Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Wire, "Alliances": Dead is dead

Spoilers for "The Wire" episode five, "Alliances," just as soon as I see Rawls' car turn round the corner...

Someone's been wearing out the grooves in their "Stand By Me" DVD, no? From the ghost stories around the fire in the teaser to the field trip to see the body at the end, the boys' journey in this episode played out as a cracked mirror image of the journey traveled by Gordie Lachance and company. The difference is that, in "Stand by Me," the trip represents the beginning of the end of their innocence, where Namond, Randy, Michael and Dukie barely have any innocence left. As they're standing around the fire, gunshot go off a few blocks away, and Michael can identify the caliber just from the sound. And for Randy, the notion of "special dead" was the last thread he could hold onto without falling deep into a pit of guilt over his role in Lex's murder.

Chris and Snoop, meanwhile, make an overt sales pitch to Michael, and he's obviously considering it, pocketing the same kind of money he refused weeks earlier, because now it seems less like a hand-out than a salary advance. And, in an attempt to have every adult male character on the show offer to mentor him, we see Prez trying to encourage Michael in his classwork, and in dealing with Bug, but Michael doesn't seem interested. When I was at this stage of watching the season, I thought to myself, "Some grown-up really let Michael down when he was little, to have his shields up this hard."

And as Michael continues his trajectory towards the corner life, Namond continues to pretend like he was born and raised on a corner. He talks trash in Prez's class, brags to his dad about a willingness to fight it out with Marlo's people (as if there wouldn't be a clean square inch of his shorts at the first sight of Snoop's guns), even cusses out Dr. DeLuca, yet the moment when he seems most sincere all episode is his apology to Prez. The rest is a front, one he puts on because it's expected of him.

Prez is taking baby steps towards being an effective teacher. Letting Namond out of the initial detention wasn't a bad move -- it showed the kids his rules would be fair -- but once he let all the detention kids bolt early, I just shook my head and muttered something about giving inches and stealing miles. But he's also taking steps to help out Dukie, both with the clothes and the extra lunch, and it's the kids are warming to him, judging by how many were casually eating lunch in his classroom. Nice moment when Randy called Donut over to Slim Jim Prez's locked car for him; this is still very alien territory for our resident puzzle expert, and cracking the secrets of adolescents, no matter their color or social class, is going to be a hell of a lot harder than figuring out a beeper code or deciphering the lyrics to "Brown Sugar."

As we careen towards the election, Royce is losing a lot more than his facial hair -- though it's a sign of how complacent and detached he's become that he thinks this is going to get his momentum back. He's shaving, and Tommy's out pressing the flesh. He's bullying his inner circle, and Tommy is snatching up the support of Odell Watkins. When you can inspire Odell, who seems like the sort of guy who has a swear jar in his kitchen, to repeatedly throw F-bombs at you, well, sir, you've earned it.

Gold star to Bill Rawls, by the way, who has just made him a favored son of whichever man wins the primary. And here I thought all he was good for was vendetta. That position seems to have been filled by his henchman, Lt. Marimow, who, like Lt. Daniels before him, is realizing that buy-busts and old intelligence won't get him anywhere close to his target. Two key differences: 1)Daniels changed his tune on the Barksdale investigation because Jimmy and Lester convinced him it was the right thing to do, where Marimow just wants to get back at Marlo for such a public humiliation; and 2)Daniels had Lester and Jimmy as his top investigative minds, while Marimow is relying on Herc. No way Det. Lester Smooth sets up a surveillance system that's both legally questionable and easily detectable like this.

Marlo sniffed out the camera, but only a blind, deaf and dumb man in his position wouldn't have had somebody guarding or watching his favorite hangout for just such an event. Herc seems to have inadvertently done a favor for Prop Joe, since the card game robbery alone didn't seem like enough to push Marlo into the co-op. Still, this is a "be careful what you wish for" situation, since Marlo always considers himself top dog in any relationship. Given how much more slickly he's dealt with the Omar situation than Avon and Stringer ever did, maybe he deserves to be top dog. At first, I assumed Chris was going to kill Old-Face Andre, but then I realized that he needed a witness who would lie about Omar's presence. This is now two citizens clipped in two weeks by Chris. The guy is very, very cold.

Some other random thoughts:
  • In the no good deed goes unpunished department, we have Bubbs taking a beating while trying one last time to get Sherrod back to school. And for Bubbs, losing his dignity was obviously much worse than losing the money in his shoe.
  • Even though she cussed out Prez over the small pencil, I felt sorry for Zenobia. You could see in the expressions on her face throughout that scene that she really would like to do well in school, but her temper and whatever crappy hand she's been dealt at home stirs her to act out and sabotage herself. When Namond talked about the evil taking him over, I felt like that applied better to Zenobia than him.
  • Anybody else feel incredibly frustrated watching Lester looking in all the wrong places for the bodies? Proof of how much this show engages me: I actually started shouting out "Check the vacants!" during a few of those scenes.
  • When Landsman made the reference to Maj. Forester getting unsuccessful chemo, it was a reference to the fact that actor Richard DeSantis was very ill in real life, and died either during production of this season or not long after it ended.
  • Liked watching The Bunk grooving to some R&B (the Temptations?) while Lester talked to the sewer workers.
  • Randy's not exactly Mr. Grace Under Pressure, blurting out about his hall pass without Bunny even asking.
Lines of the week:
  • Norman: "I'm a devious motherfucker once I get going."
  • Bunny on Namond as a corner kid example: "Yeah, they do step up when you need them."
  • Donut breaking into Prez's car: "No problem, chief."
  • Royce chewing out Burrell: "What's next? Your officers gonna shoot a couple of tourists? Maybe fly a helicopter in the harbor place?"
  • Principal Withers: "Thank you. It'll be the only time anyone in the system thinks to say it."
  • Mrs. Donnelly: "Principal Withers just went out on a limb for you, and in this system they know how to handle a chainsaw."
  • Advice from Lester's cadet instructor: "We're looking for one body in particular. If you go grabbing everyone you see, we'll be here every day."
  • Norman watching Rawls drive away: "Wait until he turns the corner..."
So what did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

The Ojays - Back Stabbers

I think

Anonymous said...

savethewetlands said: "Did i miss a reason for excluding the vacants from the searched areas? why would they not be a natural place to look?"

Keep in mind, Lester only knows what he knows. He doesn't know what he doesn't know. He knows where drug-murder bodies usually get dumped... in the water, in Leakin Park, down the sewers.

Why doesn't he start looking in the trunks of abandoned cars? Well, why would he? It's not like he *knows* there's a bunch of bodies out there to be found... nobody's reporting these victims as missing, because, just like Lex's mama, it's hear no evil, speak no evil. Lester's just exploring a hunch.

Apparently, bodies don't usually get dumped in vacant houses... which is why it was such an evilly clever idea on Marlo's part in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Also, Alan, that actor who died was named Richard De Angelis. (Maj. Forester)

Anonymous said...

Adam's right. Definitely the O'Jays.


Anonymous said...

I'm interested in seeing how the Omar thing plays out. Old Face Andre has high-end video surveillance; I would think the police would need to see it and not just rely on a photo array to ID the shooter.

Ben Guest said...

Also, no way the detectives buy Omar doing the shooting. If he killed one civilian why would he leave a living witness?

Snoop is rapidly becoming my favorite Wire character.

Anonymous said...

Question: What were those kids doing when they asked Randy to keep an eye out in the hallway? Drugs? Sex? Something worse? It was unclear to me - or actually what they said was unclear. This is the problem with having so many untrained actors on this show - enunciation. Don't get me wrong, I love snoop, but I've got to re-wind her scenes three times to get what she says.

Alan Sepinwall said...

The boys were going to have sex (or a sex act) with the girl in the bathroom.

Anonymous said...

I usually turn on the closed captioning. Otherwise, I have trouble with the street slang and the mumblers (Snoop).

Anonymous said...

Just got to this site from another link - know I'm slow reading these old recaps, but I love the analysis.

Anyway, as a former teacher, I wanted to chime in that Prez's removal of Namond's initial detention was a very bad move. One painful lesson all new teachers learn is that you never, ever should give students an indication that they can talk you out of a punishment. In my first year, I made the exact same mistake Prez did here and I regretted it for the entire year.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Thank you Thank you!! I was the BIGGEST "Stand by Me" fan ever and was all, "This is SBM, all the way!" when I saw this episode. Thanks for the recognition. Plus, I was thinking very hard on why Namond wasn't with the other when they went to the vacant to see the body. Your thoughts? I forgot, was he at home getting a lecture from his mom? (c;

Anonymous said...

Ok I realize I'm extremely late to the game, but these recaps help me fill in any holes I may have missed while watching. My question in this episode is how the hell did Prop Joe get ahold of those police reports of the subpoenas?? It's the one thing I cannot figure out here and it's driving me crazy..

Bill Ed said...

Man it's nice to find somebody with a post inside of the last 18 months!
You'll find out how Joe is getting the court docs. You know the Wire--the info comes out slowly, but ALL the pieces do matter!