The Wire 4.9-4.11

4.9 Know Your Place

Bunk ends up proving Omar didn’t do the murder. It’s an astounding plot thread. We know Bunk detests Omar, and we know Omar deserves to be behind bars, but not for this murder. Bunk does the right thing, but wouldn’t it be better if Omar was stuck in prison? Here, the law is upheld but it doesn’t ring with the sense of justice we have about the world. Bunk makes Omar swear he’ll stop the killing, but is that a promise anyone expects to be kept?

Where do the kids fit into this world? It’s a question this season has been asking. One of the problems it presents is that adults underestimate kids. We see this when Prez is surprised that one of his kids goes out and uses the math he taught in class to win at craps. Also, Omar begins staking out Marlow and doesn’t take notice of Michael. He says the boy is not of interest because he’s just a kid.

The numbers continue to prevail. Prez is frustrated that the school is teaching for the standardized test so they can get their scores up instead of teaching real learning. He immediately recognizes it as juking the stats. It’s the same government game he played with the police. Meanwhile, Carcetti is trying to get the salary increase he needs to get a better police commissioner than Burell, but he’s getting blocked by the old order who is loyal to Burell.

Carcetti talks about wanting to get away from the stats, to make real changes. Daniels seems skeptical, but he has enough of a glimmer of hope to ask if the city is changing? Can the system get better? Carcetti has tried to genuinely look at changing the system, but now that he’s the mayor, can he affect change and make things better?

4.10 Misgivings

Quite possibly the most violent episode of the show. One thing I’ve appreciated about The Wire is that it’s a show about crime that consistently refuses to glamorize violence. Take the opening scene where Walker (Jonnie Brown), a cop, breaks a kids fingers for carjacking. It’s a brutal scene in which a line is crossed and a figure that should represent law and authority abuses that power to punish someone weaker than him. It’s a magnificent representation of the problem of police power abused.

Later in the episode, Chris ends up beating up the man that is shacking up with Michael’s mom. It’s a potent scene because the level of violence on display demonstrates something deeply hidden in Chris’ character that we’ve never seen before, something traumatic that leads to such a personal and excessive attack. It’s also grueling and revolting to watch. Chris and Snoop are two hitmen who we’ve watched deal more with the messiness of violence than anything else, often only the aftermath of hiding the deed.

Yet amid this violence, there are good things happening. In contrasts to Walker’s supreme cruelty towards children, Carver shows Duquon a lot of mercy when he keeps him out of baby booking and lets him spend the night on the bench. Likewise, Bunny tries to play it straight and refuses to lie to his kids. He knows that all that matters is what kids expect of themselves and he wants to change that.

The episode also shows the teachers trying to get the corner kids to work out their lack of emotional control by playing out the most basic social scenarios. The problem is that these kids don’t know how to control or understand their emotions. Instead of recognizing how they feel and dealing with those feelings, they simply lash out at every moment with each emotion that expresses itself. How do you go about teaching someone how not to do that?

4.11 A New Day

Daniels decides that if they are getting out of the numbers game, it’s time to resurrect major crimes. Lester, for all practical purposes, will run the unit. It’s interesting that the show is bringing back major crimes so late. It seems too close to the end of the season to build a case that can bookend the season. I’m not sure where the show wants to go with this.

The gang of kids decides to get back Walker, to humiliate him and send him a message. Their response is the kind of plan you’d expect of children. However, I do think this demonstrates the fruition of the hatred and disdain fostered by these kids towards authority, especially the cops. It can be easy for those outside the system to label such kids as reprobates and problem children, but I think we see here that their actions are not unjustified, that, in some ways, they are victims and this act establishes a commitment to respond to authority in a certain way that has a logic to it.