The Wire 3:2 and 3:3

The beginning third of a Wire season is always so much of a stark contrast to the awesome that follows. It’s like watching one of those videos of an artist at work, where it takes quite some time before you have any clue what in the world he’s drawing, and then when it snaps into focus, it’s great from then on.

Cool, but alas, we’re still in “set up” mode in these two episodes.

Episode 3:2

This episode does have one of my favorite speeches from the series: Bunny’s talk about the paper bag. It works so well because we’ve been watching the police bang their heads against the wall of the drug trade for so long at this point. We realize what a pointless endeavor so much of their work is. The Barksdale crew is legion, and if you arrest a Bodie or a Poot for a year or two for drug dealing, what good is it really going to do? They’ll just promote someone else.

And then we see Dozerman get almost killed over one of these petty busts. A bust that isn’t going to do anything in the big scheme of things other than appease Rawls for about a second longer. Bunny watches it happen, and he decides enough is enough.

I’d always been against the legalization of drugs. This show made me rethink that position, and these days, it’s not as clear of an issue for me. I really see what Bunny’s getting at, but I still wish there were some other solution. Up in Maine, heroin use is skyrocketing, and prescription drug abuse is really up there as well. It’s killing people and ruining lives, and conventional approaches just aren’t cutting it. I’m far from convinced that simple criminalization and enforcement are up to the task of solving the problems. Is legalization going to fix things? I doubt it. But I believe the world needs more people like Bunny: people willing to think outside the box for creative answers. (Even though we still don’t know what he’s planning . . .)

Herc and Carv continue to be the resident chuckleheads of the series. They’re all brute force, with no finesse. They do what they’re told without really thinking about why they’re doing it. And while they can be amusing, they’re more frustrating to me than anything else. Especially Carver, because I feel like he’s capable of so much more.

The plot about Cheese and his dog/dawg is still amusing, and the final interview between him and Bunk is great stuff, especially with everyone outside the room celebrating that they’ve won the day, even as we all know they’ve failed spectacularly. That’s a tricky pay off to set up, and the show does a great job of it.

Carcetti. He’s a weasel. You can tell that as soon as you look at him and see how he plays people to get what he wants done. But he’s a weasel that demands attention, because he does get things done, and watching how he does it is very instructive. (And brings to mind House of Cards in many different ways.)

It’s a decent episode. Better than the last one for sure, but still nothing to write home about. 7/10.

Episode 3:3

Another entry in the “good but not great” department. More set up, though things do start to happen . . .

Omar finally gets taken down a notch or three, with Tosha getting shot by friendly fire in a failed raid on the Barksdales. Omar continues to be one of my favorite characters of the show, and he’s also one of the most clear cut characters. True, he steals and kills and isn’t a person I’d ever want to date my daughters (or son, as the case may be), but he’s definitely “good” in terms of the show. He has a personal sense of right and wrong, and he follows those rules closely. And when things go bad like they do in this episode? He feels terrible about it. He wants to make them right.

Compare him to Carcetti, who most of the normal people in the show would say was “good.” It’s a classic case of doing good things for the wrong reasons. He mirrors McNulty in many ways: out to prove how much smarter he is than everyone else. He gets things done to get more power, making sure that they look good, simply to make sure he looks good. And to put to bed any doubt about what a weasel he is, we see him smile and play the family man one moment, then cheat on his wife the very next.

Bunny’s plan becomes clear now: legalize drugs in his district. Free up his force to do other more important things than make petty busts. And to back that up, he decides to stop cooking the books. To present the stats as they really are at this point in time. And of course, that decision gets him in hot water with Rawls. Rawls is great at dressing a person down. he excels at it. but he does it for all the wrong reasons. He wants things to look good, and he doesn’t care at all whether they actually are good.

The policeman’s wake was something that struck me as beyond bizarre the first time I watched it, but it’s grown on me since. The idea of the tradition, and the way the cops band together even in death. I like it, even as I’m disappointed by just how stinking drunk they all get. (Seriously. Who calls that a fun time?)

Stringer’s “40 degree day” speech is another classic. Seriously. Some of the writing on this show is just so impressive, you get to thinking that there’s no one anyone could come up with these lines off the top of their heads. But you don’t care, because you just love listening to the lines. (And then you have the other, less bright characters in the show completely miss the point of the speeches. Classic.)

So why didn’t I love this episode? Why is it just a 7/10 again for me? I think mainly because it lacks the across-the-board greatness of other Wire episodes. There’s no focus to it all yet. Yes, the shootout with Omar and the others is intense, but it’s a one off. Mostly, things are still just assembling at this point without any real ignition. That said, this season has always been the one where things really snapped into place for me. Where I understood just how big the problems the Wire deals with are.

In other words, stick with it.

What have you been thinking?

Leave a comment