Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Wire, "Final Grades": End of term

Spoilers for "The Wire" just as soon as I figure out who wrote the telltale graffiti in the Homicide men's room...

My God, where to start? So much happened to so many people, both in this extra-length episode and this magnificent season, that I feel the only way to do the finale justice is to go character-by-character and look at where everyone of significance wound up, followed by some other finale thoughts.

The boys: Look at that picture. Hard to believe that was from only eleven weeks ago, how happy and full of hope our four boys were. (Well, maybe Dukie wasn't so hopeful, but he also didn't know what Mr. Prezbo was about to do for him.) Now the season's over, and where are they? Michael's a murderer twice over, once as an accessory and once directly, running a corner and seemingly lost to the streets forever. (Or until he has a Cutty-like rebirth decades from now.) Dukie's a drop-out and low-level member of Michael's crew, not to mention Bug's new caretaker now that Michael doesn't seem to have much interest in his own brother. Randy's been swallowed up by the system, put in a position where, even if Carver follows through and gets certified as a foster dad in four or five months, that smile of Randy's is never going to shine quite as bright.

Only Namond gets out, completes the transformation from corner kid to stoop kid that Bunny and Dr. Parenti envisioned when they began their study. And that salvation only comes through Bunny going far beyond the call of duty, not to mention the availability and wisdom of Wee-Bey, who deep down knows his son could never be a soldier.

At the start of the season, or the mid-point, or even the end, if you were to ask me which of the boys I'd most like to see saved, Namond would have been my last choice. Randy had the smile, the generosity of spirit and the work ethic. (Like Gary McCullough from "The Corner," he's also the most relatable to this suburban white guy.) Michael had the loyalty and courage, not to mention that intangible leadership quality that brought out the inner mentor of every man he met And Dukie had the brains, not to mention the lousiest hand of cards possibly dealt any character in the history of this show. Namond? Namond was a spoiled brat at best, a bullying wannabe gangster at worst. Even after he fell under Bunny's guidance and started revealing his sweeter, more genuine side, I still had a softer spot for the other three, especially Randy and Dukie.

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. Like Namond, Randy had a responsible adult trying to take him in; the only difference is that Carver had to wade through too much red tape and the inflexible child services system, where Bunny was able to go directly to Wee-Bey. Randy could have owned his own store, Dukie could have gone into computers (or, hell, policework like Prez), Michael could have become a fighter or something else, but it's probably too late for all three. And in the end, Namond's probably going to turn out okay so long as he has Bunny to kick him in the ass thrice-daily.

Is there a certain level of feel-good sentimentality to Namond's rescue? Yes, but it was important for two reasons. First, Simon and Burns had to illustrate the extraordinary efforts, not to mention good fortune, that can be required to get an at-risk boy into a stable environment. Second, it's one thing to tell a story of adults (say, the port guys) where everyone has an unhappy ending, but when you're dealing with 13-year-old boys, bleak endings across the board would have been too much to bear.

We're obviously going to see Michael and Dukie again next season (Michael even made his way onto the MCU cork board as "Unknown"), and the whole thing on the HBO website about Cheese maybe being Randy's father has me hoping that he'll turn up again, but I have a feeling we've said goodbye to both Namond and Bunny. They got their happy ending, or as close as a disgraced ex-cop and an unofficially orphaned corner kid can get, and better to imagine them enjoying that than to bring them back in for potential doom and gloom.

Tommy & Norman: Tommy, Tommy, Tommy. Morning in Baltimore lasted, what, two weeks? We can argue all day and all night about Tommy's motives going into the election, and even after he won -- I still say Tommy's good intentions narrowly outweighed his selfish ones -- but the woman from the DNC talking up the governorship is the worst thing that could have happened to Tommy, and to Baltimore. His weak-ass "in two years, I can do so much more from Annapolis" rings so false when we see how much terrible change can come to boys like Randy and Dukie in the space of only a few months, let alone two years. How long before he starts blindly chasing stats and getting deep into bed with Clay Davis?

As for Norman, this season's best addition, Non-Juvenile Division, I would have more trouble with his disbelief at Tommy's feet of clay if the show hadn't established that he usually runs campaigns, not administrations. Easy to only see the good in a candidate when you get to walk away before he has to make any real decisions.

The MCU: The need to fold the election story into the show proper instead of doing a separate miniseries gave short shrift to a number of regular characters, none moreso than the Major Crimes Unit itself. It was gutted in episode three, populated by dimwits and petty bureaucrats for most of the season, and only started returning to its former glory in the last three episodes. While the boys' stories all received some form of closure, the MCU's pursuit of Marlo has barely begun. The amount of danglers from this story put the lie to any attempt on Chris Albrecht's part to suggest fans wouldn't be upset if the show ended without a fifth season.

Fortunately, we'll get to see Lester and company (including, despite last week's "Are you happy here?" scene, Kima) try to put the wood to Marlo and his people. They have more juice with command than ever before, thanks to Daniels' ascension and the headlines generated by all the bodies. But as I asked last week, how the hell do you get a crew as cautious as Marlo's? They kill anyone who even might be snitching, they don't use phones, meet only in public places with guards who can spot anyone trying to plant another camera like Herc's, and now they're in the practice of disposing of every weapon used in any murder. This seems an even taller task than closing the murder of the dead girls in the can from season two.

Ah, well, at least they again have access to the powerful mind of...

McNulty: If you've watched this show long enough, you know that a character's about to be in a whole lot of trouble right around the time they give a big speech looking ahead to their future. Kima did it while out drinking with her friends and got shot. D'Angelo found a parallel to his life in "The Great Gatsby," then got strangled. When Jimmy began telling Beadie about how things would be different this time, how the love of his good woman would keep him straight even as he went back to the job that made him into an alcoholic bastard, I wanted to tell Beadie to politely ask him to leave and immediately change the locks. Does anyone here honestly believe Jimmy can have his cake and eat it, too? At least he has a nobler motive this time than his usual "Let me prove how much smarter I am than the rest of the world" approach, because of what he owes to...

Bodie: Son of a bitch. That's how a soldier dies, for good and for ill. He wouldn't live on his knees, wouldn't die on them, either, the first man all season to not roll over and let Chris and Snoop walk him to his death inside a vacant. I used to look at Bodie without much affection. He was the hot-head always in need of a lecture from D'Angelo or Stringer, not to mention the killer of Wallace. But while he wasn't as mistake-free as he tried to suggest in his speech at the arboretum, he did learn from all those lectures -- he was the only victim of Hamsterdam to recognize entrapment when he saw it -- and if Stringer had lived and stayed on the street, Bodie had a chance to move on up and become, if not a king, then a knight like Slim Charles. Instead, he goes down, guns blazing, on the pathetic piece of real estate he turned into a thriving concern, and leaves Poot, of all people, as the last free and surviving member of the Barksdale empire. (I don't count Slim, who was a mercenary.) RIP, Preston Broadus.

And for the record: Michael did not -- I repeat, did not -- kill Bodie. I know it's a dark scene, and there's some resemblance between Bodie's killer and Michael, but it wasn't him. Per David Simon, "Michael does the murder in the montage. One of the other kids who was training with Chris and Snoop is the shooter of Bodie." When Marlo suggests that Michael be the one to take out Bodie, don't forget, Chris says it would be better for Michael's first kill to be a stranger, and Marlo agrees.

Bunny: If I'm right that we've seen the last of the ex-Major, then at least he went out well. He couldn't bring some sanity to the War on Drugs, or to No Child Left Behind, but he was able to save one child -- and as we learned over and over this season, that's no easy feat. And, in a way, Hamsterdam Jr. made its mark. Zenobia and Darnell joined Namond as kids who seem capable of being students again, and the dead silent response to Albert's "your worst nightmare" joke in Prez's class suggested that the kids not only have gotten used to life without the troublemakers, but may not be as willing to tolerate their disruptions in the future. Not the worst legacy for the show's resident unpopular truth-teller.

Wee-Bey & De'Londa: Bunny knew the right way to frame his argument for Wee-Bey, but I credit Wee-Bey for having the wisdom and lack of foolish pride to see the truth in Bunny's words. At the end of season one, he happily confessed to several murders he didn't commit, partly out of self-preservation (it likely spared him the death penalty), but mainly out of loyalty to Avon. Five years gone, and the reality of life in prison has made itself very apparent to him. He's tough enough to handle that weight, but he now sees that the family business is nothing worth pushing his son into.

De'Londa, on the other hand, continues to Not Get It on a massive scale, even assuming that Wee-Bey's interest in her would vanish the second her child did. Sure, some players in the game are like that (D'Angelo never had much time for Donnette outside her being his baby mama), but she clearly understands her man about as well as she understood her son. Feh. I understand why she is the way she is, but that woman can't be off my TV fast enough.

Cutty: He began the season having a fun, sexy time with every mother who wandered into the gym, not realizing the effect this was having on boys like Spider and Michael. He ends it with a bum leg but a less controversial love interest, courtesy of a character reference from Bunny. Is his story done, too, do you think, or will he play some kind of role in whatever's coming for Michael next season?

The Bunk: He bookended the season with the Lex case, and in between saved Omar from Marlo's clutches. The man continues to have a gift for taking people on a guilt trip, in this case getting probable cause out of Lex's mom by pointing out that it's her own fault her son's remains went undiscovered for so long. If I'm right that Jimmy's flying back to drunken bimbohood, then I'm sure Bunk will be happy to play wingman.

Carver & Herc: Carver's growth over the course of the series -- hell, even from the start of season three to now -- is amazing, but that maturity brings with it the price of a conscience. Herc has no idea what he did to Randy and Bubbs, nor would he care, while Carver is crushed by having failed Randy and Miss Anna, even if his only failure was in trusting Herc. (Randy trying to absolve him of any guilt as they entered the group home only made things worse, of course.) I wonder if he'll have the perserverance to actually get qualified to be Randy's guardian, or if he'll let himself be talked out of it with the passage of time and a whole lot of beers.

Herc, meanwhile, becomes that rare "Wire" character to get something close to the fate he deserves -- assuming that I read the disciplinary board scene right and that "conduct unbecoming" is a firing offense -- even though he's being punished for an entirely different crime. Those sergeant's stripes transformed him from lunkheaded comic relief into a very dangerous person, and the only thing I feel bad about is that he'll never really understand what he did.

Bubbles: Andre Royo breaks my heart on a regular basis, never moreso than in this episode. His confession to Landsman, and especially his breakdown at the mental hospital (in front of his AA sponsor from season one, in case you didn't recognize the shaggy biker guy), were just devastating. They say an addict can't quit until they hit rock bottom, and I can't fathom a rock lower than the one Bubbs is trapped under at the moment. We saw that he had a very fragile support system in place when he tried to get clean in season one; maybe Sherrod's death will be enough to keep him going forward this time, even if he suffers a setback like he did when Kima got shot. God, I hope so.

(And why am I sitting around expressing so much hope about the future of fictional characters? Why does this show do this to me?)

Omar: As a poster in last week's thread put it, "Omar and Renaldo are the real Major Crimes Unit this season." With some old-fashioned surveillance techniques, they acquired high-level intel and put the kind of hurt on the Baltimore drug trade that Lester can only dream about. But as Butchie said (shortly after flashing a Randy-level smile while contemplating what his adopted son pulled off), "This ain't over." Just as Bubbs' life has nowhere to go but up from here, I can't see Omar's fifth season arc traveling anywhere but in a downward direction.

Prez: As Ms. Samson says, he'll be fine. He's always going to have his awkward moments because that's just who Prez is, but he connected to his kids -- not just Dukie, but everyone -- much faster than he had any right to. He looked devastated at seeing Dukie on the corner (maybe also feeling guilty for taking Ms. Donnelly's advice too far and essentially blowing off Dukie when he came by?), so perhaps he'll find some tangential way to get involved in Lester's work next year.

Burrell & Rawls:
Now that they're back in their relative positions of power, can I start calling them Beavis & Hack-Boy, or is it an insult to this show to drop any kind of "Studio 60" reference in the middle of it? As I said a couple of weeks ago, Burrell being Tommy's political operative isn't the worst thing in the world, but I worry that he's going to start sabotaging Daniels and the MCU to hang onto the throne. How long before Ronnie and Cedric get replaced with Burrell and Clay Davis at Tommy's lunchtable?

And, as I said at the top, any theories on who wrote the Rawls graffiti? I imagine whoever wrote it has no idea how true it was, but after all the wild-eyed speculation when we saw Rawls in the gay bar last season, I'm amused that this was the only follow-up of any kind this year.

Marlo, Chris & Snoop: Whenever an interviewer suggests that Marlo is a sociopath, Simon always points to his loyalty to his people. And so far, all of the murders we know Marlo arranged have been of people either on the fringes of his organization (Old-Face Andre, Little Kevin, Bodie) or outside it altogether (Lex, the security guard). But the simultaneous discovery of two dozen bodies is enough heat to melt even someone as ice-cold as Marlo; if faced with a choice between giving up Chris and losing his empire, what would he do?

Like everyone else, I had more empathy for Avon and, especially, Stringer than I have for Marlo. But as with De'Londa, I understand why he is who he is, and he's a worthier adversary for Lester and the MCU than I think any of us were imagining last year.

Prop Joe & Vondas: Well, here's a sight I never thought I'd see again on this show: The Greek's right-hand man, back in Baltimore. During my pre-season interview with Simon and Ed Burns, I expressed surprise that Vondas would be willing to come back to a city where the cops had paper on him, not to mention a photo I.D. Ed laughed, pointing out that paper doesn't matter much when the case is so many years removed, and when the subject of that paper is such a slippery character to begin with. That said, they told me this wasn't just a gratuitous call-back to season two, and that they brought Spiros back for a reason. It's not this show's style to tie everything up with neat bow, even with a series finale in mind, but I'm hopeful that Spiros isn't going to slip in and out of Baltimore without crossing paths with Lester or one of the other MCU cops from the port case...

...that is, if Marlo doesn't go all season three Avon and try to wage a war against a foe he can't beat. The Greek and his people are, if anything, even colder and more efficient than Marlo's crew, though the expansiveness of their operation gives them vulnerabilities that Marlo doesn't have. Could be an interesting irresistible force vs. immovable object battle, if that's where they're headed.

Either way, having The Greek in his corner is basically the only thing Prop Joe has going for him right now. Omar cost him a lot of money, but worse, he may have cost him the relative peace of the empire he and Stringer created with the co-op. The co-op is built on trust, and on the other members' respect for Joe; without that, how long before the east side gets very bloody? And yet Joe's still enough of a hustler to con Marlo and the others into paying 30 on the dollar when Omar sold it to him for only 20. Gotta admire that.

Landsman: I've compared him and Ms. Donnelly before as the two quasi-sympathetic guardians of a terribly flawed institution. Jay's not a bad guy, but in the past he's always chosen to protect The Board above all else, so it was stunning and more than a little heart-warming to see him throw away a gift-wrapped clearance because he recognized the pointlessness of it. Could this be a turning point for our favorite hardcore connoisseur? Nah; I just think, like the rest of us, Bubbs gave a stronger tug at his heartstrings than he could handle. Jay was back to his usual self by the time he saw that column on The Board so long it had to be extended with paper. (Who's primary on all these, by the way? Lester's technically not part of Homicide anymore, so Bunk?)

Some other random thoughts:
  • You make the call: was the giddiness of Cutty's neighbor over hearing Al Swearengen say "cocksucker" a dig or a wink at HBO's other profane drama? I have to say that I got a bit of a dig vibe, especially over the way the guy seemed so excited just at hearing "cocksucker," regardless of usage. (Also, can anyone tell whether Cutty was watching "Soap" or "Benson" later on? I'm not that much of a Guillaume obsessive.)
  • "Kids don't vote." Fuck you very much, nameless budget guy.
  • Always interesting when we have more information than the cops. For instance, we know that the bodies found on the east side were the handful of New Yorkers that Chris and Snoop killed as a favor to Prop Joe, but the MCU is now going to waste time expanding the search to the rest of the city when all the other bodies are on the west side.
  • Snoop and Chris cuffed at curbside was the first time all season that we've seen those two look even the slightest bit afraid of anything. A very weird sight.
  • Another unexpected sight: the complete surprise on Marlo's face at seeing The Ring -- which, as far as he knows, Omar last had -- around Michael's neck. Michael wouldn't even take it off while losing his virginity. (And poor Dukie, having to listen to the headboard banging.)
  • The season's final lesson: Chris arranges Michael's first kill, then tells him he can look anyone in the eye from now on. I know the two of them have suffered terribly in the past, but damn.
  • It would be funny if it wasn't so damn sad: Randy offering to pay $235 for a foster placement. Interesting that Randy, who had always seemed softer than even Namond, was able to throw the first punch against his wonderful new roommates. Continuing to search for a silver lining: if these kinds of beatings continue, can't Carver get Randy out of there for his own safety?
Lines of the week:
  • Landsman on Lester: "He is a vandal. He is vandalizing the board, he is vandalizing this unit. He is a Hun, a Visigoth, a barbarian at the gate clamoring for human blood and what's left of our clearance rate."
  • Mello explaining the nail problem at roll call: "Listen up, you mutts, this is complicated. I mean it isn't complicated if you went to college or, I don't know, your mothers actually stopped drinking while they were pregnant, but for Baltimore city police, this is complicated.
  • Bunk on hearing what Herc's in trouble over: "Son, they gonna beat on your white ass like it's a rented mule."
  • Bunk & Snoop: "I'm thinking 'bout some pussy." "Yeah, me too."
  • Kima on whether Bubbs' suicide attempt was a cry for attention: "Bubbs got some problems, but insincerity ain't one of them."
  • Royce's ex-chief of staff, Coleman Parker, to Norman: "They always disappoint. Closer you get, the more you look. All of them."
Well, that's clearly enough outta me. What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

I'd say the Deadwood thing was a wink. I've heard Simon say in other interviews that he admires the show, but doesn't watch it regularily.

floretbroccoli said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
floretbroccoli said...

I've been wondering about this for weeks, but now especially, after watching Carver hitting nothing but red-tape. What do you think Cutty would have / could have done had Michael turned to him instead of to Marlo?

Am I misunderstanding this -- "The Bunk: He bookended the season with the Lex case, and in between saved Marlo from Omar's clutches." -- or do you mean the reverse, that Bunk saved OMAR from MARLO's clutches?

Anonymous said...

Couple of random responses...

-The shaggy, bearded sponsor for Bubbles is named Walon, and is played by musician Steve Earle.

-Pretty sure Bunk is the homicide primary, based on his presence in the gym and montage presentation he was giving to the other detectives with clothes in bags and the punchboard in the background.

-I'm puzzled by Marlo watching Vondas so closely. Is he looking to start a war, or is he looking to find a way around the co-op?

-I don't think the "sucks cock" graffiti was necessarily a reference to Rawls' homosexuality, it could have been just a case of intense dislike. The graffiti right above it - "look in the bowl, I made a colonel" makes me think that's the case.

-If Omar and Renaldo are walking around with $400,000, plus what they took from the poker game, is it possible they could be gone / retired? I doubt it, based on one of Omar's first lines of the season, something to the effect of "it ain't what you got, but who you taking it from" makes me feel pretty confident that they'll be back.

-Do we think we've seen the last of Bubbles? His intense guilt over Sherrod may drive him away from the needle. Burns and Simon have each said that they emphasize story over character. How does he serve the story if he's clean?

-Not sure if I agree with Alan about McNulty having an inevitable slide back into alcoholic asshole-dom. I guess what it boils down to is if the job made Jimmy the way he was, or if Jimmy's being the way he was made him good at his job.

-Does anyone know the character name of the man who shot Bodie? It's the guy with the curly hair and a strong jawline. Sydnor mentioned a "Ray Ray" last episode, I think that's him but I don't know 100%.

-Anyone know the title and artist of the song in the final montage? I was a little disappointed that it was a blues song, much as I loved it, and not a last chance to showcase another Baltimore rap artist.

All in all, I thought it was the best episode of the season, and on the short list for best episodes in the series history.

I still think I like season three best of them all, but this one is probably my second favorite.

Best show in the history of television. No fucking doubt.

Anonymous said...

Nah, Bunk saved Marlo, by making Omar give his word that there would be no bodies over the charge that got dropped. Absent Omar's word, the head of the snake would have been cut off by midseason.

Anonymous said...

I think the "Deadwood" clip was a wink--they chose the segment where Al is railing against the Pinkertons, as muscle for the bosses, who don't need more advantages since they control everything else. Ironically, the citizens of "Deadwood" were busy building up the kind of institutions that, about a century later, have gone to hell in a handbasket in "The Wire".

Al and Stringer Bell would have understood each other quite well.

Anonymous said...

Do we know who the dealer that Michael shot was? Just some random corner boy? Did we ever see him beef with Marlo's people?

Anonymous said...

"I'm puzzled by Marlo watching Vondas so closely. Is he looking to start a war, or is he looking to find a way around the co-op?"

I'm pretty sure he's looking to find a way around the co-op. But that, of course, might lead to a war between Joe and Marlo.

Question: Who is Tyrell? His name was scrawled on the door with the rest of the Fayette Mafia Crew. And the last words we hear this season are "Yo, Tyrell, wait up!" as someone in Namond's new neighborhood hurries to catch up with the unseen Tyrell.

Poor Bodie: He never caught the irony that what happened to him is EXACTLY what happened to Wallace, however differently Bodie might try to spin it. But as much as I grew to sort of like Bodie, I never forgave him for murdering Wallace.

Despite my earlier facetious remarks to the contrary, I think Herc's a goner. There's too much political pressure to get rid of him permanently. Hell, even the soundtrack spelled it out for us: As we watch Herc getting keelhauled before the board, we hear Weller singing "See my enemy at the end of the rope". Buh-bye, Herc. Don't let the door hit you on the ass on your way out.

RE the Deadwood clip: The guy's Beavis-and-Butthead laugh at the word cocksucker seemed to suggest something unflattering about either Deadwood or its fans.

Anonymous said...

floretbroccoli: I had to read Alan's description of Bunk saving Marlo from Omar twice, and as I understand it now it does make sense: I think Alan was pointing out that if Bunk hadn't managed to guilt-trip Omar into giving his word not to produce any more bodies, Omar would have gone after Marlo and his people with deadly force, which could have triggered an even bigger drug war. Or, more likely seeing as how smart Omar is, he would have pitted Marlo against Prop Joe, for example by telling Marlo about Prop Joe's role in the poker game heist. In any event, the likely outcome would have been much worse than the status quo. Bunk was instrumental in preventing further escalation by appealing to Omar's code of honor and by making him feel guilty just like he did in season 3.

SJ said...

After Michael gets his first kill, he closes his eyes and the montage begins. Then we see Michael helping his younger brother out with his studies. It definitely looked like a dream, but was it something Michael had already done or was it something he just wanted to do...and realized he'll never do it again? If I'm not mistaken that's the first ever dream sequence in The Wire. I don't know why, I just found it interesting.

Anonymous said...

I disagree. I think there is ample evidence that Michael began neglecting Bug near the end. The two best examples are when Dukie enters Michael's house and sees him having sex with the girl. He goes to Bug's room and puts the covers over him. There's also the scene where Dukie takes Bug to school because Michael's too busy chatting with Marlo.

Anonymous said...

I'll admit there wasn't any severe neglect being shown, but I did think the writers were trying to imply a decreasing interest in Bug from Michael. You might be right. We'll just have to wait till next year.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Guys, the Omar/Marlo thing was a typo (since fixed). Sorry forr the confusion.

Alan Sepinwall said...

And I think the shot of Michael helping Bug with his homework was the one element of the montage that wasn't a flash-forward, but rather Michael thinking back on happier times when his biggest concern was keeping Bug safe.

Anonymous said...

"wasn't a flash-forward, but rather Michael thinking back on happier times" -- I'll have to watch the scene again, but my first impression was that it was Michael trying to mentally justify what he'd just done. The table they're sitting at looks like the one from the new place. Plus it looks like Michael is wearing some kind of sports jersey -- something one would expect to find Namond wearing, not the son of a crack addict. Coupled with the shot of Michael's face, which I read as his realization that he'd crossed the point of no return, I took this shot of him with Bug to indicate his belief/fantasy that joining Marlo was in trade for financial security and safety for both him and Bug -- a bit of self talk to ward off any bad feelings he might have about killing a stranger.

But, of course, I could be wrong.

I did note that Dukie, when he offered to get Bug ready for school, was wearing a T-Shirt that said Tuskeegee, but I couldn't make out the rest (Airmen? Institute?). Either way, I found it a telling contrast to his current path. Also, when Marlo, Chris, & Snoop stopped by and noticed that Michael had just gotten up, Marlo said, "The early bird gets the worm" -- seemed to me to reinforce the theme that Marlo is unbridled capitalism (earlier reinforced by Bodie's death -- the Frank Sobotka of the drug "game"). Just got more fierce . . .

Anonymous said...

One more thing. This episode also reinforced the theme that "conscience do cost."

Bubbs, Landsman, Michael, McNulty, Cutty, Wee Bey, Carver, Bunny, Prez, Carcetti -- all had moments where they wrestled with their conscience, a moment where they had to ponder the significance of what they had done or could do, but at least they are shown as having a conscience.

David Simon has stated (I'm paraphrasing) that S5 will explore why it is that society fails to address known problems that have known outcomes re urban America. In the finale, Bunny rhetorically asks "When do this shit change?" I get the sense that the answer is never so long as people refuse to have their consciousness raised (& our media enables that refusal by ignoring the proplem). Conscience do cost.

Anna Laperle said...

"Poor Bodie: He never caught the irony that what happened to him is EXACTLY what happened to Wallace, however differently Bodie might try to spin it. But as much as I grew to sort of like Bodie, I never forgave him for murdering Wallace."

I disagree with this. Just before he and Poot started shooting, Bodie yelled at Wallace to be a man. By keeping his corner and taking shots at Chris and Snoop, I think Bodie died with his dignity intact, holding his corner and guns blazing. He was, after all, shot from behind, which is the coward's way of doing it.

Anonymous said...

"Guys, the Omar/Marlo thing was a typo"

Hey, anyone notice how Marlo is an anagram of Omar L.? Or that Cedric's wife is named Marla? Significant or mere coincidence?

"Just before he and Poot started shooting, Bodie yelled at Wallace to be a man. By keeping his corner and taking shots at Chris and Snoop, I think Bodie died with his dignity intact, holding his corner and guns blazing. He was, after all, shot from behind"

Well, okay, not EXACTLY in every little detail. But in a cosmic karmic sense, what went around came around. Wallace was murdered for the mere suspicion that he might have flipped, as was Bodie. Whether shot from behind or face to face is a minor matter in the vast scheme of things.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I don't know how intentional that is, but I know that the anagram thing is what makes me switch up Omar and Marlo's names all the time; this was just a rare instance where I didn't catch it before publishing.

Couple other things I neglected to mention in the review:

-Another great callback to season one: McNulty and Daniels reciting each other's lines from the start of the original Barksdale detail.

-Donut rides again! What kind of future do you suppose a 12-year-old car thief has in front of him?

Anonymous said...

I doubt that Carver will give up on Randy's situation. Maybe he seeks out Randy's father's (Cheese) permission as a way of circumventing the bureaucracy of the foster care system, a la Bunny and Wee-bey?

The massive kick to the stomach that was Bodie's death was set-off ever so slightly by the fact that Randy will be around for another season.

Alan, nice work on the picture at the top of your article. I will go back and re-watch this season some point soon, but knowing what we now know, I think the initial image of the boys trying to catch pigeons in a contraption right out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon will be absolutely heartbreaking.

Anonymous said...

"I don't know how intentional that is"

Neither do I. Maybe I've done too many of those damn Word Jumbles. Still, as attentive to tiny-but-portentous details as the show's writers often are, one wonders.... I guess one can see Omar as the mirror image of Marlo. And Marla always struck me as a non-violent Lady Macbeth, the consumate political game player (who, remarkably, spoke some unpalatable truths this season during her campaign).

Yeah, I caught that season-one callback with Cedric and Jimmy. Great...and maybe portentous, too? Donut? Complete crapshoot as to his future. I wouldn't even hazard a guess.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone recall the "chain of custody" as concerns "The Ring?" I remember that the store owner, Old Face Andre?, reluctantly gave it to Marlo, who promptly lost it to Omar at the card game robbery. The last I recall was Michael taking it from Officer Walker during the yellow paint call to war. Was Office Walker one of the arresting officers when Omar was brought in for the murder of the stocker lady?

Got a kick out of Herc's T-shirt logo when he answered the door(Kima). It pictured a map of Wisconsin, the state's name, and the caption, "Smell the dairy air."

I just picked up the first season of "The Wire" on DVD, having never seen it on HBO. I started out with Season 2, which got me hooked. I have enjoyed each season more than the previous one, which makes me wonder if I'll find the first season lacking in some way. Any ideas on what I'll have to look forward to?

Anonymous said...


Season One is great. You'll love it: It's about a single painstaking wiretap case against the Barksdale gang. The most tightly focused season of all. The character arcs will be that much more impressive once you've seen season one.

Yes, Officer Walker took the ring from Omar when he arrested him. Then Michael took it from Walker.

"Smell the dairy air" = "Smell the derriere". Either Herc's telling everyone to kiss his cheesy ass or he's about to take a big bite out of a particularly nasty turd sandwich.

Anonymous said...

Though a bit off topic for the finale, as I sit here, trying to find a way to approach the show on something less exhausting than the emotional level, I find myself trying to engage some of the subtext/metaphorical aspects of The Wire. On that note, has anyone come up with a credible answer to the question Alan posed back in the beginning of the season regarding the significance of the train tracks that Bunk and McNulty (and Lester and Kima on occasion) drank by?

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to leave a few comments.

Regarding the Rawls grafiti, I rewatched Season 1 over the last couple weeks and noticed that toward the beginning of the season someone makes the comment that Rawls "drinks piss." While they weren't necessarily implying he really is a homosexual, I hihgly doubt it's coincidental. When I watch Season 2 again I'll keep a lookout to see if there is anything there.

Regarding Marlo and the Greek's organization, I highly doubt Marlo's intentions with the Greek are aggressive. It is much more likely that he would try to set up a meet with the Greek to circumvent Joe. Marlo probably understood that he was part of the reason that the robbery occured so he probably wasn't all that concerned he was being set up. But I think he saw meeting the connect as a huge advantage that can be gained from the robbery because Joe needs to appease him. Given the fact that Marlo has enough power to make Joe set up the meet, I could definitely see something happening between these two.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I don't believe the writers knew Rawls was going to be gay in the first season, so that line would be a coincidence.

Nor, by the way, do I think whoever wrote the graffiti has any idea how true it was. But that's what makes it so funny.

Anonymous said...

"While they weren't necessarily implying he really is a homosexual, I hihgly doubt it's coincidental."

"I don't believe the writers knew Rawls was going to be gay in the first season"

See, that's what I keep wondering. I'd love it if Simon would tell us, but I doubt he wants to give the whole game away.

I did notice throughout season one that Rawls was particularly aggressive in his sexual innuendoes. I also noticed that his favorite term of abuse throughout the first two seasons was "cocksucker"...and this was before Deadwood! So it's mighty ironic that the guy who derides his underlings with a homophobic/misogynistic epithet turns out to be gay. It neatly illustrates the self-hatred caused by life in the closet.

Now, whether the creators had this in mind from the beginning of the show, or whether it suddenly occurred to them between seasons two and three...that's the big question. I'm going to disagree with Alan and postulate that Simon and Burns had at least a vague idea of taking Rawls in that direction.

BTW, I don't think the anonymous bathroom graffitist from episode 50 was actually privy (no pun intended) to Rawls's sexual life.

Anonymous said...

One more thing that surprised me with this final episode was seeing Butchie with the seeing-impaired cane. When Butchie met with Bunk last season, to hand over the gun, and said "I'm blind" I just thought he was pulling a fast one over Bunk, in a way to keep him from actually having to identify anyone. Imagine my surprise that, after three seasons of seeing him behind the bar, he actually is blind.

Anonymous said...

Wow... what a finale. Seems that McNulty has the gift for getting his C.I.'s murdered - 1st Wallace and now Bodie. McNulty should have known that the odds of them getting spotted would skyrocket down at Central Booking. Nevertheless I am glad to see him back with the MCU.

Speaking of Mr. Broadus, his death was especially brutal and heartbreaking to watch. I cannot wait until Marlo is wearing the bracelets or is getting chalked.

My favorite character on the show next to Freeman is Omar. That dude has got more game than anybody on either side of the law. But like our host Mr. Sepinwall, I too believe that his good fortune is about to end come next season.

As for the kids, I see parallel's to existing or past characters from the show:
Michael is clearly on a path such as Avon's - but I don't think his(or Donut's) encounters with Officer Walker are over by a long shot.
Dukie strikes me as the next Stringer, not as fierce as the kingpin (Avon or Michael), but smart.
Randy can go 2 ways, either he is going to end up a homeless addict like bubbles or an even more intriguing arc would be to see him becoming a stick up kid due to the harsh way the game has treated him.

Namond is the most difficult to parallel. Only thing I can think of is maybe he will become a cop like Carver, or just simply fade away into Eddie Haskell land.

Wow what a finale.

Anonymous said...

Alan - It is possible that it's entirely coincidental, but for some reason with this show, it doesn't seem like anything is ever a coincidence.

My main reason for doubt about it's coincidentallity is that I feel like Rawls and Omar are juxtaposed as to how one deals with his abnormal sexuality. Omar is entirely free from any constraints of institutions so he is very honest and open about it which leads to him having some peace. Rawls may be the largest slave of any on this show to his institution, and that has lead to just an incredible amount of repression and frustration which he takes out on everyone around him. Whether it's intentional or not, it really is a brilliant parallel.

However, since you have actually spoken to DS and company, you may have some inside knowledge. But no matter what, I do think understanding Rawl's sexuality is really important to understanding him as a person so it wouldn't surprise me either way.

Anonymous said...

Another thing I (and many others) noticed was the gay subtext to the Herc-Carver relationship. I don't think they were actually gay, but the writers were having a lot of fun with those Batman-Robin references in season one, the overtly sexual wrestling match in season two, and the screamingly funny scene where Herc uses the computerized sketch artist to construct his ideal woman...and it looks exactly like Carver!

As I said, I don't think the writers were actually going to make them gay, but I do think they were completely aware of what they were doing and really enjoyed this running joke. (FWIW, I think Herc's "crush" on Carver is sort of a metaphor for his desperate, comical attempts to pass as black. Think of that Shaft soundtrack he played on the car stereo in season three.)

Anonymous said...

Alan, I hadn't thought of a way to connect one of the greatest comedies in the history of television ("Arrested Development") to one of the greatest dramas. So thank you for using George Michael Bluth's words to describe Cutty.

And no, it's not an insult to use a "Studio 60" line to describe Burrell and Rawls. S60 is nowhere near as amazing as "The Wire," but it's still smart and funny. Besides, almost every show on TV suffers in comparison to "The Wire."

I loved the return of Spiros. I think Marlo senses that Spiros is someone not to be messed with, but it would be something to see if Marlo tries.

Anonymous said...

"-Anyone know the title and artist of the song in the final montage? I was a little disappointed that it was a blues song, much as I loved it, and not a last chance to showcase another Baltimore rap artist."

It was Paul Weller singing "I Walk on Gilded Splinters" off of his Stanley Road album.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Jon, the guy who ratted out Bodie to Marlo was Monk, one of Marlo's more trusted lieutenants (he's a notch below Chris and Snoop). Michael's victim was someone else entirely, no doubt someone from a rival crew.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Floretbroccoli asked, way up top:
What do you think Cutty would have / could have done had Michael turned to him instead of to Marlo?

If nothing else, Cutty could have practiced a less lethal form of vigilante justice. Bug's dad didn't strike me as the type who would stick around long if he knew more pain was coming.

Anonymous said...

Is anyone besides me anticipating Avon getting back into the mix in Season 5? Wouldn't that be interesting!?

Anonymous said...

Was that Kendall that offered Prez drugs in the final sequence. Interesting, especially since he was working for Michael's crew, and Michael kicked his ass the episode before.

Anonymous said...

Nah...I doubt Avon will be back. The theme of the show is "The game is the same, but people are diff" Avon is gone for good I think, at least for the show.

And yes, it was Kenard who was pushing to Prez.

Anonymous said...

"Is anyone besides me anticipating Avon getting back into the mix in Season 5? Wouldn't that be interesting!?"

As I said on another thread, that David Simon is a devious mother who adopts a "that's just what they're expecting us to do" strategy. And since nobody, till now, had expected the return of Avon, that was EXACTLY what Simon was going to do. But you just had to go and kill that unexpected plotline by predicting it. ;)

"Was that Kendall that offered Prez drugs in the final sequence."

I don't think so. Didn't quite look like him. But I'll take another look.

Anonymous said...

Keep in mind the montage sequence at the end of each last epiosde is not in real time, and can jump ahead weeks or even months. Kenard looks to be recovered from his beating and back in good graces (good enough, anyway). Michael has already passed day-to-day operations for the corner to Dukie. Michael has time to help Bug with his homework (it had to be a look ahead, they were in the new house's kitchen). Notice too, that the weather in the last scene with Namond on the porch had turned, winter had passed, they were wearing short sleeves, there were leaves on the trees, and Donut's broken fingers were healed.

floretbroccoli said...

Namond is wearing the same school-shirt in the last scene. Are we to infer that he is still going to Tilghman, even living in Bunny's neighborhood?

Anonymous said...

There's been a lot of comparison made between Michael and Avon or Marlo--he reminds me most of Nick from Season 2. Vondas recognized Nick as having potential, much as the Stanfield crew saw Michael's abilities. Nick also had family commitments similar to Michael's--a girlfriend and daughter as well as an uncle and cousin he was loyal to.

Anonymous said...

"Keep in mind the montage sequence at the end of each last epiosde is not in real time, and can jump ahead weeks or even months. Kenard looks to be recovered from his beating"

Uh, yeah, I know that. I'm just saying it didn't quite look like him, with or without a black eye and a split lip.

Ken said...

the #99 eagles jersey belongs to jerome brown, defensive tackle who died at the height of his career in 1992 in a car crash

Anonymous said...

jp wrote: "... in the last scene with Namond on the porch ... Donut's broken fingers were healed."

Oh, snap! That was Donut?? I was thinking maybe on my second viewing I'd be able to figure it out. That's the problem with having 75 recurring characters... sometimes, you can miss a move.

In an episode full of emotional gut-punches, am I the only one who was wiped out by the sight of Bubbles hanging from the ceiling? I've been trying to avoid reading spoilers, but not hard enough, because I knew Bodie was gonna get... and I knew none of the kids would die... but I wondered while watching, for a moment, whether Simon might've done in Bubbs.

Anonymous said...

Not only did Prez notice Dukie on the corner slingin' but he most likely also noticed Micheal in the passenger seat of the SUV just in front on Dukie. He was talking to Poot and looking very much the part he's been assigned by Marlo.

A Double Whammy for Prez. Michael came very close to giving the problem of his step-father to Prez before deciding to go to Marlo, if you remember that scene in the classroom where Michael is torturedly going over his options in his head.

Anonymous said...

re: Avon- Supposedly, Wood Harris is in talks to come back for Season 5. I was discussing what role Avon could possibly play with a friend (knowing he would probably still be in jail and that Simon wouldn't want to repeat himself) and we decided that he might factor into the subpoenas/Clay Davis storyline. As we saw in Episode 11, with the scenes of Lester looking at his files interlaced with the political bigshots introducing themselves to Carcetti, Lester has big plans for Season 5. What if someone manages to flip Avon and get him to testify about his payoffs to Davis? Unlikely, maybe, but it would bring everything full circle and be an interesting twist.

TL said...

"I've compared [Landsman] and Ms. Donnelly before as the two quasi-sympathetic guardians of a terribly flawed institution."

Funny - I've come to think of Ms. Donnelly as something of the villan of the school arc, something akin to the general at the end of Paths of Glory (at least as I remember it). Landsman's institutional rigidity, while it prevents good from being done, can't really do any harm. Donnelly's decisions and commitment to the institution, on the other hand, actively harm Dukie, Randy, Sharod, all the kids who get nothing more than their "September" and "October day," and her "come-on-get-over-it" advice is clearly meant to sap what's good out of Prez.

Anonymous said...

"Funny - I've come to think of Ms. Donnelly as something of the villan of the school arc, something akin to the general at the end of Paths of Glory"

Couldn't agree with you more, tl. I hated Donnelly for exploiting Randy's terror of losing the one good thing in his life, Ms. Anna. That she would stoop to such a despicable tactic just to catch a mere tagger and risk Randy being labeled a "snitch" (which she should know carries severe social penalties in that environment) shows just how little she really cares about the lives and well-being of the kids in her charge. She's an institutional parasite, on the level of a Marimow or a Burrell.

Anonymous said...

In an episode full of emotional gut-punches, am I the only one who was wiped out by the sight of Bubbles hanging from the ceiling?

Nope, that about killed me and the episode still had a long way to go. I don't know what happened to the real person Bubbs is based on, but I think it wasn't something good, so I was sure Bubbs was dead and I started bawling.

Great ep, great season, great God Almighty, how I cried!

Anonymous said...

"In an episode full of emotional gut-punches, am I the only one who was wiped out by the sight of Bubbles hanging from the ceiling?"

You are not alone. I gasped, "Oh, no!" when the camera cut to Bubbs's dangling feet. Just as devastating was Bubbs's reunion with Walon. Heartwrenching.

Bubbs is my favorite character. Andre Royo is fucking BRILLIANT!

BTW, the real Bubbs died of AIDS. That doesn't mean, of course, that our Bubbs will necessarily suffer the same fate. If Simon kills off my Bubbs, I'm gonna be furious.

Anonymous said...

Yep, I gasped too when I saw Bubbs hanging there. It was completely surprising, and at the same time completely...possible. (And his reunion with Walon undid me even more; I don't think I stopped crying until the end.)

I was trying to think about what character's deaths would make it more difficult to enjoy the show -- not that I'd stop watching. Bubbs tops the list, along with Lester and Bunk on the other side. One of those is, of course, more likely than the others.

Anonymous said...

If so, they're not mentioned in the books Homicide or The Corner.

Anonymous said...

Anyone else catch the fact that in the season finale both Carcetti and Bodie said they'd wouldn't get down their knees? I doubt it's a coincidence. So, then, what exactly are the parallels between these two characters?

Anonymous said...

parallell between carcetti and bodie-- both refuse to live on their knees. bodie dies so he can stan on his corner a man. carcetti dicks over the B-more city kids so he can be a man (ie, noit cowtow to the governor's wishes in order to get the annapolis money.) both make f*cked up decisions based on self-serving principle and to their own detriment (carcetti is gonna catch it somehow for bailing on the kids.)

Anonymous said...

"both make f*cked up decisions based on self-serving principle and to their own detriment (carcetti is gonna catch it somehow for bailing on the kids.)"

Ah, good ol' foreshadowing. Still, The Wire often goes out of its way to show that the higher up you go in the "legitimate" world of politics and business, the more insulated you are. You are rewarded for playing the game.

I suspect, however, that, rather than foreshadowing Carcetti's fate, the Bodie comparison will serve as ironic counterpoint. I predict Carcetti will lose his soul, but gain the whole world.

Anonymous said...

On the Marlo/Omar idea: has anyone noticed that they both have a scar on their face? Perhaps they are *gasp* brothers?!?!

We remember McNulty mentioning one of Omar's brothers that died, but perhaps he had another?

Omar puts himself at 28 or 29 years old in season 3 and I'm guessing Marlo is around 24 (jesus, I'm 24!) but I could be wrong.

This may be too cute for a show like The Wire, but damn that's a great storyline.

Pete Prochilo said...

Just dropping a note to say that your commentary on 'The Wire' is always outstanding. Makes the best show on TV that much better.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

The Tuskegee t-shirt that Dukie was wearing was the same one that Michael was wearing in the volcano scene with Bug's Daddy (Has someone already mentioned this obvious visual metaphor?!!). I found it endearing that Michael is sharing his clothes with his friend. Dukie's clothes are a point of interest as he wears the Carcetti hoodie after the campaign job with Randy.

Also on Randy's parentage . . . I'm not convinced that Cheese is his father. I would say, uncle, if anything. I'm thinking that if Marlo's crew even looks after their "baby mamas" I would think that Cheese would too, especially since his uncle is caring for him. Also, is it common for the children of unwed couples to take on their father's last name? I'm thinking that Cheese had a distant sister with the same last name and never told him or the family that she had a child and abandoned him without their knowledge. Otherwise, my perception is that the family would have taken him in if they had known. Or am I being naive?

I feel the connection punctuates even more clearly the lost opportunity that is Randy Wagstaff. Not only his winning personality and potential, but all that he could have had going for him. All the directions he could have gone with his life. He is from the streets, but all of us are responsble for him. Even in The Wire world, we recognize him as one of our own.

Anonymous said...

More Michael thoughts:

Did you find that the theme of the Greek tragedy Prez was reading as a test example spoke DIRECTLY to Michael's situation? Even though Michael appeared not to be listening--it was significant, in my opinion. Another illustration of how the standardized tests miss their mark completely!!

Also about Michael neglecting Bug. He doesn't put his brother on the corner. I realize it's not in keeping with his character, but I think it is notable in the argument of whether Michael is neglecting him. I think that once Michael secured his nice apartment with Dukie to care for Bug, he had the space to maintain.

Just like when Michael repaid his debts by working for Bodie. He does what he has to do, even if it takes him away from Bug. Someone made the point, that his character is only about 13 years. For instance, I wondered why Michael was coming to the after-school center in the dark to pick up Bug (even after his job with Bodie was over), since middle schools typically end BEFORE elementary schools. Michael has a life--I think he was at the boxing place.

When he gets a corner, Michael does keep Bug away from that--in Season 5, hiring Dukie as his babysitter even. Michael has not lost interest in his little brother. He simply has made the complete switch from big brother to "bring home the bacon" father who has responsibilities that compete with family.

Anonymous said...

Has it been mentioned that Bodie's killer is O-dog?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Simon confirmed at the end of season five that Cheese was Randy's father, and that if season five had been a few episodes longer, they would have directly addressed that.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that tip!! Oh my gosh!! Did he reveal why / how Cheese was able to give him up?

Anonymous said...

Alan, I'm sure this a well-worn comparison, but I think it fits here and wondered what you thought. This season was an anti-yellow brick road experience for our characters:

Namond: as lion, lost his courage--referenced by drawings Wee-bey's cell-mate drew for him (You could argue he never had courage, of course)
Randy: as scarecrow, lost his brain (gave up information that destroyed him)
Michael: as tinman, lost his heart (although, I'm not sure he does completely)
Dukie: as Dorothy, lost his home (although all of the boys lost their home in the end, but and did Dukie ever really have one?)

Just something I was thinking about as I considered why the writers chose "heart" and "lion" as the symbols depicted in the Asian symbols given to Namond right before school started.

Jen said...

In a previous episode, I was wondering why it had been specified that Snoop had a sister who was in Namond's class. She never had any lines, but there were shots of a girl who looks an awful lot like Snoop in the front of the class. In this final ep of the season, when I saw her face, I realized why she was there. There was an emotional impact to seeing a younger, not-hardened version of Snoop's face. There may have been a time, once, when Snoop was not cold and hard. Or, perhaps like Michael, Snoop chose a way of life that would support this little sister and keep her out of the mix. We may never know, but it was interesting to see this child's face in an episode where the four main boys started the next phase of their lives.

anakzaman said...

I watched this episode last night and therefore completing season 4 in a week (with the bulk of it over the weekend).

In season 1 Wallace got killed before he could say anything to the police (part of it was Daniels fault). In season 2 Landsman was at fault as he couldn't connect Ziggy to the Sobotka detail so that the Greek's people had time to clear up Double G's place. In season 3 when Lester finally got String's phone number, Omar and Brother Mouzone got him first. And in season 4 Bodie was ready to give up on Marlo, Chris and Snoop and due to some bad timing he got killed instead. Had he walked out 5 minutes earlier or later and nobody would have seen him with McNulty.

Season 5 is next and I hope the ending will be different.

Apart from that season 4 is majestic. The rise from Namond, Michael, Randy, and Dukie being boys to being men and all forced different ways. Herc's stupidity that seem to increase exponentially with the his striped (which he didn't earn, he only got them because he saw Royce getting a blowjob and even then he didn't know what to do), and he is to blame for Randy and Bubbs. McNulty being absent for much of the time but nicely set up for season 5. Lester for being Lester (why doesn't Daniels just promote him so that Lester can head MCU properly?). Carver for showing that he actually earned his stripes and that he has matured both as a person and as a cop.

Can't wait to pop in Season 5 in my DVD player.

Anonymous said...

One of the overwhelming impressions I am left with by this series is how all the public servants are completely ham-strung by budgetary constraints (of which statistical performance-measures are merely a sub-set), which is all due to the fact that the population-in-general will ultimately vote for the candidate who can deliver the lowest tax rates, as opposed to the best policies.

In my mind, those in authority, up to and including the President, are merely public servants and it is the taxpayers who have ultimate responsibility - for everything.

If the electorate continually opts for the lowest bidder then, of course they're going to get compromised government decision-making, shabby public services and, consequently, all the social ills portrayed by the show.

So, perhaps, what The Wire is saying is that it is all our fault and, maybe, that a measure of a person's social responsibility is how many cents on the dollar one is prepared to pay to have those social ills cleared up with any degree of permanency.

Mark C.

Jim said...

Three years later, let me answer the question and point out that "Tyrell" is Donut's real name.

Markeith, one of the other troublemakers from Bunny's class, is also listed on the Fayette Mafia graffiti (also with Namond, Michael, Randy, Dukie and Kenard).

The 2nd Black President said...

I just finished watching the 4th season for the first time since 2006. My goodness. The second viewing was even tougher to watch, I think. But what amazing storytelling. Heartbreaking...

Angela said...

Alan wrote:
(And why am I sitting around expressing so much hope about the future of fictional characters? Why does this show do this to me?)

I've wondered the same thing myself at times. But geeze, The Wire is so real I forget it's not about real people.

Any time I'm talking to someone and they say something about the wrongness of politics, or poverty, or get the idea, I bring up this show because it stays on my mind all the time. I want everyone to see it, because I feel like if they did it would help change things. Then again, I'm an idealist.

Of all the eps., I've seen thus far, these last two were the hardest for me. And I don't think it was because it was about kids this season. I'm not one of those "We have to save the- fill in the blank- for our children" kind of people. I think all people matter, young or old. It's more that each season I'm a little more aware, and the truth is hard to take. I don't say that lightly. It is very hard for me to watch.

But then I read your review Alan, and I'm thinking to myself, "Hm, why don't I watch the next episode tonight because I wonder what happens with...". Very confusing, this push/pull thing The Wire does.

One quick thought about this episode. I wonder if because McNulty is part of the reason Bodie got shot, he'll stay the straight and narrow. Didn't he say to Beadie that he owed it to a kid to go back?

Now I've learned enough to know that Bodie had a a 99% chance of coming to an end in this manner sooner or later, and McNulty knows it too, but guilt is a funny thing.
to be continued....

Angela said...

(Sorry, I received an error saying my comment was to long)
Speaking of guilt, the drug rehab man had something to say about that to Kima in regards to Bubs, but now I forget exactly what he said. Something about how guilt will make you do something, but then it bites you in the ass. Next time, I'll write it down.

One last point. I fear for Daniels. Rawls feels threatened by him, and thinks he's going to take his job. (I don't understand the chain of command but if Daniels were to be promoted, wouldn't he get Rawls job?)

Rawls said as much when he told Daniels how well he was getting a handle on politics. And when Daniels said "I'm learning as I go" Rawls gave him this look that said, "I bet you are." I'm afraid something bad is going to happen to his career. Now, when he's finally content and happy. He even said "It's a new day in Baltimore." I sure hope I'm wrong that his job is in jeopardy.

Alan has done such a wonderful job of covering all the characters, I'm going to leave it at that.

Once again, Thanks Alan. These reviews mean a hell of a lot.

Nia said...

I will just like to agree with everyone else...your coverage has been refreshing and makes me feel warm and tingly inside because I am not the only one wanting to get serious thoughts out about fictional characters...with that said Thank you David for the show and Alan for your faithful follow ups and notice of the posters comments...I love that you read what people write and answer when necessary...

Oaktown Girl said...

I'll separate my Deadwood cameo comment from my other thoughts, such as they are. Here's my take on the Deadwood cameo:

Alan - you have been so big on illustrating all the parallels that happen on this show, but it seems you missed an obvious one here (and I've love to hear your feedback if you get the chance).

The Deadwood scene that they chose to show was the first face-to-face meeting between gangster and thug Al and "proper lady", Alma. What was happening in the hospital room at that very same time? The first conversation between gangster and thug Cutty and a very "proper lady" in the form of his nurse.

Even more parallels when you break it down further. Just to mention one is where both Al and Cutty happen to be on the good guy/bad guy scale at that moment: Al's motives are not completely selfish and evil for his meeting with Alma, but she has to be convinced. And Cutty, well, the nurse assumes he's a straight-up gangster, but she has no idea he's been trying to do better for a while now and landed in the hospital on a mission of mercy trying to save Michael.

Finally, I don't think the Deadwood cameo was a "dig". Not only did it have a relevant parallel, it gave us a good laugh with/at the man who'd clearly never seen the show before. And if it was a "dig", it seemed more of a good humored elbow jab than a straight insult. So I'm cool with that.

Harry Manback said... want to talk about a scene that would be funny if it weren't so sad? How about when Carver flips out in his car after seeing what Randy is in for. That was almost as heartbreaking as anything else; and in a comedy, it could've easily been played for laughs, but I sure couldn't crack a smile.

Ahmedhkan said...

One of the side stories of this series is Bodie's unfulfilled longing for recognition from both his higher-ups and his associates of his conscientious commitment to and competent discharge of his duties as a soldier. Except possibly for having moved Bodie up from the Pit to the Towers, Stringer never really gave him that recognition - and he always desired most of all Stringer's approval. "Dragon Lady" DeLonda gave him grief. And from Marlo & Co. he got nothing but demeaning comments and relegation to that organization's lowest caste. Ironically, Bodie expresses his frustrations to a cop, McNulty, while the two of them are breaking bread* in the Cylburn Arboretum. McNulty, whose first encounter with Bodie included McNulty's calling him "Mr. Shit," seems genuinely sincere in his statement to him that he's a soldier, one of the highest accolades you can attribute to one engaged in Bodie's line of work. McNulty is asking him to act contrary to his basic code by giving up Marlo, i.e., snitching - an agonizing choice for a soldier, not completely unlike that posed by Colvin in S3 when he asks the street cops to go counter to their own codes by looking the other way in his Hamsterdam scheme. Bodie's reluctance is driven not by fear of reprisal but because it's counter to a code he deeply embraces.

*In the series some of Bodie's most "regular guy" moments appear with his breaking bread with the cops, e.g., the pool shooting scene in S1 with Herc & Carver when he fends off a follow-up beating with his statement to Herc that the sandwich they bought him was good, and both the fast food restaurant and Cylburn Arboretum conversations with McNulty.

Preston, my murdering, drug-dealing, tragic and amusing friend, you left us too soon. Your abbreviated life is, sadly, that of far too many of our young folks in this country and could serve as the basis of a PBS Frontline documentary. You were an indispensable part of this story and will be greatly missed. Without you the series would have been diminished.

Anonymous said...

I thought I was in the middle of a Pelecanos episode. Allow me to go and recover my heart, because this finale ripped it out.

The scene with Bodie and Jimmy in the park is one of the best in show, thus making it one of the best on TV. Ever. Bodie's "I feel old" was so heartfelt. And yes, he stayed a soldier to the end, protecing his stupid corner. I cried. And yes, I realize I cried for someone who killed his friend. This is what this show does to us.
What can I say about the kids that hasn't already been said? Seeing Dukie on the corner, knowing he's not cut of for this life, is tragic. When CArver brought Randy to the group home, I was hoping he'd just grab him and run out of there, but that's not how the show works. I also feel that Randy was put in more danger being walked into the home by a cop, but maybe I'm wrong.
Overall, an amazing, amazing finale to an incredible, heartbreaking season.
I'm going back to S3 for now (mostly for some Avon/Stringer eye-candy).
...and I'm crying again...


AF said...

This is my first time watching the Wire series (I know I'm years behind, but I'm only 21, and would not have been allowed to watch when the show first aired), and Alan, I just want to share others' sentiments at how wonderfully poignant your commentary has been. I always read it and want you to talk even more about each episode.

I agree with Angela, these last two episodes were the hardest of the series for me to watch. I watched them virtually back to back, and the thought of watching the finale after the penultimate episode filled me with an enormous sense of dread. I'm not used to being affected in such a real, visceral way by a television show.

Bodie's death has been the hardest one of the series for me so far. I paused my DVD player once I realized what was happening, and sat crying in anticipation. Yes, I was so angry at him for killing Wallace (and his seemingly eager initial attitude towards it), but ultimately, I understood that Wallace's fate had already been sealed and I held Stringer much more responsible. What stuck me is that Bodie represents the average American. No matter what your walk of life, or occupation, or race, Bodie represents the individual who has committed himself to an institution, and has followed its rules, lived by its code, and performed at a capacity good enough for him to survive, but not perceived as worthy of any special recognition. Like most of us, he is not born with a legacy of his forefathers, like Namond with Wee-Bay, or Carcetti and his political family. He doesn't have an immediately identifiable aptitude, like Michael, for whom every adult who came across him wanted to mentor him. He doesn't have the charisma or likability of a Randy; we grew to love Bodie because we watched him learn from his mistakes and evolve. Bodie, like he said in his final speech, is just the victim of a rigged game. He realized that the outcome of his life had very little to do with his actions. He exemplified the rules of his game to the best of his ability: "he never fucked up a count, never stole off a package, never did some shit [he] wasn't told to do," but it all amounts to very little in the end, because "the game is rigged." And that is a metaphor for America.

AF said...

(Cont. from above post) Most of us will never be rich. We will never be famous. We will spend our lives following rules, and living the way others tell us to live. Now the extent of our comfort and happiness depends not on which chess piece we are assigned on the board (99.9% of us are pawns), but the shape of the chessboard and game which we have been placed on. Middle-class America are also mostly pawns in a rigged chess game, but their game provides that even the pawns will be comfortable and have meaningful lives. The lower and working class Americans (on which this show does a beautiful job of illustrating) are playing on an entirely different chessboard in an entirely different game. Even their queens and kingpins (like Stringer and Avon) are in constant danger of capture and elimination, and fall fairly early in their lives. And if the kingpins and queens on the lower class America chessboard are so susceptible to defeat, imagine being a pawn.

And while I can see all of that on an academic level, on a personal level, Bodie's death haunts me because it represents the death of tens of thousands of young black men just like him. They aren't evil, or stupid; they are bright, ambitious, and talented. They just had the misfortune of being born a black pawn on a chessboard. As a young African American female, I identify with the characters in this show on a true level. I know people like Bodie, and Michael, and Poot, and Namond, and Sherrod, and I have first-hand knowledge of how the course of their lives were changed by the intervention of well-meaning adults, and the bad luck that they just happened to run into. Two of my closest friends resemble characters so much, it's scary. I could say so much more about how my ability to relate makes the Wire both so good, and so especially morbid for me, but my comment is already atrociously long. But once again, thank you Alan, for this commentary, and thank you David Simon, for accurately depicting the plight of the black underclass. It's a story that is not told very often because, quite frankly, no one wants to be so fundamentally depressed from fiction. But it is a reality for too many people in our country.

Ida said...

Wow. What an episode -- what a season.

There's not much I can add, except... I found some hope in that (albeit awkward) sex scene Dukie overhears/glimpses. Michael had a wonderful gentleness in asking the girl if she was sure, and there was some playfulness in the tickling bit before.

Thank you for this blog! I'm years late to this, and I so appreciate the debrief of your writing and others' comments on this searing, beautiful show.

drowning too said...

Again, this is the just about the most complete, best commentary on The Wire out there.

One small detail. Alan refers to the obnoxious white guy in Carcetti's inner circle as "nameless budget guy." (On The Wire Wiki, he's mistakenly called "Andy.") He does have a name, Michael Steintorf, Carcetti's chief of staff after he assumes the office of mayor. The great Norman Wilson was more a trusted campaign advisor. He's still a top advisor, but not chief of staff. And there is another character most frequently seen discussing budget numbers. He, not Steintorf, comes closest to being "nameless budget guy."