The Wire 1:11 and 1:12

Getting right down to the end of the season. After looking at the calendar, I decided I have enough time in the academic year to just handle the end of the season by itself next week, so there’ll just be one episode I’m discussing next Wednesday. Still two today, however. Onward!

Episode 1:11

I love that this show lets characters break out from the mold we initially place them. Look at Wee-Bey, who turns out to be a cold blooded killer, but also a guy who loves his pet fish. A lot.

Or (an even better example) look at Rawls. The guy is clearly supposed to be someone we dislike. He always seems to be throwing wrenches in the way of our protagonists. Surely he’s just some paper-pushing jerk.

Nope. In this episode, he shows that he actually can get things done. He sees what needs doing, and he helps it to happen, whether it’s clearing people away from the crime scene or even (gasp!) going to comfort McNulty in the strangest inspiring pep talk you could imagine.

We also see McNulty in a much starker light. This was the episode where he really began to let me down some. Where I saw that protagonists in this show could be just as flawed as the villains. Yes, McNulty comes to the realization that Kima got hurt because of this investigation, which he started as more of a personal soap box than anything else. But what does he do with that realization? He freezes up. He does nothing. He drinks. That’s the McNulty way of life, it seems. It doesn’t make him a bad person, but it’s certainly something he could work on to improve himself.

And poor Bubbs, who clearly has no chance of staying clean. (I read online that the makers of the show were very conscious of this development. Apparently junkies who are trying to get clean often come up with plans that depend on unlikely scenarios to actually be able to  pan out. When the plans get messed up, they shirk responsibility and just give up. Bubbs had this plan that depended on Kima giving him the money to get a place of his own, and then he’d be able to . . . somehow use that to move on to better things. But what were the odds of that actually working? This isn’t supposed to be television, after all. There are no easy outs.)

It’s also interesting to me that in this episode, the detail finally gets the attention it’s deserved from the higher ups. And does this help? No way. It makes things worse. The higher ups are firm believers in doing something when something must be done. Too bad “something” doesn’t actually mean “something useful.” But Lester gets a chance to shine again. He’s a bright light in comparison with all the duds. He knows there’s something he can do to help, and he dives right in and gets it done.

It’s a very strong episode from start to finish. Filled with unexpected turns that still feel right and natural when they come. (The best kind of plotting.) 9/10 for me. I could talk about so many other things, but I don’t have the time.

Episode 1:12

Wallace. Where’s Wallace? This is one of the best episodes of the entire show. It’s where we realize just how willing the series is to go into the hard places. Wallace doesn’t just die. He’s killed in cold blood by his two best friends. Friends who clearly don’t want to kill him, but convince each other that it’s what has to be done. And Wallace goes to that death crying and wetting his pants. It’s brutally sad, but it’s an outcome that’s been on the horizon for a long time.

Still a bummer to have it actually happen.

But the fact that it can be so powerful is a testament to so much time and character development the show put in earlier on. Letting us see Wallace, Poot, and Bodie interact. Have them be actual characters instead of just henchmen.

And that’s not all the episode had to offer. It shows us Levy (the lawyer, who we learned a few episodes ago is a big player in lawyer circles) isn’t just a scuzzy legal beagle. He’s a co-conspirator with Stringer and Avon. Think about the deaths that result directly from him suggesting to his two clients that they need to “clean house.” He knows what he’s doing, and he does it anyway. If there’s anyone in the show who’s pure evil, I think Levy might be right at the top of the list. (Then again, we’ve only briefly gotten to know Clay Davis . . .)

But how about something positive? How about Daniels sticking up to Burrell and Davis? He’s come a long way from the earlier episodes, when he was all too eager to toe the line. Here he realizes how the game is being played, and he’s unafraid to put his reputation on the line. (Interesting to see that he clearly has a dark past to hide, however. He’s no saint.)

And D’Angelo giving up on his blood ties? Very powerful stuff. That “Where’s Wallace” scene is one that really sticks with you.

I remember the first time watching the show, I was disappointed by the way things were wrapping up. They get the camera into Avon’s room just in time for Avon to pack it up? And all they can charge anyone with is some low level stuff? Where’s the explosions? Where are the big sentences. (More on that next week.)

In essence, I wanted my pile of dope on the table, and I was sad I wasn’t getting it. Talk about a hallmark of a great show, where it can use audience expectation in a way that makes you realize some things about yourself at the same time as you’re watching the show.

Anyway. Out of time for the day. This is an easy 10/10 episode. Such good stuff. Hope you’ve been enjoying it too. One episode left in the season!

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