3.11 Middle Ground
The episode opens with a showdown with Brother Mouzone and Omar. It plays like a western scene, but in an urban setting. Both are the city versions of gunslingers, but instead of fighting with bullets, they have a verbal bout. It’s a scene that plays things very chill and when it resolves with them finally getting together, it puts together a deadly duo. I appreciate that their story this season is threaded in slowly though the show. These characters are crowd-pleasers, but The Wire doesn’t try to make them bigger parts of the story than they need to be.
At the mayor’s office, everyone is trying to find a way they can spin the free zones. With the drop in crime rates, the mayor is seriously considering making the free zones viable. Meanwhile, Tommy sees the free zones as an opportunity to set himself up as a strong candidate for mayor. It’s these threads that show how magnificently season three intersects seemingly unrelated stories together. Everyone is part of the same city and their paths begin to cross in unexpected ways.
And speaking of that, Stringer Bell decides the best way to deal with Avon is to turn him over to the cops. He meets with Bunny and gives up one of Avon’s safe houses. It’s a crazy, unexpected meeting and one that Daniels’ crew actually gets a hint of on their wiretap when they finally get a tap on Bell’s number.
Bell tells Bunny it’s all about business, which shows yet another divide between Avon and Bell. Avon does everything for the name and the family. He plays by the rules that have been set for years. Bell is trying to play the business angle, but he ends up getting screwed over by Clay Davis because he doesn’t know how to play the game. Avon ends up mocking him for this, which might be what spurs Bell’s betrayal.
Instead of leaving McNulty where we found him last episode, the season decides to push his character further. He gets another shot with Theresa, but McNulty doesn’t seem interested. They can’t really talk about their jobs to each other and he actually ends up turning her down when she tips him off about the free zones. She’s probably the wrong woman and he still can’t let go of the case.
The episode ends with Omar and Brother Mouzone taking out Stringer Bell. It’s a death that’s I saw coming, but I still found somewhat shocking. For one, it completely undercuts the satisfaction of all the case work being built to get Bell. He just gets offed. Is it what he deserves? Yes, but it comes from characters who we don’t have as much allegiance to. It’s a bold way to kill a villain because it stings of dissatisfaction.
3.12 Mission Accomplished
The death of Stringer Bell makes this season even less victorious than season two. In that season, the target simply slipped through their fingers because they were one step behind. Here, they had everything they needed to put Bell behind bars, but before they could get him, someone else brings him to justice through their own means. McNulty takes it hard. He’s upset that Bell never knew he had him, his ego still at work. He’s still making every case about him.
This leads to another great evolution in the McNulty character. The show returns to the train tracks that Bunk and McNulty often hang out at. This time he’s not drunk, he’s just tired. He seems tired of the job as well. He decides to go back to Western as a beat cop and also tries to rekindle a relationship with Beady, but more as friends first instead of just someone to sleep with. The season leaves him at a place where he seems genuinely happy.
There’s another great scene with Lester and Prez. The future of Prez in police work seems slim. A lot of the force seems to want to take him down for this, and it leads Prez to wonder if this was ever the kind of thing he was supposed to do. He’s been a character on the sidelines most of the time, but he is good at what he does and Lester simply asks him what he would do instead and Prez’s silence makes me hope that we’ll see more of him in the future.
The media finally gets a hold of the free zones and there’s a lot of aftermath that has to be dealt with as the mayor’s administration begins to be picked apart. A whole political game is played of who gets the blame. The commissioner dodges it by blackmailing the mayor; he passes it all off on Bunny who ends up taking the brunt of it in order to protect his men, which means he’ll retire at lower pay.
Tommy gives a great speech about the drug war and the way it is choking the neighborhoods of Baltimore. He laments the fact that the city has given up on these neighborhoods as lost. Monologues can be dangerous, but this is a powerful one and part of it is in the craft of the show. The slowly zooming shot that captures most of the speech visually draws the audience into the scene.
I’m left at the end of this season wondering about what will happen next. Avon is arrested and back to serving his full term, which means the streets seem wide open. Marlo seems like an obvious choice to roll in and take control, but it’s not something the season seems to be teasing at all. In any case, the ending of this season closes up so much that it almost feels like what could be the series end, so I’m curious about the next season.
© 2014 James Blake Ewing