As I sit here staring at my screen, I'm trying to consider what it was about this episode that rubbed me the wrong way. What is it that separated this episode (and possibly the previous one) from the past seasons, and from last season in particular? The scenes that stuck out, that somehow made me squirm, even tucked away in the corner of my cozy couch, were the ones that acted as a sort of literal translation of what I have always imagined The Wire to be saying without having to actually say: shit is really bad in Baltimore and each character we have come to know is being dealt a trick deck. Or, as McNulty says, "the fuckin' game's rigged." I can't recall something as overt as Sydnor saying, "I wonder what Marlo is up to right fuckin' now?" And then a jump cut to Marlo himself. Or seeing Bubbles, still plagued by his incident with Sherrod, helplessly watching the ex-junkie we were introduced to in the opening moments abusing her baby. Or Michael not being able to pull the trigger on the kid running out of his back door into the alley after Chris and Snoop massacred the poor child's parents because Michael was thinking of the reasons why he entered into Marlo's crew in the first place: to save Bug. Whew. As viewer, regardless of whether we sit in the cheap seats or not, we don't need fed up Orioles fans to tell us Baltimore is a failing city and that urban life for the underprivileged in this country is difficult -- so difficult, in fact, that even America's past-time suffers.
Well, that's what I was thinking at least. But I think I just might and maybe know a little bit about The Wire. I trust David Simon. Shit, there were bad Sopranos episodes, too (not necessarily meaning this was a bad episode). And as I stated above, the show is always saying something without needing to state it aloud. What then, I ask myself, was last night telling me (us) when it was actually telling us something? But first a (truly) brief rundown.
The Major Crimes Unit's re-integration into the rest of the police department has been anything but easy. McNulty can't even find a car to drive to a potential homicide scene. Similarly, Bubbles (so far my personal favorite performance of this season) is finding his sober life an equal, if not greater, challenge than when he used to sport the "dope fiend lean." Starting with the lighter -- lighting -- his -- cigarette, moving up to his mouth, then further up to his troubled eyes, the care and attention paid to and put into Bubble's character has been the best kind of sad. On the other end of the dip stick, Carcetti's focus has explicitly shifted from "A new day for Baltimore" towards a new day for him in Annapolis, which sickens viewers I imagine (especially those who really loved him throughout the back half of season four, like, uh, Me, at least). Chris and Snoop move quickly, but not so quietly through the West-side, now that they are (officially) unwatched, checking two of the three items off of their to-do list, leaving "the dick sucker" for next week (as my editor pointed out, a traceable pattern in The Wire). Their speed comes as no surprise, as Chris says to Marlo of Snoop, "she aint had no work in a few months; she somewhat eager." However, the ease with which Michael entered the Stanfield crew stuttered this week, as he (thankfully) did not go through with capping that 6 year old boy fleeing down the back alley. Michael's ability to kill, though, coupled with his moral code, does bring to mind Omar, and leads me to think he may be involved in that conflict to come somehow. The Marlo and Avon, and later the Marlo and "Boris", meetings went as planned (as promised by the ads for this week), and the differences between the former king of the West-side and the current king became clear. Marlo doesn't speak much, and when he does it's usually through Chris' and Snoop's guns, but his calmness is chilling. There is something really fucking frightening about someone who cares nothing for longevity in their career of killing (duh!). Or better stated, "you know the crown aint worth muccchhhh, if the nigga wearin it always gettin' his shit took." As far as business goes, Marlo paid Avon's sister a hundred large to get a word with Sergei. Avon, in turn, will make sure Sergei makes good on his connections with "the Greek" allowing Marlo to bypass Prop Joe and the rest of the East-side for a direct link to the package. Simple enough, right? I mean is the East-side really going to go war with Marlo?
The Sun's part of the final season is, so far, and for good reason, not on par with the rest of the show. But I hold true to my feeling from last week that Gus Haynes, alone, will keep my interest. The major conflict forming is between Haynes and his boss Whitting, who wants the top stories, wants the cheap news, the simple formulas, the heart-strings yanked and the black people felt sorry for unconditionally by the rich white readers. Let's "limit the scope, not get bogged down on details ... if you leave everything in, soon, you've got nothing." Using Tempelton as his muse, Whitting wants to focus on schools. Schools as the reason for the troubled youth, instead of, as Haynes suggests, a larger problem, a city-wide (nation-wide) problem that schools are just another participant in. Templeton, too has a major problem. His stories are fabricated. His assignment to get a fan piece on opening day at Camden Yards turned out to be boring, tired, uncontroversial. Amazingly, he shows up back at the Sun with a touching piece on a young, black, handicapped, parentless, "E.J.", some kid clearly created by the simple white perspective of Templeton, yet playing ever so neatly into Whitting's ideal of his paper: "I think you really captured the disparity of the two words in this city in a highly readable narrative." This, of course, is what David Simon has successfully done with The Wire.
Oh and yes, McNulty and Bunk, Bunk and McNulty, back hittin the booze and bitches. With no hope to get the Stanfield investigation back, McNulty plays dirty, learning a couple tricks at the morgue from an old friend and now county homicide detective. With a flask of Seagrams in his pocket, Jimmy turns a potential homicide scene into a definite homicide performed by possible serial killer and his oldest partner calls him a "sick fuck." He needs the Stanfield detail back up, if not for the city, then for his own sanity. And with the FBI of no assistance, Freamon spending his off time following Marlo, and Sydnor's aforementioned desire to get back on the case, sometimes you just get sick of "being dicked around."
As I said last Monday, this season -- this show in general, being the excellent cop drama it is -- tells us to look closely. So last night, when I felt like I didn't have to look closely for the first time, I grew suspicious. As my friend, Willie, pointed out (paraphrase, sorry dude), "it is a cop show, there may be results, and we may just end up seeing them simultaneously with the characters' development." The introduction of Omar next week is something I excitedly await and as Bubbles develops more and more, I grow sadder for the show's end. From the beginning of season 1, there's been a hopelessness on the street, except for Bubbles (and Namond, I guess), who breathe fresh life into dirty Baltimore. But exceptions are just that. Corruption is endless. We know the schools are still in shambles without even having to see them. And Marlo stacked up four more bodies. As my roommate so eloquently puts it, "shit is so fucked." That is, naturally, the most lucid (profane) way to translate the Marlo/ Avon exchange, "ah, the game is the game" / "always."
"This ain't Aruba, bitch." -- Bunk