Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Wire, "Took": Goodnight moon

Spoilers for "The Wire" season 5, episode 7, "Took," coming up just as soon as I go to IKEA...

Is your living room dusty? Mine feel's pretty dusty right now, if you know what I'm saying. How else could I possibly explain the moistness in my eye sockets as Kima delivered her ghetto version of "Goodnight Moon" to young Elijah?

Oh, wait, I know: because it was one of the sweetest, most beautiful scenes in the whole series.

Richard Price, who wrote "Took," actually lifted the scene from his novel "Clockers," at the request of David Simon. (Scroll down to around the 16th comment to Andrew Johnston's review at The House Next Door for Simon's explanation of why he keeps asking Price to cannibalize that book for the show.) But it fits perfectly into this episode, as the show throws its support behind Gus' "This ain't Beirut" argument with Klebanow and Whiting. A carpet-bagging, myopic writer like Templeton looks at Baltimore as a blighted, war-torn city that's beyond salvation, where a Baltimore native like Gus or Kima looks on it as a messed-up place that's still, as Gus says, "Our fuckin' city."

If Templeton had a kid and tried to do "Goodnight Moon" for him in the middle of the night and then heard street activity outside his window, he'd likely slam the window shut and try to distract the kid from all that scary noise. What Kima does -- what "The Wire" consistently and brilliantly does -- is to incorporate the unfortunate sights and sounds outside the window into a larger view of the world, which is the world Elijah will grow up in. Yes, the drug culture is tragic and a blight on society, but it exists, and it affects Kima and will affect Elijah one day -- and, frankly, Kima has affection for certain elements of it. (Bubbles, for one.) You can be afraid of the world outside your window, you can demonize it and mythologize it and try to win awards from it, or you can confront it head on and maybe even find a way to make it seem less scary for the little boy in your arms.

I could probably go on for several thousand more words about that scene -- how Kima, despite her problems with assembling compressed particle board furniture aside, looks to be a much better weekend parent than McNulty, for instance -- but seeing as how its has virtually nothing to do with the ongoing stories (even if it's a kind of perfect thematic coda for the series), let's move on to the rest of the episode.

Start with Clay Davis' spellbinding performance on the witness stand. (Not to mention Isaiah Whitlock's equal brilliance throughout, particularly the moment on the courthouse steps where Clay turns his back to the reporters and you see just how scared he is.) Hey, Prosecutor O-Bond-a (heh) -- that is why you're supposed to use the Head Shot when you have it, because it prevents a slick con man like Clay from talking his way to jury nullification. Bond (or, more likely, Ronnie) should have known which way the wind was blowing the second Clay's lawyer chose not to cross-examine Lester, as you only do that move if you're not planning to address the facts of the case in your defense.

So Clay had that jury eating out of his hand, and in the process places himself on equal moral footing with McNulty. Clay's defense about how he was really using the charity money is identical to the justification Jimmy and Lester are using for their phony serial killer scam: get the money tap turned on by any means necessary, even if it's a complete and total lie, and then use the money where it can really do some good. (In reality, of course, Clay is just pocketing that cash.) Not that Lester has either the time or the sense of perspective anymore to see how Clay's defense compares to his current actions, but if he could get his nose out from all those clock photos, he might realize that this is some shameful shit he and Jimmy are pulling.

Jimmy has no time to notice, either, as he's waffling between being drunk with the power he's given himself and terror at how quickly and widely this lie is spinning out of control. If he had given any real thought to how much publicity he might generate, he never would have shown his face in that Richmond homeless shelter where he dumped Larry. How long is it going to be before the shelter worker he met sees Larry's picture on the news and give a detailed description of the guy who dropped Larry off with them? Jimmy knows how much trouble he's in, and though he tries to act big in front of Bunk -- mainly to defend himself from Bunk's accusation that his lie is getting in the way of real police work -- you can tell he wants an escape hatch, like, yesterday.

Last week, I talked about how Jimmy's abduction of Larry was the moment where he took his scheme way too far, but Kima's interview with the parents of an earlier "victim" show that Jimmy's actions have been reprehensible from the start. Sure, the dead guys are in no condition to care about what's being done to their corpses, but Jimmy's lie is devastating the family members. Like the parents say, it's bad enough to live with the knowledge that you didn't (or couldn't) prevent your son from killing himself with drugs and alcohol, but it's far, far worse to believe that you failed to protect him from being murdered and sexually molested.

And I love how, even in the middle of a completely farcical storyline like this one, Simon and Burns and Price are skilled and wise enough to step back from the comedy for a moment and show the real human cost of all this silliness. What makes "The Wire" so amazing is the way it consistently finds the comedy inside tragedy, or, here, vice versa. There's a similar sort of moment in the pre-credits sequence. After all the comedy with Jimmy's fake Baltimore accent (no doubt a goof on Dominic West's historically shaky attempt to not sound British) and Scott scared out of his mind, we go to Sydnor witnessing the chaos he just helped create, and he could not look more disgusted with himself. Yeah, he wants to get Marlo as much as anybody, but at this price?

If there's one area where I'm disappointed in the serial killer story, it's in Scott's complete obliviousness to what Jimmy is doing. Yes, we have knowledge that the characters don't, but I think it's a real missed opportunity -- and maybe the first time I've agreed with the people who argue that Simon is too tunnel-visioned in his writing of the Baltimore Sun characters -- to have Scott be so oblivious that he has no idea how phony this all is. In the scene where McNulty comes to the Sun offices, we see that Gus is able to poke a half-dozen different holes in the story. And while I get that Gus is supposed to represent all that's good and pure and noble about journalism while Scott represents all that's ruining it, think how much more complex the character would be, and how much more interesting this part of the story might be, if Scott's fabulist tendencies weren't a mark of him being incompetent but simply impatient and entitled. Imagine if he actually had enough reportorial chops to see what was really going on here -- the same way Jimmy did after Scott's "He made another call?" line in episode five -- and realized he had stumbled upon an amazing story that he would never be able to report, because reporting it would expose his own lies. Maybe the story will still go there in the final three episodes (which I haven't seen yet), but right now it doesn't feel like this story is being exploited as well as it could be if Scott weren't such an idiot.

Gus, clearly, is no idiot. Not only is he able to sniff out inconsistencies in Jimmy's story, but he finally takes steps to investigate one of Scott's previous lies, the one from last week about the sister of the lady who died from eating shellfish. For those who couldn't make sense of Gus' conversation with Dennis Mello (more about that scene below), he asks Mello whether Scott's explanation -- that the sister is good people, and that some neighborhood con woman keeps using the sister's name whenever she's arrested, hence the confusion about the scholarship fund -- holds up, and Mello explains that the hypothetical con woman would only be able to impersonate the sister one time before the system figured her out. So now that he has fairly solid evidence that Scott is making things up at least some of the time -- and, as he notes to his pal Rebecca, if Scott will lie like that to duck a correction, how much would he lie to improve his stories? -- what's he going to do about it? Like he also says to Rebecca, he doesn't want to call another reporter a liar, and Scott has the added benefit of being the pet of the paper's top two editors. Why do I have a very bad feeling that Gus is going to pay far more for Scott's lies than Scott himself? (Because this is "The Wire," that's why.)

And why do I continue to have a bad feeling about Omar? (ibid) Much as it was gratifying to see Savino (who, you may remember, was one of the key guys in the ambush that nearly killed Kima in season one) taken out of the picture, it was painful seeing Omar definitively break his promise to Bunk like that. (It's unclear whether he also killed the guy on the floor in the stash house, but if he did, at least that was in something resembling self-defense.) I know that Omar is now at war with Marlo, and that it's bad strategy to leave an enemy soldier alive and in play, but Omar has always been defined by his code, and part of his code is keeping his word. It's a very slippery slope he's limping down here.

Was I the only one, by the way, who took Michael's fear of Omar to have two meanings? Obviously, he's terrified that Omar might recognize him from the shootout where Donnie got killed. But we were also reminded in this episode that Bug's dad molested him, and I'm sure in Michael's worldview that homosexuals and child molesters are one and the same. To have Omar not only holding a gun on him, but sitting that close to him, and behind him -- a position that Bug's dad surely occupied many times when Michael was younger -- must have freaked Michael the hell out, even though he would never admit that to any of the other kids on the corner.

I think it's pretty clear by now that Omar's not going to survive this mission. Even if he somehow takes out Marlo or Chris or Snoop, it'll be a mutually assured destruction scenario. But I have a feeling that Omar may be denied a larger-than-life end, that the person killing him will be someone less glamorous, whether it's Michael or even little Kenard, who acted like he couldn't have been less impressed by Omar hobbling around on his broom.

Some other thoughts on "Took":
  • Gus' arrival at the bar where he met Mello featured a moment that was both a loving tribute to fans of David Simon's work and an absolute nightmare for continuity wonks. In case you never watched "Homicide" -- or "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," for that matter -- the grey-haired guy trying to extend his tab was none other than Detective John Munch, the most crossover-happy character in TV history. He started on "Homicide" (where he did, in fact, own a bar for a time), is now a regular on "SVU" and has appeared, in character, on two other "Law & Order" series, "The X-Files," "The Beat" (a short-lived Tom Fontana cop show for UPN), and even "Arrested Development." Having Munch turn up here places "The Wire" in the same fictional universe as not only those shows, but series ranging from "Picket Fences" to "The Simpsons" to "Cheers" to "St. Elsewhere" -- which would, I guess, make "The Wire" nothing but a product of Tommy Westphall's imagination. It's probably one of those things, like last week's Martin O'Malley reference, where it's best not to think too deeply of the continuity implications. And given that Munch was based on Jay Landsman, who plays Dennis Mello, the only thing the scene was missing to be completely mind-blowing was an appearance by Delaney Williams as the "Wire" version of Landsman.
  • The show sure does love its parallel bureaucracies, doesn't it? The montage where Gus and Cedric briefed their respective troops and explained that the recent budget woes wouldn't be a factor evoked previous intercut sequences like the Tilghman teachers and the Western cops both suffering through pointless lectures.
  • And speaking of both Tilghman Middle and the opening of the money tap, we haven't seen Prez yet this season, and now I don't want to. The scene where Carcetti learns the budget ramifications of this investigation running more than a month made me very afraid that one of the school teachers who would be laid off would be Prez, under standard "last one hired, first one fired" protocol.
  • The On Demand discussion has been fairly light on guesses as to how the clock photo code works. Do you think it has anything at all to do with time? And is Marlo supposed to be using it to communicate with people like Monk, or did Vondas intend for him to only use it for Marlo-to-Vondas messaging?
  • For the people with legal expertise, can the Head Shot still be used on Clay, or is it double jeopardy even though one charge was state and the other would be federal? And is there any way O-Bond-a would allow the federal prosecutor to bag Clay after he failed so spectacularly?
  • In case you missed the credits, this one was the directorial debut of Dominic West. Usually, when actors direct an episode of the series they're on, it's one where they won't be appearing very much. Given the prominence of the McNulty story this year, that obviously wasn't possible, but I thought West did a good job of blending in with the house style. The only scene that felt even a little bit un-"Wire" was the final one, with the long pullback from Kima's window, but even that seemed an appropriate touch for that particular moment.
  • Bubbs finally seems to have turned a corner. He's serving food, happily, at the soup kitchen, he's wearing his hat again, and he's serving as Mike Fletcher's tour guide to the homeless world the same way he used to help Kima and Sydnor navigate the drug world. I don't know what kind of future Bubbs has ahead of him, but he seems to be one of the few characters who I expect to end the series in a positive frame of mind. Very gratifying to see.
  • Getting back to Michael and Bug's dad, it was interesting to see how shaken Michael was by those crime scene photos Bunk showed him. On the one hand, I'm sure he feels Bug's dad deserved that punishment and more for what he did; on the other, that's more damage than he's ever seen the normally calm and efficient Chris commit before.
  • The scene where Carver picks up Michael from his corner had a number of hilarious moments, whether it was Dukie struggling to interpret the want ads (see below), Dukie pop-locking to show what a great exotic dancer he could be, or Michael uttering McNulty's "What the fuck did I do?" catchphrase.
  • As is happening more and more this season (see also Bill Zorzi as Bill Zorzi), Clay's defense attorney Billy Murphy was played by real-life Baltimore attorney (and judge) Billy Murphy.
Lines of the week:
"Policework. What do you know?" -Kima (echoing Carcetti's "Homelessness. Huh." from last week)

"'High quality dental office seeks front desk.'" -Dukie reading a want ad
"What, do they mean like furniture?" -Michael

"Ain't you the little king of diamonds?" -Bunk to McNulty

"You doing good here, boss." -Crutchfield
"What did you just call me?" -McNulty

"Man, they want some good contestants, they need to come around westside." -Clay Davis on "Survivor"

"What the fuck just happened?" -Bond
"Whatever it was, they don't teach it in law school." -Ronnie

"45 inches of Clay Davis playing not just the race card but the whole deck coming at you." -Gus

"I feel very white." -Tim Phelps (Sun state editor)

"Let's say goodnight to everybody. Goodnight moon. Goodnight stars. Goodnight po-pos. Goodnight fiends. Goodnight hoppers. Goodnight hustlers. Goodnight scammers. Goodnight to everybody. Goodnight to one and all." -Kima & Elijah
What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...


How could you not put the "Prometheus" and Aeschylus lines by Clay Davis in the line of the week? That was just ridiculously funny.

Anonymous said...

My first thought when Lester was sifting through all the clock photos was that they need Prez to do some extra-curricular work and crack the code. Maybe that's how they get him in the show before the final episode.

Anonymous said...
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Chris Littmann said...

Great final scene.
And now I just remembered why I don't read comments -- thanks to that third jerk.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Okay, I'm going to make this real simple, real early: if anyone makes even an oblique reference to scenes that may or may not have been leaked from later episodes, I'm going to delete those comments, and if it happens more than a couple of times, I'm going to shut down comments altogether.

Are we clear?

KcM said...

I actually think Scott's not figuring out McNulty's angle makes sense. The things we know about Scott is that he's [a] self-absorbed, [b] high on his own writing ability, and [c] lying pretty much all the time now. (Other than the Iraq soldier story, have we seen him turn in good copy?) Sure, it usually takes a B.S'er to catch a B.S.'er, but Scott's life, based as it is on lies, is one of fear now. He's so wrapped up in his own headspace and keeping his stories straight that I don't think it'd even occur to him to question McNulty's veracity. (Plus, figuring out McNulty's lying would mean Scott had to believe someone else -- a working-class, alcoholic Bal'more cop, for that matter -- is as clever and crafty as he is.)

Bubbles putting the hat on was a nice touch. It looks like Fletcher might finally be the apt pupil Bubbles has been waiting for.

I thought the only other non-Wireish camera angle (besides Goodnight Moon) was the copter-eye-view of Sydnor and the harbor plaza in the pre-credit sequence. Either way, West did a fine job.

Also, Davis almost blew it in his jury trial with that O-bond-a crack...didn't he see the Maryland returns?

Anonymous said...

My clock guesses:

*May have something to do with location, not time. Each hour represents a predefined east-west street and each minute a north-south street. The stash is hidden at a secure, guarded location at that cross-street.

*May be not location but drug amounts - hour hand pointing to number of kilos, minutes representing quarter-kilos (with the clock set a few minutes off from the quarter-hour as a diversion)

*Location again, maybe treating Baltimore as the clockface: hour hand at 9 for West side, at 4:30 for southeast, etc., with each sector having a predefined stash dropoff place known to both parties, making the minute hand a red herring.

*A combination amount/location: hour hand for kilos, but each number also represents one of 12 dropoff locations, which the minute hand indicates.

Alan Sepinwall said...

How could you not put the "Prometheus" and Aeschylus lines by Clay Davis in the line of the week? That was just ridiculously funny.

I wasn't sure how to spell Clay's mispronunciations.

Anonymous said...

Michael wearing a t-shirt with a crown on it when he gets arrested... I love it. Even the wardrobe people are brilliant, giving him the throne by extension of his association with Marlo.

Omar's limping is inconsistent. I know he's injured, but found it odd that he needed it to go up to the corner, didn't need it for Fat Face Rick or Savuino. I'm thinking he's putting on a show to make Marlo folk think he is weaker than he is.

Are we allowed to talk about the previews in here? Caught an interesting note/parallel, but I don't want to ruin it for other Wire junkies who didn't catch it or don't watch.

Anonymous said...

I liked the parallel between McNulty parceling out the overtime to other needy cops, and Clay Davis' asserted parcelling out of charity money to needy constituents. McNulty as godfather?

I don't think double jeopardy would protect Davis. I don't know all the elements of the federal crime involved, but if it involves at least one or two different elements from the state crime, the feds could now step in. I have to say, though, that was one of the fastest trials I've ever seen.

Finally, I'm glad the critics don't know what's coming in the last three episodes. Some idiot of a critic described the Kima "Goodnight, Moon" sequence in a review before the season started, either in EW or the Baltimore Sun itself if I remember correctly. That guy should be downsized.

On that note, I guess we know why Alan was asking about Munch in a post the other day. Alan, you've been far better about keeping the lid on what's coming than most of your professional colleagues, but I admit I would have rather my reaction to Belzer showing up been: "Hey, was that Munch?" than "well, I guess I know why Alan was asking about Munch the other day."

I think "a-sillius" probably comes the closest. I about fell off the sofa at that one. I'd like to know how many takes that one required.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Just because we're heading into the closing episodes where the big stuff is expected to go down, let's avoid talking about the previews, okay?

Also, Dominic West said in his TV Guide interview that the Omar/Michael scene was supposed to be filmed at night, but when scheduling issues pushed it into a daytime shoot, West came up with the idea of Omar posing as a homeless guy until he could get close to the corner. So, in theory, he was playing up the limp more in that scene.

Anonymous said...

On the clock thing: I think it's basic. As Lester points out last episode, these boys/men are all products of Baltimore City schools. (I haven't seen ahead to know what it is.) Marlo seemed to get it prety quick (and he's not good at new ideas as the bank scene will attest. It's got to be something VERY simple.

Gus is a great teacher/editor. As a junior writer/editor who's worked with some great and not so great folk, I can appreciate his patience and instruction. (The quotes are often the weakest part of the story; Just go be with people.)

Byron Hauck said...

I have to think that Bubs finding his place in the world just means he's going to be dead or addicted when the show ends.

I still think the end might be that everyone on the street dies or in prison for decades, the police are all demoted or worse, and Avon walks out of prison, ready to get going again.

Alan Sepinwall said...

On that note, I guess we know why Alan was asking about Munch in a post the other day. Alan, you've been far better about keeping the lid on what's coming than most of your professional colleagues, but I admit I would have rather my reaction to Belzer showing up been: "Hey, was that Munch?" than "well, I guess I know why Alan was asking about Munch the other day."

The Belzer thing was actually written about back when the season was in production, so it wasn't being kept as a big big secret.

That said, I needed the link, and there was no way to ask about the Munch thing without mentioning Munch.

Anonymous said...

I knew that Munch would be on sometime, but I forgot when, so it was a nice surprise seeing him, continuity headaches notwithstanding.

under standard "last one hired, first one hired"

I think you mean "first one fired," right? :-)

One of the sad things in all this mess is the demise of Bunk and McNulty's friendship. Yeah, it's not as important as catching Marlo, or the horrors McNulty has visited upon the entirety of Bal'more (he's hooked the mayor, the press, the PD, the teachers, the parents of the victims, et al), but it still makes me sad to see these two apart. And it especially makes me sad that Bunk's ability to crack the case has been completely hamstrung by McNulty's lie. Damn you, Jimmy.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and I think Clay said "Pro-meh-this." Isiah is the fuckin' man in that role, sheeeit.

David said...

An acquittal in state court wouldn't bar prosecution of the Head Shot, or any other possible charges, in federal court. Double jeopardy doesn't operate between the federal government and state governments because they are separate sovereigns.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I think you mean "first one fired," right? :-)

Yes. Fixed. Where's Jay Spry when you need him? Sigh...

Anonymous said...

How about this quote: "My record so long I'm about to put an album."

As for the Goodnight, Moon scene, I hated it. The Wire has always underplayed, and usually avoided altogether, scenes like this. If Kima had said just one line, "Goodnight Po Po's," it would have been nice. But to continue with the rest as the camera executes a dramatic (and decidedly un-Wire-like) crane pullback from the apartment window was over-the-top sentimentality, the kind of thing that Simon et al. have been rigorous to avoid in the past.

TL said...

I'm a little disappointed in the resolution of the Clay Davis story. Not because Clay walked, which I expected, but because it was so easy. Certainly a DA would be able to see his "defense" a mile away and would have had evidence (besides the driver who waffled on the stand) showing that Clay used the money to his own ends.

I know they're working with time restrictions, but for the DA to screw up that badly is less believable than Jimmy's serial killer.

Anonymous said...

I'd have to say of all the tragedies that The Wire is showing us right now, I think the one that is breaking my heart the most is Thomas Carcetti as a completely awful and politician mayor. That bastard had me believing he was actually going to try and change Baltimore but once in office, he ended up being just another politician. It's because of this crap that most Americans are cynical about our political process.

Anonymous said...

David is right re: double jeopardy. I think the Clay storyline is done, but if not, maybe Pearlman takes it up to the feds?

On the clock thing: I think it's basic. As Lester points out last episode, these boys/men are all products of Baltimore City schools. (I haven't seen ahead to know what it is.) Marlo seemed to get it prety quick (and he's not good at new ideas as the bank scene will attest. It's got to be something VERY simple.

I assume you're referring to how quickly Marlo got it when Vondas gave him the phone? I think Marlo just instantly understood why a regular wire tap wouldn't work on this new phone. I am sure they had a conversation about the code and what not.

I agree with what someone said above about it referring to a location -- either some sort of directional grid code or maybe dock numbers?

And I went to law school -- they definitely don't teach what Clay did in law school. Sheeeeeeeeeeeeet.

Unknown said...

Great episode and great analysis, as always, Alan.. Someone mentioned Michael's's probably from Jamie Hector's (Marlo) clothing line called Royal Addiction, Marlo was wearing one when he did Prop Joe.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a big fan of this season in general because of the frantic pace and lack of character detail, but I found the Clay Davis stuff specifically problematic. As many people have said, this whole process would probably have taken a year or more. Davis's attorney wouldn't have been hired the week of the trial. Bond would have leveraged the "head shot" into a plea bargain. More speculatively, it seems odd that given the tremendous amount of time that's gone into this case (as well as the cooperation of Price), they could only bring a few very specific charges. You'd expect Davis to be at least tarred in the media with all of the drug connections if nothing else. Usually I'm not a stickler for realism in TV shows, but this whole plot line simply felt off to me. I don't think it's true to life in any real sense, and that the writers of the Wire may have sacrificed verisimilitude to demonstrate their favorite themes of institutional incompetence and the evils of the politicians.

Anonymous said...

ahhhh. thanks, Ami.

TL said...

Okay, I'm going to make this real simple, real early: if anyone makes even an oblique reference to scenes that may or may not have been leaked from later episodes, I'm going to delete those comments, and if it happens more than a couple of times, I'm going to shut down comments altogether.

Thanks for looking out for us, Alan.

Mo Ryan said...

Sorry, but I could not focus at all on the Goodnight Moon scene -- I know what they were trying to do there, but I was horrified. Clearly Kima had a small child walking around in an apartment with a window wide open -- no screen. I know, I know -- the shot would have looked a lot worse had the screen been down. But from the second she sat down with the kid, I had my heart in my mouth. Good lord, an open window on an upper floor -- and a small child perched on the edge of that? Yes, I know, she had a good grip on the kid, but I can't get around my basic reaction to that scene, which was: Holy sh*t, that window doesn't have a screen! As the parent of a small, wriggly child, I almost felt sick.

Nice writing, a little theatrically staged -- but I would have bought it had there been a screen on that window.

Other than that -- I hope we get more Bubs. I have more thoughts but I think you all covered most of em.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

About the speed of the Clay Davis trial: First, I think the whole episode covered a time span of several weeks. The cold open gives the immediate rationale for more money and additional equipment to decode images. By the end of the episode, Lester is looking at dozens of printouts of clocks. A good amount of time must have passed for him to collect that many images.

Second, keep in mind that the Davis trial was not very complex: three almost identical charges of theft. Aside from the different amounts and dates on the checks, everything else is the same and only needs to be explained once. In other words, any jury would have found Davis either guilty on all charges, or not guilty on all charges.

Third, the evidence presented in the trial was pretty straightforward. There wasn't any debate about DNA, the timeline of events, state of mind, competency, motions to suppress, or any of the other cliche elements of court-room dramas. To any objective observer, and certainly to DA Bond, the case was open and shut: there was no arguing about the paper trail, and indeed nobody argued about it. Even Davis himself made no attempt to dispute it. I think this was partly Simon et al.'s way of saying that some (most?) court cases are pretty straightforward, unlike what we're led to believe by watching The Practice, Law and Order, or Nancy Grace. Most DAs, unlike Jack McCoy or the ADAs on The Practice, are pragmatists: they'll only move forward when they are certain they can win (and usually they would go for a plea agreement).

So as far as Bond is concerned, the case is ironclad. He has to be sure it is, because he must nail Davis to advance his own political goals. The only reason this goes to trial is the publicity. His hubris lies in the assumption that the jury will consider the facts rationally, or will look at the facts at all. How often have you heard Jack McCoy say "Murder is murder -- it doesn't matter if (insert pitiable character) did it only to avenge (insert horrific crime)" and the jury does the right thing and recognizes the logic of the argument and considers the relevant matters of fact and law.

The brilliance of Davis's defense is that it didn't even need to paint him as a modern day Robin Hood. He did not take from the rich in order to give to the needy. According to the defense, he took money that was given voluntarily in the form of donations and which was destined for the needy anyway and he slightly redirected it. Who could argue with that?

The above stated facts have led me to conclude that McNulty is likely to get off in a similar fashion, for the great help he's been to his fellow officers.

Anonymous said...

please please please put up a comments section for tonights on demand episode.

Cyn C. said...

Another outta-the-park episode. My only beef is that this is the fastest hour of my life all week. I'm always sad when the end credits roll, and am steeling myself for the series end. "The Wire" is indeed something worthy of a time capsule.

About oily "Scotty boy" Templeton: Let's see how long this story that's "got legs" takes before it's hobbling as much as Omar was in front of the hoppers. Scott has left quite a trail of pretty transparent lies, and I'm glad someone in management is paying attention.

I think it would be pretty easy for Gus to prove that the so-called first call from the killer never happened. He could pull Scott's cell phone records and take a look incoming calls on the day he claims he was contacted. All but one call could be explained -- all but the one he claimed was from the killer at the time he said he received it. The fact that it originated from a pay phone just outside the building *and* the fact that it was much too brief for the exchange Scott described to have really occurred would be fairly strong evidence of Scott's lie -- his biggest one that we know of.

On a separate subject, I think the poster who suggested that Michael's T-shirt (with the "1" and crown) was from Jamie Hector's Royal Addiction collection seems half right, at least. If you check out Hector's web site (, you see several men’s Ts. Their design is similar to what Michael had on, but I'm guessing Michael's was a very limited release.

If I had a DVD with the remaining episodes on it, there is absolutely no way I could wait.

TL said...

To any objective observer, and certainly to DA Bond, the case was open and shut: there was no arguing about the paper trail, and indeed nobody argued about it.

Well, I guess I disagree since Rhonda spent weeks with a grand jury. And while I appreciate them not trying to make it a "trial of the century" Battlestar Galactica-esque thing, any DA worth his salt would would have had evidence to trace the money to Clay actually misappropriating it. Again, I'm willing to write this off to not having enough time to do everything, but it just seemed like 2 seasons worth of work went down the toilet and there wasn't even time to appreciate it.

Also, the feds could prosecute him for the "head shot," but what's the point? He's been vindicated in the "court of public opinion"; federal charges now would just make it look like he really was being "persecuted," especially for something so obviously trumped up. The Clay Davis ship has sailed....

Anonymous said...

Since no one has stepped in yet, I'll say based on my memories from law school that Clay could DEFINITELY be re-tried in Federal Court. In general, I remember there being exceptions where two crimes contain different elements (elements being the individual facts needed to prove guilt of a specific crime, eg, for murder, you'd need to prove both that the defendant committed the act and that he had the requisite criminal intent)). But in this case, I think the federal crime involved different acts altogether, so it wouldn't be a problem at all.
But either way, to echo what an earlier commenter said, the verisimilitude of the whole trial was completely out the window. It made for good drama, and a great peformance by Whitlock, sure, but The Wire used to be about subverting the conventions of drama in order to show something more realistic.
One of my favorite scenes from the show is from the first season, where they finally burst in to arrest Avon (and not Stringer). Rather than have the climactic gun battle and chase that most cop shows would have, they are just there waiting to get arrested, because in real life, guys like that know that getting into a gunfight with the cops would cause way more problems than it would solve.
Having a trial that's over and done with in a day (about complicated financial crimes no less-- these days slip and fall lawsuits take days to complete!) is ridiculous, as is a judge letting a defendant grandstand in a way that has absolutely no value in determining whether he actually did what he is being accused of.
In fact, all of the law this season has been off. In the first season there's that scene where Rhonda explains the concept of "exhaustion," (as in, you have to exhaust your other options of surveillance before a judge will give a wiretap). It also helped illustrate what a pain it is to get that kind of warrant. In this season, they've completely glossed over the fact that ultimately Jimmy and Lester's plan is not just morally questionable, it's bound to fail because nothing they're getting would hold up in court! Fuzzy Dunlop was one thing but they'd be trying to bring down a major kingpin (who now has Morry Levy on retainer!). They wouldn't be able to cut corners like that.

Anonymous said...

(Oops-- my posting overlapped with the previous two, which did address the trial stuff)

Anonymous said...

12:12am Anon.

You are an asshole.

Alan, you should delete that one too.

Anonymous said...

I could not agree more most-recently-posting-anonymous.

Anonymous said...

I'm not saying the trial is necessarily believable, honestly I'm not sure. However, the trial definately lasted more then one day, as some think it did. At the same time though, it also was not spread out of 3 weeks either.

All that being said, I can totally go with Fluffy's explaination (except the thing about it lasting several weeks). Bond had thrown in several hints that he want the trial to be swift, particularly one comment to Rhonda about slimming down the witness list so as not to boar the jury.

Anonymous said...

The final scene (brilliant, beautiful) leads me to believe she's the one coming out of this with her morality intact. Kinda ties nicely with the role she played towards the end of Season 1, as well. Any points in between where her morality is compromised?

P.S. Excellent stuff, Alan, and thank you to all those leaving great, insightful comments; this is my first season reading along after the episode airs and I wish I'd known about it sooner.

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

Another great line was Day-Day, apologizing for cursing in court: "My b, judge."

Jenn said...

[i]James Cardis[/i] - She seems to have redeemed herself, but in Seasons 2 or 3, Kima was pretty much off the morality reservation, drinking and cheating like she was McNulty.

I'm thinking (hoping) it's Bubs that ends up okay and with everything in tact. I know being a thieving drug addict kind of defeats that statement, but he's always seemed to have a code and tried to do good.

Eric Hartley said...

As for favorite lines, no one's mentioned Lester's reaction to Jimmy's lament that the FBI is now going to draw up a psychological profile of their phony killer.

"Who knows? You might learn something about yourself."

Indeed, I imagine the psych profile of Jimmy McNulty would run more than a few pages. (Not that Lester is one to talk at this point...)

Abbie said...

Prez would not be among the last hired, though. This season started 15 months after the last season ended, so he's been teaching at least two, possibly into his third year of teaching.

Anonymous said...

As an attorney, the ridiculous of the courtroom sequence made me question the authenticity of the depictions of all of the other professions on the show. Davis could never get away with such antics in a courtroom. Where was the cross examination of Davis which should have ripped him to shreds based on cold hard facts? Maybe law school didn't prepare the DAs for that but surely WORKING for a decade or so would have? The high priced lawyer Davis hired gave one of the dumbest direct examinations I have ever seen depicted on television. If he is so prestigious, why was his exam so rudimentary and silly? Sigh.

This really made me think that the writer of this episode know about courtroom sequences only from other television shows written by writers who know nothing about courtroom sequences.

Anonymous said...

Bond couldn't have objected at any point during Davis' speech?

And so are we all just accepting that Omar made the leap (at least) four stories, only suffered a broken leg/ankle, and was able to crawl to the janitor's closet in the same building and was never detected?

rukrusher said...

Re: Fuzzy Dunlap

The key difference between Fuzzy Dunlap and the current scheme is that the mic in the tennis ball was legal, the street level dealer has no expectation of privacy when he discusses drug activity on a street corner. The only reason they came up with the fake CI was to get paid and to get the info up the ladder. If it came out Herc and Carver used a microphone the evidence would still be admissible, but tainted by their credibility. What Lester is doing is a violation of the 4th amendment plain and simple, no wiggle room on this one.

Regarding the courtroom scene, I think they just showed the direct examination of Clay and his testimony was not objectionable, you assume that a strong cross examination should have swayed the jury to convict but we never got to see that part. I dot think that once he goes for jury nullification a motion for directed verdict could have been made, he basically testified he illegally took funds from the charities and gave it to other charitable causes without records. The jury at that point should have been taken out of the equation.

Lou said...

I think as far as realism goes, I guess we should keep in mind that this is 3 episodes shorter than it should be- I'm guessing they didn't have time to play out things like the trial. As it was said in the previous comment, maybe it was intended to comment on the way trials are shown on television shows, maybe tipped of by Richard Belzer's appearence in the bar. Or maybe just a nod to at the Wire actors who've shown up in episodes of Law and Order?

Also- is it possible that Bond and Pearlman's unpreparedness was tipped when they forgot to tell the Baltimore Sun reporter about the Clay Davis perp walk?

rukrusher said...

Regarding Kima's Goodnight Moon scene, I loved the blinking blue light of the safe neighborhood camera and gun shot detector in the background. But I agree that I did not appreciate the scene because it was so unwire like. I like Alan's write up better then the scene itself.

Anonymous said...

I actually think Omar is going to prevail. I think Bunk & Lester are going to nail Chris, Snoop & Marlo, but they're all going to be dead at Omar's hands anyway... breaking his word to Bunk in the process.

That's not how I want it to end, that's just my current theory.

Anonymous said...

It's pretty obvious that anon 2/18/08 10:14am and 2/18/08 10:47am is merely a troll trying to rile people up.

I wouldn't be at all suprised if this is the same anon who was posting spiolers in this section.

someone with a grudge? a CSI fan perhaps?

Anonymous said...

And so are we all just accepting that Omar made the leap (at least) four stories, only suffered a broken leg/ankle, and was able to crawl to the janitor's closet in the same building and was never detected

Omar is driven by revenge and pumped up with adrenaline. I have no problem believing he could crawl (or limp through the pain) to that closet and hide out.

We've seen how slick Clay can be in past eps. I don't have a problem believing he could work his magic on a jury like that.

TL said...

Jimmy and Lester's plan is not just morally questionable, it's bound to fail because nothing they're getting would hold up in court!

Wasn't there a Jimmy/Lester exchange a couple episodes back where they say they're going to use the wiretap to figure out how to get other evidence? I imagine they'll try to crack the code, then use surveillance to catch Marlow in the act, then say they were tipped off on where to surveil by a bogus CI.

Unknown said...

But wouldn't have to produce the CI to someone at some point?

Anonymous said...

Anyone else in the NY area not have Ep. 58 available on demand yet? This is killing me--first time an episode hasn't been up by Monday.

Anonymous said...

I disagree profoundly with Alan's view of Scott Templeton's character. He gets that Scott is a self entitled character, and The Wire goes to rather long lengths to show that Scott has a very elevated view of himself. However, it seems that Alan misses what self entitlement actually *does*.

As far as Scott Templeton is concerned, the primary effect is that he has a very reduced sense of other people's agency. Templeton has a very binary sense of the world, not even reaching Manichean levels of sophistication, and so he has a great deal of trouble anticipating what a third party who is not in conflict with him would do.

It isn't that Scott isn't capable of sniffing out bull, it's that Scott's sense of entitlement--that things should be handed to him on a plate, ready to consume--blinds him from seeing the ingredients of the dish "Someone's Fucking With You" and being able to put it together. You have to give him the dish straight up for him to get it, or you have to directly oppose him for him to be motivated to get it.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 3:47: I am also in New York and we are having the same problem. We have Time Warner digital in our apartment.

Anonymous said...

I called Time Warner. It was a problem throughout Manhattan. It's fixed at least in Harlem. Hurry. GO!!! Watch!!! I think I'm giving nothing away by saying it's yet another amazing episode.

Anonymous said...

must say i generally agree w/ shah8's post-
I see Scott as being so forward-looking and unconcerned w/ his present job that he fails to see signs of mcnulty's ruse, not because of mere incompetence, but because he does feel, and is in fact, "entitled" and "impatient".

Nicole said...

The law parts of this show reminded me of Ally McBeal. There is no way any lawyer who have let the Defendant speechify without at least trying to object, even if it was in vain. It's about ruining the flow and a common principle. However, the other parts made me overlook the silliness of the trial.

Anonymous said...

The clock code could be a simple number/letter substitution. Here is an example:

I'll have to re-watch because I can't remember if more than one photo came through per call. I don't imagine they sent enough photos to spell out long words but it could be something simple, such as just giving quantity and location.

As for Marlo's quick grasp of the concept, perhaps Vondas showed him the decoder, as shown in the above link, rather than a delivered photo. You only need a single glance at the master decoder to understand it.

My take on Prometheus (which had me on the floor so much I almost missed Aeschylus) was:


Anonymous said...


Still not fixed in Queens. Argh!

Anonymous said...

Alan, I also thought the scene with Michael and Omar was amazing in that it not only showed Michael physically keeping his head turned so as not to be recognized from the shootout, but also displayed his revulsion at being touched by Omar. And Omar, at the end of the threats, pulled back and regarded Michael in a more sly fashion, calling him something like "sweet young'un."

Clay calls the Titan "PROM uh thuss," and the author "a SILL lee us." Silly us. Did anyone else notice court reporter Bill Zorzi, who asked Davis what he was reading, cracking up on the steps?

Anonymous said...

There's a good, short interview with Dominic West in today's L.A. Times. No spoilers, per se, though one thing he says towards the end gave me an inkling of what might be coming in the last ep (only because I tend to speculate wildly about these things), so there's your "buyer beware" :-)

Jenn said...

Actually, I think there's a pretty big spoiler in there, so definitely, if you are at all spoiler-phobic, stay away.

Jay said...

Interesting, Alan, that in a season which twice condemned newspapers for sympathizing with white victims over black victims, and middle-class victims over poor victims, that a white newspaper columnist would point out how "Jimmy's lie is devastating [Larry's] family members," while neglecting to mention that Marlo has had twenty-nine black people (and one white person) murdered. Not to mention that the product Marlo buys from the Greek supports his smuggling chemicals and sex slaves into the country. To be fair, I'm not saying that your stance is wrong, but The Wire, and I believe David Simon is telling us, the world, has more nuances than you're giving it credit for, and one of the series' major themes is whether we do something reprehensible now or we let someone else do something more reprehensible later. The show is filled with characters who are doing what you're doing, giving into what's been inculcated and choosing the former, not because it's the right choice (no choice is) but because it's just the easiest route to some, or any, moral high ground.

Anonymous said...


I'm not sure where you draw this conclusion that Alan has neglected to mention that Marlo has 29 black victims and those victims are not getting the same media play....its been discussed many times here by Alan and many commentators. How could it not--it's one of the most obvious themes of the season. Pointing out that Jimmy's lie devastates Larry's family does not mean he is ignoring the real murder victims--those are definately being discussed here, as are most issues, large and small, obvious and nuanced, Wire related. The point of your post is kind of fuzzy, but I think you are looking for some sort of passively racist moral failing that's not present in this particular blog. I don't think Alan is the one trying to stake out moral high ground here...

Anonymous said...

Did I miss something along the way regarding Bug's dad? I guess this show taught me to not take anything at face value, so I've always assumed that Michael made it up to get rid of the man, since he thought Chris wouldn't help unless he gave him an extreme reason. Then it turned out Chris had his own feelings about pedophilia. Now I'm second-guessing myself. I mean, it would certainly explain his objection to his presence. Still, has there been a concrete moment that confirms that Michael was telling Chris the truth, and not just trying to play him?

Anonymous said...

^Bug's dad stroked Michael's face in a very creepy way while creepily speaking of how he'd grown. It was pretty obvious that Michael wasn't lying. Did I mention it was creepy?

Anonymous said...

Bunk opens and peruses a file on Bug's dad while calling him a "baby-bumping bastard." When he goes at Michael in the interrogation room, he shows him the pictures of Bug's dead dad and says that even though the man deserved to die for the "heinous" deeds he did to Michael, his murder was still a case of, um, overkill.

Anonymous said...

That Michael had been abused is clear also by the way he resisted getting close to any male figure, Prez and Cutty in particualr: when hopes out of the van to avoid being alone with Cutty. And as someone else said, the way he caressed Michael's face and said "you grew" was beyond creepy.

ZeppJets said...

I had figured that Omar's promise to Bunk was basically null and void now. He is trying to kill Marlo, right? What else do we think he plans to do if Marlo comes "down to the street"? A round of fisticuffs? Plus, he was shooting pretty earnestly at Chris/Michael/Snoop. It is unclear, but I had thought that the guy on the floor in the stash house was dead.

I mention it because I thoroughly enjoyed that scene: Omar's contemplative moment where he gives up on any sophisticated plan and decides that Savino deserves it. Not directly for Butchie, indirectly for the kind of plague he represents.

I haven't seen the last three episodes- but the limping Omar definitely has the feel of a disintegrating super hero (kids like Kenard used to worship and imitate him like some perverse GI Joe). And he seems to know, in moments like this, that his opportunities for karmic justice are running out.

Anonymous said...

Well, knowing that Billy Murphy was playing himself, that line about how he has all the publicity he needs just got a whole lot funnier.