Blogging The Wire: "Transitions," Season 5, Episode 4.

We’ll be hosting a running season-long discussion of the final 10 episodes of HBO’s incomparably dope drama, The Wire. Spoilers.

It’s time Jamie Hector, the actor who playes Marlo, got some long-overdue props — the final shot of last night’s episode was terrifying.

For two seasons now, Marlo has been the personification of ruthlessness, and Hector plays with him an opacity that should feel wooden but instead plays like pure evil. In the last scene, Proposition Joe, the sage, witty East Side kingpin and master of information asymmetry (wonderfully played by Robet F. Chew) becomes the latest victim of Marlo’s unbridled ambition. There’s the look of resignation on Joe’s face as he realizes he can’t negotiate his way out of this predicament — Chris Partlow materializing behind Joe like an apparition, gun to his head. Marlo tells him to relax.

“Close your eyes, Joe,” he says. Bang.

Dope, dope scene. Now I need Marlo to be eaten by tigers.

Police commissioner Ervin Burrell was the other wheeler dealer whose head rolled (figuratively, at least). Carcetti is pissed at Burrell for bringing him cooked crime stats, and calls for his head. Like Joe, Burell wasn’t going out beforegetting a word in: he tells Narese that if he has to go, so does Daniels. Narese tells him that going quietly came with a lot of advantages, but going kicking and screaming would mean that the party machine that protected would leave him out in the cold. Burrell takes Narese’s advice and Narese, for her part, takes the dossier that Burrell has amassed on Daniels days in the Eastern District, where he was apparently dirty. Burrell had avoided the guillotine in the past much the same way Joe had — through a singular ability to play sides against each other. Their very different fates speaks to how disadvantaged the criminal justice system is in its war against drugs. Burrell messes up, he gets pushed out to pasture a six-figure job on a commission somewhere. Joe messes up and he gets a bullet in his head. Stakes is high.

Colicchio, the narcotics detective with the unfortunate haircut, beats up a motorist whose leaning on his car horn while Colicchio and some narcos arrest Michael’s crew. Carver, who is Colicchio’s commanding officer, is pissed when he finds out the motorist is a schoolteacher. The deeply idiotic Colicchio tells Carver that the driver had it coming. Carver says he’s going to write him up, which seems to shock Colicchio and the other narcos.

“You charge me,” Colcicchio warns, “and you’re a fucking rat.”
“Then I’m a rat,” Carver says.

(Has any character on this show become such an appreciably improved human being than Carver? In the early seasons, he wasn’t any less a fuck-up than Herc, and at one point he was the department’s mole in the Major Crimes unit. Now he’s the voice of reason in the Western. Amazing.)

Bond, the state’s attorney, eyeing a run at the mayor’s seat, doesn’t want to take the Clay Davis case federal. He wants the profile from convicted a well-known Baltimore official. Clay Davis is profoundly rattled when he appears in front of grand jury. The corrupt state senator gets a glimpse of the tons of evidence the state’s attorney has against him for embezzlement; his veneer is cracking.

“Damn,” Sydnor says to Freamon, after they watch Davis steady himself after leaving the courtroom.
“That was just a love tap,” Freamon says to him. “Think what would happen if we hit the good senator with the whole shebang.”

The newsroom scenes are getting better, finally. I still think Klebanow’s weird admonishment of Gus for, essentially, being mean to him and cussing, was a bit much. (Klebanow sounds a bit like Marimow, doesn’t it?) Scott’s job interview with the venerable Washington Post went over like a lead balloon; they think he needs more seasoning. (Understatement, much?) I wonder if Scott was defrauding his former employers at the Kansas City Star. Jayson Blair had a long history of lying and inaccuracy before he made it to The New York Times, and people raised the flag about it. Scott doesn’t lie in this episode, and his bombing the Post interview makes me hope he gets a handle on his propensity for ducktales — there’s clearly a ceiling to his ability that lying won’t allow him to break through — but somehow I doubt it.

Speaking of bearers of false witness, Lester and McNulty are going to greater and greater lengths to make their “killer” appear authentic. Lester gets in touch with an old patrolman buddy and gets him to agree to let McNulty and Lester see any dead John Does in his district before anyone else can. Lester suggests to McNulty that their “serial killer” should be maturing; he’s now a biter, who leaves his teethmarks on the bodies of his strangled victims. Where they’re going with this, we can only guess. But it can’t really get grosser. And knowing that McNulty is every bit as sloppy as Lester is meticulous, we know it doesn’t end well.

Words to live by this week:

Prop Joe: In the meantime, if Omar coming for anyone, he coming for me. So out of respect for that man’s skillset I’m gonna take myself out of the lineup.

Burrell: To Carcetti, I’m a hack. Royce was no different. Maybe I am. But everyday they send over a new priority. “Go after the bad guys. No, change that. Make quality of life cases. Get on top of the murders. On second thought, run all the whores out of Patterson Park.” You think the mayor tells the schools how to teach kids or the health department how to do its job or sanitation how to pick up trash? But get elected, and suddenly they know policework.

Herc: He knows he fucked up. He knows this. He’s proud, you know? He doesn’t wanna beg.
Carver: It’s not about that.
Herc: Carv, you cannot do one of your own guys. I mean, I know you got rank now. You’re damn-near lieutenant. But still.
Carver: It ain’t about the rank. I never told you, Herc. Never said a fuckin’ word. But when I gave you that kid to debrief last year. Whatshisface? You were supposed to get him to Bunk Moreland, you remember that?
Herc: Yeah. I fucked up. So what?
Carver: So it mattered.
Herc: So what the fuck does this have to do with Colicchio?
Carver: It all matters. I know we thought it didnt, but…it does.



Gene "G.D." Demby is the founder and editor of PostBourgie. In his day job, he blogs and reports on race and ethnicity for NPR's Code Switch team.
  • richlouis

    RIP Prop Joe
    A criminal but one with a code and the sense to see the bigger picture

  • I’ve already seen this and the next episode. Prop Joe was a criminal, but he was one with intelligence and ethics unlike his idiot nephew Cheese. IDK if anyone has caught on yet, and I want to say this without giving away too much, but why do you think Joe took Marlo to his lawyer (supposedly trying to help him) knowing that Marlo was attempting to cop his supply from the greeks directly sans The Co-Op? Why would he do that, knowing that Herc has ties to the Police and that he is still cool with Carver? Hmm…makes you think doesn’t it?

  • remember our old patrolman buddy from


    sesame street?

  • patrolman from Sesame Street? What am I missing?

  • I really felt an absence at Joe’s death. I mean, I was really affected by it. Not like as in real life, but of how caught up with the character of Joe. It was like with Stringer – even though with Stringer, you could see it coming and you could almost be ok with it. With Joe getting capped like that, it was almost sudden. I mean, Joe truly wanted to work with the guy. He wanted to make money – not bodies. I relate to both Joe and Bell – both thought alike and wanted to make money, not bodies. But David Simon has said again and again – the lesson in The Wire is that no one is outside the game. No one can change the game. “The game is the game” and “The game is rigged” have been lines uttered throughout the show. And both men tried to change the game -which Simon said cannot be changed. ergo – they are both gone.