Monday, January 7, 2008

The Wire, ep. 52: "Unconfirmed Reports" ("This ain't Aruba, bitch." - Bunk)

***SPOILER ALERT*** to those of you who don't have On Demand.

Jimmy McNulty. Derranged son of a bitch.

He and his vanity are back, and fuck rogue, McNulty's latest ego-stroking act is just plain disturbing. He takes a call on a case but he has a flat tire, so he has to take the bus to the scene. An older woman found dead in her bed, with a pillow over her head (that rhymed). At the morgue, as he waits for word on his body (the doctor has his hands full, not surprisingly), he learns of some information that would spark the most unsettling moment in the show's history. Some guy O.D.'d and ended up firmly entrenching himself between the bathtub and the toilet, and the medics have to pry him loose using his neck as leverage. The effects look like strangulation, but on a fresh body no one can tell it's postmortem.

At the close of the hour, he and Bunk are summoned to a D.O.A. (Dead on arrival). Some homeless guy. The officer at the scene tells them that the crime lab won't arrive for 2-3 hours, and a lightbulb pops up over McNulty's head. It hits him. He sends the officer on his way; he and Bunk will handle things from there. Next he heads back out to the car for a swig of whiskey, preparing himself for what he's about to do. When he returns, he begins manipulating the scene, knocking a hole in a nearby wall and using a piece of it to smear what will look like a white stain on the back of the corpse's pants.

"What the fuck are you doing?" a bewildered Bunk asks.

Then, he kneels down and makes the sign of the cross (because Lord knows he's going to hell for this shit) and, much to Bunk's horror and chagrin, proceeds to wrap his hands around the man's neck and press down.

"Oh, Jesus Christ," a terrified Bunk moans. "You sick fuck."

"There's a serial killer in Baltimore. He prays upon the weakest among us," Jimmy explains as he takes a shot of alcohol. "He needs to be caught."

"I'm out of here," Bunk says before fleeing the scene. "I don't want no part of this."

Finally, McNulty props the body into a, um, compromising position, takes a step back from his work, and takes another drink. This easily makes any other stunt he's ever pulled seem Micky Mouse-y by comparison. He's finally lost it.

Elsewhere, Lester appears to be over chasing Marlo; he tells Sydnor that the Clay Davis case is the kind that defines careers. But that doesn't stop him from staking out and getting a scope on Monk, Snoop, and O-Dog as they prepare to hit up some guy named Webster's corner; he refused to get on their package. With the heat from the knockas having cooled off considerably, Marlo is looking to take care of some unfinished business.

He orders three moves:

1. The call on the aforementioned corner, highlighted by a reference to "Boyz n the Hood" and Snoop's marksmanship.

2. A move on a cat named Junebug, for "talkin' that shit," as Marlo put. Chris, Snoop, and Michael show up to the job early to peep the landscape. This hit will be of the home invasion variety. While they wait, Mike gets inquisitive.

"Why we doin' Junebug anyway?" he asks.

"Heard he called Marlo a dicksuck," Snoop responds. "Talkin' shit like that."

"You heard?" Mike continues to interrogate. "You ain't sure?"

"People say he said it," Snoop replies, a bit impatient.

Chris rationalizes that it doesn't matter if he said it, but that people think he said it. Can't let that slide. And it's at this point that Michael displays the kind of logic and levelheadedness that his superiors sorely lack, reasoning how immature it is of Marlo to have this man killed on account of some silly namecalling. (Seriously, they teach you how to deal with stuff like this in elementary school.)

"Why this boy gotta get dead just for talkin' shit?" Mike asks.

"Because he got a big motherfuckin' mouth, that's why," Snoop snaps. "And you need to watch your own mouth, young'n."

Disheartened, Mike leans back against the back seat (as Chris shoots him a look that says, "Cut that out"), the only person in the car who understands the inanity of it all, despite being the youngest. When the time comes to spring to action, Chris orders him to set up around the corner and drop anyone who runs out the backdoor. Mike is locked and loaded when a boy, who couldn't be any older than 7 or 8, comes running from the sounds of screams and gunshot blasts that control the house. He can't pull the trigger. This is a very encouraging development; at the end of last season, it seemed as though Mike was on the verge of transforming into a Partlow-like unconscionable killer. But it's now clear that at least some of his moral senses have remained in tact.

I don't think we're done with that subplot yet.

3. There's a recently retired stickup artist/action hero that made enough money from his last heist he decided it was time to call it a career and retired to the South (where rumor has it he's sporting a fantastic hat). Marlo wants him.

"Bring his ass back out of retirement," he says.

In the meantime, he has an errand to run. Chris gives him the picture of Sergei that he swiped from City Hall last episode, and he heads to Jessup for a sitdown with the Russian.

However, when he arrives, it's not Boris that comes walking through the door.

"Surprise," greets Avon Barksdale, as he proceeds to steal both this scene in particular and the episode as a whole. I've always thought Wood Harris' performance as Avon was perhaps the most underappreciated on the show, overshadowed by Idris Elba's Stringer Bell, a stronger, more important role. For my money, other Omar, he's the most charismatic character the show has produced, and that's on full display during his meet with Marlo, who must go through him first to get to Sergei (Avon fancies himself an "authority figure" in the joint). Stanfield seems a bit amused by, a bit weary of, but definitely respectful to his former adversary as Barksdale dominates the conversation. Avon thinks he sees Marlo's plan: get to the Greeks through the Russian, cut Joe and all the Eastside players out the connect. They're on the same page; Avon explains that he's got nothing but love for Westside cats, that they need to stick together, and offers Marlo an olive branch on their past beef.

"But fuck all them Eastside bitches," he says with conviction.

And for a small fee of $100,000, to be sent to Brianna, Avon guarantees that "the next time you come to Jessup, it won't be my grill talkin' at you. My word on that."

"So what's up, man?" Avon asks, just doing some catching up, as if he's talking to an old friend. "What's up with you otherwise, you know?"

"Ah, the game is the game," Marlo confirms.

"Always," Barksdale says with a nod. Just a classic scene. The kind of scene that reminds you why you watch TV in the first place, the past and present kingpins of television's finest show chopping it up, one on one, two brilliant actors on their A games.

Anyways, Avon's word is his bond; the next time Marlo's in Jessup, he's able to make a deal with Sergei, who will get word to Vondas that Marlo would like a sitdown.

On a related note, if I'm Marlo, I'm not trusting Avon any further than I can throw him.

Elsewhere, Lester tells McNulty that Marlo's people may be getting sloppy. They take it to Fitz, but the U.S. attorney general is pissed off at Carcetti for rebuking his request for Clay Davis' head and their plea is denied; later, they join Bunk for a drink and lament the indifference shown by the city to Stanfield's deeds. You can go a long way in this country killing black folk," Bunk says. "Young males especially." Adds Lester: "You think that if 300 white people were killed in this city every year, they wouldn't send the 82nd airbourne. Negro please." Racism lives on. Much more progess to be made; Kima arrives at the scene of the home invasion and discovers something even worse than the carnage (three dead bodies) Snoop and Chris have left behind: a little boy hiding in the closet, blood splattered across his face and shirt, totally innocent, the saddest sight you'll ever see. Disgusted, she picks him up and carries him out back, away from the media horde, not knowing how to handle this one; Gus Haynes is the Bunk of the Baltimore Sun: a smart, skilled professional committed to an honest day's work; Bubs continues his recovery; and Clay is flipping out. They're moving in on him.

Stay tuned. This is going to be the most action packed season yet. My word on that.

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