Friday, August 14, 2009

The Wire, Season 2, Episode 10: "Storm Warnings" (Veterans edition)

Okay, press tour's over, and we've got three episodes of "The Wire" season two left to re-visit. As always, we're doing this in two versions: one for people who have watched the whole series from beginning to end and want to talk about this episode in the context of what's to come, and one for people who don't want later episodes/seasons spoiled for them. This is the veteran edition; click here for the newbie version.

Spoilers for episode ten, "Storm Warnings," coming up just as soon as you get me my copy of Harper's...
"He wasn't saying 'Please don't shoot me.' He was more... begging." -Ziggy
"The Wire" season two aired back when I was still teamed up on the TV beat with the great Matt Zoller Seitz, and I remember him coming into work the morning after he had watched "Storm Warnings" raving about the sequence where Ziggy murders Double-G and stumbles back to his car.

"That," he said, "was like a Springsteen song come to life."

For all the grief that Ziggy takes from "Wire" viewers, new and old, for being so pathetic, that sequence wouldn't be half as powerful without all the past humiliations we'd witnessed. If Ziggy wasn't terrible at everything - if he wasn't constantly being laughed at, and dismissed, and shouted down - then it doesn't make sense that he would snap like this, killing one man, wounding another, and throwing his own life down the drain. But because Ziggy has been the lifelong butt of a cosmic joke, because we've seen his frustrations mount as he's failed at living up to his father and his cousin, we understand how he gets to this breaking point when Double-G shorts him on the money and then laughs at (and gut punches) him. Ziggy has always bottled up his anger, and has always been prone to rash decisions (fighting Maui, buying the duck), and with a gun in his hand(*), he makes another one that he can't undo. The duck's not coming back, but nobody really cares about the duck. George Glekas, on the other hand? Ziggy has to answer for that, and he knows it, and in one final understandably screwed-up decision, Ziggy embraces the deed, so long as the official record makes it sound like Glekas was the coward begging for his life, and Ziggy was the bad, bad man who put him down.

(*) A gun that, as I pointed out in the previous veterans edition, he was only in a position to buy because Double-G wouldn't front him some cash for the theft and Ziggy had to go pawn the duck's necklace.

I don't know that James Ransone ever got the credit he deserved for being so convincing as such a deliberately irritating character(**). But watch a scene like Ziggy struggling to light his cigarette, or an empty Ziggy giving a disbelieving Jay Landsman exactly what he needs because there's no point in fighting the tide, and you can see that this is one of the most indelible performances of the season, if not the series.

(**) Though his work in "Generation Kill" as chatterbox Ray Person seemed to help. I remember reading a lot of "I had no idea this guy was a good actor" comments last summer.

Ziggy's rampage is the most noteworthy event in "Storm Warnings," but the episode as a whole is incredibly busy, moving the plot along more than in the previous weeks combined. It's so busy, in fact, that it opens with a quasi-break from the show's usual rules about music and editing, as we see the detail's investigation take several leaps forward in a montage scored to Johnny Cash's "Walk the Line." Because Prez puts that song on his portable stereo at the start of the montage, and because the montage is depicting the various developments that Prez is logging on the case board, it's more bending the rules than breaking them. But as with most seasons of the show, you get the sense that David Simon and Ed Burns are more interested in setting up the plot than in actually showing the plot -- that it's more important to them, from a character and a thematic perspective, to show the growing pains of a project than to dwell on the period when things are working smoothly -- which is why we get an episode like this nearly every season. And at times, so much is happening that a montage is the only way to show it all.

Yet "Storm Warnings" never feels especially rushed. We still linger on Ziggy's dazed point of view as he stumbles out of Double-G's shop, still get the long pause as Lester and Bunk jokingly stare down the feds, still get to hear Brother Mouzone deliver his whole Dirty Harry monologue to Cheese, still get to see Nick and Prissy Catlow getting drunk at the playground and crying as they swap Ziggy stories.

To fit all of this in - in terms of both time and tone - Burns and director Rob Bailey take more stylistic liberties than we usually get on a series where each episode more or less looks and feels like every other. In addition to the Johnny Cash montage, Ziggy's stumble back to his car is shot in an impressionist style where the series usually strives for documentary realism, and the playground scene feels oddly stage-bound, as if Nick and Prissy had briefly wandered into a Tennessee Williams play. I'm enough of a "Wire" purist to note the departures from the usual form, but not enough of one to be irked that this episode features so many of them.

After all, what show other than "The Wire" could end an episode with the good guys furiously typing even as we see the bad guys destroying most of the evidence our heroes are trying to obtain?

Some other thoughts on "Storm Warnings":

• Because "The Wire" loves its parallel structures, "Storm Warnings" offers us a second surprise explosion from a dorky supporting character, as Prez clocks Valchek in front of Daniels, Lester and half the Baltimore FBI field office. As with Ziggy, Prez's outburst has been a long time in coming - we've seen from the second scene of the season premiere that Valchek has no interest in listening to what his son-in-law thinks about policework - and while the result of this one isn't quite as permanent as what Ziggy does to Double-G, we know from this season that Stan Valchek is a man who knows how to hold - and pursue - a grudge.

• And how hilarious is that shot of Lance Reddick's eyes bugging out at the sight of Prez's punch? For that matter, is there a phrase on this show, other than McNulty's "What the f--k did I do?," that comes up as often, and in so many different and amusing circumstances, as hearing Daniels seething as he utters the words "Detective, my office"?

• There were some complaints in the last review that Brother Mouzone's arrival gave the series one larger-than-life character too many, and his assault on Cheese - which, again, is an homage to the most iconic scene of Clint Eastwood's career - certainly keeps him operating on a different frequency of reality than anyone on the show other than Omar.

• And speaking of Omar, we not only learn that he's tight with Blind Butchie, who operates as Omar's bank, but that Prop Joe is aware of this relationship and wants to use it to deal with the Brother Mouzone problem.

• Brother Mouzone is played by Michael Potts, one of many "Wire" actors who's so memorable in the role (and was so unknown to me beforehand) that it becomes impossible for me to see him in another role (say, on "Flight of the Conchords" as Joseph Saladou, the one Nigerian on the Internet whose request for money isn't a scam) without immediately flashing on him lecturing Cheese about the "copper-jacketed hollow point 120 grain hot streak load of my own creation." Also, Mouzone's sidekick Lamar is played by DeAndre McCullough, who was one of the main characters of Simon and Burns' non-fiction epic "The Corner." (Sean Nelson played him in "The Corner" miniseries.)

• Prissy is played by Merritt Wever, currently one of the funniest people on television as nurse-in-training Zoey on Showtime's "Nurse Jackie."

And now, a few veteran-only thoughts on how the events of this episode will play out over the course of this season:

• You can look at Double-G's murder as a parallel to when Omar shot Stinkum and ruined a lot of hard work by the detail, but next week we'll learn that the crucial mistake was made by Jay Landsman in not alerting the detail to this event so they could secure and search the store. Had Glekas not been killed, Vondas' people still would have emptied the place.

• Or, if you prefer, the real mistake - not that anyone realized it at the time - was in letting the FBI in on the investigation, which in turn alerted Agent Koutris, who alerted The Greek, etc., etc.

• Herc and Carver are nearly at their own breaking point about being low men on the totem pole, and of course that will lead them to transfer to the Western district, where Carver will become a good cop and Herc will become... the same idiot he always was, but now a dangerous one who destroys Randy's life.

• It's pretty clear by this point that Kima and Cheryl's relationship is doomed, as Cheryl practically has to cuff Kima's hand to her own to get Kima to feel the baby kick.

• As with the blinding of Kevin Johnson in season one, Daniels will bail out Prez for the punch. And now as then, Prez - who will stay on the detail until he accidentally kills an undercover cop - probably would have been better off had Daniels stepped aside and let Prez ruin his own career.

Coming up next: "Bad Dreams," the penultimate episode of season two, which means two things: George Pelecanos on script, and a whole lotta tragedy. Hopefully, we can stay on the Friday schedule for these final few weeks.

What did everybody else think?


anyway1982 said...

I think it's a testament to James Ransone's acting ability that he was able to make Ziggy so pathetic, irritating, and sympathetic at the same time.

Anonymous said...

"Ziggy embraces the deed, so long as the official record makes it sound like Glekas was the coward begging for his life, and Ziggy was the bad, bad man who put him down."

Hmm, interesting observation. It's probably me being obtuse but I always read this scene differently. To me it was as if Ziggy was completely defeated and simply wanted Landsman to file an accurate report. I never gave a moments thought to Zig wanting the record to show him as a bad man. Thanks Alan, that's they type of analysis that makes this blog so enjoyable.

Mike C said...

Even more than the shot of Ziggy staggering back to the car after the shooting, I really appreciated the way they slowly zoomed in on him in the car before going back in to kill Glekas. Just a great sequence all around.

I also get a kick out of the reaction when Bunk and Fitz get a quick look at Vondas's text messages and they're in Greek. I believe Bunk's comment is "Nothing's ever easy". Very true in The Wire.

Paul B. said...

Why was Valchek so angry when he showed up at the detail anyway? He got the FBI to work the case, and hardly anything had happened yet, so how would he know whether they were pursuing Sobotka or not?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Paul, he was angry because, as he noted, Sobotka was now the small photo on the corner of the board.

Stan doesn't care about human trafficking. Doesn't care about drugs, or anything Vondas and The Greek are involved with. All he cares about is getting revenge on Sobotka.

kwigibo said...

I never understood the Ziggy hate. This is THE realist's show, and anyone who didn't get the reality of Ransone's portrayal must have been homeschooled. This episode, and his altercation with Fruity Rudy in the finale of Generation Kill spoke deep truths to me.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous (I), above

Yeah, I got the same sense from Ziggy's confession, too. I didn't think Ziggy was posturing -- I thought he was filled with SHAME at murdering a man who was begging for his life.

@ Paul and Alan

And don't forget, this was obstensibly "Valchek's" detail, as if the people on the detail were working for HIM as opposed to the citizenry of Baltimore. Beyond just the ego of the higher-ups and corruption of institutions, I always thought one of David Simon's points was illustrating the breakdown of the social compact in the general sense.

Even when someone like McNulty gets his teeth in a case, like identifying the first woman in the water, it's more about the puzzle and the personal validation (or, at this time in his life, a little boredom). No, he's not COMPLETELY heartless, he takes the plight of victims a little personally -- but just a little.


troy said...

I read Ziggy's surrender as the shooting finally knocking some sense into him; he's trying to be stand-up now, as with his meeting with his dad in the joint.

Dan said...

I took Ziggy's comment as him wanting to make sure everybody knew that he, Ziggy, was able to make a powerful, tough guy like Double-G beg for something. It may have been the one moment in his life where he had power over the situation.

And, during the montage, did Prez's board have Cheese Flagstaff, or Wagstaff?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Flagstaff. I neglected to mention that in the review. As with the Drac thing in season three, you get the sense that Cheese's backstory wasn't as thoroughly mapped-out as that of the more significant characters, and it wasn't until season 4 that the writers knew exactly what to do with him.

BaconAndWaffles said...

I think Ziggy realized he would be haunted by the fact that he killed a man who was begging for his life and wanted to punish himself by having the official record reflect that.

However you view the scene, it was well executed (no pun intended) by Ransome. I always liked Ziggy, for the comedic effect he brought and because I lean toward humor and self deprecation to hide anger and pain as well (without the terrible decision making).

Wallwriting said...

I can't remember if it was this episode or an earlier one where Ziggy was having a talk with his father on the docks.

At one point, Ziggy metions that he knows he's "not blood." It happened so quick and with so little emphasis that I dismissed it as metaphorical, as in "I know I'm not one of the dock-worker brothers." But my wife pointed out that the statement could have been more literal, that Ziggy isn't Frank's biological son (and you couldn't blame Frank's wife for cheating on him).

Alan, do you remember that conversation and, in particular, that statement about Ziggy not being blood?

Hatfield said...

I do, and it's when Frank visits him in jail. What he actually says is, "The same blood doesn't flow through my veins, Pop, I've always known that," or something close. I've read The Wire: It's All Connected, and Rafael Alvaraez, who wrote for this season, basically says it's a metaphorical statement, not that Ziggy isn't Frank's biological son. Still a moving conversation, either way

Hatfield said...

Although the episode recap says otherwise. Does Alan know the answer?

Anonymous said...

"Calvin Flagstaff" vs. "Melvin Wagstaff". I think you can rationalize it as them getting their info off a static-y wiretap and not being able to imagine anyone would actually have the name "Wagstaff" as opposed to the much more common "Flagstaff" (think of Officer Walker making fun of Randy in Season 4). If you look at it that way, instead of seeming like they hadn't mapped it out well, it becomes a sort of entertaining true-to-life detail for the eagle-eyed fans.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Does Alan know the answer?

Given that the recaps often have errors, I'd be inclined to believe Alvarez if he says otherwise in "Truth Be Told." I could imagine the recapper watching that scene and taking the literal interpretation of it, but I also read it metaphorically.

Hatfield said...

That was my feeling, especially as I read a book that doesn't exist. Gah! I hate getting titles wrong. Anyway, thanks for the input (and the sly correction), Alan.

Paul B. said...

Anonymous @ 2:36 Re: Flagstaff

I was thinking the same thing, that it could have been a clerical error on the characters' part and not a continuity error by the writers, though Alan's explanation is more plausible.

Scott Hollifield said...

Regarding Ziggy's correction of Landsman's pre-prepared statement,
I'm inclined to agree with the first Anonymous comment and others: I don't think he cared about his rep as a "bad man" anymore at that moment. Glekas had indeed begged for his life, and it was something that haunted Zig, a thought that overwhelmed what might have been other more superficial concerns in his head.

Also, put me in the column of loving Brother Mouzone's somewhat over-the-top, cartoonish nature. He was a sort of guest in the Wire universe, was visiting from out of town (much as a legendary gunslinger would have) and was being particularly set up as NYC's own unique version of a larger-than-life figure like Omar. Things like his own unique moral code and the obsessive pride he shows in his custom-made ammunition are elements that make the character interesting to me, and I was truly sorry we never saw more of him past his handful of season 2 and 3 appearances.

Anonymous said...

I've always viewed the begging correction as Ziggy coming to grips with what he'd done. The final shot to Double G's head wasn't heat of the moment like the first shots. Ziggy paused and listened to him begging for his life, then he shot him in the head. I still think it was a "Who am I?" "How did I do this?" moment. Not "I'm a bad-ass" but "I'm a terrible person".

Groovekiller said...

I also agree with the commenters.

I always read Ziggy's insistence to include the 'begging' on his confession as repentance not braggadocio.

Any Wire writers lurkin' on the board today that want to add their $0.02?

(BTW - I love that I can make a request like that on this blog and have the chance it'll come true. It's like that scene from Annie Hall where Alvi drags out Marshall McLuhan. Long Live WAW!)

kwigibo said...

I don't see it as him wanting to be a bad man, but it is about control. Ziggy feels bad about killing, but he was in control. The type of guy Ziggy is, that would be important for him to make clear. He didn't just shoot some people like a wacko, he very deliberately executed someone who had done to him what people had been doing to him his whole life.

And Double-G had taken him seriously at that moment, the begging was a little bit of respect for him as a man with some influence over another for once. He was not going to let there be any ambiguity about that, or let it be forgotten, he wanted it on the record.

That's how I saw it at least...

Muz said...

I am definitely another who thought Zig was giving an extra mea culpa to the statement.
He's adding emotion to a dry account. I don't think Landsman quite knows how to take it, given the sort he usually has to deal with. But I can't see it another way besides Zig making the record show just how damned he feels he is.
It also makes it even more plain that Zig was under no threat at the time. He's got a full statement, likely worded for him by the cops, and he's initialling changes to it that make it all the more plain.
The 'deal' suggested to Nick later was always bogus. But, as someone (Daniels? can't recall) points out, it would never work. Zig put himself in, 100 percent.
(although that in and of itself doesn't really speak to the motivation for doing so, and may be treading on a later entry *cough*)

filmcricket said...

I also saw the "begging" correction as being Ziggy feeling extra bad about what he'd done. But Alan's is an interesting take that I hadn't considered.

Also of interest: Alan, I've only watched the series through once, and was not able to get ahold of the S2 DVDs for this rewatch, so I apologize if I'm asking a stupidly obvious question but: why would Prez have been better off if Daniels had let him go to hell in his own way? (to paraphrase another larger-than-life gunslinger).

Matthew said...

Alan, I've only watched the series through once, and was not able to get ahold of the S2 DVDs for this rewatch, so I apologize if I'm asking a stupidly obvious question but: why would Prez have been better off if Daniels had let him go to hell in his own way?

I interpreted Alan's comment as meaning that it would be better for Prez to lose his job for (justifiedly) punching his father-in-law than to lose his job for killing someone and being accused of being a racist cop.

filmcricket said...

So it was a stupidly obvious question, then. Heh. Thanks, Matthew L. I guess I hadn't considered that Prez would have been thrown off the force for either of the previous two infractions, but I should have done.

Ryan W said...


Is it fair to characterize Herc as an idiot throughout the run of the show? Based on his indoctrination speech to the rookies in Narcotics at the end of S1 and a few moments earlier in this season, he does seem to have taken some lessons of detail work to heart. Sure, there is the season long feud with Bodie, but Herc is also the one to understand when the Pit starts getting their reups from the Tower. If anything, Herc shows more potential for growth through S2 than Carver.

The big stumbling block is when Carver and Herc essentially ask "What is in this for me?" that leads to their disillusionment and their return to "the Western District Way" of brutality and simple stats. Making matters worse was the fact that the detail failed to catch the big targets (Sobotka, Vondas, the Greek) in spite of the yeoman's work the two contributed.

Excellent review as always, particularly the insight on the playground scene.

Anonymous said...

Great article as always Alan. I also want to mention your talent at always grabbing great screen-caps. They compliment these entries very well.

Anonymous said...

I believe it's been said here before, but to me Ziggy is a classic example of 'wrong place/wrong time.' If he were the son of a rich man and had ample opportunity to screw up and be rescued again and again, he seems like the kind of person who might have turned out OK in the end.

Or maybe if he had gotten out of that particular scene, the traits that made him annoying and useless might have been welcome in a different milieu. Being a skinny geek in a world of longshoremen couldn't have been easy.

I agree that I never appreciated Ransone's acting till I saw him in Generation Kill.

Anonymous said...

I wanted to comment on the scene with Butchie and Omar,‭ ‬where we get another glimpse into the life of Omar.‭ ‬It is clear,‭ ‬not only from Butchie's expression of concern for Omar's well-being but in the way they touch hands,‭ ‬not ritually but emotively,‭ ‬that here is another deep human connection that Omar has forged.‭ ‬Any scene like this in‭ "‬The Wire,"‭ ‬where exploitation and the disavowal of human feelings and obligations are the norm,‭ ‬is remarkable.‭ ‬I think it's a nice entry point into‭ the‬ neglected theme of love and the failure of love in "The Wire" or,‭ ‬as Simon put it,‭ ‬the‭ "‬thematic correlation between the personal lives of characters or lack thereof,‭ ‬and their dependence or independence of the institutional imperative.‭"

By institutions,‭ ‬Simon means the formations through which money and power are‭ "‬routed‭" ‬in America,‭ ‬including‭ "‬material‭" ‬institutions like the BPD but also discursive formations like the‭ "‬macroeconomic forces that are throwing the lightning bolts and hitting people in the ass for no decent reason.‭" ‬Omar‭ “‬is the only character on‭ '‬The Wire'‭ ‬who is not beholden to an institution‭” ‬and thus‭ “‬he represents,‭ ‬in the piece as a whole,‭ ‬something the writers are trying to say about institutions and individuals.‭” ‬I puzzled over what that something was for a long time and then‭ (‬thanks to puzzling over Michael's story‭) ‬it seemed obvious it was the capacity to love,‭ ‬to form lasting,‭ ‬non-exploitive,‭ ‬caring human connections.

"The Wire"‭ ‬may be a work of the postmodern period,‭ ‬but it is undoubtedly a work of modernist sensibility.‭ ‬Canonical modernist writers‭ (‬like Eliot,‭ ‬Hemingway,‭ ‬and Fitzgerald‭)‬,‭ ‬even as they lamented the catastrophes of capitalist modernization,‭ ‬made an aesthetic of a mysteriously corrupt humanity doomed by nature not to be able to love and form caring societies.‭ ‬By naturalizing and dehistoricizing what were contingent features of historically identifiable,‭ ‬humanly and socially destructive forces they justified with naturalism the submission to the very structures they lamented.‭ (‬A good book on this is Seth Moglen's‭ "‬Mourning Modernity."‭) ‬With Omar‭ "‬The Wire"‭ ‬says bull,‭ ‬it's the socioeconomic structure,‭ ‬stupid:‭ "‬a way of life dedicated to power,‭ ‬profit,‭ ‬and the business of material survival,‭ ‬rather than to fostering the values of human sharing and solidarity‭" (‬Terry Eagleton‭)‬.‭ ‬Omar has created a place for himself beyond the imperatives of that structure of money and power and in that place he seems incapable of living without forming deep personal and caring bonds;‭ ‬and not only is he capable of affective sexuality it's the only kind he experiences.‭ (‬Contrast this with his two antithetical nemeses,‭ ‬Stringer and Marlo.‭)

Even if,‭ ‬as his interviews suggest,‭ ‬Simon cannot imagine how we can free ourselves from a socioeconomic structure that fosters domination and exploitation as a way of being,‭ "‬The Wire"‭ ‬imagines in the‭ "‬mythical‭" ‬Omar the possibilities for human connections‭ ‬in doing so.‭ (‬Some may have noticed that if you transpose the vowels in‭ '‬Omar‭' ‬the result is the name of mythological being whom the Greeks called 'Eros' which is also the name given to the Freudian concept of a psychic impulse to form connections, the desire to unite with others.‭)

I am ever curious that while Omar's non-essential idiosyncrasies‭ (‬as far as I know,‭ ‬Michael doesn't eat Honey Nut Cheerios‭; ‬maybe his food of choice will be Rice-A-Roni‭) ‬are celebrated and commented on the probable reason for his creation,‭ ‬his personal way of being outside the structures of money and power in his world,‭ ‬his extraordinary capacity to love and what that argues for the possibilities of human being with emancipation from those structures,‭ ‬is generally ignored.‭ ‬I guess love isn't sexy enough anymore.

Alan Sepinwall said...

First of all, interesting points on Ziggy's confession. I can see the defeat and shame in there, but I do think there's definitely a part of him that wants to control this, both because it's the one moment in his life where he beat the bully, and because he knows it's the last thing in his life that he'll ever really control. But you guys made me think, which I love about these comments.

Second, if anybody's still reading, I have a question for the writing of the "Bad Dreams" reviews. As you probably realize, the newbie and veteran editions are identical, save for the extra list of bulleted items at the end of the vet reviews. I try to make the bulk of the reviews be safe for both, so let me ask you...

... if you're a newbie, and you read a review of "Bad Dreams" where I treat Frank's murder (which will happen off-camera, presumably moments after the episode's end) as a matter of fact, would you be pissed? Or would you, like me and so many other people back when we first watched the episode, have already assumed he was done for?

I mean, his corpse pops up in the first scene of the finale, but at the same time, I'm sure there were some fans back in the day who naively held out hope that the bad end wouldn't happen. Do I need to hedge in my review for the sake of their sensibilities, or do you feel the episode makes it so clear what's going to happen that I can talk about it openly?

JAMMQ said...


Alan, thank you so much for this rewrite. Great work, and a great way to re-experience the episodes as if it was the first time all over again. The real tragedy is that this show never received the acclaim and recognition it deserved.


I would definitely not mention Frank Sobotka's destiny until the final review. To do otherwise completely destroys the opening sequence of the finale where all the dock workers are gathered together observing the police activity in the harbor.

I would hate to be the newbie who has that scene spoiled for him.

The one thing that was always true about The Wire is that you never really were positive about what was going to happen until it happened.

That's my 0.02 cents.

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with JAMMQ on this. Just to be on the safe side...

Muz said...

Thanks for keeping up the chat Alan.
Your take on Zig's statement is interesting. To me Ziggy is one of the recurring themes; the gentler person stuck in the badass world. They want to fit into it so bad (or they seem to have no option) but facing what it means to be so will destroy them.
Again, that doesn't rule out him injecting some ego into that moment. I still always see him as like the kid in Unforgiven.

Regarding the penultiate episode. I can't really tell you what to do there. I can say that was where I saw the show as a tragedy, properly, for the first time. There was no doubt in my mind what would happen, but it seemed like it couldn't be any other way. Frank must have some inkling what kind of people these are by now and how it could all go wrong. But, heck, if they didn't know he had been to the police before the meet I think he would have told them straight up anyway.
Moments before the end you're basically saying to yourself "Please man, just this once; don't be Frank". What makes that shot of him striding away so unforgettable, to me, is the lack of any suspence, the awful certainty of it all.

Chip said...

Alan I'm looking over at your twitter feed and...are you hating on Scooby-Doo???

Jrrd said...

Alan, My first comment here so I'd like to do like everyone else and thank you very much for these writeups - I got on the Wire bandwagon 2 months ago and have burned through to the end of Season 4 like it was a chocolate cake and I was six.

Re: Frank's death - At the time I was convinced that he'd be killed thanks to the show's schooling but I'm glad I didn't KNOW he was going to die because there was a tiny sliver of hope. Seeing him get pulled out of the water was devastating for 2 reasons. First was the way that my own sense that it was inevitable was contrasted with the shock of the stevedores. But secondly was this kind of feeling of the show smiling grimly at you saying 'abandon all hope ye who watch this show'. Having that tiny bit of hope extinguished added to the weight of the scene.

So my vote is for not making it clear to the n00bs.

Other Stuff: I came to the Wire after watching and loving Generation Kill (the only television show more demanding of concentration of its viewers) so I new James Ransone would be great. I even got spoiled on his killing spree by reading the GK recaps on the AVClub (which was the precise place I found this blog EVERYTHINGISCONNECTED!!). I didn't feel he was trying to big note himself in his statement. If anything I think it might have been a moment of social rules and norms for him - ie not perjuring himself in a statement to the police because it is wrong - mixed with contrition. I think he just felt compelled to have the statement be the truth and nothing but.

Hatfield said...

Wow. I remember being all but sure he was a dead man, because why else have The Greek say, "Your way, it won't work." On the other hand, people newer to the show may think it unlikely that a main character who they just spent an entire episode on would actually be killed, and that the good guys would get a complete win. I say tread lightly, but I also gotta believe that anyone who watches that episode is immediately gonna cue up the season finale.

Hmm, was that helpful? I suppose not.

Matt said...


I'd say don't acknowledge Frank's death in the "Bad Dreams" review. It's always better to err on the side of caution as far as spoilers go, and you'll be able to discuss the death in your "Port in a Storm" review anyway.

harrison said...

Obviously coming here too late for anyone to notice this, but rewatching S1 over Xmas break I caught a connection I'd totally failed to make before now. Valchek screams "Move, s**tbird!" at Prez right before Prez clocks him -- the same words Prez uses to ask Kevin Johnston to kindly remove himself from the hood of the car way back in the second episode.

In any other show I'd say it was unintentional, but this being The Wire...

Anonymous said...

Also, Frank calls Ziggy "S***bird" at the start of their conversation on the docks several episodes earlier...

Bryan said...


after reading the comments, one thing that struck me about this episode that nobody has mentioned is the sound effects while Ziggy is sitting in the car just before he walks back into the store to kill Double G.

while he is making his decision, you can hear jackhammers, softly at first, and then they grow ever louder until he opens the car door after he decided to go through with it.

the parallel is in the Godfather movie, where Pacino is in the restaurant, decides to go to the restroom, grabs the gun hidden in the stall, and you hear a train, softly at first, then grows to deafening levels, before murdering the man at the table.

the sounds being representative of the mental anguish in both instances.

i certainly don't know if it was intentional, but if it was, it put a smile on my face.

Anonymous said...

One thing that struck me on the second watch through about Ziggy is a scene from a few episodes earlier. When buying the duck he asks "Why don't they fly away?" and the man responds that their wings are clipped. Looking back I realize that this describes Ziggy perfectly. He is in a situation in life that he doesn't want to be in and is not suited for but he can't "fly away", leave the docks and start a new life somewhere else because his wings have essentially been clipped by Frank. Frank did not allow him to pursue a college education and did not encourage him to explore other avenues outside of the docks. By not encouraging Ziggy to go to college Ziggy could not get an education and then "fly away" to a life at a corporation where he would be much more suited and would fit in perfectly. Instead he is doomed to a life that he does not belong in and it leads to his demise. Much like the duck drinking himself to death because his wings are clipped and he can not escape; Ziggy eventually snaps because he has the skills to do nothing else but work on the docks.

David said...

Dis I miss something with Prissy Catlow? I don't recall her background story, just that she did the scene at the playground and I thought of the play "Our Town" but otherwise I wondered who she was.

Anonymous said...

One more thing on the scene with Ziggy after he shot Double G. He finally turned down the radio.