We’ll be hosting a running season-long discussion of the final 10 episodes of HBO’s incomparably dope drama, The Wire.This week’s recap is by David McDowell, a musician from Philly. Spoilers!
Five episodes in, and almost on cue, the heat has been turned up exponentially at practically every angle. Half truths and outright lies inch closer to the surface and threaten to expose themselves and one another. Money is still at a premium at the mayor’s office, and tempers flare in the ranks as police pull out every trick in the book, every reason under the sun, and then some- in order to get funding for some real police work. Baltimore’s looking more and more like a water main that’s one hairline fracture away from a serious rupture.
The opening scene descends on Marlo and a lamenting Vondas, discussing Prop Joe’s unfortunate end, then quickly transitions to the talk of business. Vondas hands Marlo a phone, and with it, what Marlo had been lusting for since Omar ran the co-op’s pockets for that delivery last year- a direct connect to the purest and cheapest cocaine and heroin in the city of Baltimore. Although very few words are shared between Marlo and his 2nd, Chris Partlow (and even those are tempered with the reality of Omar’s vengeful return to the city), the excitement about officially having the B-more crown is palpable. Marlo’s ascent to kingpin has been far from fortuitous, though. He’s been conniving. He’s been ruthless, unforgiving and brutal, but you get the sense that every move he’s made has been one of borne of calculation and consequence. He doesn’t pretend to know everything about the business, but he employs and absorbs the skill-sets of the resources around him until he can move autonomously, then he squelches out threats with a deftness few other characters have been shown to possess. As evil as he is, you’d be hard pressed not to respect him as much as you’d fear him.
Meanwhile, McNulty’s still banging the head of his contrived case against the walls of the Sun newsroom, hoping to get more publicity, while still maintaining his anonymity. In a meeting with The Sun’s general assignment reporters Alma Gutierrez and ne’er-do-well Scott Templeton, he tools with his story on the fly, giving the pair something they can sink their teeth into. Coincidentally, the hook happens to be that the killer has matured into a “biter.” Templeton eats the story up with the lust of an Enquirer writer, more than likely seeing the case as a career catapult. The play works, as McNulty finds his case on the front page of the morning edition. The news works its way to City Hall. It gets due attention, but not the financial commitment to support a full investigation; McNulty’s scheme is awarded a paltry two-man team with unlimited overtime hours. Not exactly what he was looking for.
Back to the drawing board.
State’s attorney Rupert Bond, having successfully kept the Clay Davis investigation from going federal, proudly announces Davis’ indictment, and further positions himself as a prime candidate for the next mayor of Baltimore. Carcetti and Norman Wilson take notice. Watching the press conference from the mayor’s office, Carcetti observes: “You know, I’ll tell you one thing. That fella right there is lookin’ pretty damn mayoral.”
“Better than Nerese, definitely,” Wilson adds. “With the profile he gets from this, I’d say it’s Mr. Bonds’ race to lose.”
As for Davis, Nerese Campbell gives him the same “suck it up and smile” tongue-lashing she gave Burrell just a week before (not before he lets out the longest “SHEIT” in the history of Isaiah Whitlock sheits). He’s ultimately convinced to take one for the team, but ever resilient, he enlists the help of a few good men to help keep his image positive until the time for his inevitable re-entry into the Baltimore political scene. The depth of arrogance and shameless political corruption is captured succinctly at the rally on Calvert St. where he and an equally scumbag-ish ex-mayor Clarence Royce join hands and chit chat about their scheming futures under their breath, and right in front of the citizens whose support they desperately rely on.
On the other side of town, Dukie —being exposed as an unfortunate misfit more and more by the day —has a run in with some of Michael Lee’s assigned corner squad. Since he’s been relieved of corner duty by Michael, the rest of the boys’ irritation with his out-of-place good nature and his inability to exert leadership has made him a target. After getting his ass kicked handily, Dukie’s determined to figure out how to better protect himself. His feeble attempt at learning how to throw hands re-introduces a healed up Cutty, who recognizes Duquan’s talents as being beyond corner-running and fisticuffs. Both Cutty and Duquan are daunted when it comes to determining what that spells for his future. After giving up on the ring, Duke tries to learn how to shoot a gun with Mike, who echoes Cutty’s sentiments. Duke is in a place he doesn’t belong, and learning to fight or carrying a gun isn’t going to change that reality one bit.
In the newsroom, Clark Johnson’s portrayal of Gus Haynes continues to be the best part of an otherwise distractingly boring setting. Hopefully, between Haynes, courthouse reporter Bill Zorzi’s being just short of a meltdown at all times, and Scott Templeton’s rapidly developing plotline, The Sun’s scenes will pick up some steam. Templeton’s penchant for the falsehood spears through the surface of reporter ethics once again, as he digs his fingers into McNulty’s bogus serial murder case. After Haynes sends him out for react quotes from the homeless and he comes up empty handed, he fabricates a story and gets by on a lie again. It’s hard not to feel for Templeton. His ambition clearly gets the best of him, but getting shit assignments probably doesn’t help things at all. His react quote is pure cheese, though. It’s a wonder Gus didn’t see right through it.
Templeton’s frustration with the lack of quality assignments coming his way pushes him to do something extraordinary, even by his unethical standards. He places a bogus call to his cellphone, and ends up fudging a complete conversation between himself and McNulty and Freamon’s phantom serial killer. McNulty, Templeton, Haynes and Baltimore Sun brass convene in the war room to discuss the conversation. It quietly ends up being a simultaneously hilarious and tense scene, when it’s clear that a collision of lies could end up being the biggest news in the city, for all the wrong reasons. McNulty mentions another call having been placed, and the glances traded between he and Templeton are priceless. What’s more, McNulty realizes that entire shenanigan plays directly into his original plot, and gets the wire Freamon’s Stanfield investigation so desperately needed. Freamon, having just received a fresh cell number on Marlo Stanfield from Carver, via ex-partner-turned-PI Hauk (who probably violated all sorts of client confidentiality agreements in the process) gets the wire up and sets the wheels in motion to keep tabs on that number for as long as it may take.
Finally, Omar’s return to Baltimore was as sure a harbinger of a bloodbath as anything. Lurking outside of an apartment complex and planning an attack on Marlo’s muscle for days on end, he and accomplice gunman Donnie finally storm the doors of the condo and make the war we’ve been expecting since Butchie took one to the head. To his surprise, though —he’s outnumbered and outsmarted. Before too many rounds are spent, Donnie takes a neatly placed headshot from Chris Partlow, leaving Omar overmatched and with few options. When his pistol clicks empty, Omar bolts for the balcony and before the trio of Chris, Snoop and Mike can get a clean shot at him, he jumps over the ledge, disappearing from sight. We can only assume that next time, things won’t go nearly as smooth for Chris & Co.
Marlo: Do it feel like a crown on your head right now? Do it? Cause that’s what im wearing on my head.
Templeton: You want this story to fly, you got to give us something different. Keep what you need in the file, but give us something with a twist.
McNulty: A sexual serial killer isn’t enough?
Templeton: Cold world, i know.
Templeton: Where am i gonna find homeless people?
Haynes: Not at home, I imagine. Go go, my children.
Monk: I’m the one that’s baitin’ him, right? Seems like I’m the only one that’s not hiding out.
Snoop: Ain’t no thing. ‘Cause when Omar come at you, he gonna be gunnin’ at your head. I know I would be.