Monday, January 28, 2008

The Wire, ep. 55: "React Quotes" ("Just 'cause they're in the streets doesn't mean they lack opinions ." - Haynes)


It's only recently that I've come to accept The Wire as what it is: fiction. The first time I watched the show, one of the things that struck me was how real it seemed, and I took that thought and ran with it. It wasn't until I read a year-old H&H post by Beth Shoals, about the mythical exploits of Omar and how he undermined the show's authenticity, did I begin to reconsider.

Is Omar unrealistic? Does he take away from the show's trademark actuality? I googled it. Scoured H&H. Read some Matthew Yglesias. Signed up to the official HBO message board. Gathered information from my peers and then headed straight to the source, searching for any and every David Simon interview I could find. Even bought a book, The Wire: Truth Be Told (a must-have for any true fan of the show, although it only covers the first two seasons). I wanted answers. For the record, I don't see Omar's very nature - gay, doesn't curse, etc. - as being fanciful as much as I do the situations he's often placed in: He robs the fiercest and largest drug clans in the land, they respond in kind, and the back and forth ensues, he hunting them as fiercely as they hunt he. And despite being severely outnumbered, he remains above ground. Notoriously well-known, he's played a major part in multiple unsolved murders, with the most talented detectives The Wire has to offer well-aware of his involvement. Yet by some constituating circumstance or another, he remains uncarcerated. Seems unlikely.

I've come to two conclusions. One, I never should've taken the show so literally. It is not a docudrama, it has actors and scripts and manually constructed sets, no different than Desperate Housewives in that respect. The little details - like the slang the dealers use, the innerworkings of a drug organization, the police procedurals, and the class and newsroom scenes, for instance - that only city insiders like Simon and Ed Burns could capture, as well as the fact that it's a show about the grittiest parts of Baltimore filmed in the grittiest part of Baltimore, give the show it's veneer of substinence. But as Simon points out in Truth Be Told, while some of the events took place, and others were rumored to have taken place, many did not take place. Oftentimes, the plotlines don't serve as mirrors of real life occurances, but rather, as symbols of a larger truth or point that the show is trying to make.

Secondly, on a program about institutions and their propensity to contaminate and betrayal the individuals that belong to them (think about it, it's all over the show). Omar is The Wire's lone independent, the one character that answers to no one but himself. He is his own establishment, and thus he can abide by his own rules and own code, and more importantly, he is not doomed, as most of his adversaries on his side of the law have proven to be.

With that insight in mind, when Omar pulls off some Marvel shit like he did in 55, I'm able to carry it a little better. Omar and Big Donnie set up outside Monk's condo. He's moving with muscle, so Butchie's avengers wait patiently, for the exact moment they think he's alone. Little do they know, they're being set up: Monk is being used as bait. When they finally make their move, busting in with guns drawn, Chris, Snoop, Mike, and O-Dog are inside waiting. Violence ensues, O-Dog catching one in the leg, Big Donnie meeting his end with one through the forehead. And so once again, Omar is all by his lonesome, crawling away from bullets, and now his clip is empty. So what does he do?

He bursts through a nearby window and off of a balcony at least five stories off the ground, a dark figure flying down from the sky at night, a la Batman, only with a trenchcoat instead of a cape.

Chris, Snoop, and Mike run over to the balcony and look down, but Omar is gone. Needless to say, unless you're Peter Parker, you don't just up and walk away from a leap like that. Well, unless you're Omar, I guess.

It's almost as if the cynical masterminds behind The Wire took the mumblings about Omar being an implausible character and decided to turn it into a little joke by having him channel his inner-Spiderman. Simon certainly heard the complaints, even going as far as to show up on the comment board for the aforementioned Shoals piece and shed some insight on/discount the notion that someone in Omar's line of work would eventually end up dead or in jail (not that convincing, to be perfectly honest with you). Simon didn't pen the episode, but as always he had a hand in the story. More than likely, he's somewhere laughing his ass off right now.

Alright, the Big Finish:

Marlo meets with Vondas to finalize their business agreement. Vondas gives the newborn king a cell phone and tells him never to talk business on it, but also shows him a little trick. Those Greeks are clever. Marlo later gives a delighted Levy the number, who explains to Herc that Stanfield using a cellphone in this day and age will likely lead to a big payday for the firm, in the form of a major wiretap case. "Joe gave him to us just in time," he says. What an asshole. Later, a still spited Herc sneaks into the office and copies down the number. He gets it to Carv ("When you put the bracelets on that bitch, remind him again of my fuckin' camera"), who in turn hands it over to Lester; Chris says bye to his two kids and tells his girl he's gonna be away on business for a couple of weeks. Translation: Omar's comin'. This was clearly an attempt by the writers to humanize Chris, but it just doesn't work. He's been too coldblooded. He's not human; Dukie gets beat up by Kenard and Spider and decides enough is enough, so Mike takes him to Cutty. Well, Dukie can't fight. He and Cutty converse about life, with Dukie asking how to "get from here to the rest of the world," but Cutty is clueless himself. For plan two, Duke enlists Mike to teach him how to shoot (not pool), but that doesn't work out either. He's just not meant for the streets. Unfortunately, he's trapped there; McNulty meets with Templeton and Gutierrez to help them juice up their story on the homeless "murders"; Daniels meets with Carcetti to request additional manpower, but only gets overtime for two detectives, causing McNulty and Lester to come up with another plan. Templeton unknowlingly assists them, staging a phonecall from the "serial killer." A shocked McNulty is called into a meeting with the paper, where Templeton has detailed notes of the "conversation" and the number of the payphone he used to concoct his tale. Not to be outdone, McNulty says the Homicide Unit received a similar call from someone that matches Scott's description. Put it this way: between Templeton and McNulty, there was a lot of B.S. being spouted in that scene. McNulty uses this development to get Freamon his wiretap. It's actually meant for Homicide to monitor the killer, but Lester rigs it such that while they think they're up on the killer's cellphone, he's really eavesdropping on Marlo back at the detail office. At the close of the hour, he picks up on a call, but hears nothing but static. "What the ...?" he says to himself; Beadie is ready to put Jimmy out; Narese manages to convine Clay to play team ball; and Royce backs Clay at a support rally.

Move along now, children.

(Oh, and Bubs passes his HIV test. Forgot about that.)


pcsolotto said...

Such a nice blog. I hope you will create another post like this.

Uncle Fishbits said...

Imma stranger. Howdy. I searched the entire internet for a good synopsis of this episode. you killed it. Not rambling, not direct quotes... but, egads, an intelligent treatise. DAMMIT WELL DONE.