Monday, March 03, 2008

The Monday Evening Wire. Just a Step Behind.
Episode 59, "Late Editions"

by Cuyler Ballenger

fuck a re-up, son

Clocks and maps open the best episode of any show I've seen (save any Sopranos and the finale of John from Cincinatti). Freamon, like clocks, knows what time it is, and Sydnor, like maps, knows where it's at (insert Snoop's "ya heard" right here). Within the first ten minutes, Monk, Cheese, Chris and finally Marlo are all arrested. Sydnor is smiling. Freamon is triumphant: he stares down at Mr. Stanfield, he kneeling, roll of cash and cell phone laying out in front of him on the street. Freamon shoots Marlo one last look, holding the confiscated phone in one hand and the clock in the other, and I can see him repeating the line he just said to McNulty over and over in his head, "Oh hell yea!"

But "Late Editions" was a two part episode really, the first part devoted to the "good day for the good guys", and the second, a poignant look into most of The Wire's key characters' motivations, fears and futures. I'm not sure why Snoop wasn't picked up (maybe because she was in the meeting with Levy), but the goodbye point/wave Herc offered her was enough to keep me from questioning further. With all the key players locked up, not to mention the Russians at the drop site, and Snoop, high enough up in Marlo's ranks to have earned a certain immunity, attention was turned to Michael as he was the only "source of information" Marlo could link to their arrests. And though Chris believes Michael didn't say anything to Bunk (which he didn't), Marlo has never been one to base his decisions on the character of his victims, telling Chris essentially, "Michael goes or you go." Snoop, being the only one left on the street, is left with that task -- one that proved fatally difficult, in yet another intimate and creepy point blank blast to the skull. Over at the The House Next Door, Andrew Johnston noted that this scene set the stage for Michael to become the next Omar. I can see that, I guess, but I'm more inclined to think that D. Simon paints a more complex picture of the Baltimore streets, as he made clear earlier this season by insisting that "Marlo isn't Joe" and, further, that Marlo isn't Avon -- whether or not they are set to be cell-mates. Yes, there are undeniable similarities in Mike and Omar, but Omar sobbed when Butchie got killed, whereas Mike told Dukie he couldn't even remember last year just moments after he didn't hug his brother goodbye. The streets are the streets, sure, but it does a disservice to the show on the whole to consider them (the streets and those inhabiting them) as cyclical or repetitive.

Johnston did say one thing I very much agree with though: Jamie Hector brought it! Both the scene in the holding cell, with his three boys, and, later, orange-clad with Levy, Hector revealed new sides to his character as his Marlo's circumstances changed. It was a move which matched the drama of the episode, one that reminded me Mr. Stanfield's inner intensity is what got him to where he is now (well, I mean, before he was arrested). The question I'm asking myself tonight is, Would I be satisfied if Marlo wasn't included in the finale, but just Levy speaking on his behalf? I only ask this because there is so much to cover next week, what with Carcetti's bid for the capital, Gus' investigation of Templeton and above all, the fates of Jimmy and Lester, I can see the streets taking the back seat to city politics. If that is the case, and Chris is locked up on a murder charge, Snoop (bless her evil soul) is dead and Michael is on the run, the Baltimore drug game took a major blow, one serious enough to leave an inkling of hope for kids like Bug.

Sadly, there is something terrible on the horizon. Something really pointless and stupid, though it does come from arguably, a good place. Kima ratted out Jimmy and Lester to Daniels. I swear, the ring of Marlo's phone in the evidence locker was almost as heartbreaking as Dukie's tears as he parted from Michael and walked down the wrong alley. The episode two weeks ago devoted to Kima allowed her to step back and re-discover why it is she does what she does: to protect kids like her own and help those who are past protection, like the boy numbed to life after his family lost theirs. But her actions this week were done out of a kind of blind rage, and they are going to reach further than she calculated. The case on Marlo will be compromised, and with a lawyer like Levy, a sort of more powerful Clay Davis (scary!), I wouldn't be surprised if Marlo escaped this charge. Kima, if I remember correctly, had never acted this erratically in the past, and this shortsighted fight against corruption may have next week ending on a disappointing note after all.

Namond, like Randy, got his cameo, although his was considerably more positive than the latter. Bunny was a better teacher than he was a cop and maybe a better father than teacher. Namond looked and sounded sharp, preaching about how shitty the U.S. treats Africa, a new kind of global argument about this country from Simon (though one that I didn't read into much, given the speaker). No matter, Namond, standing tall at the podium, sporting a suit, talking about something other than himself made me smile. And because in "Late Editions," we saw the first of probably many doors, closed in Michael's face and Dukie's future on the same smack Mike was pushing, the optimistic sun shining down on Namond and family as they walked to their towncar was especially rejuvenating.

Over at the Sun, Gus is doing a bit of police work himself. Or, as he calls it, "scratching an itch" named Scott Templeton. Given that the focus of this season was meant to be the press, and there are so many stones still unturned, I imagine I'll be able to spend a great deal more time next week investigating this sect of Baltimore myself. I'll say, for now, if the message we are to walk away with this season is that there are lying reporters and there are honest reporters, both in the lowest and highest ranks, this aspect of the show clearly failed to provide the quality the rest of series offered. One long episode can change that though, and I hope it does.

I feel the need to end with Bubbles. I'm sure you understand. His speech was the single best moment in The Wire, both in story and directing. That cut to the empty stairwell just before he said, "my people couldn't make it today," was perfect. It was a subtle and smart way of revealing, before he even said it, that there is hope, there are strong individuals, there are survivors. It's not cheesy, it's not a cliche: Bubbles did it alone and that's something to be applauded. As is Andre Royo, someone I hope has a big future in film (and something I'm sure Ryland and I will discuss in more detail in two weeks). That speech spoke to other characters on the show as well, both overtly, in that he was finally able to come to terms with the death of Sherod, and, more discreetly, "aint no shame in holdin' onto grief, as long as you can make room for other things too." That's about pride, about not having too much. That's about Jimmy losing Beadie, about Kima making a bad decision to tell on her partner and about Michael "not remembering" the ice cream truck. Bad shit is gonna happen to everyone, and thats important, its important to own that and know that, but its important to live on, we are not all islands, this is a city.

the city

Fuck a re-up, son! -- Freamon


(PS -Fuck you Herc)


Deserve aint got nuthin' to do with it -- Snoop


  1. I'm finishing up a draft of my Pedro Costa Day 2 post for THND and I looked back at the pictures here and thought about how these two projects (Costa's and Simon's) are kinda similar. I think I saw Darren Hughes blog about this at one point but, if memory serves, he was talking about formal things like space and framing. That's definitely there, but the weirder thing for me is that whole outsider-looking-in angle. I guess both projects earn their place within their respective slums (B'more and Fountainhas), but it's still a weird thing to me -- this possibility of exploitation. But I don't want to denegrate all the great things that happen both in Costa and in _The Wire_.

    For instance: Bubbs! You were right to end with him as Simon has been building to this speech all series long. If only Kima could see him now. But they'll never know each other anymore. Plus, you know, Kima's righteousness is rather shortsighted and spells a lot of doom for McNulty and Lester and their case against Marlo Stanfield. All for nought? Ugh. We'll just have to wait and see. All of us. Haha. Yea: it tickles me that all you ON DEMANDers have to wait like the rest of us this week.

    IMDb says the series finale is directed by Clark Johnson and will last 93 minutes. I can't wait. Lots to wrap up. And knowing Simon's storytelling techniques, there will be plenty of resolution topped off by a oh-so poignant montage. (I can't lie: that ending to the fourth season really got to me.)

    Anyways: glad you did this, Cuy. It's been fun to watch (on tv and on the blog). I look forward to our conversation in a few weeks time.

  2. stopped reading after your first sentence. what the fuck was that about? Best episode of television you've ever seen... execpt for 60 some odd Sopranos episodes and one JFC?

  3. hey anonymous-
    really constructive criticism. thanks so much. i look forward to your insights next week.

  4. Like Gus would say: Good shit. Real good shit here. Nicely done. So sad that only one (albeit 93 minute) episode remains!

  5. cuyler,

    just looking for some clarification. You think that you can pick any random episode of The Sopranos and it'll be better then episode 59 of The Wire?

    Is this what you were saying?

  6. If you're looking for clarification, thAn not thEn.

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