, Alan, for pointing out all the elements that had to come together to bring about his current fate), or Michael's (how many kids share his fate?), but that doesn't mean the character isn't fully fleshed out. Duquan is essentially a smart, decent kid stuck in a bad situation. How many Michael Lees or Michael Corleones are there in the real world? They are clearly outnumbered by kids like Duquan. Or like Namond, who is also a more typical kid, a bitterly ironic twist on the "spoiled rich kid who doesn't live up to his parents' expectations" cliche. He'd much rather play Xbox than take over the family business. There are lots of kids like him, for better or for worse.

Tami said...

I have to say that I disagree about the Dukie comments -- he's my favorite of the four (though I love them all). He reminds me of kids I went to school with, and it's been so lovely to watch his small smiles and quiet dignity amidst such total wreckage. When I watch this show I have to remind myself, "It's only a show, it's only a show," but then I remember that even if this Dukie (and Ryan and Michael and Namon) isn't real, each represents thousands of kids who are very real. I love this show so much. It's compelling and gripping and vitally relevant, not to mention smart & amazingly scripted, acted and produced.

To the creative powers that be who work on this show, Thank You. And to HBO for airing it (and funding it) I thank you too. And now I have to cry myself to sleep.

Anonymous said...

I don't care anymore what happens to Herc, since he contributed majorly to the misfortunes of others (Randy, Bubbles, Sherrod, ...). In the end he realizes he's defeated: witness Domenick Lombardozzi's patented "sick puppy" expression, taken from the Nicholas Cage school of acting, but done well in this case. His redeeming quality is that he has the decency to take the fall by himself. It's right then that he finally learns his lesson (this season being about education).

I wanted to strangle him in his first scene with Freamon, where he had the chutzpah to demand to be put in charge because of his rank. And we all know how he earned his stripes. There was a teachable moment right then and there, and it was completely lost on him. In the words of a character from season 1, you have to see that bottom rushing towards you in order to realize it's time to stop. For Herc that happened when the IID people showed up.

It's also clear from last episode that it's Burrell who's behind everything, not Marimow. Burrell knows that Carcetti is in a double bind: if he fires Herc because of the search of the minister, he offends the police rank and file; if he keeps Herc, he offends the ministers. Burrell's solution, which he hinted at by bringing a copy of the General Orders, was to dig for dirt, so that they can safely fire Herc for unrelated offenses and keep everyone happy (except for Herc). The message seems to be that ability to find enough evidence to destroy a police sergeant's career is just one of the qualifications a good Police Commissioner needs. Anyway, it seems that Herc's fate was already sealed in the previous episode.

Alan Sepinwall said...

You guys make a lot of good points on Cutty's motivation for telling Michael to run, but the end result for Michael is the same: his last real chance at regaining his humanity is gone.

Re: Norman, this is what happens when you ask the Jew to write about Christmas music. :)

Savethewetlands, Randy was my favorite character, too, and the one I felt had the best chance of getting out. There's a parallel between this and The Corner, where I kept assuming/hoping that Gary McCullough might be able to get clean, because he was the one I most recognized as being like me. (He used to have a white collar job, owned a house, etc.) But as David Simon has said, that has nothing to do with who can and can't get out of the life. It's a combination of willpower and luck, and Randy has had a hell of a lot of the bad kind.

And if Randy's house wasn't bombed by the kids who tried to jump him outside of school, it was by some kids like that. Snitching has become the worst possible offense you can be accused of in that world; by putting the word out on Snoop's suggestion, Marlo knew that some wannabe somewhere would get to Randy sooner or later without him or his crew having to get their hands dirty.

floretbroccoli said...

Ever since Michael turned to Marlo and Chris for help, rather than to Cutty or Prez, I've been trying to imagine a good what-could-have-been story for him.

That is to say, if he HAD asked Prez for help, what would Prez have done? Brought in social services? Daniels? I just can't think up a happy ending here.

And I have no guess at all at what Cutty would have done.

I think this is part of Simon's point, that the system is so screwed up that even well-meaning people like Prez are powerless to help.

Anonymous said...

While it is technically possible to mic the courtyard where marlo holds court you still face the same problem as herc. There are always eyes on the courtyard. So no matter how copetent the installer marlo will know he is under surveillance

Eromitlab said...

Here's a story in the Sunday (Baltimore) Sun about a modern day Marlo and the kids who look up to him, complete with S1 echoes of D'Angelo's chess lesson, written by a woman (perhaps inspired by S4 or David Simon's days as a journalist):

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/local/bal-te.md.oswego03dec03,0,3800031.story

I work downtown in my safe, highly- compensated professional career, with a gorgeous inner harbor view from the 18th floor, then drive home (to the County) through the Eastside daily, past blocks and blocks of vacants and an Elementary School, a contrast that always brings me back to thoughs of The Wire. Sometimes the lessons of The Wire remind me that the system is broken -- what can one person do? Then I think, for example, of Cutty, Bunny, the Deacon, Carver, Miss Anna, Prez -- people with sensitivity who at least try.

Still, these people are sweeping leaves on a windy day, a lesson visually set out (and contrasted by economic status) -- the scene in Ep 1 of S4 -- Lex (the law?) out there with his broom, sweeping the corner. Or Cutty, doing yard work in the priciest suburb, the total opposite of the corner, but a place where leaves are also never-ending but are neatly bundled up and hauled away, out of sight, out of mind, in contrast to Lex's efforts.

I don't know where I'm leading with this post -- maybe just in circles, like the shots in the opening credits. No other show ever leaves me so pensive, reminding me of the audacity of hope, wondering about the lesson that hope is a set-up for pain that is avoidable by accepting hopelessness.

Eromitlab said...

Oops, the link I posted was cut off --

and I don't know how to post it or make it fit -- so go to www.baltimoresun.com/news/local/

and add

bal-te.md.oswego03dec03,0,3800031.story

Alan Sepinwall said...

Dukie-- for some reason, i feel like that character isn't really developed-- at least not to the degree that the others are.

In the original planning for the season, the focus was only going to be on Michael, Namond and Randy. Dukie didn't even have a name; he was just referred to in story meetings as "Dirty Boy." He didn't become a more significant character until much later in the process, which I suspect is why he hasn't had nearly the screen time of the other three.

LW said...

re: Alan's statement: "You guys make a lot of good points on Cutty's motivation for telling Michael to run, but the end result for Michael is the same: his last real chance at regaining his humanity is gone."

Doesn't Cutty's own story disprove this point? I mean, if I remember correctly, he did a double murder and a lengthy bid, and regained his humanity in the process. I think we make a mistake if we foist closure upon any moment in this series. The Wire works so consistenly against the form that if we do this we risk losing the perspective that this show provides glimpses into processes, not a closed narratives. Adolescence is a period, as this season has shown, when a lot of major decisions are made and played out... they can be determinitive of the whole future, the end of the future, or only a short stint. Ultimately don't know, but we can't assume the story is closed because the season ends.

Of course, Alan, you've seen the final episode, and I haven't, so maybe you know more. In which, case, you're an unintentionally spoiling bastard!

To me, Michael's character shows how humanity can often cloud the divisions between right and wrong. He made a decision, in moving against Bug's dad, that was at once right and wrong. He's hardened as a result of it. But that doesn't mean he's gone or lost his humanity. He still clearly cares for Bug. He still clearly cares for Dukie, which I think is important to note. I see his interaction with Cutty on the curb as a peek into his moment and his conflicts, not as a mark of some ending.

As for Dukie, for much of this season he's been the most hopeful character, and I think he was plenty developed. Prez nourished him, in more ways than one (as a side note, look back at early episodes from this season... Jermaine Crawford has done an amazing job of embodying this transformation... all of these kids should have fantastic acting careers, if they want 'em), and helped him find his talent. Like the other boys, this was a period of hope that gradually was swallowed by the failure of the institutions around him (family and school). We can probably assume that crisis will follow him to the next stage of his life... it seems to be a permamanent state, for these kids, that's only periodically broken by moments of placidity.

rukrusher said...

"We won't go until we get some. . ." Is part of the song. My family has sung "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" every year while the brandy is lit on fire over the figgy pudding, The second verse is "We all want some figgy pudding" and the third verse is "We wont go until we get some" Repeat as needed until the blue flame extinguishes itself.

alm8319 said...

Eromitlab- great link on that article. After reading it, I'm once again impressed with how the creators have been able to paint a picture of what life is like for many people in West Baltimore. I kept picturing the Pit from season 1 when reading this.

I wish I could be more eloquent about it, but last episode, much like the final episodes of seasons 1 and 2, just leaves me feeling hopeless, shocked and a bit sad. Wallace was hard to watch, but what happened to Randy was heartbreaking. Hopefully Michael looks out for Dookie in some way, or Prez can get Daniels or Lester to step in and try to save him from being put in a foster home, which Randy told us is awful.

If The Wire was a normal TV show, each adult figure would have grabbed onto one of the kids (Cutty/michael, prez/dookie, namond/bunny, and now Carver/randy). clearly thats not happening.

Also, it seemed like the group dynamic changed a lot from the start of the season until now. At first, the 4 boys seemed like a crew. now it seems michael is close with each boy, but until last night, it was michael/randy/dookie and namond was seperate. maybe thats because namond started dealing.

lastly, how badly did michael beat keonard?

dez said...

If The Wire was a normal TV show, each adult figure would have grabbed onto one of the kids (Cutty/michael, prez/dookie, namond/bunny, and now Carver/randy). clearly thats not happening.

I do think Bunny has grabbed onto Namond. It appeared to me that he was going to take him in last night, and he's been there for him and urging him forward since they met.

I agree with everyone else who said Cutty was looking out for Michael by realizing Michael's best move was to follow Monk & the gang, not stay with Cutty until the ambulance arrived. I also agree that last night's ep was killer (I cried). I dread what the finale will bring (and I won't get to see it until next Monday cuz I'll be at an Amazing Race viewing party, heh).

dez said...

Oops, forgot to add that I think Michael beat Kennard enough to wipe that smart-assery out of him, but not enough to permanently damage him (I hope).

Anonymous said...

I disagree with those who say that Michael is lost to his fate, and his leaving of Cutty on the street is him succumbing to the street. No one's story is over, until they're dead. Yeah, he did a murder. But so did Bodie, and he's showing a conscience he never had before. Hell, Bubs was planning on killing his nemisis, and I don't think any of us would fault him one bit had he succeeded. Hell now Bubs... you break my heart, Bubs.

alm8319 said...

also, the article talked about a lack of males in the west baltimore areas focused on. We saw that with Cutty and the women early in the season. Then last night Ms. Anna invited Carver in for a plate. Its definitely just hoping, but maybe carver and her get together and thats how randy is saved.

Kat Coble said...

Sorry for de-lurking on this lame-ish point, but those lyrics to We Wish You A Merry Christmas are not invented. They are seldom sung, but come right after the lines:

So bring us a figgy pudding

I think most people don't sing them because, well, who wants figgy pudding anyway, let alone wants to be rude enough to insist that the get some "right now."

Kat Coble said...

Ah. Sorry. Rukrusher beat me to it.

Mr. Mack said...

I believe that Omar has put Prop Joe in the position to give up Marlo to the rest of the "network." (I forgot what they call it) Someone will have to pay for that jacked shipment, and they know Omar can't be touched. I could be wrong....

Alan Sepinwall said...

Something else I neglected to point out on the list of grievances against De'Londa: Her whole bit about how Wee Bey is going to "walk out a man" from prison, when the plea agreement he took to protect the Barksdales ensured he'd be in jail for life, or at least until a very, very advanced age.

rukrusher said...

Kat

I spent the first 2o years avoiding the figgy pudding, but the hard sauce, (Butter, Sugar, Beat until smooth, add Brandy if needed) melting over the warm plum pudding is actually pretty good. Of Course, I only started to enjoy it after I started drinking.

Anonymous said...

Omar took the drugs AND the money, right? not just the whole shipment? I'm still trying to understand that heist exactly.

chicating said...

In theory, I can't decide whether to clap for Pelecanos or slap his face. In practice, I won't do either...I don't fuck with DC boys.
But did I have a tissue last night?(Clay Davis voice) Hell no.(/Clay Davis voice.

Anonymous said...

Incase you haven't been informed yet, the line "we won't leave until we get some" IS part of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas".

It comes after the figgy pudding part.....


hehehehehe.... couldn't resist.

Anonymous said...

just watched this episode again. michael definitely didn't want to go. he did get it that cutty wasn't the bad guy. you can see the wheels turning in his head. when he finaly walks off, it's reluctant, then he pics up his pace. there was a time when michael couldn't be near cutty. he jumps out the man's car. cutty leans on him in the gym, michael sidesteps to get his elbow off him. cutty offers to guide him in the gym. michael declines. now he voluntarily stays with him and has to be told to leave. not sure that he realized in that moment that he could have turned to cutty instead of chris, but he did realize that cutty wasn't the "faggot" he thought he was.

i don't know that cutty accepting michael's offer would have made a difference at this point. the kid is pretty much gone. don't know if you can turn back from where he's gone in just a moment--or not in JUST this moment depicted here.

question: what did the korean grocer say?

Alan: thank you for providing a place where we can discuss this show intelligently and with the carfeul dissection it deserves.

Anonymous said...

Just a thought, but if Cheese is Randy's father, and Prop Joe is Cheese's uncle, that (somehow) makes Randy and Prop Joe related. For those of us who really don't want to see Randy offed (and guessing by the tragedy he suffered this week, that now seems unlikely), it will be interesting to see if this has any signifigance for the fifth season (or final episode, although I'm guessing that would be a stretch).

I also want to say how much I have enjoyed Alan's columns and the posts this year. I rush here first thing Monday morning.

dez said...

Then last night Ms. Anna invited Carver in for a plate. Its definitely just hoping, but maybe carver and her get together and thats how randy is saved.

I haven't had a chance to rewatch the ep, but isn't she severely burned/nearly dead? :(

the fastidiot said...

RE: escalating punishment for a snitch...to my mind, the continued police intervention for randy is what drove the escalation of his punishment. obviously, the beatings and shunning did not work on randy, and the undercover cop in front of randy's house was plainly visible to marlo's crew. once again, good intentions bump up against the system, and the good intentions have no chance.

i burst out in tears several times in this last episode. i have become so attached to each of these kids, and to see them go through this is unbearable. if it didn't make for such amazing drama, i'd want to meet the writers in an alley and throw yellow paint on them.

another wonderful thing this season is the various parallels drawn between the cops and the kids and the teachers and the bosses. in the midst of the institutional criticism, i love these little moments that show some of the common foibles of all of these various groups.

between this and battlestar galactica, tv is in the middle of an incredible golden era...

Tina said...

Perhaps the police should take lessons from Omar -- he's gone from stopping the hand-to-hands by stealing stashes to having a significant effect on the amount of dope on the street by taking the shipment. More effective than anything else we've seen this season in the "war on drugs."

LW said...

But... what does Omar do with all them drugs? Just because the man got a code don't mean he ain't putting that stuff back out on the street somewheres else...

I see your point, though, in drawing a parallel between Omar taking the shipment and the return of high level police work...

Tina said...

Ah yeah, I meant lessons on the seizure, not on the, ahem, redistribution.

[so in an alternate universe, there's a lesser network with a buddy show where Lester and Omar disrupt the drug trade on both sides of the law...okay, I'll stop now.]

Anonymous said...

Omar and Renaldo are the real Major Crimes Unit this season. While the cops lost their high-tech gear, Omar did some effective old-fashioned, low-tech, long-term surveillance of Marlo and Prop Joe and their lieutenants. O&R are the only ones outside the small circle of drug kingpins to know of the existance of the New Day Co-Op, something the cops haven't even begun to suspect. They dealt a decisive blow to drug trafficking in the city -- essentially the old "dope on the table" which Burrell must still dream about. And in an ironic sense Omar and Renaldo are the Major Crimes Unit because they committed a pretty major crime.

callyx said...

One of the kids who firebombed Randy's house was in Bunny's class and he was one of the children who approached Randy, Mike and Duquan outside of school.

Back in February, Time Magazine did an interesting article about snitching in Baltimore and one item that was mentioned was the fact that a brownstone was firebombed because the family was perceived to be snitches: "Baltimore's problems first made national news in 2002 when a family of seven were killed in an arson attack after they helped police identify drug dealers in their neighborhood."
There was also an (almost unbelievable) item about "the hit that was nearly carried out on an 11-year-old witness; the two cut-rate attackers, paid just $50 each to rough up a witness before trial, who proved so inept that one of them collapsed and died after the witness gained the upper hand and started beating them up;" if David Simon had used those headlines it would have seemed farcical, but it did happen. Baltimore cops are trying new measures to deal with this problem, but the police have their own "no snitching" code so they are hardly good examples (or so the article also says).

If anyone is interested, the link is as follows:

http://tinyurl.com/y4nh92

Anonymous said...

Yeah, to those of you who havent seen the final episode, you're in for a treat. I've watched every episode ever of "The Wire" and this final episode to me was the best single episode ever!!! Hope the wait for the final season isnt too long but im sure it will be. Years from now I bet the 5 seasons of "The Wire" might just be considered the best drama series ever on television!

dez said...

Years from now I bet the 5 seasons of "The Wire" might just be considered the best drama series ever on television!

I suspect you might be right, though my fondness for "Homicide: Life on the Street" (at least the first few seasons before NBC screwed it up) will always put H:LOTS at the top of my list.

Anonymous said...

"Years from now I bet the 5 seasons of "The Wire" might just be considered the best drama series ever on television!"

There's no doubt at all in my mind that The Wire is and will always be exactly that. It's the only TV series I've ever bought the DVDs for. It's the only TV series that truly rises to the level of great art.

stormyscout said...

Thank you for following the trail of Randy's demise. I've thought of that over and over and over again. When you trace it back to the moment in Ms. Donnelly's office, you wonder what Randy even got from Ms. D putting the phone down. Miss Anna found out about it all--the boys' bathroom and the murder witness. I realize Randy was desperate and knew to protect the most valuable thing in his life, but he had to know that giving up Lex's murder would not shield him from anyone telling his foster mother about it all. Maybe he figured this was the most valuable thing he owned and he was willing to give it up for his foster mother. That's heart-breaking!! Especially in light of the whispered, "What is word got out?" I love the scenes, no treasure, the scenes between Randy and Miss Anna.

Spoiler:
Would Miss Anna ever ever consider re-connecting with Randy if / when she got out of the hospital? Randy, all things considered, is a model foster child!! I also wondered about her motivation for accepting a middle-school-aged boy when she was single. I say this because it sounds like Randy lived in group homes before he came to her--so she didn't receive him as a baby (which would have made more sense in my mind given this situation). I would have liked to have discovered more about that character.

That scene between Randy and Bunk in Season 5 is just so emotionally brutal as well. More brutal than Randy getting beat up in the foster home after his book money is ripped off (literally!)? Of course not, it's simply cause and effect at its most vicious!

stormyscout said...

Lots of typos in my last posting--I apologize, I was emotional:

Maybe he figured this was thesecond most valuable thing he owned and he was willing to give it up for his foster mother. That's heart-breaking!! Especially in light of the whispered, "What if word got out?" I l treasur the scenes between Randy and Miss Anna.

Also, I must weigh in on Michael leaving Cutty. [Spoiler], I feel it is much like the rip-your-heart-out scene in Season 5 when Michael acknowledges that he doesn't remember the very first episode of Season 4 (yes, the balloon fight) which the audience has stored up in their hearts and are probably thinking about along with Dukie (like when your life supposedly plays out before you just before you die--or in this case, just after you kill someone)! I'm rambling.

My point is, Michael's greatest strength and tragic flaw is that he is a protector, as a result of being a survivor himself. When he walked away from Cutty, I don't completely believe he was convinced that Cutty was not a molester. I just think that Michael has a visceral reaction to people in helpless situations.

You could say, what about putting the beat down on Kenard? In Michael's logic, Namond was the one who was more helpless in this situation--he knew of his friend's inability to step-to and Namond's being thrust into this situation by his mother--and Michael was already aware of Kenard's ruthless nature (he hires him right away when he gets his corner).

What about getting the contract on Bug's Daddy (by the way, did he pay Chris and Snoop the cash from the Halloween encounter for that hit or was it just contracted on the promise to join the crew?)? He was protecting Bug from the possibilities presented by his "daddy's" past and Michael's own experiences with him.

Leaving Cutty? Michael ultimately feels as though Cutty will survive as the Korean grocer is getting help, but Michael's continued chances of protecting his brother are the higher calling in going with Monk and the rest of the gang. These are the people who have given him and his brother a nice place to live and a place where he can be away from his mother and the possibility of her bringing home another man who might take an interest in Bug.

Forgetting about his past and the last shreds of his innocence (in the scene with Dukie just before they split up)? Michael is protecting himself from himself? He knows what he has to do to survive. He has made the ultimate sacrifice and has to move forward without any reminder of his youth. That will only drag him down. You can argue post-traumatic stress, but I think it's deeper than that. You?

stormyscout said...

I have so much to say about this episode (and in hurriedly typed sentences and words that lead to lots of typos, so please forgive me). However, I most appreciated the DVD commentary where the director points out that each boy is offered an affectionate gesture by an adult and the only one to withdraw in the most genuine way is Colven:

Dukie--Prez
Namond--Colven (withdrawn)
Michael--Cutty
Randy--Carver

Genius writing!

Pageturners said...

Superb commentary.

For me, Dukie seems like a younger version of Prez - a kid with such great potential, such brilliance, such heart. Though more common sense than the young Prez, more nous.

debbie said...

I really liked the parallel between Marlo and Carcetti with them both essentially taking a very laissez-faire attitude towards governing. Marlo really didn't want to make a decision with what to do with Randy's snitching, so he just had his soldiers put the word out. And Carcetti didn't want to take action against Herc, so he passed it on down the chain of command. Nice.
I also wanted to put in my two cents about the Michael-Cutty moment. I think Michael all along had intended to sacrifice himself for his little brother. Earlier in the season he risked consequences for not showing up to detention because of Bug, and when he saw Bug's dad was back, Michael didn't really fear for himself, but for his brother.
Ugh. Unfortunately, I'm haunted by a story I heard from a school social worker in rural Iowa that sounded much like this. A father of two boys had sexually abused his older son for years, and it wasn't until the father started to turn towards the younger son that he spoke out about the abuse. Awful, truly awful.
And I agree with someone who had said that they were trying to picture a happier ending for Michael if he had went to Prez or Cutty instead. I don't see it either. I think Michael was already damaged too much without any family support at that point.

troy said...

Can't believe there's anything left to say that you all haven't pointed out already, but a couple of parallels I didn't see mentioned: Norman's figgy pudding hearkens back to Omar breaking off The Farmer in the Dell when he sees Cheese: "The Cheese stands alone." And Herc got walked out of Major Crimes by IID, a/k/a his own Chris and Snoop.

Andy Hutchins said...

I cried for the first time watching The Wire during this episode. And I cried for Bubbles. For Andre Royo to go from anxiety as a would-be murderer to proud father figure to Sherrod to bright-eyed entrepreneur to gutted man in his short stretch of screen time is absolutely marvelous acting.

I don't know why -- maybe I identified with Bubbles more than I did the boys? -- but it was Bubbles that made me cry. That said, this is the single saddest episode I have seen so far.

Anonymous said...

Just watched the ep. and want to add that the attacks on Randy may have been additionally fuled by Marlo handing out cash at the beginning of the season.

Anonymous said...

I'm just watching the full series for the first time, and these episode recaps and analysis have been great. Thanks Alan! The comments sections provide tons of insight as well.
One thing that I didn't see mentioned in the comments/recap, that I probably just noticed because I'm watching all the episodes at once, is the eerie similarity between Micheal's beating of Kenard and Chris' beating of Bug's father. The suddenness of the first punch, followed by a string of similar punches in rapid succession. I know that Micheal wasn't present for Chris' attack, and he has no reason to know anything about how it went down, but I thought that was a subtle allusion to Micheal becoming a part of that life and crew, sort of a "Chris-in-training."

Anonymous said...

This was probably the most brutal episode of TV I've ever seen. But it wasn't gratuitous; everything was earned. Having also just watched the finale, I can't believe how artfully they developed the characters of these four kids, where they started and where they ended up.

Fanning said...

George Pelacanos owes me a new ceiling fan.

At the beginning of the episode, in my stupidity I fell for the shooting and thought that he had killed off Chris and Snoop. I took the pillow off my bed, intending to throw it back down on the bed loudly, and the pillow hit the ceiling fan, breaking one of the blades clear off. Thanks a lot, George.

Anonymous said...

Everything I'd want to say has already been said. Can't wait to watch the finale. I have season 5, but I'll be going back to season 3, just how I went back to S1 after watching S3 for the first time. Can't wait.

One final thing: the second Bubbs came up with the hotshot, I knew Sharrod was going to be the one to use it. There was no doubt in my mind. Bubbs is a lot of things, but he's not a killer. Poor, poor Bubbs. I want to see him get clean and become some sort of an outreach person to inner-city kids and addicts, but I know that's not how this show works.

Amazing tv, and amazing reviews, Alan.

Anonymous said...

Not much left to say (and not sure if these comments are still being moderated/posted) but the parallel between Namond and Ziggy has been striking me lately.

I think the only reason I may have picked up on this was due to comments by Alan and others that Ziggy could have been living the life as a college student in a finance program of some kind. But for Ziggy it was way too late. I feel like Namond's shell finally came off completely in this episode though, so maybe there is more hope for him.