The Wire 5.4-5.6

5.4 Transitions

All the pieces matter. The fictitious quote Scott makes up in the previous episode puts Daniels in a tight spot. Due to Daniels’s weakened position, Burrell threatens Daniels with the dirt he eluded to back in season one. The Greek also returns and considers Marlo’s proposition. In this final season of The Wire, threads set up back in season one and two return, demonstrating the depth of interconnection present in the show’s writing.

Do you play the game or get even? Burrell wants to burn Daniels, Omar is gonna have to get back for Butch. In the aftermath of Butch dying, Prop Joe is going to lay low. Carver Decides to write up officer who refuses to play the game when he lets anger get the best of him and roughs up a taxpayer that pisses him off. And while these people are playing the game, Marlo decides to change the game by killing Proposition Joe

Is this new generation worse? While the last season explored the troubles facing them, it feels like this season contemplates a bit more how there might be a legitimate difference in values between these generations. Michael won’t take care of his own mother. The old order in a lot of ways was all about family, while this new generation seems quick to disregard it. Proposition Joe tries to explain to his nephew the importance of the rundown house he owns, the historical legacy it has for his family, but his nephew couldn’t care less.

5.5 React Quotes

This season is building itself around the web of lies that perpetuate systems. The cops feeds lies to the media and the media in turn lies about what the government says. McNulty starts feeding The Sun info about the murder in order to try to get some publicity on the case. Herc takes Marlo’s number and feeds it to the police. It’s no longer about playing the game, it’s about cheating the game.

McNulty has fallen back into his ways from season one. He’s cheating the system, going behind people’s back. He’s also back on the bottle and fooling around with women again. He gets one last glimpse of the life he could lose. In most stories, the redemption of a character persists as the last we see of him or her, but The Wire is quick to remind us that any reformation of character might be just for a season and it’s easy to fall all the way back to the bottom again.

Which begs the question: how are you going to fall? Are you going to grab every last person you can and drag people down with you or will you take one for the team? Burrell finally decides to go quietly, Prop Joe in the last episode went quietly as well. But Clay Davis wants to make noise. Here, the episode plays a ballsy card and by making Davis play the race persecution card.

It’s a very charged, potentially volatile criticism that a black man might abuse his status as a victim as a way to work the system. I appreciate The Wire’s boldness to show corruption exists among all people, even people ones might place in victims can use that status to his or her own evil ends.

5.6 The Dickensian Aspect

In the last episode, Omar’s attempt to take out Marlo ended poorly. This episode, he’s being hunted down and the man has to hang low. It reminds me of what makes Omar work so well as a character. He is cool, but the show is never afraid to show him in moments where he’s very vulnerable. In this episode, he’s at his most broken and weak. Conventional storytelling tends to make characters like Omar these stoic, badass heroes with little emotion. Omar, on the other hand, is portrayed as deeply human.

As McNulty concocts a killer who only murders homeless people, the issue of homelessness becomes a topic of conversation in Baltimore. The Wire wonders if people actually care about this issue or if it’s just a form of sensationalism. Carcetti says that we will be judged by how we treat the weakest of us. It’s a damn fine speech he gives, but how much does he mean it? Is it just a platform for him or does he actually care?

The Sun shifts focus to homelessness and Gus wonders if this human interest take is really interest or just about our own personal human interest. Are we only interest in issues insofar as we can get something out of it for ourselves? A good story for the papers, a body for McNulty’s fictional killer, a chance to look good in front of the cameras? There is a glimmer of hope that this isn’t the case as Scott goes out among the homeless and starts to connect with someone. Perhaps there is still a chance for human empathy.

© 2014 James Blake Ewing