Friday, June 06, 2008

The Wire, Season 1, Episode 2, "The Detail" (Veterans edition)

Same rules as established last week. We're going to talk about season one of "The Wire" in two different versions: one safe for people who are brand-new to the show (or who haven't watched all the way through to the end), one where we can talk about anything from first episode to last. This is the latter; scroll down for the Newbies edition if you want to be safe from discussion of things to come.

Spoilers for episode 2, "The Detail," coming up just as soon as I show you just how light my trigger pull is...

David Simon modeled "The Wire" on Greek tragedy -- every bad thing that happens to characters on this show (and many bad things will happen to many characters) is pre-ordained and unchangeable -- but there are also elements of heroic quest narratives, at least from the point of view of our "heroes," the cops. One of the most frequent recurring features of hero narratives is the gathering of the team, whether it's the Argonauts or the Magnificent Seven or the Justice League. As the title of "The Detail" suggests, this episode's largely about the forming of a team, the detail tasked with putting a charge on Avon Barksdale as quickly and quietly as possible. But this is no collection of bad-ass gunfighters or noble superheroes. In true "Wire" fashion, it's mostly a bunch of humps.

Yes, there are McNulty and Kima, whom we already know to be clever police, and near the end of the episode, Lt. Daniels guilts the auto theft squad commander into loaning out his best man, Sydnor (he's the young black guy in the suit who shows up right before Daniels gives his speech to the troops two-thirds of the way through the episode). But beyond that, near as we can tell at this point, are humps as far as the eye can see. The worst offender, obviously, is Det. Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski, a clumsy menace to himself and others who would be easy to laugh at if we didn't witness him blind a 14-year-old boy in one eye for no particular reason. There's also the duo of Herc and Carver, Kima's crude, knuckle-headed (and knuckle-dragging) Narcotics partners who enable Prez's assault on the kid by deciding to go down to the high-rises in the first place while drunk at 2 in the morning. We also have Polk and Mahone, the two wheezing old drunks, about whom Daniels was likely not exaggerating when he said they hadn't made a case in 10 years. There's Lester Freamon, the "cuddly housecat" from the pawn shop unit, who says little and whose only activity of note here is to work on assembling miniature furniture. And there's Detective Santangelo from Homicide, who doesn't do anything particularly egregious here but who can't be very useful if Rawls consented to give him up to this doomed expedition.

And then there's Lt. Cedric Daniels, who dominates this episode almost as much as McNulty did the pilot. What are we to make of Daniels?

Daniels is a company man, no doubt about it, but his loyalty to the organization in general and Deputy Ops Burrell in particular isn't blind. In the meeting with command about the Gant case, he's the only one who seems at all interested in exploring the possibility that Gant was killed for testifying at D'Angelo's trial, and he definitely has the respect of Kima, Herc and Carver. But he's being pulled horribly in both directions. On one side is Burrell, who just wants this Barksdale mess to disappear and is setting Daniels up to fail by ensuring that he gets assigned all the aforementioned humps. On the other side is McNulty, who actually cares about making the case, but is so quick to judge Daniels -- and so sure that McNulty himself is the smartest, most dedicated guy in the room -- that he keeps going around chain of command and putting Daniels in positions where the boss has no choice but to come down on him, and hard.

McNulty, though, doesn't get it nearly as badly as Prez, Herc and Carver do the morning after their assault on the high-rises. (There are actors who try to play hard-asses but are clearly only playing; when Lance Reddick starts dressing down those three, he's intimidating enough that I start edging towards the back of the couch.) And even there, Daniels' handling of the situation is all in shades of grey. His three cops have just done something completely FUBAR, and something that has terrible racial overtones, even with Carver present -- note how he refers to the high-rise residents to Daniels -- but what can Daniels do? Not only is Prez politically connected to an influential commander in the Southeastern District, not only is it part of the unwritten code for cops to cover for each other in situations like this, but the entire detail is already under a microscope, and so Daniels makes the politically expedient choice instead of the morally correct one. But given the pressure on him from all sides, what the hell else could he do? This is far, far from the last time on this series that we'll see one of the good guys do what is easy instead of what is right; that's "The Wire."

While Daniels is getting a handle on the flaming bag of crap that Burrell left on his doorstep, McNulty (with major assistance from The Bunk) has his first face-to-face confrontation with D'Angelo, and has the good timing to be approaching his man at the exact moment when D is starting to experience some doubts about the business he has chosen.

There was already a taste of that in the pilot, when D complained to Stringer Bell about the beating of Johnny, but now that he has the death of a second man on his conscience -- and a civilian, at that, as opposed to the player he shot in the Terrace lobby -- the questions really begin. First we get that brilliant scene on the orange couch where Wallace and Poot assume that the inventor of the McNugget made a fortune off the idea, and D'Angelo has to set them straight about how big corporations -- or police departments, or drug organizations, or any of the many institutions that this series distrusts -- really works. The way it is, D explains, the McNugget inventor is just some anonymous grunt who found a way to make more money for his corporate overlords. Poot says that's not right.

"It ain't about right. It's about money," D insists, one of several series-defining statements in this episode.

Another of those comes during the extraordinary interrogation scene at Homicide. (That scene's the first indication that Larry Gilliard Jr. is going to do something really special here. In typical Hollywood fashion, nobody in the business noticed, and his post-show profile is just as low as it was before. It's sad how excited I got when I saw him in a small role in a screener for next week's episode of "Fear Itself.") McNulty has already explained to the Pit crew that all he cares about are the bodies, not the drugs, and right before he and Bunk try guilting D'Angelo with the tale of Gant's (fictional) orphaned children, McNulty asks D'Angelo a very simple question:

"Why can't you sell the shit and walk the fuck away? Everything else in this country gets sold without shooting people behind it."

This is one of the show's fundamental tenets about the drug problem in America. On the one hand, law-enforcement wastes far too many resources policing low-level dealers and users, resources that could be far better-used elsewhere. On the other hand, the drug players bring much of the police attention on themselves by beating, stabbing or outright killing folks in a way that the cops just can't ignore. As McNulty asks here -- and as several other characters will ask throughout the run of the series -- wouldn't things be a lot better for everybody if they could sell the dope without dropping bodies along the way?

And in the third major movement of the hour, Kima puts Bubbs to work at getting to know the crew they're going after. The red hat scam is a lovely idea, and the first sign we get of Bubbles' immense charm. (He spends most of the first episode either trying to get high or being high.) As I said last week, "The Wire" teaches you how to watch it, and part of that is in the way it slowly and carefully explains who all the characters are and how they relate to each other. The Barksdale organization is large and populated by unknown actors, and so we get Bubbs helping Kima identify them one-by-one on the detail's cork board. So now we know three of Avon's muscle: Wee-Bey (the muscular guy with the beard and close-cropped hair), Stinkum (the bald guy who vaguely resembles Stephon Marbury) and Little Man (the ironically-nicknamed heavyset guy). And in a less organized fashion, we're getting to know the crew down in the Pit, all of D'Angelo's young assistants, and how they relate to one another.

There's still plenty of people to meet and things to learn about them, but many balls are now rolling.

Some other thoughts on "The Detail":
  • We get our first semi-human look at the detail's target when D'Angelo takes his son and baby mama, Donnette, to a neighborhood barbecue hosted by Avon. For all the bad things that Avon has done and will do, he fancies himself a benevolent kingpin -- think young Don Vito strolling through Little Italy during "The Godfather Part II" -- and will make the occasional community-minded gesture like this one.
  • I suppose I should make some mention of the show's main title sequence. While the Blind Boys of Alabama's cover of Tom Waits' "Way Down in the Hole" is my favorite of the five versions of the song used over the years (even though I still think the lead singer sounds like Andre Royo as Bubbs), I've never loved this particular title sequence, because so little of it comes from the actual episodes, especially compared to later years. If you want some deep analysis of the credits sequence, Andrew Dignan did a nice breakdown of the first four seasons' sequences at The House Next Door back in '06. (Newbie alert: Even before he gets to discussing the season 2-4 sequences, Andrew gives away some major plot developments from both this season and the future, so you may want to bookmark it for reading much later.)
  • I'm half-tempted to keep a weekly tally of Dominic West's most explicitly British line readings. This week, it was his pronunciation of "Narco" as "knocko."
  • One of the stylistic choices that Simon and Robert Colesberry insisted for this show was -- with one yearly exception, for the montage near the end of each season finale -- to eschew the use of any music that didn't come from a practical background source. No score, no songs that appear as if from nowhere. If the song doesn't originate from the sound system at a club, or somebody's car stereo (as in this episode's use of "American Woman" during the terrible trio's middle of the night arrival at the high-rises), it can't be used. Eventually, the producers would find ways to bend their own rules -- there's a montage midway through season two that's scored to Johnny Cash's "Walk the Line," but it's justified because the character who appears at the beginning and end is listening to it on a portable stereo -- but for the most part, the lack of musical cues helps the show's aura of realism, as well as Simon's desire not to hold the audience's hand and tell them how to feel at any given moment.
  • The show is fond of having two characters in unrelated social strata utter the same sentiment, independently of each other, to illustrate the connectivity of society and the way all problems are the same, just on different scales. Here, we get something slightly different: McNulty shoots down Daniels' lame defense for not treating the witness killing as such by pointing out that everybody on the street already knows, but when he goes to accuse Judge Phelan of ratting him out to the newspaper, Phelan throws the argument back at McNulty by pointing out that everybody in the courthouse knew, and therefore could have talked to the reporter.
  • This episode gives us our first glimpse of McNulty's apartment, and I applaud the production and set design team's anti-decorative approach to the place. It's rare to see a character on a TV show live in such a barren rathole -- even a poor, maladjusted single male cop like Sipowicz had a tropical fish tank and other interesting decor in his place -- but this seems like exactly the kind of place a post-divorce McNulty would call home. All the money that doesn't go into child support goes to supporting his drinking habit, and so does any time that might otherwise be spent on making the place look even slightly nice.
  • The show rarely dipped into the "Homicide" casting pool, other than Clark Johnson coming out from behind the camera to play a central role in the final season (far more actors came from "Oz"), but there's a handful of "Homicide" fringe players here in the early going. Most obvious is Peter Gerety (Stu Gharty) as Judge Phelan, but we've also now seen Clayton LeBouef (Col. Barnfather) as Orlando, who fronts the strip club that Avon uses as his headquarters, and this week we get the first appearance by Erik Todd Dellums as medical examiner Doc Frazier. On "Homicide," Dellums played Luther Mahoney, a charismatic drug lord with a family-run organization who eventually drew the attention of a persistent Homicide cop. Much as I loved "Homicide" in its early years, the difference between the cackling two-dimensional Luther and this show's depiction of Avon illustrates just how far "Homicide" eventually fell, and how "The Wire" rose far above its most obvious TV inspiration.
And once again, it's time to look into the characters' future and see what was foreshadowed (intentionally or not) in this episode:
  • We have a new wrinkle to the question about the origin of Clay Davis' catchphrase. While Clay himself won't appear until late in this season -- and he won't say "Sheeeeit!!!!" until season three -- it does come up during the McNugget discussion. Hmmm...
  • Did you catch Daniels calling Ronnie "Darling" while he was trying to sweet-talk her into helping with his complaint for better manpower? I don't know if the Daniels/Pearlman relationship was planned out this far in advance, but if it wasn't, moments like that (and the nice chemistry between Lance Reddick and Deirdre Lovejoy) no doubt helped convince the writers it might be worth exploring.
  • It's really amazing to me how little we've seen of Stringer in the first two episodes. I remembered Avon as being more of a phantom presence in this season, but Simon's restraint in waiting to really establish his chief antagonist -- and arguably the most memorable character in the series' history -- is either admirable or nuts, or maybe both.
  • It's also a lot of fun, in retrospect, to see Prez and Freamon in their early days. With Lester, it's obviously not a matter of his abilities, but rather him hanging back until an opportunity presented itself for him to show off said abilities, but you can understand why he'd be categorized among the detail's humps. Prez, on the other hand... if I hadn't witnessed the step-by-step five-season transition with my own eyes, it would be almost impossible to reconcile the violent, hotheaded moron he is here with the mature, gentle and empathic school teacher he became by the end of the series, or even with the natural investigator he turned out to be before he got kicked off the force for another poor decision with his gun.
  • Herc's fixation on rank and the rights and privileges that come along with a sergeant's stripes comes up for the first time here, as he complains that Kima orders him around even though they're the same rank. As Herc will prove throughout season four, those stripes don't automatically make you wiser, just better-paid.
Up next (as in next Friday morning): "The Buys," in which Daniels deals with more fallout from Prez's rampage, D'Angelo gives Bodie and Wallace a very valuable chess lesson, and we meet a fella by the name of Omar.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

Just want to go on record saying how much I love that you are doing these. I've watched each season (with the exception of five) four times through now, and I'm still picking up new insights from these reviews.

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

Awesome, thanks Alan! I am almost done re-watching Season 1 already b/c I cannot stop watching. I may just race through, watch all 4 (or 5 if it comes out before I'm done) seasons and then just re-watch each episode on Thursday night before you post the review.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, these recaps are great. I haven't watched this episode recently, but I think McNulty's use of the term "knockos" is a reference to Richard Price's Clockers (one of The Wire's primary influences, and an excellent read) instead of an accent lapse. The characters in that book often use the term, and I'm not sure if Price heard it on the street or just misheard "narco" during his research. Then again, Price also knew that any street lingo in the book would be obsolete in just a few years, so he made up a bunch of slang terms (including the title of the book, a fictional term for dealers).

So we can probably erase that instance from the list of West's accent slip-ups. There are a lot, but I'll admit I had no idea he was from across the pond until I heard him on a DVD commentary.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Fuzzydunlop, in this particular context, West is pronouncing the word in a completely different way from everyone else in the scene. Bodie clearly calls Jimmy a "Narco," and then Jimmy retorts with "I'm not a Knocko."

Mike said...

Polk and Mahone... Pogue Mahone... The Pogues! I can't _believe_ I just got that. I loved the use of "Body Of An American" for the various police wakes, but never put the character names together like that.

Anonymous said...

Again thanks for doing these recaps...of course I haven't been able to restrain myself and I'm just about finished watching (re-watching) Season One. What's a Wire fiend to do?

In a subsequent episode of Season One I noticed them bending the 'no unnatural music' rule. It's the scene where Avon makes a visit to the Pit crew, I believe to reward Wallace for spotting Brandon. He comes in, in slow-motion to very stylized background music that as far as I can tell did not belong anywhere organically. Having watched all the seasons and being very accustomed to the no-music style, I found it very jarring!

Alan Sepinwall said...

Indeed, thanks for reminding me of Avon's entrance into the Pit. It's maybe the only time in the series where they completely violate the rules. With Prez's "Walk the Line"/cork board montage in season two, or Cutty jogging through a lot of election day drama to "Move On Up" in season four, they at least made a pretense of playing by the rule, and the season-ending montages are a built-in exception. Avon's entrance...? Well, I guess we can study it further when we get to that episode.

Anonymous said...

Baltimore seems to have a set of slang all to itself. They don't call smokeable cocaine "crack" they refer to it as "ready-rock." The same goes with "knocko" vs "narco." When I first heard the phrase on the Wire, I thought it was a mistake. Since then, I have read both of Simon's books, The Corner and Homicide, and throughout each the term knocko is used to describe the narcotics officers. It is not an accent flub, it is just Bawlmore slang.

Alan Sepinwall said...

It is not an accent flub, it is just Bawlmore slang.

In that case, then it was J.D. Williams' Newark accent coming into play, because the word he says and the word West says are two completely different words.

The Critic said...

I also wanted to say I'm loving these reviews and cant wait for next weeks...Omar was and will be my fav character of all time, so I cant wait to revisit his introduction. The farmer in the dell...{~whistling~}

floretbroccoli said...

And when the corner kids scatter when they see a cop car, they all say "nocko, nocko."

Anonymous said...

The lookouts also call out "5-0!" (any police, or "poh-lice" in the world of the wire) and "rollers" (uniforms in a marked car, right?)

Anonymous said...

There's also one other pretty significant violation of the no unnatural music rule in season 2 when Frank walking to his death with the Greek music in the background. Unless I'm mistaken, that music had no specific origins on the show (except maybe the resteraunt Vondas and The Greek were eating at, I'll have to check).

Chicken Pizza? said...

mike: "pogue mahone" is also gaelic slang meaning something to the effect of "f#*k off". probably the intention of the pun more than a should to the as-yet-unreferenced pogues tune.

Mattt Enss said...

At first, I thought Daniels was making the morally incorrect decision supporting Herc, Carver, and Prez, but The Wire went on to show me that it's necessary for officers in command to protect their people, even when they screw up. Right or wrong, the officers under Daniels will not show him loyalty unless he protects them, and without that loyalty Daniels would not remain in a command position. We see Colvin and Carver do the same thing in later seasons.

Anonymous said...

Lovin these as well. I've watched every episode 4+ times but still find a few things in your recaps that I didnt view the same you did or never noticed before.

It's amazing that even though Omar is such a huge part of The Wire and fan favorite character, that even without him there is still so much to this show.

Anonymous said...

Chicken Pizza/Mike: Pogue mahone means "kiss my ass," but it's also The Pogues' original name. Just FYI.

Love the recaps, thanks!

Anonymous said...

Alan -- There's also a long "sheeeeeeeit" in either Clockers or Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets. I can't remember if that was mentioned in the piece on the etymology of the Clay Davis use of it.

Anonymous said...

I started re-watching all the seasons a while ago so I'm not really in line with discussions(3/4 through season 4 right now) but I remember there was some discussion over Rawles using a certain word in the pilot. Herc definitely uses it while mocking what Marlo is probably saying on the video feed before the camera goes missing in the 7th episode (guess on the number) of season 4.

Also another parallel with last weeks, “…there you go…” line, happened earlier in season 4 between Carcetti and his campaign manager. She didn’t say it completely but if I remember correctly it had a very similar thematic tone to the point where you almost wanted to finish the line for her. This happened after Carcetti was stepping on some toes in the Public Safety city council meetings (I have no idea what those meetings are actually, it’s mentioned multiple times but come on).

Anonymous said...

d.simon writing in to affirm that knockos is the Baltimore corruption of narco as offered routinely by corner boys.

west did not slip accent there.



Alan Sepinwall said...

Well, I'll just be quiet on this point, then.

Anonymous said...


While its likely too tall an order to fill over the summer, but do you plan on (eventually) reviewing the 2nd and 3rd seasons this way as well? Best as I can recall, you only did the full write ups for the last 2 seasons.

Anonymous said...

maybe I am nit picking a bit since I am on the lookout for any McNulty British slip ups, but take a good listen when he says "hello" as he is awakened by Bunk to get the paper....I was almost waiting for a "Govnah" to complete the sentence!
Alan, this is great stuff, and is really making a crappy, strike torn tv season seem a distant memory and helping to pass the summer tv doldrums.
thanks a bunch

Anonymous said...

When I went back and watched these episodes, I was pretty struck by Stringer's absence as well. I just don't think the writers knew what they had in Elba until later. It's really hard to reconcile the Stringer of season 1 who takes point on torturing Brandon and who D'Angelo refers to as the chess piece who does the dirty work with the Stringer of later seasons.

Anonymous said...

It's really hard to reconcile the Stringer of season 1 who takes point on torturing Brandon and who D'Angelo refers to as the chess piece who does the dirty work with the Stringer of later seasons.

I don't have much trouble seeing it. The key difference is that in season 1, Stringer is much a much more pronounced #2 guy. Once Avon gets locked up, Stringer becomes the top dog and no longer has to oversee the dirty work, and by the time Avon gets out, they had to adopt a co-leader status rather than the more defined #1 & #2 roles.

Anonymous said...

even with Carver present -- note how he refers to the high-rise residents to Daniels --

I found it quite jarring when Carver dismissed them as "project niggers". In that moment, he reminded me of Officer Walker from Season 4, another African American cop who harbored loathing for his own people. That element of black-on-black racism is disturbing.

I was also struck by Herc's use of the slur "dyke" to describe Kima Greggs. Herc obviously resented being ordered around by an openly gay woman. This gender dynamic is one aspect that I wish the show had explored more. In general, the issues of women, particularly those struggling within these oppressive (and patriarchal) institutions, were largely ignored.

Alan Sepinwall said...

The key difference is that in season 1, Stringer is much a much more pronounced #2 guy. Once Avon gets locked up, Stringer becomes the top dog and no longer has to oversee the dirty work, and by the time Avon gets out, they had to adopt a co-leader status rather than the more defined #1 & #2 roles.

That's my thinking as well. It's not until he gets to run the show all by himself that Stringer finally has the freedom to implement all his business school ideas and try to fundamentally change the nature of the drug game in Baltimore. And it's not like he abandoned violence after season one: see what happened to D, or the hilarious attempt to kill Omar while he was taking his granny to church.

Alan Sepinwall said...

While its likely too tall an order to fill over the summer, but do you plan on (eventually) reviewing the 2nd and 3rd seasons this way as well? Best as I can recall, you only did the full write ups for the last 2 seasons.

Didn't have a blog during seasons 1-3. I'd like to eventually hit 2 & 3, but I doubt I'll have the time this summer. Barring another strike, maybe it'll be a summertime fixture on the blog for a couple more years.

Anonymous said...

I want to say that these reviews of season 1 are a great idea. Re-watching these epsiodes, you realize how well planned out the storyline really was (all other shows pale in comparision in regards to this, and it's not even close). Reminds me of Lester later on in the season saying "All the pieces matter"
The McNulty-Bunk-Deangelo scenes really stand out for me. And its criminal how Larry Gillard (along with everyone else in the show) has been ignored by the major TV award associations.

And Alan, along the same lines of the Pearlman and Daniels scene, do you think the Stringer-Donette relationship was planned this far ahead as well, with Stringer making a small pass at her?

Its also amazing how the Wire gets you to sympathize with such horrid characters. (One reason why I think the Sopranos is as overrated as the Wire is underrated, as Tony and the crew were never really likeable people.) Stinger and Bodie are real villians for what they did in earlier seasons, but when they met their demise, you couldn;t help but feel bad for them. Even with Deangelo- we find out he kills a man in cold blood in the beginning of the first epsiode, but by the end when we see him react to the Gant killing, we realize hes has a conscience.
This is show is brillant, sorry about the long post.

Anonymous said...

“With Lester, it's obviously not a matter of his abilities, but rather him hanging back until an opportunity presented itself for him to show off said abilities”

Maybe I’m jumping the gun here, because Lester doesn’t show off his abilities for another episode (or two), but do you think Lester was looking for an opportunity to demonstrate his abilities? I was always under the impression that, after 13 years (and four months) in the pawn shop unit, he was content sitting back and coming to work for no other reason that to work on his dollhouse furniture, collect a paycheck and move closer to his pension.

But, because of his instincts as natural po-lice, he couldn’t resist getting involved as he quietly observed McNulty and Kima struggle to get the investigation untracked. Even if he’d rather sit back and countdown the days to retirement, he can’t fight his own nature to get involved.

Again, probably jumped the gun and this is might be better off for next week. My feelings wont be too hurt if this post gets deleted or ignored.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of parallels, I loved Marla Daniel's speech to her husband, "The game is rigged" and "You cannot lose if you do not play." Two themes that echo throughout the series. Sage advice. It's something that D'Angelo tried to explain to his underlings too. Sadly, it took Bodie five years to figure it out.

It's also interesting that both Herc and Avon Barksdale used violence to "send a message" to the residents of the Towers. They both wanted to show who was "in charge" by terrorizing them. Avon ordered the murder and display of a working citizen and Herc & his minions assaulted random residents. It's this same hunger for power and control which leads to the bodies and bloodshed that McNulty bemoaned.

Anonymous said...

My feeling that Stringer's character changed between seasons 1 and 2 comes mainly from his conversation with Avon when he confesses to having D'Angelo killed. Avon mocking Stringer for never having taken a life just doesn't square with the Stringer of the first season who does most of the dirt. You can elide the point and argue that Stringer is just following orders, which he is, but I don't recall any ambivalence in him until Avon is in jail and season 2 starts. Maybe that's a character trait rather than an artificial inconsistency, but there's just very little development of String at all to answer the question in the first set of episodes.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to chime in about the awesomeness of Larry Galliard. I was lucky enough to assistant direct a play that he was in at an off-Broadway theatre in 1995. Even back then he was wonderful (and a nice guy, too). I'm really rooting for him--hope some casting directors are in his corner.

Anonymous said...


Have you seen this discussion of The Wire, by three Atlantic staffers? Thought it could be of interest.

Unknown said...

Thanks for pointing to the Atlantic discussion.

It was somewhat interesting, although they must have spent half the time complaining about how horrible the Sun storyline was.

Not that it's invalid criticism but if you are summarizing a show that ran for 5 seasons, focusing on one storyline from one season seems indulgent.

Jarvis and Anita said...

Lookig back at season 1, one thing that has really struck me in the early episodes is the humour - there is a lot of it and it's very organic. A few standout moments which I think were all in this episode:

-- Rawls walks out into the homicide office and orders Landsman to move McNulty's desk out of the unit, before sweeping a whole bunch of files and papers onto the floor. Landsman meekly replies: "That's not McNulty's desk sir. That's Crutchfield's desk. McNulty sits over there," pointing to an adjacent desk.

-- The long scene in the basement office when Daniels and Greggs inform the detail of their assignment. THe construction workers are making a lot of noise and calling out in the background. Clark Johnson explains on the DVD commentary that the humour was a way of defusing a long scene of exposition.

-- At the end of the episode, a drunken McNulty slips and falls down a muddy hill while trying to apprehend some car thieves.

This is classic stuff and I note parallels with the humour in the early episodes of Homicide, which I've just started watching for the first time.

Anonymous said...

It was somewhat interesting, although they must have spent half the time complaining about how horrible the Sun storyline was.

Yeah, that doesn't surpise me at all. I decided the conversation wouldn't be worth listening to when I saw the names Mark Bowden and Jeffrey Goldberg.

Anonymous said...

I don't think there's too much of a difference between early Stringer and late Stringer. He doesn't become uneasy about the violence (as Alan pointed to regarding D's death and his dealings with Omar), but he learned that it's in his own best interest to avoid it when possible.

In the first season, he narrowly escaped jail because they were dropping too many bodies. So he saw the need to switch it up. But when his own interests necessitate violence, he'll do whatever it takes.

Anonymous said...

The show is fond of having two characters in unrelated social strata utter the same sentiment,

My favorite instance of this starts in this episode. "the game is rigged..." states Marla to Cedric. 40+ episodes later, Boadie, a man who never met Marla (and if they did, I'm sure just passed each other on the street) from a completely different background tells McNulty "The game is rigged..." As much as I love Omar throwing the code back at Bunk or Namond and Clay Davis both not caring where money come from, this surpasses both of those instances both for the time between set up and pay off and that these to couldn't possibly have talked to each other about this particular saying.

They both just knew

Anonymous said...

I like McNulty's barren apt too, but in an authentic show, this was a mishap. Ashburton Woods is not a realistic area for McNulty to live. Anyonw who knows Baltimore would agree.

Love these blog posts, keep it up!

Rev/Views said...

I just finished watching the second episode myself last night and I was struck by two relatively minor events that occurred which foreshadow later relationships.

The first is when D brings along his girl Donette to the church. Stringer shows a lot of interest in here even there. Both Avon and Stringer show their appreciation, which is a complement to her and D. Stringer is a lot more hands on.

Likewise, while Daniels is in Rhonda's office bent over moving the files so he can sit down she shows some real appreciation for his behind.

Interesting considering how things end up for these four people.

JeffS said...

Jeff, I'm a native Baltimorean and I too was struck by the incongruity of McNulty living in Ashburton Woods - but when I thought about it further, I decided it actually made sense - just as McNulty doesn't care about the inside of his apartment, he doesn't care what neighborhood it's in either. He's probably somewhat familiar with the neighborhood from his time in the Western, and it's certainly going to be cheaper than living in some place like Canton.
(For non-Baltimoreans, Ashburton has been almost exclusively an African-American neighborhood since the 60's - it would be pretty unusual for a white person to live there - extremely unusual for a white Baltimore police.)

Anonymous said...

I have been reading your blog for a little while now and love that you are reviewing the wire. I have watched them all. You have motivated me to rewatch the series!

incey17 said...

Very minor link to season 5. When Levy comes in to shut D up, he complains that he has been pulled away from his wife's brisket.

In the last episode of season 5, Levy invites Herc round for some of hsi wife's brisket.

I was always surprised that Levy never worked out that it was Herc who got Marlowe's phone number.

Anonymous said...

I thought there was some vague clue that Levy did know, and realized that it had been a HUGE help to Levy. He's now the guy who got Marlo Stanfield off clean.

Duff Soviet Union said...

"even with Deangelo- we find out he kills a man in cold blood in the beginning of the first epsiode". Was it really in cold blood? The way I remember it being described, the guy went at him and D panicked and shot him. It didn't seem pre-meditated the way it was told. It did seem wrong for him to basically laugh it off the way he did though.

Anonymous said...

This is also the first episode in which someone utters "cases go from red to black by way of green" or some small variation thereof. That's a line that will be said close to 10 times over the series

Devin Mitchell said...

I remember looking up Prez after this episode and being disgusted that he was in all five seasons considering he was just reprehensible in "The Detail". I swore I would never recognize Simon and Co.'s redemption of him. But the gradual way it was done and the person he is at the end of the series makes it hard not to like him. One of many examples of subtext in people taking advantage of second chances.

Ahmedkhan said...

Kima scoffs as she looks around at the unit's dingy basement quarters, and declares, "God DAMN. Who do you have to f*** in this town to get a good office?"

There are certain key moments in a series, and for me, this is one of them. I knew I was going to become fully invested in Kima's character following this remark. It is an attitude I can relate to and identify with. Go Kima!

Another moment: I knew I was going to like this entire series in the second scene of Episode 1, when Stringer holds up his "F*** you, Detective) cartoon (nicely drawn, BTW)to McNulty.

Another: I knew I was going to like Omar's character when, sitting in the car with Kima and McNulty and surveying the mix for Bird, he's asked by McNulty if he's OK with being seen with cops, and Omar replies that if any of the corner boys have a problem with it he'd be obliged to stick a gun in their mouths. Vintage Omar.

Harry said...

Same dialogue used in 2 situations: You missed a spot
#1. Daniels to I think Burrel maybe Rawls - when cleaning the tie
#2. Someone in "detail" to a worker - when cleaning their new office

Noticed while watching it last night because the tone in which it was mentioned was same. Could not find it when I speeded through the episode again. Wish could be more accurate.

JOsE said...

Harry, it was not Daniels, it was McNulty to Judge Phelan.

And the other situation was Mahone, to Herc

RyRy said...

As is my understanding, rollers (uniformed police) roll up with sirens blazing, whereas knockos (plain clothes narcotics officers) come knocking on your door.