This season. I feel so bad for these kids and what they have to go through at school. True, some of it is on them, I suppose, since the teachers are trying their best to control the chaos, and if the students would just behave, then life would be ever so much better.
But a lot more of the blame is on society for allowing this situation to develop. Up until this season, I’d always looked at the Wire as depicting two sides of the Game: cops vs. robbers. You’ve got the good guys and the bad guys. And sure, some of the good guys aren’t so good, and the bad guys aren’t so bad, but the sides they’re fighting on? They’re strictly good and bad, right?
Season two muddied that up a little, but it seemed like more of a one-off to me. It showed the dock workers, and how broken their lives have become since life started changing, but none of that was part of the Game was it? Well, other than that was how the mass amounts of drugs were coming into the country . . .
Season three had some politics, but again, that seemed like a separate beast from the rest of the Game. A side show to the Stringer vs. McNulty main show. True, it focused a bit on how the political beast was interacting with the Game, but that seemed tangential for the most part.
Season four is when it all came together at once for me, and I think the one scene that did it was the face slashing at the end of this episode. It comes out of nowhere, and it’s so violent. So extreme. I was shocked by it, and it really stuck with me. The two girls involved aren’t players in the Game, are they? But the more I thought about it, the more I realized the Game is much more than cops vs. robbers. It’s the whole mess of life in Baltimore, and everyone’s a player.
I never had anything like this happen to me (or around me) in my high school. The way these students behave is so far outside my realm of experience, I wish it were fantasy. But the great thing about the Wire is that because it spent so long laying the foundation and showing what was going on, when it gets to this point, you can’t dismiss this as fantasy. It’s all too real.
The Game affects people’s lives. It’s not just police or drug dealers. It’s families. Students. Teachers. People who would be like me, if not for the fact that they were born into this twisty turny complicated mess of a situation. It’s self perpetuating at this point, with people playing it as best they can to help themselves as best they can. Because that’s the Game, and you don’t win by being nice to other people. (Except for the few people who have managed to see beyond themselves, like Cutty or Bunny or McNulty at the moment.)
Having this season focus on these boys is the smartest move of the smartest show on television. Because we get to see how the Game begins. How the sides are chosen. How it doesn’t care who you are or what you want out of life. It will still grab you and own you.
Anyway. What else happened in this episode?
Prez is doing his best to teach, but failing miserably. The boys are letting us know more about who they are and what they want. Randy wants to sell candy, not drugs. He just wants to make some money. He seems one of the most childish of the four, something that fits in with him pretending to be a sixth grader still. Dukie is the smart one in the worst family. If only he had a better home life, maybe he’d be much better off. Michael is the strong independent one. Strong enough everyone he meets sees his potential. Namond is the one who’s being forced into the drug Game, even if he really has no desire to play it.
Carcetti, meanwhile, is walking the tightrope between sleazy politician and actual human being, showing up at the funeral to score political points, but unable to go through with it because he still feels bad for the people and isn’t 100% devoted to his own self interests.
And Bunny being forced to see how life in the private sector runs is another great scene. Here’s a guy who just wants to do the right thing. Always. And that’s not how it’s done in the private sector. (Or the public sector, alas.) Very happy to have him back for this season.
It’s a solid episode all around. 4/5 from me, and very thought provoking.
Can there be any doubt of how low Marlo has brought his side of the Game? When he has the rent-a-cop killed because the man called him out for shoplifting a couple of lollipops? Think about that for a moment. Marlo has tons of money. He pays for the water in the store. Why steal the lollipops? I think it’s because he saw the rent-a-cop watching him, and he wanted to show that he could do it.
For Marlo, the Game is all about power. Proving to people that he has it and they don’t. He never misses an opportunity to make his case, and he’s cold blooded and ruthless about it. His scene with Omar is key, because Omar just essentially stomped all over that image. What’s Marlo going to do about it?
He’s controlling everything at the moment. Omar’s the only one who’s been able to so much as ruffle his feathers. The police can’t touch him. The bodies disappear. He takes over Bodie’s corner casually. If he wants it, he gets it. Scary. And what’s worse is how little anyone has thought to care about him. Major crimes was following him and getting close on the wire, but the system shut them down because Lester got greedy with the subpoenas.
And I have to talk about Sherrod and the whole concept of “social promotion.” How sad is it? There is no way the boy can hope to succeed. He’s behind three grades, but the school can’t do anything for him, so at this point, it’s just too late. He can’t read, and Bubs can see that now. Just another example of a player getting played by the Game.
Is it frustrating that the school hires Cutty to run around and bring kids in for a single day in September and one in October? Sure it is. They’re playing the Game the same as everyone else. But what else are they supposed to do? That’s the way the system set up their funding, and they desperately need that funding. It’s one of the main takeaways of this series: someone sets up the rules, and when the rules are set up, they might make sense.
But once you start playing the actual Game, the rules are used and abused by everyone to get the most out of it they can. Fact of life.
But McNulty seems truly happy, so I guess we’ve got that at least. Great to see him off the booze and really content for once.
Anyway. I spent so much time discussing the first episode, I’m of time for this one. Another 4/5. Compelling stuff, but nothing that really shoots it to the 5 level.
What are you thinking of the season so far? Still easily the best opening to any of the Wire seasons.