Friday, June 12, 2009

The Wire, Season 2, Episode 3: "Hot Shots" (Veterans edition)

Once again, we're revisiting season two of "The Wire" in two versions: one for people who have watched the entire series and want to be able to discuss it from beginning to end, and those who aren't all the way there yet and don't want to be spoiled about later developments. This is the veteran post (click here for the newbie version).

Spoilers for episode three, "Hot Shots," coming up just as soon as I dump all my telecom stocks...
"Mishy gishy gushy gushy mishy mushy mooshy motherf---er." -Lester
We're still a long way from what will pass as major progress in the story arcs of season two, but "Hot Shots" features a variety of characters from the different worlds "The Wire" follows making one kind of dangerous power play or another:

• Nick Sobotka, fed up with not getting enough shifts down at the docks and under pressure from baby mama Amy to do right by her and their daughter, decides to go in with Ziggy and Johnny 50 on a scam to steal a can full of digital cameras and sell them to Vondas' associate, Double-G.

• Valchek, with much prodding from Prez, realizes he's been pacified with a detail of humps and threatens to ugly up Ervin Burrell's coronation as commissioner if Erv won't give him a real detail, led by Cedric Daniels -- who has just made a bold move of his own in deciding to retire from the force to put his law degree to better use.

• Failing to get anywhere with the polyglot crew of the Atlantic Light, Bunk, Lester and Beadie Russell agree to let the boat sail out of Philadelphia, even though they don't have any better leads in the case of the dead girls.

• McNulty resolves to identify the girl he found in the water so at least one of the 14 can be spared the indignity of a Jane Doe disposal.

• Avon and Stringer put together a plan that will get Tilghman off of Wee-Bey's back -- and, Avon implies to D'Angelo, a plan that will lead to Avon and D getting earlier releases -- by swapping out his usual drug supply for poison.

• We hear two of the happiest words in the English language -- "Omar back." -- and then see the man who makes the grandest gestures in "The Wire" universe decide to partner up (along with new boyfriend Dante) with a pair of lesbian thieves now that he's back in Charm City.

Omar's mostly a sideshow for now (albeit a damned welcome one), so let's focus on the other happenings, starting with young Nick.

This season is going to turn into his story at least as much as it is Frank's, if not moreso. Frank and Horseface and Ott and those other guys came up in an era when the port was still a relatively thriving place, where there was more than enough work to go around. It lived up to the unwritten American promise that David Simon likes to talk about in regards to this season, the one that says something like, "You may not be highly-educated, or even highly-skilled, but if you're willing to work, and work hard, America will find a place for you." Nick, on the other hand, is coming of age after that promise has been broken, with the industrial base and the blue-collar employment it offers shrinking by the day. Whether the promise ever really existed or not, it's one that Nick has been taught from a young age, growing up in this family and this world, and now he's finding out that it doesn't apply to him. So what's he supposed to do?

We know "The Wire" is fond of its parallel structures, and "Hot Shots" starts drawing lines between Nick and D'Angelo Barksdale. Both are nephews of the detail's main target. Both have kids with women they like well enough, just not enough to really want to marry them. Both are finding that the family business isn't as rosy as they were raised to believe, and both are letting their relatives suck them deeper into a life of crime than they intend.

It's one thing for Nick to go get the can number from Vondas to pass it along to Frank, even after discovering that they're aiding and abetting human trafficking; it's something else entirely for Nick and Ziggy to start stealing cans themselves and selling the contents to The Greek and his people. But when there aren't enough ships to work, too many guys with seniority, and pressure coming from Amy to do something for their makeshift family, Nick decides he has no choice but to become an active criminal.

What Nick doesn't know is that the police pressure on the port is about to get a lot tighter, now that Valchek is arranging to have the hump detail replaced with actual police. It's hilarious -- and more than a little sad -- to see Stan listen to Prez's story of the Barksdale case and extract only the realization that he can use this knowledge to get over on Burrell. Imagine what this guy could accomplish if he actually cared about anything other than self-preservation. Of course, if he did, he likely wouldn't have the power that he does, which is why the show's version of the Baltimore PD remains a mess.

And elsewhere in the department, it's equally funny -- and, in this case, frustrating -- to watch Bunk, Lester and Beadie struggle to make any headway on a case that we all know, based on the end of last week's episode, is probably a lost cause. Lester is usually so cool and composed and erudite that it was hilarious to see him lose his cool and curse out the Atlantic Light crew. But Bunk and Lester still have 14 red names to try to turn black, and they're nothing if not tenacious -- as, it seems, is Beadie Russell.

Maybe my favorite scene in the episode is McNulty riding into the Homicide office on his white horse to save the day with his brilliant insights -- only to find out that Bunk and Lester beat him to all those insights. That speaks to both the cleverness of the current Homicide duo and the ego of Jimmy, but it also is a reminder that Jimmy, for all his narcissism, does mean well. He instigates the Barksdale detail to prove how smart he is, but he does recognize on some level that these are dangerous people who should be stopped. Here, his decision to put a name to the Jane Doe from the water is classic Jimmy, in the good and bad sense; he's trying to do right by this one girl and her family, but he's also doing it so he can feel a little like a cop while he's stuck riding the boat.

And Avon seems determined to keep playing kingpin even while he's stuck in prison. There was some debate in the later seasons about whether Avon was more or less ruthless than some other criminals the series introduced, and I think the people trying to argue for Avon as a relative softie might want to revisit the final shot of this episode. Avon has just arranged to fatally poison a bunch of convicts who've done nothing to him, just to get back at Tilghman (and, perhaps, to finagle his way into an even shorter sentence), and he sits calmly in his little corner suite, enjoying the book he took from the library when he went to see D, not a bit of concern for all the collateral damage he's created. (McNulty, for all his faults, at least feels bad when he learns that Bunk and Lester got stuck with the dead girls because of him.)

On the chess board that is season two, the pieces are starting to move into place. Get ready for some clashes, soon.

Some other thoughts on "Hot Shots":

• Poor Ziggy. Even when he pulls off (with a lot of help from Nick and Johnny 50) a successful and relatively lucrative theft, he can't enjoy the moment, because he has to be at the bar to witness Dolores handing cash from Frank to the hard-up stevedore who'd been thinking about switching unions. Everywhere Ziggy looks, he gets reminders that his father cares more about the union than he does about his own son.

• By now, the show's stylistic template is so firmly established that it's a little jarring to watch the "mishy gishy" montage sequence, funny though it is. Yes, it detailed Lester and Bunk's mounting frustration in short order, but "The Wire" usually isn't about telling you things in short order. Not bad, but different.

• Is there a "no animals were harmed during production" disclaimer at the end of this episode, or did they actually film a dog eating a rat? Either way... ugh!

• Loved Stringer making stock portfolio decisions based on what he sees down at the Pit. But given the way the cell phone market has only gotten bigger in the years since, was this a poor business decision on his part?

• Speaking of Stringer, I don't want to overlook his seduction of Donette. He's usually depicted as being so consumed with business that it can be jarring to see him just act like a man, with needs and a libido. But Idris Elba played it well; just because he's taking his shirt off and kissing somebody, doesn't mean he stops being Stringer Bell.

• I want to hire Jay Landsman to be my own personal fashion critic. "Tweedy impertinence" is never not funny.

• Confusion over "prostate" vs. "prostrate" seems to be a favorite joke of language-obsessed TV scribes. David Milch got a lot of mileage out of Sipowicz confusing one with the other, and here Landsman laughs a lot at Crutchfield using the wrong one in a report.

• How do you feel about Nick using an old-fashioned phrase like "I haven't got a pot to piss in"? Does it feel right (like this is the world Nick grew up in, and/or he thinks that's how a stevedore's supposed to talk), or is it a too self-conscious attempt to link the character back to the days of "On the Waterfront"?

And now we've come to the veterans-only section of the review, where I talk about how certain parts of this episode echo down the line of the season and the series:

• In agreeing to Valchek's demand to keep Daniels on the force, Burrell unwittingly sets up the circumstances under which he'll lose his position as commissioner. (You could argue that Carcetti would have looked to dump Burrell no matter what, but having Daniels around as a counter-example of what a cop could be doing certainly didn't help Erv's case to stay.)

• I imagine this is a subject we're going to be talking about for the next several episodes, and maybe even into the season three reviews (which I'm hoping to do next summer so I have the complete series done), but how big a factor does the fling with Donette play into Stringer's decision to have D'Angelo killed? Is it the majority factor? Minority?

• Dante pouts over the presence of Kimmy and Tosha, worried that Omar might leave him for one of them (even though Omar "don't bed no babies") and jealous of anyone splitting the attention. It feels appropriate then, even though the act isn't intentional on Dante's part, that he winds up killing Tosha with a stray round during the gunfight outside the Barksdale stash house in season three.

• I had forgotten it took us this long to meet Blind Butchie, and will take even longer for us to find out his connection to Omar.

• Jimmy will really regret not reading the separation agreement, but he's too blinded by his belief that Elena wants to take him back. (And Elena seems to recognize this belief and is playing along to get what she wants from Jimmy.) At the same time, "Hot Shots" offers up yet another hint that Jimmy and Beadie will wind up together, as they briefly bond over their mutual discomfort about the girls being stuck as Jane Does.

Coming up next: "Hard Cases," in which Burrell tries to talk Daniels out of retirement, Avon tries to exploit the Tilghman situation, and McNulty reaches out to an old friend for help finding Omar.

What did everybody else think?


Fernando said...

I've never seen "On the Waterfront" and the phrase is common enough that it was jarring.

How much did Stringer being with Donette affect D'Angelo getting killed? The more I think about it, the more I think it was a key part of Stringer's decision making. Obviously self preservation is a part of it, but if he could have her all to himself, why not?

I love Nick's line about not wanting to stand on the corner like a project... though, he'll be the middle man later on. Its not a moral stand on drugs, he's just not gonna make a lateral move from being low man in the union to low man on the corner.

Jay Landsman=genius. "We work plain clothes here, that doesn't mean the clothes need be plain"

Alan Sepinwall said...

I've never seen "On the Waterfront" and the phrase is common enough that it was jarring.

I'm not saying it's an On the Waterfront quote, just that it seems more suited to that era.

Jake said...

Even when McNulty is doing the right thing for the right reason, it's still pretty self-serving. When he first stuck the bodies with homicide, he laughingly called Ray Cole collateral damage. It was only after Bunk and Lester got stuck with the bodies that McNulty shows a little remorse. He needed to recognize the damage as detectives on par with his own skill level before he actually felt bad about it.

I don't think Donette was a big factor in String's decision. She definitely contributed, but as long as D was locked up, he didn't really matter. If D was going to put Stringer away and give himself a chance to get back with Donette, that's something Stringer would need to take care of, quickly.

Dan Jameson said...

We talk a lot about McNulty's selfishness but I don't hear much about Stringer's me-first attitude. I think Donette clearly factored into Stringer's decision...but I also think String was just looking out for himself knowing that if D flipped, he would implicate Stringer.

I've always been pro-McNulty and have no problems with his self-serving behavoir.

By the way, damn you Alan (kidding) for starting this up again and getting me hooked on The Wire all over again. I'm already on the penultimate episode of Season 2 and I started when you did....

SC said...

I don't think that Stringer being with Donette had much to do with D's killing. Stringer took care of D for other reasons, the least of which was that he wanted to be with Donette. In fact, Stringer could probably be with anyone he wanted, and correct me if I am wrong, but they never end up in a long term relationship, so I believe all Stringer wanted was a little fling of the moment. Plus, if he was concerned at all, he could have taken care of both of them, not just D'Angelo.
Alan, surprised you made no mention of our first glimpse of Senator Clay Davis....while it is a while before we come to know him and his wonderful catch phrase better, it's interesting how such a short, 30 second conversation leads to so much with this character in seasons to come.

David Hanlon said...

Re: Donette and Stringer, killing D'Angelo was a leap for Stringer. D'Angelo was doing bad, but also giving every indication that he was going to carry the weight himself. Stringer viewed this uncomfortable situation instead as clear-cut "he's about to talk, he's gotta go, even though Avon can't know about it," and whether he was fully conscious of it or not, his affair with Donette made taking that position the more attractive one.

Kevin said...

By my rough math, Stringer Bell by selling his telecom stocks and not holding them for another three years lost about 28% on Nokia, and a whopping 169% on Motorola.

Then again, I don't think he lives another three years, so what's the difference?

Muz said...

I've been influenced by what Simon has said on the subject of cops' motivations, but regarding Jimmy and the Jane Doe; I never really read it s part of him "caring" as such. It's more to do with his burning to desire to investigate something to its proper conclusion and beat the system a little bit.
Perhaps I'm stating the obvious. He's honest about it, virtually saying it himself re: anatomy board.
"That bothers you?" asks Beadie.
"Yeah...a little"

kwigibo said...

As far as Avon's relative amorality, letting those prison addicts die and your comment last week about how more amoral and callously violent Marlo will be, it's easily explained.

Avon was a boxer. He wants to be in a fight all the time, but a fight with rules. It's his undoing in the next season. He sees the game, the drug trade as a big fight, for territory, reputation, etc.. Letting some prisoners he doesn't know die to help him isn't outside the rules of the 'game' as he sees it. Anyway, they're not grandmothers going to church on a sunday, they're drug addicts in prison, he probably thinks he's doing the world a favour.

Stringer would probably think of those deaths as artificially thinning the market for his product, assuming they'd be paroled at some point, and would be, philosophically at least, against their collateral deaths. That doesn't make him a more moral character by any stretch.

Muz said...

Oh, whoops. Article says what I say already. Must read more slowly in future.
Anyway, I should add I'm not one who says Jimmy doesn't care, but it's just a Jimmy brand of caring.

Anonymous said...

I think all that (thing with Donette and D'Angelo's killing) happened cause Stringer was always somewhat resentful towards D'Angelo. Some of that was cause String always sensed that Dee was never fully commited to their organization and lifestyle ("you was never one of us"). Other was that maybe Stringer felt a little jealous cause D'Angelo was Avon's protege. Remember Stringer always admired Avon and never questioned his superiority despite being the smartest one of the two. And even when he tipped police about Avon's place it happened only cause Avon's violent ways trapped him into a corner with Prop Joe and the co-op.

Kevin said...

Re-watching this I was shocked at how Avon told Dee to lay off the smack. I thought I remembered him being a lot more forceful about it. He's always professing his love for family, and he doesn’t exactly spell out to D' Angelo what will happen if he takes a hit from the new package.

Seems to me that for all of his future angst about how Stringer gets rid of D'Angelo, Avon was pretty callous in not telling him what exactly was going on with the hot shots.

D' Angelo easily could have defied him and died along with the others. Makes me rethink that maybe Avon is a lot colder than I thought, even with his family.

debbie said...

Is this the first time we see Sen. Clay Davis? I know we saw his driver in season 1 before, right? I can't remember if we actually see him before, though.

I'm of the opinion that String maybe let his emotions factor in a little bit w/ the D'Angelo decision, but I don't think much. It was much more of a self-preservation move, so that he himself wouldn't land in prison.

But maybe his world did cloud his decision-making skills, hence the bad decision of selling the phone stock. Although that line sounded more like a writer's soundboard.

And I have to say this, the actress who plays Donette seems to be really uncomfortable with her hands. The whole seduction scene she's doing really awkward movements with them, like putting them behind her back while bending over. I can't really watch the scene without noticing that.

Also, which dock guy do we see later in season 5 as a homeless person?

groovekiller said...

Couple of things on Alan's post and a few other comments:

Alan says "But when there aren't enough ships to work, too many guys with seniority, and pressure coming from Amy to do something for their makeshift family, Nick decides he has no choice but to become an active criminal."

I am sympathetic to most of the characters on the show but I never bought this as a 'valid' reason for Nick. He has a lot more advantages than most of the SSN 4 kids who don't even see a way out. Nick can conceive of (and probably knows) people in community college. He also can try to get another job (even something along the lines of or towards the Warehouse Foreman one he lies to Amy about in a future episode that pays $500 a week.)

I don't think it was Nick's laziness either (like Ziggy's) - I think it was that Nick sees amoral behavior in Frank, someone he obviously looks up to, and that, more than anything, opens the door for him to be bad as well.

- @Kevin about Avon being so subtle in telling Dee to stay off the dope...that's Avon's way - laidback and his confidence in his reputation is enough that suggesting something is usually enough to make people listen. That's why in the episode right before D'Angelo dies, when Avon passes him in the hallway and calls out 'Dee' and D'Angelo barely acknowledges him, it cuts Avon so deep. He is not one that's used to disrespect.

- I think his relationship with Donette did play a part in Stringer's decision but I think the whole thing goes back to revenge on D for the whole 'Where's Wallace?' thing. Like Corleone, String lets it get personal over business and in SSN 3, D's killing is one of the main drivers for Avon to allow String to get got. It's funny that the groundwork for both Burrell's fall and Stringer's fall were laid in this otherwise innocuous episode.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Is this the first time we see Sen. Clay Davis?

No, Clay appeared a couple of times in season one, memorably cussing out Lt. Daniels when he refused to bow and scrape before Clay and Erv Burrell.

Kevin said...

By the way, with very little ships coming in, and union money being shipped out to the Clay Davis' types, where the hell is Sobotka getting the "shot and and a beer" money?

Alan Sepinwall said...

I presume this is also coming from the money Frank is getting from The Greek.

Hatfield said...

Johnny 50 is the homeless cameo in Season 5.

I think it has very little to do with his decision to have D killed, as he spends the first part of Season 3 avoiding her calls, and when they finally meet up she says something about how he ain't been around for a year. Also, lets not forget that she comes onto him too. Almost right when he walks in she throws on some sexy jam, then makes the "No doubt" comment about his XL-ness. I think he just realized that Donette was kinda hot, and she made it clear she was interested, and he went for it. It feels more to me like initially he's using their affair as a way to keep tabs on D'Angelo.

Mike C said...

You can put me in the camp that thinks Donnette had little impact on Stringer's killing of D. D's ability to turn on String at anytime really seems to weigh on String as soon as D is arrested. String needs to control and have a plan for everything that goes around him, and D was a variable that couldn't be predicted.

On the Sobotka front, it seems like Frank's taunting of Valchek (this time with the photo of the van) continues to dig his hole even deeper. Maybe if Valcheck wasn't outraged about the van, he wouldn't have felt the need to go after Burrell so aggressively and get a real detail.

It's starting to get tough to limit myself to watching one episode per week!

Bryan Murray said...

I think Stringer's motivation to have D killed is 25% Donette, 60% business, and 15% because D showed him up during the famous "Where's Wallace" scene - still possibly top 5 all time Wire moments.

This question can possibly wait until season 3 discussions, but when Avon and Stringer have their little fight and Stringer admits to having D killed: is that what Avon means by "snatching a life"? (Avon insults Stringer by saying he's not a gangster, just a business man) So are we to believe that Avon hasn't really killed anyone personally either or is ordering a hit the same as doing it yourself?

That part always made me want to see a prequel season following Avon and Stringer's rise along with Daniels' time in his previous district. Make it happen Sepinwall!

Alan Sepinwall said...

That part always made me want to see a prequel season following Avon and Stringer's rise along with Daniels' time in his previous district. Make it happen Sepinwall!

Wood Harris, Idris Elba and Lance Reddick aren't getting any younger, though all keep themselves in great shape. Would you recast the parts, or would you try to have them all play the same characters from a decade or more in the past?

Hatfield said...

Wow, the prequels would be awesome, and I say have them be the same. Those guys are all in their 40s, right? Hollywood cheats like that all the time, and none of them looks especially old. Plus, who knows how long ago Daniels' shady past was, but Avon and Stringer were probably only in control for a few years, right? I always got the sense that things changed frequently, whenever a new generation came up, like Marlo taking on the Barksdales.

@ Bryan Murray, I get the impression that Avon has killed before; otherwise, how did he get all those hardasses like Wee-Bey, Stinkum and Bird to follow him? And isn't that fight about the fact that Stringer has never killed anyone, with Avon throwing it in his face as proof somehow that he's not "hard enough for this right here," and then Stringer reveals he had D killed, because Avon wasn't hard enough for that.

Dan Jameson said...

Alan - great question. I'm not sure if the show would have the same appeal and flow if they re-cast the characters. I mean there are definitely some great actors out there to play the parts...but nothing beats seeing String, Avon and Daniels on the screen.

Mike C: You are not alone. I'm on the penultimate episode already. This show is like Lay's potato can never eat (watch) just one!

Otto Man said...

Wow, the prequels would be awesome

They already did three mini-prequels -- on for the Season 4 DVDs, I think. They focus on McNulty/Bunk, Omar, and Prop Joe.

Always Boris said...

I've always perceived Stringer's seduction of Donette as part of his efforts to keep her happy so that she'll stay loyal to the family and play her role of keeping D'Angelo happy by going to visit him with their son. After D is killed, Stringer blows off Donette for a while until he realizes that McNulty is looking into D's death. So then, again, Stringer starts paying attention to Donette so that he can keep tabs on the investigation.

I *love* the idea of a prequel season showing the rise of the Barksdale crew and what Daniels was like as a young cop. It would have to be cast with Harris, Elba and Reddick but even if they look a little bit older than the characters they would be playing, you just slap a different hair-do on them and we all accept that it's 1995...

Always Boris said...

I almost forgot: Alan, I was really hoping you would open the column with "Spoilers for Episode 3, "Hot Shots", coming up just as soon as I go stick my tounge up some guy's a**..."

I realize that quote is really appropos of nothing significant in the story -- other than Nick feeling stressed out and taking it out on his girlfriend by being a jerk to her. But it always manages to bring out the 13-year-old boy humor in me. You, however, are too much of a class act.

I did appreciate you quoting Lester's rant. Even though my politically correct instinct is to wince when Lester and Bunk imitate/mock the different languages with which they are confronted by their unwilling interviewees, that scene cracks me up every time. Proving that PC, liberal hippies like myself are really just full of sh*t.

Hatfield said...

Otto Man, thanks for the heads-up, but being the Wire-obsessed nerd I am, I watched all those before Season 5 even aired. I'm a little miffed they're not on my Season 5 DVD set though. I was saying that more elaborate, drawn out prequels would be a nice treat, if a complete pipe dream

Otto Man said...

Oh, I got that Hatfield, and wish they'd do it too. Just wanted to be sure people knew some
prequels existed already.

Bryan Murray said...

On second thought, maybe the prequels would be a little too Phantom of the Menace and we should scratch that idea. Those mini-prequels were pretty cheesy. I just needs my Wire.

@Hatfield, I feel the same thing when I watch that scene (Avon would have had to drop bodies to rise like he has plus he was ready to go against Marlo at the end of season 3). It just seems strange to me that Stringer uses that example to prove he is hard enough for the game. Despite Avon's ruthlessness, he was all about family. Although he did put out the hot shots knowing D might take one...

The Wire is the best - this discussion feels like a discussion I had in a lit class about Shakespeare's characters.

Another question about this season - what does everyone think of Pablo Shreiber as Nick? I always like the character but sometimes I think a better actor could have done more with the role.

Hatfield said...

Oh, then I commend you, because spreading The Wire around is doin the good lord's work

Anonymous said...

I never thought Donette had much to do with Stringer's decision with D. It's too big of a risk for it to be predicated on her, particularly when he doesn't even care about her that much it seems.

Oh, to the person above who asked about Pablo Schreiber, I disagree, I think he's terrific in the role. Nick's one of my favorite Wire characters, in fact, and the final shot of Season 2 (Nick at the chain-link fence, then walking away) always gets me.

Anonymous said...

I have seen the series at least four times and never got the impression that omar's new "partner" in crime killed tosha with a stray. She was killed by one of avons guys who was in tern killed by kisha or whatever her name was.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Watch the scene again: Dante accidentally shoots Tosha while he's running and firing at the same time. Take a look at the 3:30 mark of this clip.

Even the plot description says Dante shoots her.

Hatfield said...

It was Dante, for sure. I think Dante even comments on it at some point, but go watch again. Her back is to the Barksdale guys, Dante is shooting wildly behind himself, she falls forward, and there's a bullethole in her forehead. I think Kimmy even knows it, she just takes out that other guy out of pure rage.

I think Pablo is good, it's just that he plays Nick as a douche for a little while, so he seems less convincing. But by the end of the season I thought he was dead on, especially when Ziggy gets locked up and after Frank is killed.

Oh, and Bryan Murray, I think Stringer tells Avon that not only to show he has what it takes, but also as an example to Avon that blind loyalty in family is not a smart business decision. Now, in this case Stringer was wrong, D wasn't gonna talk, but it still feels like he was showing Avon that they all have limits and blind spots. Or, he was stung by what Avon said and basically came back with, "Oh yeah, well I had your nephew killed, asshole! What now?" Either/or, really...

Hatfield said...

Oops, I took so long to write, Alan beat me to it.

lizkdc said...

Can I also stop to pay tribute to how amazing Larry Gilliard, Jr. as D'Angelo is every time he comes on screen in these last few episode?

As I rewatch I recall how powerfully I felt the first time the ominous sense of a trap closing around him. Even knowing for sure how it would end, the accumulating pressure of betrayal and isolation is almost unbearable.

Morally speaking, D'Angelo is responsible for a lot: his actions contribute to the death of the innocent witness William Gant, of Deirdre (the girl shot through the window), of Brandon, even of Wallace, and more.

Yet some how Gilliard makes the most of the spark of D'Angelo who resists doing these thing and wants them undone. And whose rejection of Avon is hist last, bravest choice.

Anonymous said...


I know this is a little off topic but it's been 2 years since our screens went black.

"Sopranos" a rewatch. Revisting the show should only reveal its great depth and brilliance, especially knowing how it all turns out.

Think about it.

Eyeball Wit said...

Nice observation about the parallels between Nicky and D.

Anonymous said...

I always thought that even though this was the first time we saw Stringer and Donette together it was something that had been going on for awhile or at least since D'Angelo had been sent to prison. As for blowing her off in Season 3, Stringer realized the same thing as D, that beauty is skin deep. While Donette is a real cutie she is fairly shallow and a bit annoying. She might have been a small factor in getting D killed but really he was a loose end that needed to taken care of.

Thanks Alan for these new posts (it's always nice to have a reason to watch The Wire ) and I second the motion about The Sopranos.

SJ said...

Speaking of Jimmy's ego, I had a question regarding it over something which happens in season 3 (so be warned if you haven't watched it...I assume everyone has):

When Brianna visits McNulty about D'Angelo's death McNulty adopts a serious tone and seems to show genuine remorse for the death of D. "Y'know, all things considered he was a pretty decent guy".

I wonder if he just wanted to rub it in to Brianna or he genuinely felt anger at the death. Dominic West plays that scene really well...always keeps me wondering

(Sorry I know this isn't a season 3 thread but I figured what the heck, all of us have probably seen this show multiple times).

Hatfield said...

I'd say he meant it. McNulty seemed to have a fondness for Bodie at the end there too, in the episodes leading up to Bodie's death in Season 4, and he did not take it well when he heard about it. Yeah, he's playing Bri in that scene, but I think he's genuinely pissed at her for choosing her brother and his lifestyle over her only kid, and understood that D was (potentially, anyway) better than those he'd been brought up with, but trapped because of who he was and what his family was.

As much as I love this season and all the others, I think 3 is my favorite, and that scene is one of the reasons why. Can't wait for next summer when Alan gets to it.

eyeball Wit said...

I agree with Hatfield's take--I think he meant it, although he may have been laying it on a little heavy for Brianna's sake.
And I don't think that Donette was a factor is Stringer's hit on D.

debbie said...

Another question about this season - what does everyone think of Pablo Shreiber as Nick? I always like the character but sometimes I think a better actor could have done more with the role.
That actor looks perfect for that part, though. He's like an Adonis, so it's easy to see why all the Greek guys are so taken with him.

But yeah, that "no pot to piss in" scene does seem a bit over the top. On the other hand, being a working class girl from Chicago, I've known plenty of guys like that, and all of them are pretty over the top and overtly macho.

Paul B. said...

I was thinking the "pot to piss in" remark wasn't necessarily outdated, since I know I've heard it recently. Then I realized I've been rewatching Season 2 of Mad Men recently, and it was Duck Philips who used it when descibing Roger Sterling's divorce. That would be 1962. Oops. I guess that supports your point, Alan.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Donette was a big part of the decision to kill D. Hooking up with her seems the turning point in his rejection of Avon and corresponding power grab during this season(bringing in Brother Mouzone, etc.). Previous to this(including season one), he seemed more of a messenger for Avon.

Anonymous said...

To confuse Bell with someone who can know love . . . well, it's a failure of comprehension as complete as Avon's and Stringer's of D'Angelo. Stringer is trying to fulfill the mission from Avon to get Donette, who's not cooperating, to do her part to keep D'Angelo happy -- which these morons think Donette bringing herself and their son to visit D'Angelo regularly will do. Stringer is worried himself about D'Angelo's reliability. Sweet little prostitute that he is, Stringer's going to use sex to control D'Angelo through controlling Donette. Wait and see what happens when he finds out she has no influence on D'Angelo. Stringer Bell love? Naw, it's just business.

Unknown said...

i'm glad you brought up stringer dumping the cell phone stocks. every time i watch this episode, i wonder if this is an example of an inability for anyone, even a character as clever and educated as stringer, to see the world from a perspective outside of their world view, or if its simply stringer not being as clever as he thinks he is, like we see in his dealings with clay davis in season 3.

Unknown said...

Re: "pot to piss in"

In the movie True Romance, Michael Rappaport's character replies to Christian Slater asking him about how his career as a star in Hollywood is going with, "I ain't got a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of."

So maybe Nick picked up the expression from watching TV. :)

J-rod said...

I always associate "No pot to piss in" with Dick Ritchie from True Romance and thus it doesn't have any outdated nuance to me. I even use it myself when appropriate.

J-rod said...

I always associate "No pot to piss in" with Dick Ritchie from True Romance and thus it doesn't have any outdated nuance to me. I even use it myself when appropriate.

Anonymous said...

A few late thoughts:

1. I thought Stringer's motivation in having D'Angelo killed was 100% that he viewed D'Angelo as weak and quite likely to change his mind about staying quiet to protect Avon and "the Barksdale empire."

2. I do not believe Stringer's motivation in ordering the murder was related to his "relationship" with Donnette. What relationship? Did they go anywhere? Talk about matters of mutual interest? Discuss the future? All I ever saw was her cooking for him, him avoiding her calls, and them kissing and rolling around on the couch.

3. Stringer fancied himself a legitimate businessman. Would he think Donnette was polished enough to be his *real* woman? I could see Stringer thinking a woman like Nerese Campbell to be more of a match for his perceived intelligence and sophistication.

4. Wonder how many takes it took to film that kissing scene with Idris Elba and Shamyl Brown? If I were Shamyl, I might have "accidentally" stepped off my mark a time...or 10 during the filming of that scene. :)


Kate said...

Question: Who was Dr. Frazier working on in the morgue? He looked familiar.

RaeRay said...

It's funny - when i first watched the Wire, I didn't refer to synopses, blogs, reviews, etc, which means I just watched it and struggled thru' it (the first season in particular) without anyone to set me straight on a few points....Now that I know what I know about the plot, the characters, etc, I realize that Avon was the head of his crew when the series opens - but when I first watched, I always thought Stringer was the head (I told you: I struggled).

I attribute this primarily to, yes, my inability to connect the dots that were given (no matter how close together they may have been) but also to Stringer himself. The character/the acting lend themselves to a very strong, intelligent, capable, patient and commanding Stringer Bell. It never dawned on me that he didn't have as much power as Avon. (It's a little embarrassing to admit this, yes...)
I get that the detail was watching Avon, and constantly talking about Barksdale, and I'm unsure how I reconciled this misunderstanding with myself. Perhaps by season 3, when I finally felt more comfortable with all the information given to me, Stringer was more in command, and more in McNulty's sights and so my earlier confusion was thereby justified. Not sure.

Anyway, all ths to say: now that I'm not struggling, and now that I'm more comfortable with The Wire's characters, language, terminology, etc and have Alan's wonderful recaps/synopses to refer to, Stringer still seems if not *the* guy in charge, at least to be *one of* the guys in charge. I might feel foolish for having gotten this wrong during the first viewing, but I don't think I was that far off the mark, either. I think Stringer starts contemplating having D killed not because of Donette but because he's making a power move. It works as such on two levels: he makes an order which helps to establish "chain of command", and he gets rid of D who is blood to the King Avon. If there is a crown in the game (and it seems there is), crown goes to royalty, and in life royalty is determined by blood; D has Barksdale blood and name, Stringer doesn't. I think that while Stringer claims to kill D because he's a risk, the fact that he's a risk just gives him justification to do it. The real risk for Stringer is that he can't gamble on D turning on them and he also can't gamble that in time D will get back in the game and one day have the name *and* the weight that he carried to set him in line to wear the crown. That crown just fits Stringer too well, yo.

Furthermore, it didn't seem to me like Stringer ever steps back down into the second-in-command position. I will have to watch more closely in season 3 to see if Avon ever reminds him Stringer is not a partner, but a subordinate...if he does, I missed it. This is why a re-watch is so great!

This was longer than I intended to be but there are so many well-thought and -expressed ideas here that I felt the need to step up myself. The show is long gone, but there are still fans in the making - and to come. Thanks for reading...

Vernon Freedom said...

"i'm glad you brought up stringer dumping the cell phone stocks. every time i watch this episode, i wonder if this is an example of an inability for anyone, even a character as clever and educated as stringer, to see the world from a perspective outside of their world view, or if its simply stringer not being as clever as he thinks he is, like we see in his dealings with clay davis in season 3."

I think it's the latter-- foreshadowing that, as Avon says,
Stringer is "maybe not smart enough for them out there".

Dave said...

Alan, thanks so much for doing these great reviews. Makes it so much easier to follow and digest not only the storyline, but the underlying themes and messages as well.

With respect to Stringer's assessment that the cell phone market was saturated, this seemed like a way for the writers to show that, while Stringer is learning valuable lessons in the classroom and from his textbooks, his application of the concepts is not yet well-tuned. He understands, on an academic level, elasticity and saturation, but is still testing the waters as far as applying them in the real world. This makes sense, given that he's taking introductory economics courses at a community college. In terms of his academic progression, he's no farther along than a teenage student who's taken a traditional route through education. Stringer believing that the cell phone market was saturated and due for a decline in the early-2000s is a good way to show that he's thinking about the economics of the world around him, but isn't yet knowledgeable enough to correctly assess the situation. But as the show progresses into season 3, we see him become more aware and able to navigate the local economy, using the lessons from his coursework.

Ahmedkhan said...


This is the first of three scenes in the series where Wendell Pierce and the writers deliver brilliantly in demonstrating the frustration and dead ends police detectives run into when interviewing potential leads. A later scene in Season 2 with the port security hump - the Philadelphia Port Authority's counterpart to Detective Mahone - and one in Season 3 when Bunk talks with the jail inmates in his effort to track down the missing gun are both amusing and instructive to watch, allowing viewers to appreciate some of the tedium of real police work. I like the device of showing snippets of the interviewees in tandem, with Bunk's accompanying non-verbal reactions.

In the same scene when Lester says, "Negro, you don't come halfway around the world and not speak any motherf*#%*#**$ English!" we see Bunk smile and look down. All these years I've wondered but am now about 95% sure it's Wendell Pierce rather than his character Bunk who is amused at the statement and can't help smiling. I think Bunk, frustrated with the crewmembers' "lapses" in English, would not be of a mind to smile. It would be great to be able to ask Mr. Pierce about it.

The "English, motherf#*&*#!" outburst is only one of two in the series where normally cool Lester raises his voice in exasperation. The other is in Season 5 with Daniels. For a couple of reasons I don't count Lester's confrontation with McNulty in Season 3 in this category.

Michael said...

I cannot believe I have watched season 3 four times and not realised that Dante shot Tosha!

Do you think he knows he did it though? It happened because he was shooting where he wasn't looking, so he may not have realised. And do the other two know?

Vernon Freedom said...

I was thinking about Stringer dumping the cell phone stocks again, and it occurred to me-- yes, this is definitely some foreshadowing. Not just that Stringer can't hack it in the "real" business world, but that as he makes his move to consolidate his power, he begins making mistakes. The cell phone stock sale is the first mistake, but he also misjudges D'Angelo (which leads to the rift between him and Avon), he gets suckered by Clay Davis, and, of course, the decision that comes back on him for good, trying to manipulate Omar and Brother Mouzone against each other.