Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Wire, "Late Editions": The ecstasy and the agony

Spoilers for "Late Editions," the penultimate episode ever (sigh...) of "The Wire," coming up just as soon as I watch a "Dexter" marathon...

"Ain't no shame in holding onto grief, as long as you make room for other things, too." -Bubbs

There's a lot to grieve in this episode -- as there always is whenever the brilliant yet cruel George Pelecanos writes the penultimate chapter of each season -- but there's also plenty of room for things to celebrate, and to laugh at, and to fear.

Many On Demand viewers have already called "Late Editions" the best "Wire" episode ever, and while I would need to go back and revisit the closing chapters of previous seasons (season one's "Cleaning Up" and last season's "Final Grades" in particular) before I make my ruling, I think what everyone's responding to is how the hour touches on everything that makes "The Wire" great. It begins tying together all the disparate story threads, reminding us why all the slow set-up at the beginning of each season is so important, but it also hits all of the feelings mentioned above, and so many more. I know the phrase "emotional roller-coaster" is a cliche of a cliche, but damn if I didn't feel like I was riding one throughout this episode.

The showpiece sequence is obviously the final 10 or 15 minutes, from Michael killing Snoop through Michael saying goodbye to Bug and then to Dukie -- about which I will have much more to say before this review is done -- but initially, the moments that really got my waterworks going were the happier ones.

I swear to God, when Namond showed up at that debate and we saw Bunny and Mrs. Colvin watching so proudly from the audience, I damn near wept -- and I don't even like Namond very much. It's just that, knowing what had happened to Randy, knowing that Dukie was now a junk man (and, later, possibly on his way to being a junkie), knowing that Michael was a murderer and now marked for death by Marlo... to see that one of these four boys, even my least favorite, had gotten out, was thriving and happy and safe and had defied the vicious cycle that claims so many boys like him (on the show and in real life), it affected me almost as profoundly as any "Wire" scene I can remember. Yes, I'm including Wallace's death and Ziggy's rampage and Carver walking away from Randy and the Michael/Dukie/Bug sequence at the end of this show, though I think in this case it was as much about context as it was about anything in the scene itself.

Even more affecting, both in context and on its own merits, was Bubbs' speech at the NA meeting, a moment five seasons in the making. (Simon and the other writers earned every bit of this scene's emotions with all the work they put into showing Bubbs' tragedies over the years.)

As has been repeated ad nauseum here and elsewhere, the depth and breadth of acting talent on "The Wire" is astonishing, and I would have to say that Andre Royo has consistently given the greatest performance of this wonderful cast. Week after week, season after season, he finds the humanity in Bubbs, makes you understand how fundamentally decent he is -- which in turn makes it an even greater tragedy that he became a junkie who stole from family, friends and anyone else who might help him get a fix -- and it's the warmth and sorrow he brings to the role that had me rooting so hard for him to make peace with Sherrod's death. I know that, as Snoop says (while quoting William Munny in "Unforgiven") that what we deserve has nothing to do with what fate gives us, but dammit, Bubbs deserves a break, doesn't he? And as he stood there in front of his fellow addicts, talking about that moment when he managed to not use even when his support system fell through, and then when he finally brought himself to talk, however briefly, about Sherrod, it touched me as deeply as it would have if Bubbs were real and I was sitting in that meeting with him. He still has further to go on his journey before we can consider him whole -- his sister failed to show up for the anniversary, after all -- but as with the Namond scene, any liquid discharge from my eye socket was as much of relief and happiness as it was sadness over what the man had been through.

If Royo isn't at the top of everyone's Best "Wire" Actors list, I imagine he's at least near the top. Jamie Hector, on the other hand, often gets dismissed as being too stiff (or, worse, the stereotypical, insulting "he's just playing himself"). I've always admired the control with which he's played Marlo -- to my mind, Marlo isn't bland but economical, with no wasted words, no wasted movement and no wasted emotions -- and in the riveting scene in jail where Marlo explodes about Omar's insults, it becomes clear just how much both Hector and Marlo have been holding in all these years. It also becomes clear just why Chris and Snoop have been going out of their way to keep Marlo ignorant of Omar's PR campaign. If, as we've discussed before, Marlo isn't a pure capitalist like The Greek, but rather a completely unfiltered product of the corner culture, then to him a loss of face -- of the name he made for himself, the one he hoped would ring out as he took the crown -- would be even worse than the money he lost when Omar ripped him off twice last season.

It's the fundamental difference between the otherwise equally-efficient, equally-deadly Stanfield and Greek organizations. As some of the On Demand viewers reminded me, at the end of season two, when Vondas and The Greek are making their escape from Baltimore, Vondas says that Nick Sobotka knows his name, "But my name is not my name." To them, a name is just a tool to be used for making money. To Marlo, his name is all that he is, a belief he asserts with terrifying authority in that monologue. Hell of a moment for one of the series' most underrated performers.

The police takedown of Marlo and his people, meanwhile, was one of the tensest and yet ultimately satisfying sequences this show's ever done. Because "The Wire" has by now conditioned us to expect the worst at every turn, I imagine we all watched Dozerman and Truck and Sydnor sitting on the marine terminal warehouse just waiting for the bust to fall apart somehow. But instead, after all the games with falsified paperwork and desecrated corpses and homeless abductions and all the rest, Jimmy and Lester's plan seems to work to perfection. They grab Monk, Cheese, Chris and Marlo and a whole lotta dope, and Lester gets to have his wonderful, silent moment of triumph where he stares down Marlo while holding the cell phone and the clock. (As with Burrell threatening Daniels earlier this season, it's a moment that wouldn't be half as intense if it included any dialogue. The look on Lester's face is all you need.)

And then, just as I've once again let the show suck me into the vision of a brand new day where the good guys triumph and the bad guys get what they deserve (again, see Snoop/William Munny for that one), it all begins falling apart, rapidly.

On the police side of things, Jimmy's decision to let Kima in on the secret last week comes back to bite him, as she tells the truth to Daniels. For most of the series, Kima has seemed like Jimmy's protege, but that's really only been on the personal side. We've seen throughout the series that she won't cut the corners that he will, that she believes things have to be done the right way, no matter what. One of the key Kima moments in the series takes place late in season one, after she's been shot by Barksdale's soldiers. Bunk brings a photo array to her hospital room, and when she can identify one of her shooters but not Wee-Bey, Bunk suggests that the trial might go a lot easier if she could identify both men.

"Sometimes," Kima tells him, resolute, "things just got to play hard."

Kima's a cop who does things clean -- and for the purposes of this particular story, she's the cop who got a firsthand look at the collateral damage of Jimmy's scam with the families of the "victims." I have no problem either believing Kima would turn him in -- both out of a sense of moral outrage and to protect the other cops who got unwittingly sucked into Jimmy's scheme -- or in defending her right to do so. We have these laws for a reason, and if we want to throw them out because the ends -- taking a monster like Marlo out of the equation -- justify the means, then where do we stop?

On the other hand, my heart ain't so big that I can find a way to excuse what Herc does in tipping Levy off to the possibility of Lester running a wire. His motives range from insecurity (having failed to get proper credit from Carver, he seeks an attaboy from his new boss) to ignorance (he has no idea that the wiretap is illegal, despite his involvement with Fuzzy Dunlop and the infamous camera, and therefore doesn't think telling Levy is a big deal) to plain stupidity, but this is the man who already destroyed Randy's life through carelessness, and now he's in the process of helping the defense of the very man whom he blames for getting him tossed off the force? Ugh.

Much as it frustrates me to see evil triumphant and all that, I can't help but admire the intelligence and efficiency of the Levy/Marlo combination. Maury may play dirty, but he didn't get where he is solely by cheating, and Marlo is even more careful than Lester gives him credit for. Lester's plan to credit the info that led to the arrests -- both the location of the re-supply and the fact that Marlo and company had been communicating through pictures sent by those cell phones -- to an informant is complicated by the fact that the only people who knew about the phones were the four people who had them, plus the very trustworthy Snoop and Vondas. Even if Herc weren't blabbing state secrets to Levy, I imagine Maury would have figured out something smelled fishy sooner or later.

We also see how tight a ship Marlo runs when he and Chris make the decision to have Michael killed, even though both of them feel confident that he didn't talk to the cops about Chris killing Bug's dad. When you've killed as many as these two have (directly or indirectly), often for lesser sins, and a possible long prison sentence is at stake, would you be willing to let Michael live? Michael is Chris' protege, and they have that shared experience of having been molested (it's interesting how at peace Chris seems to be about going down for the DNA evidence, as if getting to pummel Bug's dad like that makes a possible life sentence worth it), but we learned a long time ago that Marlo will kill you if there's even the possibility of you talking to the cops.

Marlo miscalculates on what Michael might have said to Bunk (the "source of information" was Michael's mom), and Snoop in turn miscalculates just how well Michael has assimilated the lessons she and Chris have taught him. The minute she tells Michael not to bring a gun to the hit, Michael's radar goes off, and he uses the great brain that Prez wanted him to use on math problems to turn Snoop's ambush around on her. It's funny: throughout season four and much of this season, as Chris and Snoop were marching people to the vacants, killing Bodie, trying to kill Omar, etc., there was a part of me that was cheering for somebody -- anybody -- to take them out. And yet in the moment when Snoop's about to die, when she turns her head away from Michael and smooths her cornrows -- the first remotely feminine gesture we've ever seen her make, but also a kind of classic gangster move -- I felt for her and how, like Kenard, she didn't become this way by accident. Great work by Pelecanos, director Joe Chappelle and the two actors. The break in Tristan Wilds' voice as he says "You look good, girl," is what really sells it.

Wilds isn't done, though, as he then has to carry two of the most tear-jerking "Wire" scenes of all time: Michael's goodbyes to first Bug, then Dukie. Michael's just a boy himself, but he felt he had to become a man -- and a killer -- to protect Bug, and the end result of that is that he has to let go of Bug and go on the run. The scene outside the aunt's house in Howard County -- she was mentioned in a season four scene where Donut wants to go joyriding to Howard County, Namond claims the KKK is active out there, and Michael invokes his aunt as proof that, as usual, Namond doesn't know what he's talking about -- reminded me in many ways of Wallace going out to his grandmother's house in season one. It's a perfectly nice, peaceful suburban neighborhood, but it might as well be Mars to Michael and poor Bug, who just wants his big brother to stay with him. (The crickets are just as alien to these kids as they were to Wallace.) You'll note that Bug doesn't say anything throughout the sequence; he just cries, and as with Lester's staredown of Marlo, etc., the silence only amplifies the moment.

And then, and then... excuse me while I go back and watch Namond at the debate and Bubbs at the NA meeting, because I need something happy before I go back and confront that devastating final scene.

And then Michael takes Dukie to the barns where the Arabers hang out -- and shoot up -- and as Dukie prepares to, once again, go live with junkies, he tries to hold on to his childhood for one last moment by reminding Mike of the piss balloon story from the very first episode where we saw them. I still haven't decided whether Michael genuinely doesn't remember it after all the growing up he's had to do since joining up with Marlo, or whether he remembers but doesn't want to, because it hurts too much to realize how much he's lost and how far he's fallen. Either way, it's devastating. How could these two sweet boys -- Dukie, who never meant anyone any harm and somehow kept his dignity in spite of being dealt a horrible hand by life; and Michael, who always tried to protect his friends and family, and who sold his own soul to keep them safe -- have come to this moment? How could Michael be a multiple murderer and a hunted man? (Not boy; man.) How can Dukie, innocent and brilliant Dukie, be right back where he started, only worse because he doesn't have his friends or school anymore? Why do I let this show in general and Pelecanos in particular stomp on my heart time after time like this?

I came to the end of this episode, trying to think of some way things could have turned out differently for the kids: if Michael had trusted Cutty instead of assuming he was just another pedophile, if Randy's house hadn't been firebombed and he could provide a haven for Dukie, if Dukie would ask Prez to take him in, whatever. But then I thought of the empty look on Michael's face as he denied remembering the piss balloon story, and the way Dukie sets his jaw as he prepares to walk back into hell, and all I could think of was Bunny -- the series' poster boy for how hard it is to do anything right inside this system -- telling the now repugnant Carcetti, "Well I guess, Mr. Mayor, there's nothing to be done."

Dammit.

Some other thoughts on "Late Editions":

-The Sun storyline largely takes a backseat to events on the street and in the police department, but Gus is now actively building a case against Scott the fabulist. Slow and steady, kinda like The Bunk.

-Also, for all the people who claim that editors Whiting and Klebanow are somehow less complex than many of the series' other "villains" -- a list that includes the likes of Valchek, Clay Davis and Cheese -- I give you that cringe-inducing scene where Carcetti's chief of staff Michael Steintorf tries to bully Rawls and Daniels into using all those pointless band-aid methods of juking the stats that Tommy promised would end on his watch. There are very few "Wire" characters I have ever found more loathsome than Steintorf, and this is a show that's featured sociopaths, mass murderers and child molesters. The worst part is, he clearly has won the angel/devil on the shoulder battle with Norman for Tommy's soul; witness Tommy's "We did not give up on this investigation" lie during the press conference.

-I know I comment on it so often that the point may no longer be as valid as it once was, but it still feels so rare to see Daniels happy that the mixture of shock and joy at hearing Lester's news felt especially amusing.

-Lester briefly turning Clay into an informant was a delight. For once in a rare while here, we see a cop getting honest answers from someone high enough up on the food chain that he has something valuable to offer. Plus, as with happy Daniels, it's such a novelty to see a completely forthright Clay Davis. (I know there's been some confusion among On Demander's about Clay's reference to scamming Stringer in season three and whether Levy was in on it, but Clay makes it clear that he had to go around to Levy to pull it off, and at the time it happened, Levy even tells Stringer that this wouldn't have happened had Stringer told Maury about the deal in advance.)

-Another politican seen briefly in a different light was Nerese. I barely recognized her casual off-the-record demeanor in her lunch with Gus. Interesting that she would seem less polished and more honest in a meeting with a newspaper editor than when she's having backroom meetings with the likes of Tommy and Clay, though I suppose her manner here could just be another act to endear her to a potentially valuable member of the press.

-O-Dog and Herc's complaints about the different ways the drug lords and cops deal with wounded colleagues nicely echoed Carver's line from season one about how the cops are ill-equipped to do battle with the dealers: when hoppers screw up, they get beaten; when cops screw up, they get a pension.

-I thought it was a nice touch that Marlo and The Greek's people were conducting the resupply at a burned-out, abandoned marine terminal -- yet another example of the drug economy replacing the blue-collar industrial economy of Baltimore.

-Loved the moment during Carcetti's dope on the table press conference where Zorzi keeps cracking up Alma by quietly heckling the mayor ("Oh, you are so butch") or predicting what cliche Tommy will invoke ("Don't forget about the community") before Tommy does so. I have survived many a tedious press conference by playing the role of either Zorzi or Alma.

-The legend of Omar grows: while level-headed Michael believes that the cops are right to be pursuing Kenard for the killing, Spider refuses to budge from the rumor that Omar was gunned down by three Pimlico boys with AK-47's.

-When McNulty shows up at Christensen's crime scene, he uses one of Pelecanos' favorite catchphrases (particularly in the Karras/Clay novels): "Talk about it." That scene also features the hilarious pay-off to Alma and Jay Spry's discussion of "evacuate" way back when. (See the Lines of the Week for the full transcript.)

-In case you don't have a long memory for the series, the guy in Evidence Control whom Daniels thanked for helping them was Augie Polk, one of the two alcoholic old codgers who were a drag on the original version of the Barksdale task force. Evidence Control seems a much more appropriate posting for the going-through-the-motions Polk than it was for Daniels when he got banished there between season one and two.

-The season has been littered with references to our pop culture's fetishization with serial killers and death -- Jay calling McNulty "Clarice," all the Natalee Holloway talk -- and in what may be the final carefree moment of Dukie's life, what is he watching? "Dexter," a show I enjoy greatly but which definitely plays into this fascination with the kind of killer that McNulty manufactured to get Marlo.

-While Gus is interviewing Terry's buddy at Walter Reed, the buddy says hi to a fellow multiple amputee, who's played by Sgt. Bryan Anderson, one of the subjects of the excellent James Gandolfini-produced HBO documentary "Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq."

Lines of the Week:
"Go down Walmart or some shit, see if they take care of you while you laid up for a while." -Snoop

"Does this mean I still have to take that charge for y'all?" -O-Dog

"My name is my name!" -Marlo

"The Dickensian aspect?" -Scott
"Exactly!" -Whiting

"Shardene better be awake, too, because I do believe Lester Freamon is in the mood for love." -Lester

"Actually, it was a burnt sienna, tied around his dick." -Landsman

"Well, I guess, Mr. Mayor, there's nothing to be done." -Bunny

"Mr. C, you know the mayor too? Damn!" -Namond

"Guy stinks." -Christensen
"Probably evacuated." -McNulty
"What, he left and he came back?" -Christensen
"No, he shit himself." -McNulty
In case you haven't heard by now, the finale won't be made available On Demand, so for the first time all season, everyone in the audience will be on the same schedule. I'm hoping to post some "Wire"-related content throughout the week -- among other things, tomorrow I'm getting to the bottom of the true origin of Clay Davis' catchphrase, I did a "Wire"-related podcast with Matt Seitz and Andrew Johnston that should be posted to The House Next Door within a few days, and I'll have another Star-Ledger column about the show on Sunday morning -- and as soon as the finale ends, I'll publish both the final review and the complete transcript of the long interview I did with David Simon a few days ago.

The finale doesn't seem to have leaked -- yet -- but one last time, I'm going to make the spoiler policy clear: Do not talk about anything in the previews. Do not talk about anything you may have heard or read about the finale, whether gossip from someone you know who works on the show or any interviews with castmembers who maybe say more than they should have about the end. Do not discuss anything you might possibly know about the finale. I'm going to be extra-vigilant in this final week, and if I sense that too many people are trying to be too clever about this, I'm going to switch over to comment moderation until the finale airs.

What did everybody else think?

198 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey Alan:

"But I think that's the point. To quote William Munny in "Unforgiven," deserve's got nothing to do with it. In the world of "The Wire" -- and the real world it so eerily models -- good things, when they happen, come not to those who've earned them, but those who happened to be in the right place at the right time."

That's from your season 4, final episode recap. And--in a great, meta-its all connected way--its the tagline of course for this episode. I'm starting to realize I'm going to miss these recaps and comments almost as much as I will miss this show. And the posters who have raised the 'best episode ever' claim have a very credible argument.

(I posted this earlier in the On Demand thread, but the connection is pretty cool and worth repeating.)

kathy said...

Heh, pretty funny having Clay Davis comment on the no-show of the finale on On Demand tonight. But sheeeeeeit, I'm still a little disappointed to have to wait a week.

Nathan said...

I was not at all ready for how affected I was by Snoop's death. But in terms of "feminine gestures" I don't think worrying about her hair ranks even close to that hot pink motorcycle jacket she had back in season three.

JP said...

I have to admit I haven't been as enraptured by this season as I have by the four others, but the last three episodes have been among the best this show has ever produced. More than ever, you can see how all five seasons have combined to tell a single story, and I feel privileged to be witnessing it.

Jenn said...

The thing that struck me most on the second viewing was Bubs talking about remembering his care-free Summer days at the NA meeting, and Dukie doing the same when talking to Michael. Ugh, it's so rough, where this storyline seems to be going.

I don't hate Kima for telling, she did what she had to do. But, if Marlo and company walk because of it? Sheeee-it. That'll suck. (Of course, that'll be the Wire, so I'm preparing myself). Though, her telling gave the great, silent reaction shots of Daniels and Pearlman in the evidence room. I loved that scene.

Can't believe I have to wait a week. It's going to be a long one.

Oh, does the finale run from 9:00 - 10:30? or 8:30 to 10:00?

rooney 10 said...

With one episode left Alan, I just wanted to say thank you for these Wire posts. You seem to sum each episode up in a way that cuts right to the core. You're like a miniature buddha with hair.

As for this episode, how can anyone have made it through without tearing up at least once? I will be very interested to see how this all plays out. Knowing David Simon, the happy endings will be kept to a minimum. I can't help but think that Michael is a dead man walking, just like Omar was...

Anonymous said...

Upon rewatching a particularly funny moment I noticed (and not mentioned by Alan) was Clay Davis trying to hit Lester up for a free drink. Even when his neck is on the line the man has to get paid.

JP said...

Forgot to mention - I watched episode 8 tonight with two friends who hadn't seen it yet, and I wish I had a photo of their faces when Omar got capped. I have a feeling the look on my face was the same when I watched it.

Alan Sepinwall said...

The finale is about 95 minutes, in fact. So if you're still using a VCR instead of a DVR, plan accordingly.

Chris Littmann said...

So much gut-wrenching stuff in this episode, and yet they tied up so much more than I ever thought possible in two episodes, let alone one.

No predictions from me. They aren't needed; by now we probably all oughta know how this goes down. It's The Wire.

Chris Littmann said...

Oh, and I definitely hoped to find out tonight that somehow, the finale would end up on OnDemand. So sad it isn't, because I watched this episode on Thursday night and I'm dying for this finale!

Anonymous said...

Alan, I think Jamie Hector is among the best actors (so many are excellent) on the show. As proof, I point to the fact that he is so compelling to look at that you cannot take your eyes off of him whenever he is on camera. He does much with a few lines. Perhaps one of his most brilliant scenes was when we watched the emotions fly across his face as he watched Prop Joe get shot. Wow, powerful.

Anonymous said...

Marlo will wind up walking, but wil Vandas go anywhere near him now that he is so exposed? It is a race between the street and the Greek to get rid of him now. Chris and Snoop aren't around for protection. It looks really bad for him. On the other side, the embarrasment is so vaast that will McNulty's offfenses be covered up?

Fantastic!

Alex said...

For weeks I thought Omar's crusade against Marlo was ineffective and ultimately pitiful (Omar shouting insults on an empty street corner). The fact is that he was on a mission to hurt Marlo and succeeded brilliantly. Marlo wasn't just angry to hear about the way Omar injured his reputation--by his standards, he went berserk. A gay man was out in the streets day after day, on a crutch no less, calling him a "bitch" and a "punk" and Marlo did nothing about it? His worst nightmare. Omar knew exactly what was required to hurt Marlo, and went out and did it.

Anonymous said...

There was a scene where you knew it was a perfect chance for someone to say sheeeet to Clay David, but true to the genius of The Wire, they did not ruin the moment by actually saying it out loud.

ami said...

I don't even feel like I can out together a coherent thought yet, between the tears in my eyes and my heart being in my throat for an hour...

But it was good to see Bunny, the deacon,and hear Lester mention Shardene... And even though Namond was my least favorite of the kids from S4, it good to see him thriving... Poor Dukie, Michael, Bug...

Ben Guest said...

Alan,

Thank you for these recaps and discussions. They have been a great way to further examine what is, in my opinion, the greatest show of all time. Thanks for all of your work.

kathy said...

How could these two sweet boys -- Dukie, who never meant anyone any harm and somehow kept his dignity in spite of being dealt a horrible hand by life; and Michael, who always tried to protect his friends and family, and who sold his own soul to keep them safe -- have come to this moment?

Damn, just when I had got my weeping from watching the show under control, I had to go fetch the Kleenex again after reading the recap.

I may be Pollyann-ing this but (at least until the finale), I'm holding out hope for Dukie. The kid is a survivor, against all odds. Surviving his family of origin was a momumental acheivement. As sweet and mild-mannered as he comes across, he's also extremely strong and he knows that there is better out there and he just keeps looking for it, and looking for anyone who can help him find it.

One thing I thought in watching this episode for the second time tonight was Clay Davis. As smooth and charming as he is, I think he charmed the viewers in his testimony too, not just the jurors. He's such a fun character, it's easy to forget he's an evil bastard who is stealing money that people donate to help kids like Dukie and Michael and Big. Kids who are literally dying for any kind of help. When Cutty need help for his gym, the drug dealers gave him the money. Evil is charming. Except it's not.

Andre Royo deserves 1,000 Emmys for his work this season. Which is not to say that eveyone else doesn't too. But he so beautifully underplays these wrenching scenes, it's just a very delicate performance, which sounds like a weird description of such a gritty character but that's the word that comes to mind. That and e.e. cummings's phrase "intense fragility". He treats the emotion of the scene as a fragile entity and he never lays it on too thick, not for one second, and that makes it all the more devestating. I know it'll never happen but if by some miracle he gets even a nomination, I will be beyond thrilled.

Tina said...

I've watched the episode twice and it seems clear to me that Michael does remember the balloon incident, he just can't have that memory at that moment. Fine work by both actors in that scene; you can see Michael close off to Dukie's reaching out, and it's heartbreaking.

Agree about Bubbles at the meeting. It was a great scene and every bit was earned. But in the midst of getting choked up, I had to laugh at the woman in the meeting making a play for Bubs, saying he could call her anytime. (He does clean up well.)

Another scene that doesn't need dialogue -- Kima coming into Daniels' office. The look on her face combined duty and reluctance, and I also thought of S1's "Sometimes things just gotta play hard."

Alan, I'll add to the chorus thanking you for providing both your thoughtful recaps and a forum for respectful discussion. My heart is breaking at the thought of the show ending, but the insights here will play through many views of the DVDs.

Craig said...

I just saw Levy in an Arby's commercial in the middle of Breaking Bad. I haven't been this disillusioned since I saw Daniels in that car ad.

paul b. said...

To which of Bunny's experiments was Carcetti referring? Hamsterdam or the school thing? Tommy wasn't mayor during the former, but he said the experiment was in the "Western District," which although is true for both, I wouldn't think he'd use the word "District" when talking about the schools, since it is a police department boundary.

Chris Littmann said...

I was feeling all sentimental, so I popped in Season 1, Episode 1 of The Wire.

Kima on a typewriter, and now they're on those Toughbooks. (No wonder they're in the red!)

And even better, the scene where Carver says, "You can't even call this shit a war. Wars end."

I've only been with this show for a short while, but I'm gonna miss it.

LMO said...

I need some help with the cell phone scene in the evidence room. I don't understand whose phone that was ... I thought the number on the paperwork was for a random cell that they used to call Templeton? Why would it be in evidence? Did they actually put Marlo's number on any of the official paperwork?

A great episode. I am on-board with the best-ever crowd.

Mr. Bad Example said...

What's left to say?

Best episode ever? Check.

Most emotional "Wire" yet? Check.

Best recap ever? Check. We owe you, Alan. Between your almost encyclopedic knowledge of the show and your helpful pointers towards those all-too-brief moments and scenes from seasons past that get revisited to tie the loose ends, You've made many a viewing experience twice as enjoyable.

That being said, during these past few weeks I've become a Wire-evangelist of sorts, preaching out to everyone I know and meet about how great this past season has been and how trascendent the show is as a whole. I've managed to turn about half a dozen people into viewers, whose collective experience can be summed up pretty much by their "How come I didn't find time for this show before?" reactions.

All I can say is this: The Wire is the one show that frequently prompts me to come into my 4 daughter's bedroom at night to kiss her forehead and stroke her hair while she sleeps. It makes you so aware of how tough it is for some kids out there, and how easily some bad choices and a steadily-declining environment can contribute to so many tragic lifes, I can't help to feel anything but blessed about childhood's innocence.

And also, whenever I come across one of those self-righteous asses who claim some sort of moral and/or cultural superiority by stating they don't watch television, I get to make fun of them. I'm silly that way, I guess.

Anonymous said...

Stupid question: Why did Oprah never champion The Wire?

Anonymous said...

Nice catch with the location of the drug meet and the drug industry replacing the blue collar jobs. Thats the great stuff I get in these recaps.


With regards to Chris Partlow being at peace with the murder charge I find his character very interesting. For someone who has done so many killings and taken away some of my favorite characters, Bodie and Prop Joe, there is something about him that makes me not hate him. I don't know if it is his past of being abused or the way he kills, so calmly. I would love to get more insight to his character.

That HBO on Demand commercial with Senator Davis was great! Sheeeeiiiiiitttt!

Tina said...

LMO -- yeah, took me a second time too. The number in the paperwork was allegedly the serial killer's, but it rang Marlo's cell, which had been confiscated and was in evidence control. So Daniels and Pearlman know that the request for a wire tap was based on false evidence; shit, meet fan.

Nick D. said...

Hey Alan,
I have always loved reading your comments on the wire, but this season they have been especially helpful and informative. I appreciate the time you take to research and uncover, as well as monitor the comments. I don't think you've ever left anything unsaid.

Many thanks.

domino87 said...

How could these two sweet boys -- Dukie, who never meant anyone any harm and somehow kept his dignity in spite of being dealt a horrible hand by life; and Michael, who always tried to protect his friends and family, and who sold his own soul to keep them safe -- have come to this moment?

I think this brings up a point that may not be discussed enough when it comes to discussion of the show. (To paraphrase from a few different David Simon quotes) What are the forces in society that create the "Michaels" and "Dukies" of this world? Why does no one care that the War on Drugs has morphed into a war on the underclass? What drugs have not destroyed in our inner cities, the war against them has. Why no one cares that because of some accident of birth some kids come into the world at a certain place. Where they were born, and learnin from the older kids around them, the only examples they got most of the time, their only viable options are to sell drugs. A lot of these kids, there fate was decided a long time ago. We have two seperate society's in this country. And the gap between the have's and have-not's is getting wider everyday. And theres not being much done to change that.

Belle is... said...

I met "Clay Davis" at a Wire party here in NYC recently. Great guy. Great actor. I didn't ask him about the "sheeeeeet" but I'd just scene the episode when he tells the Burrell "I'm out here doing the Lord's work for you, Irv.." I was fascinated by that scene. Turns out the stutter is all him, not direction. He said he does it whenever he gets wound up. Also, the thump on the chest when he's leaving is all self-inspired too. He says it just felt right.

Shortly after, I interviewed Jamie Hector for something un-Wire related. Great guy. Very open and .... animated even. Very passionate and talkative. He's totally acting in all those understated Marlo portrals. I'm embarassed for anyone who thinks he could just be "playing himself."

I won't reiterate anything anyone else has said. But I want to note the change in Baltimore when the drugs were gone and the corners unoccupied. The kids playing in the street at the hydrant? The heavy foot traffic from "citizens?" We haven't seen that since Hampsterdam. It's usually pretty dry out there when Mike & Co. are working. It was a glimpse of what the city could be like if the drug trade didn't exist. The city looked fun and simple again.

I lied. So much choked me up here, but I think Dukie looking at his future was the worst. Then turning around for another safe moment and seeing that Michael was already gone... just killed.

What happens to Bug if something happens to Michael? Will the aunt keep him? Even if she does, will he be okay after all he's been through at such a young age? Dad killed, brother abandoned him, Mom an addict? Putting him in the burbs doesn't solve all of that. I grew up in a great Black suburb in MD and many of the Black boys there had a hard time making a way of life despite two-parent homes, caring, deeply involved single parents, and a for all intents and purposes stable way of life. The 'burbs ain't the solution to the city's problems. To quote Phil (Sopranos) "you don't change a emotional problem with a physical location." I can't believe I am so invested in these fictional characters.

Last thought, did anyone notice Jim Jones (the rapper, not the clut guy) standing outside the cornerstore in Ep. 8? That was him, right?

Mrglass said...

Another parallel: the last scene between Michael and Dukie, reminded me of the last drink on the roof for Avon and Stringer. Stringer tells him about the time they got chased by dogs on the docks; Avon smiles but doesn't say much, just like Michael. Then they both turn their back on their best friend.

Big Man said...

I also had a question about the cell phone in the evidence room. I was positive Lester told McNulty to put a bullshit number on the court paperwork. So, what the hell happened?

Also, the scenes with Dukie and Michael were the most gut-wrenching things I have ever watched on television. Watching Dukie walk into that junkie hell was horrible. I swear I regularly forget these people are not real.

And you do a wonderful job with your recaps.

I had to write about that Michael and Dukie scene at my blog.

Anonymous said...

anonymous 11:34

Oprah's audience is suburban housewives, I can't picture The Wire being well recieved by them. I doubt there is hardly any female audience at all for The Wire, probably a lot less than The Sopranos. And even the girlfriends I have had during the shows run could never "get" the show when I watched it.

Kim--clearly female said...

Suburban housewives can't be interested in good tv?

chris w said...

A point that no one has mentioned is the leak in the DA's office. That was the valuable info that Clay Davis just gave Lester. We've only seen two people from the DA's office to my recollection, DA Bond and Rhonda. My money is on Rhonda being the leak. Just another knife to stab in the side of Daniels while he falls with the shit that McNulty has placed in his lap.

Ben Guest said...

So who are the "Best Wire Actors," judged solely on his (or her) performance in The Wire? Here's my top three:

1) Idris Elba
2) Clarke Peters
3) Wendall Pierce

Mike L said...

I don't think I've ever felt so emotional after watching The Wire. I was not only sad for Dukie, Bug, and Michael and elated for Bubbles, Namond, and Lester; I was also totally frustrated with Kima!

I know she has been a moral center for this show, but she is by no means 100% clean as a cop. Yes, she refused to finger Weebay back in Season 1, but earlier she had went into an interrogation room with Jay Landsman to beat the crap out of Bird for his obnoxious behavior. Don't get me wrong, Bird brought that upon himself, but technically that is police brutality in which Kima was participating.

So, now that McNulty has screwed up and broke the law to serve justice to those responsible for the two dozen bodies in the vacants, Kima tells him to go f*** himself and turns him in to Daniels? After all that Kima and Jimmy have been through, I thought she owed him at least a heads up before ratting him out.

Anonymous said...

There are way too many good actors to make choose favorites. Here's my top three most underrated actors on The Wire:

1) Larry Gilliard, Jr. (D'Angelo, so sympathetic in those interrogation scenes)
2) J.D. Williams (Bodie, how authentic did every single one of his scenes ever feel?)
3) Robert Wisdom (Bunny, awesome presence)

todmod said...

I agree that Kima had every right to tell Daniels about McNulty's scheme, but I am very disappointed that she didn't tell McNulty she was doing so.

He put his ass on the line in letting her know the truth - the least she could do is let him know the axe is coming down, and even give him the opportunity to tell Daniels himself.

Defending the right way of doing things is normal, but she treated McNulty like any crooked cop working the system for his own game.

Anonymous said...

Kima was always my least favorite character on the show and now I cant stand her! However because of Herc being the slime he is it looks like it was all going to come out in the open anyways. McNulty's fate can't be good.

Anonymous said...

Is Michael gonna be a Omar or Marlo? That last scene with him and Dook was so friggin sad!!

La G - woman said...

Anonymous 11:52

I was trying to find something amusing to say about your comment about women and The Wire, but it just isn't funny - it's ridiculous. I know plenty of women who watch and even manage to 'get' this show, powered only by their fragile feminine minds - I'm one of them. If we relied on daft lowest common denominator generalities about what TV we will watch or enjoy, not a single episode of The Wire would ever have been commissioned for any of us to watch. Shame on you!

Algernon said...

Possibilities for the leak who is selling papers to Levy:

1.) Judge Phelan- Has made appearances in recent episodes. Phelan's corruption would be an interesting bookend to his role in Season 1, maybe the whole Avon wiretap case was some sort of competition or game he was playing with Levy.
2.) Bond- I think Prop Joe showed off some papers in Season 4 before Bond was elected, so this is a no go. (The same logic rules out everyone in the Carcetti administration.)
3.) Pearlman- There's been no build up to this and it would seem rather gratuitous to dirty Ronnie in the final episode. I sure hope not.
4.) Daniels- I don't think Daniels had access to these papers until recently. But maybe he knew someone who does. We still have not found out how exactly he got all that extra money those years ago. Maybe he put Levy in touch with someone in the courthouse in exchange for a taste. There is clearly more to come with Daniels's past in the final episode, since the file on him is in Narese's possession.
5.)Some no-name low-level courthouse functionary- Dramatically unsatisfying, but seems the most logical.

Other possibilities: Burrell, Rawls, Ilene Nathan, the grand jury prosecutor. I'd put my money on Daniels + a no-name, or maybe Phelan.

Anonymous said...

Anyone else notice the business cards next to the dead homeless guy?

The killer has to be the homeless man with the business card fetish we saw interacting with Templeton and McNulty in earlier episodes.

Belle is... said...

I wondered about the business cards too. Great thought. I couldn't figure that out.

Um... I am a woman and am as at least obsessed-- if not moreso-- than every man I know who watches. Including the boyrfriend who put me on to it at the beginning of Season 3 (at which point, I immediately bought the previous 2 seasons.) GOt rid of the BF, not the obsession with the show. Most of my ladyfreinds are avid watchers and dissect the show scene by scene, parallell by parallell. Don't rule us out, please.

dez said...

and in the riveting scene in jail where Marlo explodes about Marlo's insults

Alan, you're Marlo-ing where you should be Omar-ing again :-)

What an amazing episode! Poor, sweet Dukie. I hope he can avoid becoming the next Bubbs (even though Bubbs is finally doing all right). Or worse--the next Sherrod :(

Anyone know of any viewing parties in the L.A. area for the series finale? None of my friends watch the show and I'd love to hook up with some fans to say goodbye to the best show on TV.

Jarvis said...

As I've posted on this site before, I think there's a problem in the fact that Daniels and Pearlman were able to figure out Lester and Jimmy's illegal wiretap so easily. The scheme is too simple for Lester, and contradicts what he said in an earlier episode.

In a discussion between McNulty and Freamon back in episode 5 (in the 38th minute, to be precise) about how they would set up the wire, Lester says: "A bullshit number on the paperwork to the courthouse, Marlo's cell number on the tap itself." This would seem to be the way to go, ensuring that even if someone suspected the serial killer was a hoax, they couldn't link it to the illegal Stanfield wiretap (or at least not simply by ringing the phone number on the court docments).

So why was Ronnie able to get Marlo's cell number from her court documents?

Sorry for harping on about this, but it is a pretty major plot point! :)

Jarvis said...

Algernon -

With regards to the courthouse leak, I don't think we will find out who it is. I think the reference was put in several episodes back because The Wire is an intelligent show that doesn't just spring things on viewers. So, when we learned in "Late Editions" that Levy had a source in the courthouse, it didn't come as a complete surprise.

Applying the same logic, there's no way that Ronnie or Daniels will be revealed as corrupt in the last episode when it has never even been hinted at before. They are truly "good guys", notwithstanding the compromises they've had to make on occasion.

From what I know of the legal system there are certain china walls in place, and that would exclude Phelan (a judge) and any of the cops from having access to prosecution-related documents. So come low-level official is the likely culprit. Remember that classic story from Puzo's book The Godfather where he reveals that it was too costly and ineffective to bribe all the judges - the Corleones instead paid the secretary who organised the judges' roster, to make sure they got the right judge for their cases.

Bellingham View said...

Alan, good to hear you're looking into the origin of Sen. Davis' signature catchphrase. I've been wondering about that for years. :)

I came to "The Wire" in season two (after having watched season one on DVD), so the first time I'd ever heard Isiah Whitlock, Jr. utter the immortal "Sheeeeeeit," it was not in "The Wire," but in Spike Lee's 2002 film "25th Hour," written by David Benioff.

Whitlock plays a law enforcement agent of some sort (pretty sure he reprises the role in Spike Lee's "She Hate Me" a few years later), and I recall him using the line in one or two interrogation scenes. Not sure which came first, but given the relative production schedule of feature films versus episodic television, my *guess* is that "25th Hour" was at least filmed first.

Anyway, will be cool to get the definitive word once you run it down.

And thanks for all the recaps. It's great to find a community like this (and at other places online) for intellient discussion of TV's greatest program.

RP

drake leLane said...

I'm surprised nobody's mentioned this takes-one-to-know-one line from Clay Davis directed at Lester:

"You ain't nothin' but a shakedown artist."

Classic. I also loved watching the subtle acting of Clark Peters when hearing Stringer Bell's name mentioned. His eyes get big just for a split second, peering over his drink, and then it's back to poker face.

It's weird thinking about all that happened in this episode, a testament to Pelicanos' writing that he can weave all these stories together in under 57 minutes without making it seem compressed.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alan, you're Marlo-ing where you should be Omar-ing again :-)

Sonuva... I thought once Omar was dead at least I would stop making that mistake.

Fixed.

Anonymous from Berkeley said...

I agree with the anonymous comment above saying how great it was to see Clay Davis asking Lester to buy a round.

It really ties in with the Season 2 parallel of Sobotka saying that instead of making shit in this country, now we "just put our hand in the next guy's pocket."

Later in the season, Levy is telling Stringer Bell how he was taken by Clay Davis and says "god help me if he wasn't born with his hand in someone else's pocket."

I love this show.

On a second note, Alan, I know I found it rather late, but after reading the article from The Atlantic about this season
http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200801/bowden-wire/

(No spoilers if you have seen this far into the season)

and was pretty disappointed with the premise. I know you've already interviewed Simon, and perhaps he has already addressed some of these issues, but did you have any other thoughts on the subject? I especially didn't like the idea that Simon was being oversimplifying and pessimistic as to avoid any real discussion of policies which can lead to progress.

As I read the wire, there are several great ideas that get buried, and great people who are cast away due to the organization of the system; however, I never felt that this was the way things HAD to be.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Berkeley Anonymous, I talked about the Atlantic article back in my episode two review. Short version is that I found it very disappointing, and if you want a deeper understanding of everything going on this season (particularly the Sun storyline), go read the Columbia Journalism Review article.

Rottin' in Denmark said...

You mention the 'dope on the table' scene, with Carcetti grandstanding and Zorzi whisper-heckling ('you're so butch').

I think scenes like this, where the reporters rolle their eyes at the politica process, while at the same time reporting it, is one of Simon's critiques of the media that hasn't been discussed much.

The politicians know it's bullshit, the reporters know it's bullshit, and the readers (probably) know it's bullshit. Yet they all go through the motions anyway.

Just as Klebanow says 'Any chance of that analysis making it into the paper?' in episode 4, one of the problems with modern journalism seems to be that those with the most expertise are keeping it to themselves, or burying it in 'objective' reporting of the facts, i.e. whatever the police and politicians tell them.

That, to me, has been a more eye-opening criticism of the press than any of Scott's fabrications.

quipu said...

An absolutely brilliant episode. Loved the inversion, as we begin with a series of highs, from the busts to seeing Namond and Bunny again and watching Bubbles open his heart to a receptive audience, to the devastating one-two of watching Michael and Dukie losing themselves to the street.

Did anybody else appreciate the irony in Steindtorf's line about "being creative"? If only he knew just how two detectives had already taken his advice to heart.

Things are gearing up for McNulty's fall. I'm bracing myself for the Worst Case Scenario. Templeton, I'm still uncertain of. On the one hand I can easily see him being humiliated by Gus, and the Sun having to retract their stories, thus further tarnishing the already beleagured newspaper. But I can also see Templeton getting away with it. Maybe even scooping a damn Pulitzer for his bullshit, which would be a moe damning indictment not only of the (fictional) Sun, but of modern journalistic practices.

Again Alan, sterling write-up. I've got to ask you, how on earth are you able to remember the insane amount of history which helps to enrich viewers' understanding? On average, how long are your notes for each episode?

Anonymous said...

No OnDemand for the finale?!!?!!?!?

Toeknee said...

Between Alan's insightful recaps and all the well-spoken intelligent comments here, it's almost intimidating to try to make a useful, original comment, but I'll try…..

Over the years I've seen many people expressing an interest in a pre-quel to the Wire (more than the three two-minute prequels we have On Demand), to show how Omar, Avon & Stringer, Prop Joe, Bubbs and others all got to the point where we saw them at the beginning of this series. Well, to a certain extent, it seems like such a prequel would be redundant - we're getting those stories now, in the stories of Dukie, Michael, Namond, Randy, and Bug.

Many have already pointed out that Dukie seems to be destined to lead a life like Bubbs' (or Sherrod's or Johnny's). So apparently we are witnessing something similar to what may have transpired in any of their early lives. Sad to think that a life like Bubbs' would be the best of those 3 possibilities for Dukie.

Similarly, I could see Michael turning out to be the next Omar. He's a marked man, he has no crew to back him. Because of that, I don't see how he could become a Marlo. His only option at this point seems to be to operate as an independent agent, outside of the law.

On the other hand, much like Bunk and Omar came from similar backgrounds but took different paths, it could be said that Namond is following in Bunk's path. Will Namond and Michael come across each other in 10 or 15 years? Like Alan, I didn't like Namond as much as I like the other kids. And going back to early season 4, if I had predicted which of those 4 kids would have the brightest future, loud-mouthed undisciplined Namond may have been my last choice.

And Bug….poor Bug….he doesn't realize it but this may turn out to be a great thing for him. Ensuring (hopefully) he will have a future similar to Namond's, as opposed to Dukie's/Bubbs', or even Randy's, bouncing from group home to foster home and back.

Anonymous said...

Levy's conversation with Marlo about who else knew was priceless. The Wire has so much to say about witness protection and corrupt lawyers -- think about the Jersey lawyer accused of being involved in a witness's murder or Brenda Paz, a 17-year-old witness killed by the gang Mara Salvatrucha.

This is a great article on what the prison at Jessup is like in reality:
http://www.examiner.com/a-1250589~Witness__Corrupt_guards_set_up_killing_of_Md__corrections_officer.html

Also, I'm a woman and I can't get enough of this show. damn obsessed with it.

dcdame said...

I've posted by initial comments on the "On Demand" thread, so what remains of my commentary is probably obscure, but on third viewing I picked up on some minor things - nothing essential to the plot, and at least one may be just echoes or commentary unintended by the writers, but I'll toss them out here anyway.

First - Dukie. In S4, we saw him walking alone, abandoned by the people who ought to care about him because they are incapable of caring for him, wearing his backpack, on his way to get an education. IIRC, at some point in one of those scenes (the first day of school, maybe?), Michael and Bug join him in the alley (or vice versa). In the final scene in S5 Ep 9, he is again walking alone, wearing his backpack, no longer with his "family" because Michael can no longer care for Dukie & Bug. But Dukie's on his way to another kind of education, and not one that will raise him up.

Second thing I noticed. IIRC, the first time in S4 that we see Michael & Bug at home is when Michael is helping Bug with his math homework. In the scene in this ep at their aunt's, Bug goes into her house wearing a see-through backpack. Prominently in view is a textbook: MATHEMATICS.

Finally, and perhaps without any significance, was a shot from the "Pulitzer" meeting at the Sun with the brass. One of the attendees was a guy who later in the show had a conversation with Gus (maybe about Templeton - I don't recall). Anyway, when this guy was at the meeting he was writing with a fountain pen, which struck me as a valentine to the way things used to be long before computers and the like. Or maybe not.

dcdame said...

P.S., I'm also a WOW (Wire-Obsessed Woman) - white, suburban, middle-aged. So's my mom (ditto the first 2 demographics -- but she's 71).

Pandyora said...

What is with all the bitterness directed towards Kima (both here and in the OnDemand thread)? After all, she went to Daniels and not her immediate supervisor. It’s fully possible that Daniels or the department might try to sweep this under the rug in some way. At least Kima was trying to insulate McNulty by going to a trusted ally in the department.

And remember, it wasn’t Kima who originally endangered the Marlo case. It was McNulty and Freemon and their harebrained scheme. Besides, with Herc’s blabbering, there was high likelihood that Levy would have found out about the illegal wiretap eventually.

One general point – I love how this season has pushed the viewers to examine their own moral relativism. Are we so eager to see Marlo and company fall that we are willing to accept the ends-justify-the-means moral reasoning of McNulty? Is Kima really a villain because she is willing to tell the truth?

Alan Sepinwall said...

One update: The Secret Origin of "Sheeeeeeet!" that I originally promised for today may not be ready till later in the week. One detail has proven particularly complicated to track down, and I don't usually try to pull a Templeton with this stuff.

Speaking of which, I was at a birthday party yesterday and someone referred to an episode of SVU where a character was, to quote my friend, "pulling a McNulty" and inventing murders. This then turned into a discussion of how quickly we could get that phrase to spread and then whether everyone would automatically hear it and think of the phony serial killer, as opposed to the many other ridiculous things McNulty has done in his life. It could, for instance, refer to accidentally having sex while participating in a prostitution sting, or trying to recreate a drunk driving accident to figure out the geometry of it, or...

So, two questions:

1)If you were to hear that phrase without any other context ("I hear that guy was pulling a McNulty"), would your mind automatically go to fabricated killers, or something else?

2)Are there other characters on this show whose names could be plugged in for Jimmy's where everyone would automatically know the meaning? Will we refer to Obama "pulling a Carcetti" if he gets elected and then starts compromising all his values? Do you have a friend who always chooses the most dramatic way possible to demonstrate his brilliance, and would you call that "pulling a Lester"?

Anonymous said...

Michael is "Marlo". Jamie Hector said so it in his interviews. That's why we never get any back story or "prequel" on Marlo Stansfield. We're supposed to be watching his story through Michael's descent. Marlo came from the same situation: junkie mother, never taking any handouts, forced to raise himself.

When Marlo sees Michael for the first time, it's supposed to be a mirror because he's seeing a part of himself. That's why he shows affection to the boy. Same goes for Chris Partlow. Every time he looks at Michael through a mirror, he's seeing a reflection of himself. He even connects with Michael on a deeper level than he does with Marlo. This relationship humanizes him. Chris Partlow is essentially Michael's father. He is raising this kid.

It's easy for people to dismiss Marlo, Chris and snoop as one-dimensional evil villains but just remember, at some point, they were children too. What happened to them is as great a tragedy as anything else on this show.

Toeknee said...

Anonymous 10:45: thanks for the information about the Jamie Hector interview. I could see Michael's story to date as being representative of many of the drug dealers we've seen, not only Marlo or Chris, but also Avon, Stringer, Wee-bey, etc. However, I still think going forward that Michael is more likely to be an Omar than a Marlo.

Alan - to me "pulling a McNulty" means having drunken sex with a woman on the hood of a car out in public. Showing your police badge is optional.

Anonymous said...

"No OnDemand for the finale?!!?!!?!?"

Thank God!!!

You On Demand-ers keep on snitching!

I don't know how many times over the past week I've stumbled onto a tribute to Snoop, or people writing about crying over Sunday's episode, before last week's episode even premiered.

This way, we'll all get the story at the same time, and it won't be ruined for anybody.

Anonymous said...

I don't see any difference between "Marlo" and "Omar". They are both murderers, egotists, and criminals who terrorize their neighborhood. I think this audience tends to romanticize stick up kids as ghetto "Robin Hoods" but they're not. Stick up kids are killers and thieves. They rob dealers, sell drugs and poison the community with their violence. There is nothing moral or admirable about that life. Nothing at all.

Toeknee said...

My point in the difference between Marlo and Omar is that Marlo is the head of the Baltimore's drug trade, the boss of many many people. Omar works by himself for himself. Otherwise, yes, they are both evil people.

dez said...

1)If you were to hear that phrase without any other context ("I hear that guy was pulling a McNulty"), would your mind automatically go to fabricated killers, or something else?

Automatically to drunken McNulty antics. Also to McNulty being stuck on the boat detail after saying he didn't want to go there.

I don't usually try to pull a Templeton with this stuff.

So how often do you pull a Templeton, Alan? Hee hee!

As for Kima: Yeah, I'm upset with her for ratting out McNulty because I have a lot of affection for ol' Jimmy, but I also understand where Kima is coming from. I am a little surprised, though, that she didn't at least consult with Bunk before going to Daniels. I realize Carver's grown a lot since we first met him, but Kima going to him for advice? Wha?

Herc is still a jerk, though. He helps Carver and Lester by passing on Marlo's cell number, then blabs to his boss about info that will kill the case against Marlo. What a dumbass.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Dez, Kima goes to Carver for two reasons:

1)His guys were, like her, unwittingly made pawns in Jimmy's scheme, and she wanted to make sure he insulated them from trouble;

2)She knows Carver recently ratted out a fellow cop and wanted to hear how he felt about it.

Bunk, wise and awesome as The Bunk is, doesn't match either criteria.

Anonymous said...

I think saying that Michael is Marlo or Chris or anyone else is an oversimplification. I think lots of people look at Michael--a tough, smart, independent child with lots of potential--and see themselves, mostly because he is someone with many admirable traits. This doesn't mean he is going to end up like any of them.

Michael has a completely different motivation for getting into the game than Omar or Marlo. Marlo's primary motivation is his rep. While power and to a lesser extent money certainly play a large role in motivating his actions, we see in the most recent jail scene that his reputation is his primary concern. We saw this earlier in the poker scenes. He seems to care less about losing money than showing that he isn't going to back down.

While we don't know how Omar got into the game, he is much less conflicted about what he is doing than Michael seems to be. He isn't in it for the money, but to inflict his own brand of justice into the game. I can't see Michael finding so much of a thrill in it. Omar thrives in his role, Michael got into it out of necessity.

Finally...Partlow. There are definitely parallels here. We know that both were molested as children and may have similary been forced into this kind of life. Neither seem to derive joy out of what they do--it seems like this life was thrust upon them. But Michael has an independent streak that Partlow doesn't have. Michael has a moral compass that is seemingly absent or in short supply in Partlow.

Yes, Chris has probably been hardened by years of exposure to and participation in violence, but I can never see Michael making it that far. He is too curious and independent minded to accept his role as unquestioning muscle. When snoop says 'you were never one of us, you never could be' she is expressing this sentiment and I think it extends to Marlo as well. Marlo doesn't question his own actions, just as Chris and Snoop don't question the instructions of their boss. Michael, we see, is very introspective. Marlo is not. You could argue that Michael will evolve into a similar character, but I really don't think that is very plausible. Michael cares about people in a way that I don't think Marlo ever did. Marlo sees people as a means to an end, Michael sees people as ends in themselves.

Sorry for the rambling post. I just see Michael as his own character--not the back-story to one of the adults on the show.

Siddhartha said...

Haven't had a chance to read all the comments to see if this has been mentioned but Marlo et al. being caught may be a "happy" ending for the show but not for Baltimore.

If Marlo is taken off the street and without Barksdale or Prop Joe's organizations at the top of the heap, you have all the co-op folks (e.g. the aforementioned Pimlico boys with A-Ks) battling it out on the streets of Baltimore for gang supremacy.

All this additional violence will actually harm Carcetti's beloved crime stats and everything else in the city in turn (the schools, etc.)

Throughout history, power vacuums always have led to mass outbreaks of violence.

Siddhartha said...

To Alan's question about "pulling a McNulty", for me that means "going against the powers-that-be while saying fuck-all to the consequences." He personifies the word "bold" like Lester personifies "patient". In that sense, Omar is kind of like McNulty + Lester.

I like the "pulling a Carcetti" most definitely.

And I think, for all the times I do something stupid and impulsive, I'll start saying, "Man, I totally Herc'd that up."

Anonymous said...

to me "pulling a McNulty" means having drunken sex with a woman on the hood of a car out in public. Showing your police badge is optional.

I'd think the badge would be essential to it being a McNulty...

Mike said...

Without any knowledge of what's to come next week, I can only hope there's one more familiar face to make a return.

Although it would be too much of a "feel good" ending for The Wire, I still hold out hope that we'll see Prez one more time, and that he's the one that intervenes and helps Dukie.

Maybe Michael pays him a visit on his way out of town to tell him what's going on with Dukie, and Prez finds a way to rescue him.

I know. It seems a little too Hollywood-ish.

Wishful thinking then lol.

Alan, thanks so much for all of the reviews of this series. I echo the thoughts of a previous poster that suggested possible recaps of episodes from the first 3 seasons as well.

These breakdowns, and follow-up comments really add to the enjoyment of such a great great show.

Alot has been brought up concerning the acting talents on this show, and rightly so. What about some of the acting performances that missed the mark (not counting all of the non-actors that were given parts on the show).

The one that stands out for me is Nick Sobotka. Too lazy to look up the actor's name, but I never really bought into that portrayal. Thought he tried too hard to look/act tough, etc.

Just some food for thought.

Can't wait til Sunday night, and also reading all of the thoughts on here after it airs.

Siddhartha said...

Reading through the comments, I think the fact that so many people are saying (and I've done this in the past too) that "Michael is the younger version of x", is what makes Tristan Wilds' performance of him so good and so underrated in this show.

Every person that Mike comes in contact with - Cutty, Chris, Marlo, and especially the viewers - see a part of themselves in him and project onto him. He's smart and he absorbs instruction (boxing, the "showing up early" thing) while still having no qualms about asking why. (In an alternate world, he would have made the perfect preacher/priest/monk/what have you.)

Siddhartha said...

Sorry for so many comments in a row, but the idea of Season 1-3 recaps (maybe during next summer hiatus, hint, hint) would be AWESOME.

Ideally, there would be a straight-up recap for anyone who is new to the series, and then under a "SPOILER" banner or a different post, how things in the first few seasons pay off, relate to, echo, etc. scenes from future seasons.

I would hazard a guess that if you were to do so, Alan, and to set up a way for the readers to donate to some charity (maybe for the homeless in Baltimore) in return, a lot of us rabid viewers would shell out for your awesome coverage.

Anonymous said...

Michael is a reflection of so many different characters on this show. I look at him and see D'Angelo's conscience, Wallace's sensitivity, Chris Partlow's toughness and precision, Avon's love of family, Cutty's distaste for "the game", Stringer's rational intelligence... he really is like a mirror. Michael is a well-drawn character with such depth. I think that's why he will always be "Michael" to me. He is his own man.

JP said...

"I don't see any difference between "Marlo" and "Omar". They are both murderers, egotists, and criminals who terrorize their neighborhood. I think this audience tends to romanticize stick up kids as ghetto "Robin Hoods" but they're not. Stick up kids are killers and thieves. They rob dealers, sell drugs and poison the community with their violence. There is nothing moral or admirable about that life. Nothing at all."

I think the whole point of the series is that people are "who they are," not "what they do." If you watch this show for week after week and you're unable to find the humanity or morality in D'Angelo, or Omar, or Stringer, or Joe, then you've coompletely missed the point.

Of course, all four of those characters are dead, so maybe I'm missing the point. ;)

Anonymous said...

The documentary "Street Fight" has some strong parallels to the race between Royce and Carcetti - watch the demolition of the projects by incumbent mayor Sharpe James (I half expected Bodie and Poot to pop out talking about STDs). All of the young mayors on the eastern seaboard - Booker, Fenty in DC - they have some strong parallels to the Carcetti character.

paul b. said...

"it could be said that Namond is following in Bunk's path"

With his "gift of gab," I could see him becoming another Clay Davis.

ninaruth said...

As a 68-year-old white woman, I'll add my voice to those refuting Anonymous.

What wonderful comments these are. How much they add to the best TV series ever. And I've loved some good ones: Buffalo Bill and NYPD Blue especially.

Has anybody else thought that perhaps Omar set himself up? He's so flagrant walking around the city and shouting into buildings and buying cigarettes with nobody watching his back. I wonder if he didn't decide that being found dead with all the names and addresses in his pocket--a list that he figured would get to his old schoolmate Bunk--would be the best possible revenge on Marlo.

What do you think, Alan and all?

Thanks to everybody for the best comment threads about the best show.

dez said...

Bunk, wise and awesome as The Bunk is, doesn't match either criteria.

I know that rationally (plus the other reasons you discussed), but emotionally, I'm still, "Carver? Really?" Heh.

Ninaruth, I don't think Omar intentionally set himself up. He probably knew deep down he wouldn't survive this vendetta, but damn if he wasn't going to find Marlo and put him down like a dog. I think if he'd realized Kenard was the same little psycho he saw trying to burn a cat, there's no way he would have turned his back on him, little one or no.

I find it interesting that Kenard is not getting any play for being the one who killed Omar. As mentioned upthread, Omar's legend is too great for some punk like Kenard to be credited for killing him, yet I'm guessing Kenard thought he'd get some accolades for being brave enough to do Omar in. Although Marlo would have had Kenard capped when he found out Kenard was dissing him for not facing up to Omar....

Anonymous said...

I don't believe Kenard killed Omar for accolades. He burned a cat. He shot Omar in the head. There was no difference in his mind between these two acts.

Kenard did it because he is a damaged product of an environment that glorifies violence and devalues life -- an environment that predators like Omar Little helped to destroy.

It harkens back to Bunk's chiding of Omar in Season 3 when he witnessed children like Kenard who were glorifying Omar's violence and trying to emulate him.

The "legend" of Omar will only produce more sociopaths and more dead kids. That's the irony!

I'm disappointed that Kenard was missing in this episode. He's an interesting character and I'm curious about his fate.

Nicholas said...

Will the Finale be On Demand after it has aired?

mr.smee said...

"There are very few "Wire" characters I have ever found more loathsome than Steintorf."

Alan, agreed! I'm surprised you don't mention his snotty and condescending line to Daniels in the scene with Rawls, when he says "Excuse me, but who pulled your string, Colonel?" GAH!

As for the poster who suggested women don't watch/like/get "The Wire": "Negro, puhleeze!"

bibliophile said...

"I doubt there is hardly any female audience at all for The Wire, probably a lot less than The Sopranos."

Really? I'm a woman and I think everyone except my husband whom I've bullied and/or cajoled into watching this show is ALSO a woman. Women like quality tv just as much as men do - and it doesn't hurt that "The Wire" has some excellent eye-candy as well (for all its gritty realism, Carver, Sydnor, Dozerman, Daniels, Stringer Bell and even a cleaned-up Bubs, are pretty nice-looking fellas! :P)

MC said...

I'm leaning towards Micheal ending up more like Omar. Omar had a code. Micheal seems to be developing his. And Micheal's stake out was very Omar-ish.

Anonymous said...

Alan,

Just want to add to the chorus of those requesting that you (PLEASE) do us the privilege of similar-style recaps for the first 3 seasons. Your insight and the commentary it illicits truly add something valuable to an already extremely rewarding experience.

Changing gears a bit, I was struck yesterday by how sad I'm going to be next Sunday evening at 10:35pm (EST), knowing in my heart that I'm not likely to come across as good a dramatic artistic experience as The Wire in my lifetime (and I'm 26). For better or worse (mostly better), it's set the bar too damn high.

Belle is... said...

Pulling a McNulty to me means not following the chain of command or being a general f*ck up. It's like the most consistent thing he's done on the show.

My friends and I had a long brunch conversation about the "Marlo-ificaton" of hip-hop. It's the idea that everyone wants to wear the crown of the best MC based on sales and will do anything, sell-out anyone and themselves to get to number one on the charts.

Anonymous said...

Omar had "a code"? Sorry, but I always find that laughable. The bigger the lie, the more they believe...

"You know what, yo? BAM!" Savino's brains splatter on the sidewalk.

Or how about when he jacked D'Angelo's crew and shot and maimed a teenager?

Omar robbed drug dealers, murdered at least four people on screen, and was indirectly responsible for the murders of Brandon, Tosha and Butchie.

His code comprised of theft, murder and vengeance at any cost. The rest was just rhetoric.

La G said...

Pulling a McNulty for me, is thinking you can conceal obvious guilt/drunkeness by sheer force of self-righteous willpower. An example would be phoning your spouse drunk from a loud bar and claiming you're on patrol and just a bit tired. The phrase "What the fuck did I do?" is useful in such an endeavour

Anonymous said...

Omar had "a code"? Sorry, but I always find that laughable. The bigger the lie, the more they believe...

All in the game, yo. All in the game. Every single one of Omar's victims was in the game in some form or another. No taxpayers, no citizens.

Find the code laughable all you want, but that's a code that he stuck to right till the end.

Anonymous said...

I didn't mean that women are incapable of understanding the show, that is ridiculous. And I know some women watch the show, I was just responding to the posters question about why Oraph doesn't talk about the show. The Wire does not appeal to her audience. Sorry to offend anyone it was more of a knock against my ex-girlfriends.

Anonymous said...

shoot, i meant to get this question on the interview with DS, but lemme just throw it out there to everyone. Do the hoppers in B'more really have such creative names for their product, often related to current events, or was this simply a subtle detail added by the writers as a bit of commentary (WMDs, Greenhouse gas get it while its hot!, etc.)???

also, a couple other bits of facial expressions i found quite brilliant: when whiting's face lights up to scottie's echo of him "the dickensian aspect..." before responding cracked me up. also, the way bunk's head sort of jerked with his big proud smile for the arrest of chris brought a smile to my face.

did anybody else feel like snoop might have been crying before she picked up mike? her face and demeanor both carried it like she was actually having some emotional difficulty with this particular order.

Anonymous said...

Oprah Winfrey has been very vocal in her condemnation of the use of the word "nigga". Ms. Winfrey has stated on many occasions that she finds that word irredeemable. It's one of the reasons she refuses to listen to rap music. You should have seen her rip Ludacris a new one. I don't think she would appreciate the dialog on this show. In fact, she would take great offense. Just listening to Kenard talk might be traumatic for her.

Anonymous said...

to Belle is

Yes that was Jim Jones. I have no idea why he was just standing there. Kinda funny.

Here is the screen cap:
http://img255.imageshack.us/img255/5642/vlcsnap384792fi5.png

PS Kima fucking sucks for that. Fuck morals.

Anonymous said...

Kima has a moral code, yo! I guess that makes her "Omar" too.

It's amazing how this show consistently villainizes "snitches".

The double standard is astounding. We expect citizens to snitch -- at the risk of death (Gant, Wallace, Randy, etc) but when it comes to corrupt cops who abuse the system and run illegal wire taps, suddenly people are howling for Kima's blood? Do y'all support the Patriot Act, too? What McNulty is going is unconstitutional.

It's a hair-brained scheme that even Vic Mackey from The Shield would scoff at!

The Thin Blue Line...just like the Fourth Estate... integrity hangs by a thread. Once cops start making up their own rules, citizen lose all faith and trust. Why obey the law when the cops are dirty anyway?

Chris In Dallas said...

Ten years ago, I watched Bobby Simone's final days play out and I was convinced that no matter how good any tv show would be that from that point on, I could never be as emotionally tied into one show or one character as that.

Well, it's been 10 years and almost 24 hours, and I can't, for the life of me shake what happened with Michael and Dukie. I thought of it all last night, I thought of it all day at work and each time, I just wanted to cry. Was it because that one single scene defined hopelessness? Was it because it was the absolute personification of loss of innocence? Maybe it's because those kids never had a fucking chance from the outset and that breaks my heart. I don't know what's going to happen next week, but I do know this; there's no fairy godmother, no genie in a bottle, no more Bunny Colvins, there's just nothing left for those two (three if you count Randy, who is essentially locked up in "The Game" Prep School). I also know one other inevitable fact: Neither Michael or Dukie are gonna live to 30...hell, they'll be lucky to make it to 20 at this rate. What kind of life is that?

A co-worker of mine said today, "Why are you so upset about two fictional characters?" I think I'm upset because there IS a Michael and there ARE hundreds of Dukies in this world, most of us just don't see them. We live in the suburbs, work our white-collar jobs and go about our lives. But those boys are out there, we just don't see them. Either by choice or just plain naive oversight.

You know what? I think, I just became David Simon's entire point about the workings of the war on drugs and the plight of the inner cities. I think I'm the people he was aiming for from the onset. It just took two fictional kids, getting shit on by the world for me to finally get it, I guess.

I apologize for rambling and going on, but you have to believe me, this has been more cathartic than I had originally intended. So, um, thanks...and bring on next Sunday. :)

dcdame said...

Great stuff above.

Here's one thing I've been trying to figure out - after 3 viewings of the ep (including one w/close captioning), I still haven't got it.

I realize Michael knew he was being set up by Snoop, but I don't entirely get how he knew. I caught some of the red flags - Snoop telling him not to bring his gun & Snoop not having a good explanation for why anyone thinks the target is "witnessing" -- but I didn't get what was happening when he had the corner staked out to lead him finally to conclude that he was being set up. Snoop had a conversation with someone (the target?) and some guys were going in and out of a boarded-up building on the corner - what's that about?

Figbash said...

Siddhartha said...

To Alan's question about "pulling a McNulty", for me that means "going against the powers-that-be while saying fuck-all to the consequences."

What Siddhartha said. It's living by the credo that it's always better to beg forgiveness, than ask permission.

drake leLane said...

dcdame:
Yes, I believe that was the target that Snoop was talking cordially to. It seemed like he was in on it, helping to set up a trap for Michael.

kathy said...

It's amazing how this show consistently villainizes "snitches".


While I see some comments here and on other sites that are down on Kima for telling Daniels about McNulty, I don't think the show portrayed her in a negative light for doing it, they just showed it to you. I'm so over Jimmy and Lester and their twisted situational ethics, I was totally on her side.

Someone mentioned upthread that McNulty told Kima for *her* benefit. To which I say: HAH. And double HAH. McNulty told her to assuage his guilty consciense, so he wouldn't have to feel responsible for taking her off her triple homicide. By telling her, he made her part of a criminal conspiracy - that's not a good thing. He gave her 2 choices: Be criminally complicit in something you think is a travesty, or bust him to the brass. Nice.

I think McNulty wants to get caught at this point, sub-consciously. He's got no end game here and he knows it. But rather that doing the hard thing and fessing up, he puts the burden on to someone else. How many people does he think he can tell before he runs into someone smart enough not to throw their lot in with his doomed ass?

As for Kima not being a perfect cop or human being, well, no she's isn't but there is some middle ground between "not perfect" (Kima)and "multiple felon" (McNulty and Lester).

Anonymous said...

Alan - to me "pulling a McNulty" means having drunken sex with a woman on the hood of a car out in public. Showing your police badge is optional.

At the risk of being too blue..

I believe that particular behavior should be described as "busting a McNutty"

Han Cholo said...

One character I'd love to see before the end of the series is my man Donut. Has he been shown at all this season and I just missed him?

Anonymous said...

Belle Is... In support of your point about how good an actor Jamie Hector (Marlo) is, I recently met Jamie at a party and he was so warm, open-hearted and gregarious -- the antithesis of Marlo -- that I was once again reminded of just what a genius level of acting is the norm on The Wire. Suppressing all that natural sunniness into the cold and minimal Marlo signals great acting and thinking at work. However, it seems nothing on this show is not thought out, down to the smallest calibration. But I sympathize with those who think the actors are just playing variations on themselves; that's what The Wire does so well -- convince you that these people are real and walking the streets of Baltimore as we speak... Oh, Wire, I will miss you!

Anonymous said...

DCDAME-

IIRC, not only was Snoop being quite friendly with the target (hence Mike's question in the car about "the guy that stands in front of the cut-rate?"), but it looked like they were prepping up a vacant for his corpse.

Anonymous said...

Lucky enough to go to see David Simon speak at USC this afternoon. While most of his talk was about the state of journalism, he did say that Cheese was Randy's dad and that the storyline (and a Cutty story) was cut due to the 10 ep order. That said, he was not upset with HBO about it and thought the season was stronger since it was leaner. He talked a lot about the death of journalism and it was, as usual, fascinating. He's so right and it's so depressing.

Anonymous said...

No women watch this show?!? Let's see...I've watched it from Episode One...and watched Homicide and OZ from Episode One...READ the book Homicide...and I'm a 38-year old middle school math teacher raised in a Catholic suburban Texas conservative home! I'm the one who introduced my very liberal, script-writing, theater-acting, comic-book reading, foreign/indie movie-watching husband to our fold...so hooked he took in entire seasons via DVD in a weekend's time so he could get it this season! Does Anonymous even know any women? I'd be willing to bet some of the Oprah crowd are closet Wire fans as well...quality doesn't have a gender! Thanks Alan for making a program rich in every aspect even sweeter...my "Wire" crew wonders if a spin-off centering on the Sun might be in the works? Your thoughts?

Anonymous said...

1. This has been an excellent series. After next week, I'll really miss it.

2. Alan, your commentary has really added to my enjoyment of the show. Thanks.

2. That goes as well for the many commentators here: thanks for pointing out things I'd missed, or making me reevaluate scenes and characters.

-- Paul Worthington

Belle is... said...

Chris in Dallas.... i feel the same way you do. no rambling at all in that post of yours. i got an invite last week to speak at a high school that i was seriously going to dismiss. enter S05E09. I called the woman today to tell her i'm coming and attempting to round up more of my staff to go with. i don't expect my presence to solve any of the kids' lives, but if I can just show up and convince any kid that doesn't know that there's more to life than the hood and drugs, i'll feel like i accomplished at least something. dukie not knowing the options that someone with his brain and compassion can offer the world is just a tradgey of the highest order. nurtured and educated properly, he could've been the one to cure cancer, build houses on the moon.. who knows? but it's all going to waste because he's going to be a got damned drug addict.

does anyone remember The Corner (the movie version) when DeAndre is high when the cops walk in? all he'd been through with drugs and he becomes a user!!! i wept for days everytime i thought about it. then i found out the whole thing was true!! the corner is tied with Random Family (also a true story and an amazing book) as the saddest thing i've ever read.

everytime i think about Dukie, i want to cry. but then i think about what i would do in his position, and hell, i'd probably get high too. no family, no real options, horrible cards life's dealt. i'd need an escape too.

i need to call my parents and thank them for being there.

Anonymous said...

"Lucky enough to go to see David Simon speak at USC this afternoon. While most of his talk was about the state of journalism, he did say that Cheese was Randy's dad and that the storyline (and a Cutty story) was cut due to the 10 ep order."

Any chance he went into details regarding those two storylines? I'm sure most people here would love to know whatever details you might have, if any. Randy's story seemed a bit incomplete, which makes sense now.

Sars said...

"I don't believe Kenard killed Omar for accolades. He burned a cat. He shot Omar in the head. There was no difference in his mind between these two acts."

I think I was more horrified by the sight of a cat and a bottle of Ronsonol in the same shot than I was by Omar's demise moments later. And I LOVE Omar.

But I guess now we know that "pulling a Kenard" = cruelty towards felines.

...Too soon?

domino87 said...

Yes, I believe that was the target that Snoop was talking cordially to. It seemed like he was in on it, helping to set up a trap for Michael.

Indeed it was. Snoop says something like "Skinny Big Walter, one who be standin by the cut-rate on riggs and calhoun." Then the first shot of the Michael stake out scene is the riggs and calhoun street sign.

I've been planning on rewatching the entire series when S5 is done, so I just wanted to throw my request in as well for Seasons 1-3 recaps. Don't imagine it would be too hard as you've seen them all already, and would just have to put your thoughts on paper. That would be "much obliged".

Brian said...

There were so many great shout outs to long-time or obsessive fans. For some reason Daniels' comment to Polk that he was "glad he landed on his feet" was really funny to me in light of Polk's season 1 plan to throw himself down the stairs in order to "retire."

Anonymous said...

"Any chance he went into details regarding those two storylines? I'm sure most people here would love to know whatever details you might have, if any. Randy's story seemed a bit incomplete, which makes sense now."

In Randy's case, he said there wasn't anything else that needed to be said. He didn't go into any other details for us, perhaps he did for the main event which was later in the evening and was only for USC students.

Anonymous said...

I'm disappointed they didn't show more of Randy. I confess I'm curious to see what actually happens in those group homes. Just from the quick glimpse, it looked almost like a prison. Does he even go to school anymore? I was hoping to see Michael and Randy reunite. The friendships between the boys were such a source of comfort amid all the despair. I also wanted to see at least one conversation between Cutty and Michael. So much unresolved angst!

Anonymous said...

Advice for Jimmy -- when you get caught next week, protest that "This is one of them contrapment thangs!"

Anonymous said...

Interesting that Marlo tries to assert his manhood by insisting that he would "step to" anybody, including Omar and Barksdale. Omar is dead and Barksdale is in prison. They're not available to clash with Marlo, so what's the point of mentioning that he's willing to challenge them? Come to think of it, have we ever seen Marlo "step to" anybody other than the unarmed, unsuspecting woman he shot in Season 3? Marlo wants to be known as a tough guy, but the audience has no reason to see him that way. He has always sent his people out to do his fighting for him.

Anonymous said...

Alan,
I've been in a really bad mood all day for a variety of non-TV reasons. This website, your views, and the views of all your readers made me forget my day. It also reminded me that I actually like people and admire smart points of view. Thank you and everyone who posts here.
Jessica
PS
I really really want Dukie to be ok.

dcdame said...

Another thing I'd love to see - I know, I'm off in fantasyland here - is a reissue of the DVDs with, among other things, a voice-over commentary option for each episode - with DS, Ed Burns, the ep's writer(s), and the ep's director. I'd love to hear what they have to say, shot by shot, along with a "Criterion Collection"-type treatment in general.

A more realistic request? I, too, would love to read ep-by-ep recaps of Seasons 1-3 by Alan (& a summing up of each season) along with a discussion here. Even though I've watched each of these seasons at least three times, I know there are so many nuances I missed, especially in light of future developments, and a recap plus discussion would be illuminating.

PS, my thanks to various commentators above for shedding more light on Michael's stake-out scene. I want to watch it again! (I've recorded the entire season so far on my DVR so I can watch it repeatedly even when it drops off On-Demand - I'm looking forward to watching all of S5 over one weekend after the finale.)

Anonymous said...

I'd like to agree with the poster who commented on Larry Gilliard Jr.'s performance - some stunning acting right there.

Anonymous said...

“Interesting that Marlo tries to assert his manhood by insisting that he would "step to" anybody, including Omar and Barksdale. Omar is dead and Barksdale is in prison. They're not available to clash with Marlo, so what's the point of mentioning that he's willing to challenge them? Come to think of it, have we ever seen Marlo "step to" anybody other than the unarmed, unsuspecting woman he shot in Season 3? Marlo wants to be known as a tough guy, but the audience has no reason to see him that way. He has always sent his people out to do his fighting for him.”

There is no reason for us NOT to see Marlo as the toughest guy on the street. He was evoking Avon and Omar because of what they represented. Avon was the ruler (gruesome one at that) of West Baltimore and Marlo challenged him without anybody’s support. We spent three seasons following Avon and no single individual (beloved Mr. Little excluded) ever dared to disrupt his reign. Enter Marlo Stanfield. He might have had a lot of luck in his fight with Avon, but Marlo proved, without a shadow of a doubt, that he was a formidable opponent and a deserving contender for the crown. And Omar was Omar. To be blunt, anybody who had the balls to confront Omar or say they would (given Omar’s ability to hear everything) is not a weakass fool. Once a kingpin, one plays high level game of chess, not some “High Noon” enactment game.
What I’m trying to say is that Marlo would have step to Omar, had he known what was happening on the street. I really enjoyed the gentle parallel between Chris and String. Not in a personal but functional, role sense. String and Chris did not inform their bosses and friends about the actual state of things ‘cause they knew their reactions would be instinctive and explosive, as opposed to, calculated and composed. Their positions as #2s, with different degrees of responsibility in each case, forced them to act as filters. String did not tell Avon Marlo took his corners, which enraged Barksdale to no end and led to outright war. From what we could see, Marlo’s response will be no less temperamental and dangerous.
P.S.
Marlo killed a witness, who was about to testify against him, with a signature execution style – two shots in the chest and one in the mouth.

Anonymous said...

No one seems to mention one option often taken by the young and disadvantaged --- the military. In the scenes with Dukie, I've actually said out loud --- "find a recruiting office." No - it isn't what I would want for my child but it is so much better than anything else he seems to have on offer. It seems believable that Michael or his other inner circle wouldn't be able to think outside the box that way but I was surprised that Cutty didn't have the vision to see at least that. Would his lack of an education be an absolute bar? I know a woman who has a degree of autism but was taken into the Army and is, sadly, about to be sent to Iraq. She is in some sort of warehouse type of job but nonetheless is benefiting from the structure that was offered to her. Perhaps that's an unreasonable path due to Dukie's lack of a degree but I wish it was explored. On a related note, kudos to the creators for showing us the soldiers struggling with their injuries.

BTW, this comes from a WOW Chicagoland suburbanite whose smartest friend is another WOW.

And, Alan, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Anonymous said...

What happens to the kids on this show is heartbreaking. If the show didn't already have a fantastic theme song, I'd recommend Living Colour's "Open Letter(to a Landlord)" with lyrics "Young people...living dead, crack and blow their minds away."

Alan Sepinwall said...

No one seems to mention one option often taken by the young and disadvantaged --- the military. In the scenes with Dukie, I've actually said out loud --- "find a recruiting office." No - it isn't what I would want for my child but it is so much better than anything else he seems to have on offer.

Would the military take a 15-year-old? Especially one with no parent or guardian to sign any kind of consent? I imagine if he went to a recruiting office, they'd either send him on his way or call social services and he and Randy could be roommates.

The tragic thing is, of the three of them, Randy is probably the best off.

Anonymous said...

Dcdame, what Michael witnessed when staking out the corner was Snoop talking to the guy they were supposed to kill and then seeing him and the other guy open up the vacant building. I believe that was to be where they were going to kill Michael.

It was just as Mike said to snoop in the SUV when she asked how he knew. He said" you'll told me to get there early" meaning he went and scoped out the scene on his own and saw what they were up to.

Also to anonymous who thinks women don't watch....shame, shame ,shame on you...I am woman (gasp) who lives in the suburbs (gasp) and I have watched the show since season one. And I actually get what is happening (gasp).

Anonymous said...

So Randy is Cheese's son. The family resemblance is pretty strong between Randy and Prop Joe. The HBO Prop Joe prequel with lil' Prop Joe could have just as easily been Randy. And Randy's willingness to bargain gets him into as much trouble as it did Joe. I wonder if anything will come of the fact that it was Dukie, not Randy, who saw Chris and Snoop take someone into the vacants in season 4.

Big Man said...

Anon who commented on Marlo's heart.

If you remember, when the police were getting up on Marlo, they couldn't find any adult arrests. But then they pulled his juve record and found bodies and all kinds of stuff in his past. So clearly he put in work to get to the top.

And that chick he killed wasn't a witness, it was the chick who tried to set him up with the Barksdales. The one he banged outside of the club and who tried to schedule a later meet that was a set up.

Marlo wouldn't be where he was without putting in work. It's ludricrous to think that because he now uses muscle he's a punk. Didn't you notice his response when Levy said the cops were calling him the mastermind of conspiracy and were probably going to deny bail? He said "How can they say that when I don't go near any dope or guns" or something like that. His distance from the street is a privilege he earned and now uses to stay out of jail.

rukrusher said...

I have always felt that the reliance on the illegal wiretap would not survive the scrutiny of a good defense counsel. However, I wonder if they can use the death of Snoop as a way around the problem of producing the informant. If the phones have the evidence of conspiracy and Snoop is dead it might allow for the evidence to proceed and hide the wiretap. Of course that would ignore the premise of the wire which is that you never win fighting the institution. And there are no happy endings, just endings. I will miss this show.

MC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MC said...

woo, original had too many typo's..
but I am not guaranteeing I fixed them all either...
anyway

I didn't say Omar's code was anything worth emulating. The point is he seems to think he has a code. He had a set of rules he lived by that gave him the ability to live with what he does and survive on the streets.
Bunk, very effectively, pointed out the fundamental flaws of this code to Omar. And when forced to promise no more bodies to Bunk, he attempted to keep his word. I figured he was not getting Marlo when he came back (too much like him getting String) but I didn't know he was a dead man until he started dropping bodies. And I though it was brilliant that they didn't show the raid on the stash house, so you wouldn't know how that went down and how that dude on the floor ended up dying. Only to later see Omar kill Savino so cold-bloodedly.

Michael also seems to have developed a sense that its ok to kill some people for some reasons... in contrast to Marlo's anyone can be killed as needed. And maybe to a lesser extent Avon/String's way too by the way.. don't forget Wallace, Little Man and William Gant. Which is why I think he’s unlikely to become a kingpin.

So Michael may have a set of rules he can survive and live with himself (or fool himself at least.) Which would be more like Omar’s then Marlo’s.

Or he gets killed. For some reason most people seem to be debating how he will survive. I think a lot of people simply don't want him to die. It would have been easier last season cause you knew for the most part, bad things were gonna happen to those kids. But we've seen what happens to people that become torn between their conscious and the game.
People that either develop a conscious, want to do things differently, or even just start to realize what a shitty game the game is end up dead. RIP Wallace, D'Angelo, Bodie, Prop Joe, String.

Anonymous said...

No one seems to mention one option often taken by the young and disadvantaged --- the military. In the scenes with Dukie, I've actually said out loud --- "find a recruiting office." No - it isn't what I would want for my child but it is so much better than anything else he seems to have on offer.

The military is the most obvious option. Many young men have used it as their "way out" once they hit 18. I'm surprised it hasn't been mentioned on this show since the vets were highlighted.

I would love to see Michael with a recruitment officer. A kid like that would thrive in the military. He's 15 now, right? My grandfather enlisted when he was 16. He lied about his age so there are ways around it.

rukrusher said...

The problem addressed in Season 4 is that you need to help these kids get from 12-13 to 18 years old without dropping out of school and headed to the corner. Even in this day and age of missed recruiting quotas the military wants to have high school educated recruits or the GED equivalent. Sneaking in at 15 is not happening.

Plus, the military did not get Partlow off the street, just made him better at killing people.

Dan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dan said...

Sorry, I got all excited about the Randy is Cheese's son revelation when I read it in an LA Times blog and then scrolled up and saw it was already mentioned...

Anonymous said...

I'm disappointed they didn't show more of Randy. I confess I'm curious to see what actually happens in those group homes. Just from the quick glimpse, it looked almost like a prison.


Before I became a social worker, I worked in a group home for girls. They went to public school. There is a huge stigma attached to foster kids, particularly those who live in group homes as opposed to foster homes. They usually work on level system-- the kids get to go to the movies eat out, etc. based on behavior. While I wouldn't call it a prison by any means, and it much better than what many of these kids come from. That said, they really only serve to warehouse kids until they "age out" at 18 and go right back to their family of origin. Dukie would catch hell in a place like that, but he'd be better off than living with a bunch of junkies.

dez said...

Only to later see Omar kill Savino so cold-bloodedly.


I don't think it was so cold-blooded. Marlo ordering a hit on Junebug's entire family because Junebug was mouthy is cold-blooded. What did they do to Marlo except be related somehow to Junebug? Omar deciding to kill Savino after all was based on some real bad sh!t Savino either did or was involved in. Savino was no innocent like the kid who got away from the Junebug hit (the one Michael let run off) or the one who survived by hiding in the closet.

Anonymous said...

Has it been confirmed somewhere that Chris Partlow was in the military? I've always wondered about his background.

I think Michael is better off in a group home. At least he could go to school again. I don't think he would get beat up like Randy or Dukie. The other kids might even be intimidated by him. He could stay there until he's 18 and then enlist.

If Dukie gets sent to the same group home as Michael, he would be protected.

Anonymous said...

Whoa, big man, nobody's calling Marlo a punk or suggesting that he got to the top of the B-more drug trade by singing in the school choir. I just meant to make two observations:

-- it's odd that Marlo mentions two men he can't possibly clash with when he shouts that he would "step to" anybody.

-- it's also odd that the audience never really gets to see Marlo earning his stripes as a tough guy. Apparently it all happened before he ever appeared on the show. In other crime stories (Godfather, Godfather II, Sopranos, The Public Enemy, etc.) viewers see the viciousness of the key gangsters with their own eyes. In The Wire, by contrast, we are told that Marlo used to be bad news, but I think we only actually see him holding a gun twice -- when he murders an unarmed woman and when he's taking a little target practice in the park.

Anonymous said...

We've never seen Avon Barksdale or Stringer Bell murder anyone either.

rukrusher said...

If my memory is right Marlo was already out on the corners when the Towers came down requiring Barksdale to spread out to the corners and clash with Marlo. Just because we did not see Marlo rise to control of those areas it can safely be assumed he did not get those corners without a little personal bloodshed.

J-Will said...

Just a few things that have been bothering me/I have to get off my chest

I think Marlo is a bitch. I refuse to believe that he had no idea what Omar was saying about him all through Baltimore but somehow "got word" that he was dead hours after he was killed. He even found out before Chris and Snoop the people "shielding" him from Omar's verbal assault. It became even more clear to me that something wasn't right when Chris and Snoop didn't know he was dead and they were the ones looking for him.

If I'm not mistaken didn't McNulty tell Kima to continue to work her triple which lead to her find out it was tied to Bunk's case? the only reason I ask is because some posters said that she was taken off the case and that was one of the reasons she told on him.

How old is Cheese and Randy for them to be father and son? Cheese looks rather young for Randy to look so old.

What ever happened to good old Donut?

What happened to the cop that broke Donuts fingers?

Have we all forgtten that scene in season one when Kima ran from the other side of the pit just to beaten the shit out of Bodie? I'm not saying who is less in the wrong (Kima or McNulty) but in my book faking murders and repeatedly beating suspects is about even.

Would it not be awesome if Chris and Wee-Bay had to share a cell?

Just a few thoughts please feel free to respond

ChiTown said...

If anyone rises to the top of a drug organization like Marlo, chances are he's pretty thorough. The levels he went through to get to his position would have rooted out a rooty-poot type quick. Plus, the streets can smell fakeness and fear. Remember what Cutty asked Duke about why he was always getting picked on? Or how it was only a matter of time before Naymond was figured out? The game will test you. The scene (in season 3 I believe) where Marlo and Herc got into the stare down let me know where Marlo was coming from. Dude had death in his eyes. Great scene by those two actors.

ChiTown said...

Another thing- Man, Chris is one weird dude. I would have loved to know more about him. He always seemed out of place, from his gear, to the way he talked. HIs movements. Dude always kept his shirts buttoned all the way up.
In the streets (back in my younger days), I may have tried to test him...and would have been in the vacants as a result :)

Anonymous said...

Chris Partlow is a mystery. I think he's very similar to Michael: quiet, introspective, intelligent, observant, meticulous. He's the only person who truly understands Michael because he was also molested as a kid. Maybe that's why he always wear his shirts buttoned up.

For insight into his character, watch his scenes with Michael. The most powerful scene was when he looked at Michael in the car mirror and said, "No matter who he is or what he done. You can look them in the eye now." When Michael was talking about Junebug, Chris was again looking at him in the mirror, like he agreed with everything he was saying. I bet 20 years ago, Chris Partlow was Michael Lee.

I really want to know how and why Chris hooked up with Marlo Stansfield. Avon and Stringer were childhood friends. But why does Chris follow Marlo. That never made sense to me.

J-Will said...

Who does Slim Charles work for now that Joe is dead?

Simon Hsu said...

I'm surprised there's even debate. Marlo has already stepped up to Avon and Omar, so mentioning them in his jailhouse speech is citing evidence to support his fearlessness, not blind bragging.

Even without the references to Marlo's violent past, there's no real need to see him kill in cold blood or whatever people are asking to 'prove his power'. He's already achieved it. I think we're confusing "Marlo stepping up" with Marlo himself doing the deed. Was Vito Corleone a coward for not planting the horse head on Jack Woltz's bed himself? Hector's minimalist take on Marlo is perfect. He's so comfortable with his status that he doesn't need to raise his voice (usually), or exaggerate any motions to prove his worth, because doing so would mean he's actually insecure. I take the 'homophobia' associated with Junebug's killing as less 'a fear' of being labeled gay than simply an insult, as plain as being called a bitch. When somebody tarnishes your name, you can't just look the other way.

It's not impossible Marlo would've heard of Omar's death before Chris/Snoop. iirc, the time span between Omar's death and Marlo notifying Chris/Snoop is only half a day. Omar Little getting dropped is an Event (god I love how the actual killing was portrayed otherwise) and word gets around - see all the spectators outside the shop gossipping when Bunk arrives to the scene. Meanwhile, Chris and Snoop are crusing in a car and its not unlikely that they haven't yet heard. Equally possible is Marlo remaining unaware of Omar's insults. Recall the constant heavy security around Marlo. It's hard enough to approach him, let alone have the sand to say "by the way, word on the street is that you're a bitch"

Regarding the finale, I'm pretty psyched. I think 93 minutes is more than adequate. The Wire has never been about closure. In fact, I'd be disappointed if it tied up every loose end. The identity of the leak, if not integral to the plot development of the finale, does not need to be revealed. Dukie's last shot in this episode is enough to wrap up his storyline. Same for Mike's. If Marlo walks and we're left wondering what he'd do without Snoop (and presumably Chris), that's ok. 10, 20 years down the line if not sooner, we know he'll be replaced. Vicious cycle indeed.

Anonymous said...

"And that chick he killed wasn't a witness, it was the chick who tried to set him up with the Barksdales. The one he banged outside of the club and who tried to schedule a later meet that was a set up."

No, the poster you are responding to was referring to the witness Marlo killed as described by the police officer -- Holley, I believe his name is -- who described Marlo as "evil".

"it's also odd that the audience never really gets to see Marlo earning his stripes as a tough guy."

The first scene in which Marlo is identified by name (second in which he appears) is him holding a baseball bat talking to Bodie. From that one scene, I have never had any doubt how tough Marlo was.

Anonymous said...

"I think Marlo is a bitch. I refuse to believe that he had no idea what Omar was saying about him all through Baltimore but somehow "got word" that he was dead hours after he was killed. He even found out before Chris and Snoop the people "shielding" him from Omar's verbal assault."

But Marlo found that out from Monk, who was clearly aware that Chris was shielding the truth from Marlo -- and, in fact, was complicit in doing so until he slipped.

It's not really hard to believe, especially if you remember that Marlo is in hiding. Who, other than Monk and Chris and Snoop (and maybe Cheese, if he's stupid enough to trust a guy who sold out his own uncle), would know where Marlo was hiding?

drake leLane said...

The first scene in which Marlo is identified by name (second in which he appears) is him holding a baseball bat talking to Bodie.

That was actually a golf club he was swinging awkwardly. In the audio commentary, David Simon joked about it not coming off as threatening as they meant it to be.

Nispero said...

I appreciated Belle's comment about Jamie Hector's animated personality, although it sucks that this sort of correction is necessary.

Most of comments about how Hector is "playing himself" and Felicia Snoop (can't remember her last name?) is just "being herself" (really? Felicia's a cold-blooded assassin?) come from white viewers having a difficult time believing that black people can play a role--that is, act, creatively do something other than authentically express themselves. I remember hearing an NPR interview with Ed Burns during season 4 where this numbskull interviewer kept asking Burns over and over (about the actress who plays Snoop), "Is she really like that"? As if she's not an actress and it's not a work of goddamned fiction.

That's why no one accuses the actor who plays McNulty of being "himself," although I've seen that mischievous smile in Airheads, too.

Anonymous said...

At the risk of stretching this "step to" debate farther than it really needs to go, Avon and Stringer never bragged that they were so fearless that they were ready to "step to" any man alive. Stringer, in fact, had contempt for that kind of "gangster bullshit." But Marlo makes a big deal out of his own willingness to fight.

PS: We see Vito Corleone blow away Don Fanucci in Godfather II, so we know where his rep comes from. With Marlo we just have some vague hearsay about how he used to be "the spawn of the devil."

drake leLane said...

Felicia 'Snoop' Pearson is sort of playing herself. While she isn't a ruthless assasin now, she's sort of playing an alternate universe version of her self... where she'd be if she hadn't turned her life around.

bio, abridged:
By age 12, Snoop was learning the drug game. At 14, she was sentenced to 8 years in prison for second degree murder. She began to turn her life around towards the end of her sentence, getting GED in prison, and successfully staying out of the game upon her release in 2000.

dcdame said...

One thing that struck me as unusual (tho' not of any significance) was seeing Cheese (when he was locked up) with nothing on his head - I don't recall ever seeing him with his head uncovered before.

Does anyone else recall seeing Cheese w/a bare head before? He just looked so different to me.

Anonymous said...

This ep should be titled the power of silence.

Think about how many times silence said more than words ever could in this episode.

Kima going to see daniels
Lester staring at Marlo
Carcetti and Bunny
Mike, Dukie and Bug in the car
daniels and Rhonda in evidence control
Dukies walk to his future

Pure Comedy - Clay Davis "your nothin but a shake down artist" Thats right up there with McNutty telling lester he is a pain to the bosses.

BTW I think namond said dag not damn. Don't think that he could get away with damn in the Colvin household

Quazi

ChiTown said...

Does anyone else recall seeing Cheese w/a bare head before? He just looked so different to me.
-DCDame

Cheese is the rapper Method Man from the hip-hop group The Wu-Tang Clan. I am sure that many of us have seen him (Johnny Blaze is another name he calls himself)sans hat before.
Not trying to front on you. I know that all viewers of The Wire aren't from the hip-hop culture.

Andy said...

a couple of comments hoping no one reads this far down:

- When McNulty goes to Christensen's crime scene the camera seems to move purposely over the baggie of business cards. Didn't McNulty and Templeton both give the same homeless man their business cards? (Granted he had a box he put them in)Will he be the eventual scapegoat?
- Until season 4 gets going you could almost view this show as a very, very dark office comedy. Hell, the cops are already working in cubicles and the ones who aren't are hamstrung by the guys in corner offices. The dealers are are working under even more enormous constraints.You either give someone up to your you bosses or they die then you move up. You follow orders or the guy below you does and you're done. Season two emphasizes the point even further, with even the guys running the organization on the docks as beholden to the guys paying them (even for a good reason). It seems the only ones controlling their own fate are the 'Greeks', the ones who kept themselves most removed from Baltimore.

well' this is a very incomplete discussion of the idea but i wanted to thank alan for hosting such an intelligent forum of discussion for a show that does what art should do, change your view of the world around you.

dcdame said...

chitown -

thanks, but my point wasn't whether people had ever seen Method Man with a bare head - it's whether Cheese has ever had a scene with his head uncovered. He just looked so un-Cheese-like to me -- I had the same jolt when Bubs spoke up at the AA meeting with his hair so groomed (even more so than in other eps this season). Cheese with a covered head always seemed like Chris with his buttons buttoned - part of the character.

Anonymous said...

i was thinking that maybe the drama in the past between McNulty and Daniels will come up in the last episode - Daniels has said he can't trust McNulty (and he's right), plus there's Ronnie. Now he knows about the whole scheme with the homeless killer.

paul b. said...

"Most of comments about how Hector is "playing himself" and Felicia Snoop (can't remember her last name?) is just "being herself" (really? Felicia's a cold-blooded assassin?) come from white viewers having a difficult time believing that black people can play a role--that is, act, creatively do something other than authentically express themselves."

I say it (not the assassin part, just the personality) about Snoop based on one of the short documentaries that came with the Season 4 DVD, and also appeared On-Demand. We see Jamie/Marlo and Gbenge(sp?)/Chris smiling and seeming rather personable when they comment on the show. So their clearly good actors. Then Felicia/Snoop appears and she talks the same way as her character. I know it's only a few words, and it reveals nothing about her life. But it sort of implies the same personality when I see the same mannerisms. If someone who has met her says she carries herself differently in real life, then I'll believe it.

paul b. said...

"That was actually a golf club he was swinging awkwardly. In the audio commentary, David Simon joked about it not coming off as threatening as they meant it to be."

I actually expected him to take a swing at Bodie any second. We didn't really know Marlo at that time. As we got to know him better, it's just like him to remain calm and make a subtle threat the way he did.

paul b. said...

"How old is Cheese and Randy for them to be father and son? Cheese looks rather young for Randy to look so old."

Randy is 15. For all we know, Cheese fathered him when we was 15 himself, making him only 30. Not an uncommon thing in the inner city. (I think Method Man is in his late 30s in real life.)
The fact that Randy is a foster child indicates his father was unfit to raise him, with a plausible reason being his dad was still a kid himself.

Alex said...

Quazi --

You make a great point about the power of silence in this episode. I would add one more example to your list: the look on Cheese's face after his arrest was an amazing bit of acting by Method Man. On the one hand, that was one of the best gangster smirks I've ever seen. He wasn't about to give the police the satisfaction of seeing him upset. On the other hand, you could tell that he WAS upset. He looked like he knew that his time as a successful criminal had just run out and his future had just gone up in smoke.

Anonymous said...

Get serious, nispero. I'm sure there are some idiotic white people out there who don't believe that blacks are capable of serious acting, but the audience for The Wire has got to be one of the last places you'd find them.

Anonymous said...

Bubbles speech at the NA meeting was great, but it seems to have overshadowed what I thought was Andre Royo's best performance, and one of the most moving moments in the show. It occurred just before he shows up to the meeting when he stands at the bottom of the basement steps, with the newspaper reporter just out of sight, and begs his sister to join him at the meeting. Maybe it's because I've worked both as a daily news reporter and with recovering drug addicts and those moments when you see somone completely let their gaurd down are so rare and rewarding on both fronts -- but that scene really hit me. After that, the whole meeting scene felt anticlimactic.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nispero said...

I don't think people who watch the Wire are somehow smarter than those who do not, anon--much as I'd like to think so, since I watch the Wire. Have you ever read the HBO forums?

My point about acting had more to do with Hector/Marlo than with Snoop (who I think is a pretty good actor, btw). I'm not saying Felicia Pearson is Orson fucking Welles, just that I only seem to hear the comments about actors "just playing themselves" when black actors are in question. And I think the reason for that is fairly straightforward.

Nispero said...

Well, usually it's pretty straightforward.

Daniel said...

"Another parallel: the last scene between Michael and Dukie, reminded me of the last drink on the roof for Avon and Stringer. Stringer tells him about the time they got chased by dogs on the docks; Avon smiles but doesn't say much, just like Michael. Then they both turn their back on their best friend."

I actually thought about that Stringer/Avon scene, too, and on a lot of levels it works as a parallel for Dukie and Michael.

But I distinctly remember Avon having a lot to say about the childhood memory. He laughs because he remembers the way Stringer was pumping his arms as he ran away from the cop. He also mentions something about the item Stringer stole (a badminton racket, I think).

Any of you guys think we haven't seen the last of Avon? Some of my friends think his last hurrah on the show was that "West Side Love" signal he gave to Marlo in prison while Marlo was talking to Sergei.

That seems like such a lame way for Avon to go out. I mean the way his "war" ended with Marlo in Season 3 was just so abrupt. Couldn't he resurface in the finale and get his victory, via Slim Charles?

Anonymous said...

"I actually thought about that Stringer/Avon scene, too, and on a lot of levels it works as a parallel for Dukie and Michael."

The only parallel in that scene are that two friends are talking about the past, otherwise they have nothing at all in common.

The subtext of the Stringer/Avon scene was the fact that both had stabbed each over in the back, and they both knew it.

The subtext of the Dukie/Michael scene was totally different

dez said...

just that I only seem to hear the comments about actors "just playing themselves" when black actors are in question. And I think the reason for that is fairly straightforward.


I've heard similar comments about white actors, especially if they are mactors (model/actors) or singer/actors (and especially if they are Madonna). I really don't think it's a race issue.

Anonymous said...

Is it a widespread perception that all the black actors are just "playing themselves"? I've only see that said once this season -- by some idiot writer named Hepola over at "Salon" -- who thinks Jamie Hector is really Marlo Stansfield in real life. There's been a few other mentions, but, again, those seem to come from critics who are newbie viewers and don't pay much attention to detail anyway (you can tell by all the mistakes in their articles). Just listening to Idris Elba and Clarke Peters in interviews can be quite a shock.

I think Felicia "Snoop" Pearson is a special case. Life has mirrored fiction. But she definitely proved herself in Episode 9. Her scene with Tristan Wilds was one of the most emotional moments this season. Well done.

John I said...

One thing that has struck me before, and struck me especially in this episode, is how many characters about to be shot take it so calmly. I would want to ask Simon if this decision is based on the real experiences of his real-life Baltimore gangster consultants, or is an artistic choice.

I can't imagine not succumbing to a primal instinct to fight for one's life. So many in The Wire take it in such a resigned way- Prop Joe, Snoop, most of Chris' vacants victims. Bodie is a notable exception. I keep thinking of "Fargo" where Margie says "I guess that's a defensive wound" from at least raising a hand against a killer's gun.

Daniel said...

"The only parallel in that scene are that two friends are talking about the past, otherwise they have nothing at all in common."

I wasn't referring to the storyline so much as I was the idea of times changing, and how a lot of those changes were brought about because of "the game." Both scenes involved close friends reminiscing about better times -- fond memories -- and yet the feeling you were left with at the end of each scene was that those times were long gone.

I think it'd be wrong to trivialize the scene as just "two friends talking about the past." The past has so much to do with why Stringer and Avon's story was so sad, and why Michael and Dukie's story was so sad. I honestly feel like I watched Michael and Dukie grow up on TV, and to see how messed up their situations are now is heartbreaking.

Anonymous said...

We have watched these kids grow up on screen. Dukie grew like 7 inches. Michael and Randy muscled up. Namond got chubby. Spider got big, too. Even little Kenard is sprouting. I miss Season 4. I really got emotionally invested in those children. It eats away at your heart to see their backgrounds. It makes you want to be a foster parent like Miss Anna and Bunny Colvin.

I wish we could have seen more of the kids this season. Those short scenes with Michael, Duquan and Bug were devastating and resonant. It made this episode the most powerful and impactful. I think they should have kept more focus on this new generation. Even Kenard is such an enigma. How does a child become so brutal and sociopathic at his age? I'm more curious about what drives and motivates Kenard than someone like Templeton.

clark said...

To begin, the way they showed Namond's performance on the debate
stage was amazing. True to Wire traditions they didn't over
sentamentalize it. There was no trophy, no standing ovation, no
begrudging respect from a former rival, no kiss with the pretty girl.
It was just showing how far he had come since leaving the streets.
This scene epitomizes why The Wire hasn't caught on with a mass
audience in a way The Sopranos has. To someone uninvested in Namond's
past this is a throwaway scene that would lead to instantaneous
channel changing. I on the the other hand was on the verge of tears.
Namond in a jacket, in a big downtown building speaking intelligently
about AIDS/HIV relief when just a short time ago he was overwhelmed at
a restaurant with white linens. You can see the growth right in front
of your eyes and you just want to cry tears of joy.
The tears of sadness made their appearance in a way that I will not
soon be able to forget. The unfortunate and unfair downward spiral
that has been Dukie's life was predictable. Ever since you saw Dukie
on the corner at the end of Season 4 you knew this was coming. His
story didn't need to be told this year but provided some
heartwrenching moments nonetheless.
Bug's parting ways with his brother on the other hand gets my vote
for saddest Wire scene of all time. Easily. All the credit in the
world goes to Tristan Wilds for pulling it off the way he did. The
way he choked up but caught himself pulled at my heartstrings like
nothing else The Wire has given us to this point.
The one blight on this episode, as in most episodes
this season was the newspaper story line. Klebanow and especially
Whiting are so one dimensional and predictable that they do not
deserve to exist in the same world as characters as rich and complex
as Stringer, Omar, McNulty, and Sobotka. It seems to me that Simon is
more interested in portraying Carrol and Marimow, um, sorry I mean
Klebanow and Whiting as prize hungry hacks than actually telling the
tale of the downfall of the mid-sized American newspaper. How much
more of a compelling story would the newspaper plot have been if say,
Klebanow and Whiting weren't so one-dimensional and were shown
agonizing over the state of their paper? How compelling would it have
been if Klebanow and Whiting were forced to choose to pick glitzy
stories that would have won prizes at the expense of good, in-depth
reporting by a heartless board that serves only it's stockholders?
Why is it that the institutional forces themselves crush the
individual in other story lines in The Wire but in The Baltimore Sun
newspaper room it seems as if it's the other way around?
Unfortunately I think David Simon's bad blood with the ex-management
of the Baltimore Sun prevented him from telling the story of modern
American journalism that I'm sure he is capable of.

Anonymous said...

The only thing the newspaper storyline successfully conveys is how removed and isolated they are from the rest of the city. However, they could have shown this in half the screen time. Sadly, they could have done more with less. That would have freed up the writers to focus on aspects that are more relevant.

Anonymous said...

People always praise the Wire for being so realistic, which, for the most part I assume is true (as I have no personal experience with this world). But, how realistic is a newsroom that never once mentions the internet or blogs at all? Are all the aspects of the show based in a static world in the mid/early nineties?

And I know there are minor some minor things that suggest modern times (i.e. camera phones, blackberrys etc.)

Anonymous said...

Wow, you're right! No Internet or blogs! The show is a mere flight of fancy after all. Realism? I think not. Thanks for showing the way. I'm skipping the finale. I for one have no more time to waste on Mr. David Simon's netless, blogless fantasies.

Anonymous said...

Oh, sorry I forgot to use the standard template for comments on this board:

David Simon is a genius!

(actor/actress) is the most underrated actor/actress ever! He/she should get an emmy!

The Wire is the best thing I have seen or read ever! Much better than Sopranos.

False sense of superiority for watching this show. It is like a Greek tradegy!

Shallow commentary on the themes of the show [which are very obvious, and pointed out repeated by Simon] and/or parallel between characters

Self-congratulatory pat on the back to all commentators on this board for being so "insightful"

As David Chase stated regarding all the fan commentary and theories about the finale of Sopranos: "Most of them, most of us, should have done this kind of thing in high school English class and didn't"

This is a TV show, not Kierkegaard

dcdame said...

Self-congratulatory pat on the back to all commentators on this board for being so "insightful"

Looked in the mirror lately? Perhaps a trip to Quantico is in order.

dez said...

@anonymous 9:51 a.m., I think you meant to post that at Television Without Pity.

dez said...

Even Kenard is such an enigma. How does a child become so brutal and sociopathic at his age? I'm more curious about what drives and motivates Kenard than someone like Templeton.

One thing I noticed about Kenard is that when he realized that he'd just killed Omar, he briefly looked scared. I don't think he's as hard as he thought he was. He may very well come out the other side completely sociopathic, but for that one moment, he looked like a frightened child.

Rhayader said...

BTW I think namond said dag not damn. Don't think that he could get away with damn in the Colvin household

Yes this is true. Also, Dukie used "Dag!" when he was complaining about the barbed wire he was climbing over.

As it so happens, "Dag!" was a favorite exclamation of Gary McCullough's, a main character in The Corner (Bubbles, by the way, sometimes reminds me a lot of Gary). I have read that Simon grew very close with Gary while profiling him, and was quite upset by his overdose death. I like to think that the use of "Dag!" is a little tribute to Gary.

Alan Sepinwall said...

For those wondering/complaining about the lack of blog and other Net references this season, David Simon popped in at the tail end of last week's episode discussion (he's two or three comments up from the bottom, as of now) to argue why those references, while current, wouldn't have added anything to the story he was trying to tell.

Isonomist said...

A friend linked me here as a bit of a birthday present. THANK YOU to her and to Alan for all of this. I've loved the Wire for all 5 seasons, and Episode 59 clinched it for me. Alan's is the best write up I've read. I knew I'd come home when yall knew who Shardene was.
I've been posting over at the Fray TV club about this, if anyone's interested, about how Herc is the linchpin to the inevitable Gotterdamerung of the finale.

I'm still trying to decide if Jimmy is Loki or Prometheus (although I guess they're both the same thing).

BTW the actor himself talks about where Sheeeit comes from, in one of his interviews he says he borrowed it from his grandfather. But if any of you were from the South, you'd know it's a pretty typical way of pronouncing that word.

JeffS said...

paul b, just wanted to respond to your comment about Felicia Pearson...I've had the opportunity to hear her speak at length several times now at various events here in Baltimore, and also met her (most recently this past Wednesday, at a book signing at the local library), and she has been just as 'smiling' and personable at those events as the other actors you reference from the Season 4 doc.
Don't confuse Felicia's legit Baltimorean accent/affect (she's one of the few major character actors born in Baltimore - James Sansone and Lance Reddick are two others, but I'm not sure if Lance actually grew up here or not) with her personality. She's a very compelling actress, IMO.

paul b said...

JeffS,
Fair enough. Like I said, the documentary only gave a her a chance to say a few words, and that little blurb misled me. Actually, I'm glad to hear it is indeed an act for her.
I suppose that's the sign of a convincing actor...when people accuse you of just "playing yourself."

Anonymous said...

"So why was Ronnie able to get Marlo's cell number from her court documents?"

Jarvis,

Better late than never, going back through the season in the build-up to the final episode, I figured this out. Here's the sequence of events (all in episode five):

- They're trying to figure out how to get a wire up, and Jimmy says "The killer has to call someone," and Lester says "A bullshit number on the court documents, Marlo's number on the actual wiretap." (This is because they will have to use a bullshit number to make the call -- they can't use their own phones, and they can't actually make the call from Marlo's line. At this point, the plan is still for them to make a fake call.)

- Scott makes up a phone call independently of that.

- While in the meeting with Scott, Jimmy modifies the plan; he tells them specifically *not* to print what sort of phone the killer is calling from, since a wiretap on a payphone would do him less good.

So the plan changed, and there was no longer a reason to put a bullshit number on the court reports. Jimmy just changed the number that Templeton had supposedly gotten the number from, and changed it to a cell phone. (This is why nobody thinks it's strange that he sends text messages from the same phone number that the first call to Templeton supposedly came from.)

--Sean

ZeppJets said...

Great episode. Great review.

I don't have a problem with how fantastical McNulty's scheme is... but what we take away from it seems very un-Wire. As you have repeatedly noted, season 5 is sympathetic to thee likes of Kima, Bunk, and now Gus: those who get things done through good old-fashioned investigative work.

Did Simon and company not just spend the previous four seasons trying to tell us that the "good old-fashioned" methods were, at best, circular and self-reaffirming, and, at worst, downright corrupt or corrosive?

The Wire has never easily glamorized those who dissent from the rules (currently McNulty and Freamon). I generally enjoy the lessons that shaking up The System is a costly, unglamorous, ugly business.

Probably my favorite piece about this is when Carcetti and the Deacon discover Hamsterdam. Season 3 could have been a preachy affair about how a courageous cop restored civility to his piece of the ghetto. But we got to see, in graphic fashion, how he accomplished this by introducing pockets of hell on earth, as the Deacon lets him know.

The shows tilt seems to have swung to far in that direction- Jimmy and Lester's antics do result in arrests big and small. It still doesn't balance out. Feels like they are sending us signals opposite the previous seasons.

Maybe Simon is throwing a curve at us. Who is playing the part of "The System" these days (besides Steinhorf and Gus' superiors)? I loved seeing McNulty in front of the ComStat board the previous episode. I'm not sure if I've decided how much to read into that just yet.

Andy Hutchins said...

The parallelism of the bits of summer both Bubbles (Reginald!) and Dukie remember goes deeper than just the summer: I believe the only two times "shadow" appears in the script for this episode are in Bubbles saying the sun was "throwing shadows" (which struck me as a great phrase) and Dukie saying "I don't put no shadow on" the day of the piss balloons.

This is a tremendous, tremendous story. And it works well at every level.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 11:52 March 2nd, 2008. You'll probably never see this but you must just pick the wrong girls. I'm a single female who loves The Wire and tells anyone who will listen about this show. My sister who is 10 years younger also watched and loved The Wire. I don't get why you think that women wouldn't watch this show? No big deal, just wanted you to know it's not like you think.

I have the finale waiting for me to press play, so for the first time ever, I'm not going to read all the great comments before I watch the next (and last :-( episode).

Here we go!

Anonymous said...

I am about to finish the series for the fifth time and on this go-round, I finally stumbled upon this blog. Kudos to Alan (and all who participated) in this great endeavor. Especially the veterans only editions for seasons 1, 2, and 3. These recaps and discussions have managed to add another level to what was already the greatest tv drama EVER. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Here I sit with only one episode of The Wire remaining on my computer and find myself saddened on multiple levels. For one I will never see another new Wire episode again, after burning through the 5 seasons over the course of the past 3 weeks. Also I find myself saddened by the fate of so many of these fictional characters who I have grown so attached to. Many recaps ago Alan marveled at how he could be so emotionally invested in these characters, and it truly struck home for me (Enough so that I am commenting on an episode recap 3.5 years after it's airing.)

The addition of these four boys and the arc of their stories has made for the most compelling television I have ever seen, and judging by the dedicated commentators on this blog, many feel the same. All of their fates could have ended so much differently if only the system, their support group and any authority figures did not fail them so miserably.

Alan, once again thanks to you for these recaps and all your commentators enhancing this viewing experience so much, I am guessing I will be venturing into the Season 1 Veterans recaps by the year's next snow fall.

-E-

Anonymous said...

Oh and like another commentator said, I too am left wondering the fate of Slim Charles.

Ahmedkhan said...

Alan - just one, nitpicky point to make in the quotes you cite: Namond's quote ends in "Dag," rather than "Damn." (At least that's the way I heard it, after repeated viewings - I'm an unabashed, hopelessly addicted Wirefreak who probably needs to get a life).

Anonymous said...

Firstly, thanks for these recap/reviews, They've made me enjoy and get engrossed so much more in the show. I've definitely picked up on a lot things I would of missed if I'd not read it.

Secondly, to me I instantly took it that Michael remembered the day, he just wanted to cut connections with Dukie, shut him out from the dark world that Michael had become locked into (though shut him out into a world that's probably not much brighter)

Thanks again

Anonymous said...

I wish Dukie could have gone to Cutty or Prez. So very sad. No one wants this kid who is such a GOOD kid at heart.
And why are we not hearing more about Randy? Who will Randy end up being (if comparing to adult counterparts). Why didn't Carver pursue getting Randy out of the home. He was ready to take him, here and then, but he was then told it would take a few months to get certified for foster care. So, why didn't he go ahead and do that and get Randy the hell out of there? He owed him that much.
Barring those ideas, I wish they could all show up at Bunnie's doorstep.

Yeah, I am a dreamer. :)