Monday, January 21, 2008

The Wire, ep. 54: "Transitions" ("Buyers market out there." - Templeton)

In cae you didn't know - and if you saw his HBO promo, you should - with Marlo Stanfield, it's all about the crown.

That means you don't get up in his face over stolen candy unless you wear a real badge. That means you don't - you cannot - sell drugs on his side of Baltimore unless you're on his package. That means you don't allegedly call him a dicksuck. You definitely don't steal from him. And you can't own the line to the Greeks.

Because if you own the line to the Greeks, you own the connect, and if own the connect, you run the Co-Op, and if you run the Co-Op, all of the other kingpins depend on you for their product. Which in effect makes you the Boss of all Bosses in Bodymore. Marlo has another sitdown with Vondas at the little Greek spot, this time with The Greek himself in attendance. Marlo's got the cleaned-up cash Joe hooked him up with, but Vondas finally cuts through the allegorical and explains to the boy that it's not about the money; in Joe they already have a man that they trust, and they only want to deal with one man. Marlo says he's only looking for an insurance policy, in the event that a robbery like the one that occured last year should happen again.

"Something that covers me, covers you," he says.

"And covers Joe," Vondas adds.

Marlo rolls his eyes. But The Greek thinks the kid has a point.

"You're right," he says. "These are volatile times. It is not unreasonable to carry insurance. Who can say what tomorrow will show us?"

He sends the boy on his way, ensuring Vondas that no matter how many times they deny him, he will continue to return. He has shown as much.

"But he is not Joe," Vondas says.

"He is not Joe," The Greek agrees with a slight smile.

On the HBO and Heavenandhere boards, people are suggesting that in this scene, the Greeks were hinting to Marlo that if he were to take out Joe, they would be willing to work with him. On first view, I did not pick up on this, and frankly, I'm still not sold. It's certainly not definitive. Although I could see how the aforementioned smirk The Greek gave could be indicative of his belief that Marlo is a dense thug whom he could take advantage of, unlike Joe, as one H&H commentator offered, overall I think it was highly ambiguous.

Anyways, Joe purchases flower arrangements out of respect for the late Butchie (from the same guy Bodie went to for D's funeral in Season 2) and, in anticipation of Omar, tells Slim he'll be taking himself out of action for a while after the next Co-Op meeting. He rightfully suspects Cheese as the man that made it happen, but he needs more than words to go on before he makes a move against blood. In the meantime, he'll leave Cheese to watch the shop and Slim to watch Cheese.

Omar returns in full work uniform: do-rag, trenchcoat, and teflon. He arrives at Big Donnie's, and Big Guy (that's what they call him on the HBO site) gives him Marlo's message ("Tell Omar he put his hands in the wrong pocket"). Donnie informs him that they didn't let Butchie go easily (Omar: "Sweet Jesus I'm gonna work them"), and that he wants in on the revenge tip. Then he tosses Omar a shotgun.

Later, Omar ambushes Slim at his apartment and demands Joe's whereabouts. Slim stands tall at gunpoint, and is able to convince Omar that Joe's hands are clean. O spares Slim and begins stalking the Stanfield crew with Donnie, who tells him that Marlo and Chris have been switching up where they lay their lands at night. Omar says he's going to go after the man's people first, starting with Monk. "You hurt enough of them, that snake's gonna stick his head up out that hole," he promises.

At the Co-Op meeting, Hungry Man calls out Cheese for infringing on his territory. The two have a brief verbal exchange before Joe puts his nephew in place, reminding him that he's not a "charter member" and assuring Hungry that his sister's son will adhere to the boundaries. The meeting is adjourned, and an embarrased Cheese storms out of the room like a little five-year old beeyotch. Marlo, constant thinker and schemer, takes heed. The next day Joe takes him to see Levy, lawyer to the kingpins. In a funny moment, Marlo recognizes Herc in Levy's office and aks him, sarcastically, "Hey, you ever find that camera?" then chuckles when Herc informs him that it cost him his job. What a jerk.

Chris leads Cheese to a garage, where Snoop holds a tied up Hungry hostage, a little gift from Marlo. But it comes with strings attatched.

"Get a gift, give a gift," Chris explains. "You know how that go."

At the close of the hour, Joe is packed and ready to make his getaway when Cheese comes strolling through the house. Cheese questions why Joe would still be shacked up in this little house, with all the money he's got. Joe points to a picture of Cheese's great-grandfather, the first black man to own a house in Johnson's square.

"That means something," he says. "Something you young'ns lost."

Cheese is unmoved, and tells Joe he'll see him outside when he's ready to go. But just as Joe grabs his cane to get up, Marlo walks in through the backdoor.

"No need for that," he says.

Joe knows what this is, and it's not a going away party.

"My nephew?" he asks.

Marlo nods affirmatively.

"The boy was always a disappointment," Joe says. "But I treated you like a son."

"I wasn't made to play the son," Marlo responds.

Joe reminds him that he still needs the good dope he supplies, but Marlo informs that the Greeks got that covered. Joe takes a second to digest this, then makes one final Proposition.

"I just step out the way," he tenders. "You'll never hear from me again. I'll just disappear."

"Joe, you'll be up into mischief in no time," Marlo says. "Truth is, you wouldn't be able to change up anymore than me."

He tells Joe to close his eyes. "It won't hurt none," he vows, but Joe shakes his head as he comes to the realization that this is it. "Joe, relax," he says. "Breathe easy." Chris, who has walked in through the front, pushes the gun to the back of Joe's head. When Marlo nods, the gun blasts, and the camera pans to Stanfield's sedated face. The music starts and the credits roll.

That was an extremely tense scene. I already knew what it entailed, but it still had me shook up. Joe was a likable guy. Of course, he was also a mischevious one. You spend all that time being sneaky, and eventually, it's going to catch up to you.

Obviously, this displays how disloyal Marlo is, but that's not really surprising; it's doubtful there's anything that he would allow to come between him and the throne. It also reminded me of something Shaq (yes, Shaq - I've managed to make him relevant to this post) once said, about five years ago, after Kobe dropped 55 (42 in the first half) on MJ in their last ever meeting: "In every good karate flick, in order for the student to become the man, he has to kill the teacher." I've never watched a karate movie before; I just always took Shaq's word for it. Anyways, that's what's happened here: Joe took Marlo under his wing and showed him the ropes. Marlo accumulated the knowledge, then took out the man that gave it to him to become the master. It goes like that.

Elsewhere, Lester teams up with McNulty in locating and manipulating more dead homeless people; Burrell "retires" from his position as police commissioner in favor of Rawls, who's only keeping the seat warm for new deputy-ops Daniels; the little boy Kima retrieved from the home of the triple murder in 52 is not yet ready to relive the trauma of the event. She calls Cheryl, who agrees to let her visit Elijah. Perhaps Kima's thinking about adopting that poor child, and is trying to gain experience with children; Carv may have to give up Collichio, the mo-hawked cop that went crazy when Kenard played a trick on him involving dog crap; Michael won't pay his mother to be his mom; Templeton interviews with the Washington Post; Clay Davis gets grand juried, and it doesn't go well for him. Nor does it go well for the good people at The Sun, who learn of the news like everyone else: by watching it on television.

I've already seen 5, 6, and 7, which means that the next three weeks are going to feel more like three years to me. Hurry up, 58.

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