"Don't sleep on Marlo. He up in some shit here."
That's not the epigraph for the fifth season premiere of The Wire, which premiered at midnight last night On Demand. Nope, that's more wise words from the great Slim Charles. Beware of Marlo, indeed. He's as cunning as ever, showing more and more signs of becoming the "perfect criminal" or "Avon and Stringer combined" (which may be the same thing), a couple of thoughts I've read on some comment boards around the way. For one, he is totally hip to the Major Crimers, who scope him diligantly (and Chris, followed judiciously, is no less sharp). At his lair, a young dealer comes to complain about being forced to take his package, 60/40. Unimpressed, Marlo tells him to to either pay himself less, pay his people less, or gather ammunition. "And wait for Chris, Snoop and the rest of my people come pay a call on yo' people," he warns, as Snoop adds calmly, "And we will be brief with all you muthafuckas'. I thank you know." Swallowing his pride, the youngster backs down.
Then, at the Co-Op meeting, he steps out of line by suggesting to Joe that maybe he should give Slim a shot at opening up shop in the new territory that will be awarded to the Eastside players being displaced by some cat named John Hopkins, who's buying up real estate over there and "moving the hood out," as one of the members puts it. When Joe counters, in the most polite way possible, that that's none of his fucking business, Marlo brings the query over to Slim. "How you feel, Tall Man?" he asks. "Ready to pioneer out there for us." "Naw, I'm good where I am," Slim retorts. Cheese rolls his eyes at that answer, and then exchanges ice-cold stares with Marlo. The old divide-and-conquer (wonder if he learned that from 50 Cent?) Marlo Stanfield is a cold gangster, but he's also a deceitful businessman, and that's one very criminal mixture. When you see Chris leave the criminal clerks office at City Hall with a photo of Sergei Malatov, The Greek's associate from Season 2 who is arrested on a murder charge and persuaded to turn informant, you think you begin to get an idea of what Marlo has in mind: He wants to get close to The Greeks, use Joe's own people against him to get him eliminated from the equation, and take over the Co-Op.
I watch every scene with Marlo, Chris, and crew with extra attention. Even though they're terrible, loathsome people who I very much hope to see fall, there's a small part of me that can't help but admire such a well-oiled machine from top-to-bottom. Unlike Avon and Stringer, Marlo and Chris are of the same mind. They work seamlessly together, and that cohesiveness trickles down through the rest of their organization. Everyone's on the same page.
Except on Michael's corner, where Dukie, who supervises the morning shift (while Michael is out killing people, presumably), is getting no respect from Marcus, Spider, and Kenard. Mike sends him home, and later that night relieves him of his duties, reasoning that if he were to get locked up, it would put Bug in a bad situation. He's doing enough as Bug's male nanny to justify getting paid. Dukie leaves the room, disappointed.
McNulty's back, front and center, drinking, philandering, and getting pissed off that a group of drug dealers are getting the best of him. Basically, it's just like old times. I already knew that he was going to be back in a prominent role this season, but I still got a little excited when I saw him, up on the rooftop of Booker T. Washington, stalking Marlo with Dozerman. You had to love it when Doze told him the story he heard about the brothel bust in Season 2, when Jimmy engages himself in a threesome with a couple of the prostitutes. McNulty denies it with a smile, a bit amused. His exploits are legendary. Let the record show that The Wire is always better when James McNulty is a major player. Dominic West is a terrific actor.
Clark Johnson, who plays Baltimore Sun editor Gus Haynes, made a very impressive debut. The media and it's role in this mess is the main theme for Season 5, and it looks like the newsroom is going to be an interesting place, with Johnson patrolling the place with wit and charisma.
Bubs is clean, Herc lost his job (as a police officer; he works for Levy now), and no sign of Omar, Cutty, or Bunny yet (or Prez, Namond, or Randy, for that matter). Carver is a sergeant now, but it's a rough go for him. None of the cops are getting paid, and a mutinity may be around the corner. Carcetti made a lot ofpromises, but it appears he will honor the ones made to the schools first, and the police are the ones taking the hit. By the time the hour was up, MC had been disbanded again due to more budget-cutting, the detectives dispersed back to their original units. Marlo just may be unstoppable.
With all that said, the most memorable scene of the night was the opening one, Bunk, Norton (oops - I meant Norris), and "Professor" Landsman duping a boy into copping to a murder, using his accomplice, McDonald's, three sheets of paper, a printer, some good ol' fashioned untruths, and stacking them on top of each other. You know, standard police tricks. As Bunk put it, "The bigger the lie, the more they believe."
The table has been set.