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.