The Wire 1.12-1.13

1.12 Cleaning Up

Avon and the boys are packing house and it looks like the case is falling apart before the detective’s eyes. The pay phones go dead and the crew switches over to cell phones to setup face-to-face meets for all conversations. The game has changed, the pieces are all the same, but the board is completely different.

And speaking of game changers, turns out Lester’s a player. Once again, I think The Wire does a good job of leaving a lot of things implied for the viewer to infer. It’s been clear that Lester’s affections for Shardene (Wendy Grantham), one of the women who works at Orlando’s gentlemen’s club, are a little more than fatherly. Instead of playing up that story, it runs in the background and you can glean what is going on in scenes that are directly related to the case and it’s more about how they behave in those scenes that tells the story.

The team starts chasing political contribution monies, which once again shifts the game. All of a sudden, big political figures start getting defensive, claiming they aren’t guilting of things they haven’t been accused of doing. It’s clear there’s something bigger at work and I think this is a great tease for where the show could go from here. It’s crazy to see a politician refusing campaign contribution money.

Back on the streets, Wallace returns home. The scene where D and Wallace talk suggests that this is where Wallace is supposed to be. D encourages him to commit. He’s either in the game for life, or out of it. We also have D’s mom, Brianna Barksdale (Michael Hyatt), drive by and give him some food. It’s a scene that doesn’t seem too important, but it comes into play in a major way in the next episode.

And then Wallace has to be done. So far, The Wire hasn’t been gut-wrenching, but this episode sure goes for the jugular. The situation itself, the killing of a kid, is brutal enough, but the fact it’s his close friends and the way the scene builds to the moment and then finally displays the act is heavy stuff. But the moment that might even be worse is when D confronts Stringer about the murder. “Where’s the boy, String?”

While the game on the streets is bloody and brutal, the cops are playing their own game that might prove even more vicious. Daniels and Burrell (Frankie Faison) finally have it out. Instead of a game of brute force, they play a game of blackmail. Who has the most dirt, which one is willing to make it dirty? It’s a game that’s sinister, fil with fronts, deceit and lies. At least on the streets a gun to the head is brutally honest.

The episode caps off after a series of major arrests. Several of the detectives mull over the cork boards, looking at all the arrests, but the more of the web they snatch, the bigger the conspiracy gets. One mulls that it should be enough that they got Avon and his crew, but it isn’t. Seeing how it all comes together, the game is too big. This could have been the last scene of the season, it feels like a great way to close things off while keeping them open, but The Wire is a different kind of show and marches to the beat of its own drum.

1.13 Sentencing

After seeing cops play dirty so long to get what they need, cutting corners and busting heads, this episode opens with a reminder that there are some straight-shooters. Kima wakes up and when asked to ID the two shooters, she plays it straight. She gives them the one she saw, but won’t give them the other one because she isn’t sure, even if it will end up making it easier to convict him when he ends up in court.

After Avon gets out on bail, he has a chat with Bell and his lawyer about how they have to play the courts. It’s fascinating to see how they plan to take the hits they can take, play it so as not to rise suspicion and funnel moneys in such a way to bail their boys without incriminating themselves. The last episode felt like checkmate, but an arrest is far from convicting a man for his crimes and seeing him to justice. Once again, The Wire proves its interest in being a drama as much about the system and the game as the story it wants to tell. They’re deeply intertwined.

After finding out about Wallace, D decides to testify against Avon and his crew. The whole sequence is astounding. It’s mostly D monologuing, but the way the writing is paced, Lawrence Gillard Jr.’s delivery and the dark lighting makes it an amazingly simple, but effective scene. We find out the real events of the girl murdered in the kitchen that D bragged about doing. And we hear D lament about how this is the world he lives in, its what he does, it’s a generational cycle.

The idea of the generational cycle is the major theme of this episode. On the streets we see the boys left to run The Pit imparting the lessons D gave them about how to run sells safe and smart. We hear Herc (Domenika Lombardozzi) lecture the new recruits about how cases aren’t made busting heads, but by using your head. In some ways, there is hope that the wisdom of elders will move down. But the systems are still the same, will the system ever change? Will the game ever change?

D’s momma, Brianna, steps up in this episode, and whoa, she’s got a bit to her. I’m hoping this is a tease of something we can expect seeing going forward in the next season. First, we have the great scene where Brianna has to talk down Avon from stepping back into the game too soon, then we get the scene where she talks to D in prison. She plays the stereotypical “family” card, but does it with strong conviction.

While everyone else seems ready to wrap up the case, the team wants to keep it going, give it some legs. They decide to try to take it federal. The FBI seems the obvious starting point, especially with McNulty’s friend in the bureau, but they quickly learn that this is a different game. Avon is little fish to the FBI. They want big, public targets, political corruption that they can take down, not men like Avon. Of course, Avon is the one on the streets setting up all the bad things that happen, but he’d be a pawn in the federal game. There’s a wider world out there and I guess we’ll have to see if the show takes that next step.

The season ends with one last tease. I knew it was coming. Omar was just too well-realized of a character to not return. They know they’ve got something special, I just hope they don’t try to overuse him going forward, but I would like to see more of the man. He sticks up a man, asks for all he’s got and says what could sum up a lot of this season: “It’s all in the game.”

© 2013 James Blake Ewing