Thursday, February 21, 2008

In Loving Memory of Omar Little



Omar Devone Little, a.k.a. "The Terror" (born 1973 or '74), was a Baltimore stick-up artist of legendary proportions. With his trademark facial scar, trenchcoat (black or brown), shotgun (pump action or double barrel), and out-and-out badassness, Omar was the most fearsome and intimidating thug in all of the land, a straight-up menace to the city's drug dealers. With his quick wit and undeniable charm (which lended to his penchant of dropping perfectly-timed one-liners), strict adherance to his code ("I ain't never put my gun on nobody who wasn't in the game"), accountability, and sincere concern for his community, he was also the most likable and respectable. As the show's lone independant, Omar was able to play by his own rules - openly gay, disdain for swear words - in the Alpha Male Capitol: The Steets. You either loved him or hated him but you had to respect him.

We first get to see Omar is action in Season 1, episode 3 ("The Buys"), when he does his initial jacking of the Barksdale stashouse. It was a robbery that would spark a three-season long feud, a conflict that ultimately led to the demise of one Stringer J. Bell. After scoping the scenery with teammates Brandon (his lover) and Bailey, Omar and Co. bust in one night armed and ready to rip and run. With shotty in hand and scowl on face, Omar demands that young Sterling give up the location of the dope ("Ayo, where it at?"). When the boy refuses to budge, Omar puts a buckshot in his leg. This remains perhaps my favorite Omar scene; his swagger is unbelievable and we realize early on just how fierce and serious this guy is. He does not like to repeat himself and he doesn't have time to play. And he can be extremely violent. Stinkum found out. So did String and his muscle. Savino felt his wrath just last week. The man had ice-water in his veins for his adversaries and had no problem delving in murder if he deemed it necessary.

But other than that, he was a great guy. He was gentle with his boyfriends, he cared for his friends, he respected the taxpaying citizen, he took his grandmother to church on Sunday's. He was so charismatic that even some cops (like Kima and McNulty) were won over by him.

Alas, he had a blind spot for the chil'n, and he would fall at the hands of one, shot through the back of the head by that little bastard Kenard, whom he did not consider a threat. He never got to Marlo. His murder was swift and unexpected, probably not unlike the way many guys in his line of work meet their ends. But while it may have been realistic, it didn't really make sense in the context of the character and what he was supposed to symbolize. In Rafael Alvarez's "The Wire: Truth Be Told," David Simon wrote that in all of his Baltimore stories, "there exists a deep and abiding faith in the capacity of individuals. They are, in small and credible ways, a humanist celebration in which hope, though unspoken, is clearly implied." Omar was this show's personification of that optimism, the sole individual operating outside of the rigged institutions the show focuses on. And as such, he beat the odds time and again over five seasons. I thought Omar was supposed to prosper. Why get him got now? Doesn't make sense to me.

But I digress. This isn't about questioning Simon's thinking, it's about remembering Omar, and the courtroom obliteration of Levy, and the heartfelt bench scene with Bunk, and the Mouzone alley scene, and the Spiderman scene, and the "You come at the king, you best not miss" scene. It's about "The Farmer in Dell." It's about paying homage to Michael K. Williams, the actor who breathed life into Omar and then immortalized him with his brilliant perfomance.

May his myth survive his death in Simon's Baltimore after the cameras stop rolling. And may he live on forever with us, the fans, on YouTube and Box Set DVD.

Indeed.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

Cheers. He was a good dude. If you were in the game, you were fair game.

Malcolm said...

A fitting tribute. Thank you.

Vaz Matsui said...

this is a beautiful piece. I truly feel like I've lost someone real.

vadmspartan said...

He stood tall when it mattered. It's all in the game.

I am not Star Jones said...

I don't want to believe that Omar is dead.

The Human Resource said...

He's not Batman.

He can't beat the odds forever. It is a perfect City of God moment for him to go out the way he did.

The streets eat themselves and the up and coming have no mercy for the old.

Marlo killed Prop Joe and Kenard killed Omar.

Sad death but very true to the show.

It would be a bad comic book for Omar to take out Marlo with one leg and no help.

International Bee said...

Yo I am still mad. Not necessarily that he got took out, but by who. A scrub like Kenard? That is an injustice. Pour out some nut ceerios for Omar Little

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great post. I loved Omar too but for him to die in some other way wouldn't be true to the show. As much as I would have liked a "High Noon/Gary Cooper"-type showdown between him and Marlo, it wouldn't have felt right. I think in that way it makes his death, like so may other drug-related deaths, all the more senseless. In a way, that's the fate of all the Omars of the world.

Anonymous said...

Nice piece! - Thanks for writing it.

In watching last night I noticed that a reporter gave Omar's age as 34, when it was decided there was no room in the paper to run the story of his death. -- Then, at the morgue, his death was listed as 43 on the sheet of paper identifying his body. And the sheet of paper initially wasn't even attached to the right body!!!

I thought this accurately captured the fact that no one respects people who die in the streets. -- Whomever filled out the paper didn't care enough to even verify the man's age. Inverted the numbers...then attached the paper to the wrong body. --

As I watched this I was thinking, "Wow. Who is there now for Omar? Who will claim his body? Who will give him a send off at his Grandma's church? Who will write his obituary?"

So, even though dear Omar was a fictional character, it's nice to see an obituary written for him. --

Omar's desperation at the end was fascinating. And the way he went out was sort of like the Biblical David taking out Goliath in that David had no respect for Goliath...and Kennard had no respect for Omar. -The fact that we didn't see it coming mirrors real life.

Great series. Going to miss it when it's gone.

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Caitlin said...

Thanks for this....it is a fitting tribute to one of the best characters on this outstanding program.

Anonymous said...

A fitting end to a legendary persona of epic proportions. Even though he fell to the hands of a juvenile, Mr. Little will be forever remembered as the larger than life character he truly was. I'm glad to see his life ended in the gruesome and senseless matter it was, I rather have the man meet his ultimate dimise not by the people he so ruthlessly hunted but by a future player in the game.
Would you feel more upset if he fell to Marlo and company or to some unsuspecting minor?
This death is the perfect example and reminder of how things pop off in the hood every single day. From the gods to the peasants, everyone can be touched.
Light up a newport, pour a big bowl of honeynut and shout out a hearty "a yooooo!" for one of the most interesting, intriguing and exciting characters to ever grace a television screen. "The game is out there, you either play or get played."

Indeed

Brooklyn2Tampa said...

Long live Omar, Yo. A real genuine street trooper, nay exterminator. I'm still in shock.
I can't wait for Marlo to get his.
I wish Omar could have done it. That's what makes the series so great, you never know....
It has climbed past "The Sopranos".

LaDonna said...

You come at the king you best not miss. Indeed.

Anonymous said...

A few years ago my little boy, upon seeing Charlton Heston exiting a limo, ran out to him enthusiastically and wrapped his arms around him, saying --"Ben Hur, I am your biggest fan!"

If I ever have the pleasure of meeting Michael Williams, I will do the same. Omar Little, one of the greatest characters ever created.

Smitty said...

Omar's sudden and unexpected assassination reminds me of the movie "Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"with death coming from the hands of a coward or a child too young to realize his deed.Your words speak volumes of the anti-hero
that Omar truly was to most of the shows fans.

As to this statement,"Omar was this show's personification of that optimism, the sole individual operating outside of the rigged institutions the show focuses on. And as such, he beat the odds time and again over five seasons. I thought Omar was supposed to prosper. Why get him got now? Doesn't make sense to me." It seems to me that the Simon sees no reason to be optimistic for the inner city poor.

Anonymous said...

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television inspection club said...

Thank you for writing a beautiful tribute to this wonderful character.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Omar's death is a triumph of pragmatism over symbolism. Why does his character need to stand for anything other than what he truly was, just another player in the game?

I agree with Human Resource. It would've been a betrayal of the Wire's fierce devotion to realism to show a one-legged, lone soldier bag the biggest fish in the pond. An end such as that would have been fitting for an issue of Daredevil or Batman, but it would have diminished something as profound as the Wire.

Katy said...

I still catch myself saying "fucking Kenard" while driving, washing dishes, showering, I just belt out a "fucking Kenard" when Omar's passing gets to me. So sad. He didn't deserve to go out like that. But like Snoop said, it aint about deserve.

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grimstock said...

Re-watching the Wire from the 1st season. Is it possible that Omar meets a very young Kenard on the hip of his dopefiend mother in Season 1, Episode 3? Its the scene where we first see that Omar is gay as he kisses the forehead of his boytoy Brandon, and the mother with her young son comes up lookin' for a handout since she knows they are flush from the stickup in the low rises. Could that be Kenard as a toddler or am I trippin?

grimstock said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anthony Wilson said...

@ grimstock:.

Nah. Kenard's first appearance was in Season 3's "Dead Soldiers," where he is seen imitating Omar after the Barksdale Stash house shootout that kills Tosha. No one realized this for a solid four years; then Omar was killed, and some commenter on some Wire post made the keen observation. Then David Simon himself confirmed it in the very same comment section, and it was discussed heavily for about two weeks. I'm sure you heard about it.

Everybody, watch Generation Kill. I'm rather hooked already.

Pegasus said...

A great Obit. I've just seen the ep with his death on DVD. Made me jump it was so shocking. A great character. A kind of avenging angel. You really wanted him to take out Omar and his killers and you almost thought he would.

Well, two more eps to go so no-one tell me what happens. Omar was a great character. And Williams was a great actor to create a figure with such a mixture of pride, pain, honour, integrity and ruthlessness. The misery in his face as he went after Marlo was incredibly moving. What a brave performance!

Love and Peace said...

In-deed.

We pour the honey-nut cheerios on the street in honor of our fallen friend and offer a moment of silence.

Anonymous said...

Oh, man, when this shit went down I literally jumped off of the couch and screamed. One of my favorite fictional characters EVER, be it books, t.v., movies, etc...

I understand your anger because I was one pissed off cat for a while after he died but the final episode helped to heal the wound. Perhaps the most satisfying final episode I've seen in a t.v. series...

"Omar commin"!

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