The Wire Watchalong: Season 1, Episodes 7 and 8

thewireWelcome to the Inanimate Blog watchalong for The Wire. Every week all summer we’ll be watching two episodes and posting our thoughts. We’re not recapping each episode in detail; that’s what Wikipedia is for. This week is Season 1, Episodes 7 and 8.

S01E07

Sam: Shit gets real in this episode. At least, in the one storyline we both expressed so much apprehension for last week. One word: Wallace.

Emily: Poor, poor Wallace. He’s in one very short scene the entire episode but he steals the whole thing.

Sam: It made me so, so sad. This was an episode full of emotions for me.

Emily: Me too. Bubbles wants to get clean so much. He wishes he could. You could tell back when he went to visit Johnny in the clinic a few episodes ago that he was upset that Johnny was getting clean in there and attending meetings with the intention of going back to drugs as soon as he got out again.

Sam: I so, so wanted Bubbles to mean it, when he stands up in the meeting as someone who wants to get sober. Even if it was just for right then, I so wanted him to mean it. And maybe he will still. Or maybe he’ll die, because I kind of assume everyone I like is going to die. Speaking of feelings, there was also the kid that Prez blinded. It took me so long to consistently recognize the main characters that I kind of forgot that he did that.

Emily: I realized it as soon as that kid showed up because: eye patch. But apparently you’re not alone in  taking awhile to remember because it took Prez way longer than it should have to realize that he was the kid. I mean, how many teenagers does he think are involved in the Barksdale operation who are sporting eye patches?

Sam: It’s kind of him in a microcosm, I mean, right? He fucks up in a major way, things kind of get smoothed over and he starts to look minorly competent, or at least useful. Then it’s like “Oh right, no, he’s still a fuckup.” He can’t even put two and two together about the kid he partially blinded. On a cheerier note, I was completely delighted by the random silly side plot with Det. Santangelo and his trip to the psychic.

Emily: So silly. But also there to remind us that however many times we might call McNulty an asshole, he’s still good at actual police work. Everyone was laughing at Santangelo having to try to solve a very cold case that he was the original detective on. They knew that he was incompetent and wouldn’t have gathered enough evidence to begin with.

Sam: I hate McNulty and his being good at things. He aggravates me so much. Argh. One thing, though. He sure can turn a phrase. I loved that scene with him and Bunk at the bar so much. He really strings it out and sets it up so well before “thanking” Bunk for fucking him over so gently. They are such great partners, I love how Bunk goes along with it and says he wanted it to be special, since it was McNulty’s first time and all. They have great banter.

Emily: It was beautiful. I wanted that scene to go on forever. If The Wire was just a procedural with Bunk and McNulty as homicide cops, it wouldn’t be as critically acclaimed but it would still be damned enjoyable to watch.

Sam: That’s so why this show is so good. That one little part is completely great and a fully developed world that could have its own spinoff and yet, that’s one of about half a dozen similarly developed stories. Man, this show is good.

S01E08

Emily: I don’t know if I want to see Wallace on my screen at all any more if he’s just going to keep breaking my heart.

Sam: We are of one mind. He’s tugging so hard at all the possible heartstrings. It hurts to watch him spiral.

Emily: And then they throw in an adorable moppet with a math problem to boot. And of course she can’t solve the math problem when it’s about buses but when it’s about selling drugs then she’s got it because messing up your count has such high stakes in their world.

Sam: Right? This show just kills me. It makes serious points, social commentary, and character development in exactly one exchange and, really, one line from a kid. So freaking amazing. I’m glad that Poot is so concerned about Wallace and glad that he took it to D’Angelo. I really, really hope that Dee sets him straight.

Emily: For Wallace’s sake and for Dee’s. He’s still got a heart in him and I’m waiting for Avon and Stringer to crush it.

Sam: He definitely got a step closer this episode, with the chick who dies at the party. The higher-ups, Stinkum, Wee Bey, etc., don’t seem to care, but it doesn’t sit well with D’Angelo. I mean, because it shouldn’t. He had a quick turn in the last episode or so where it seemed like he was more on the side of The Game, but he seems to be equivocating a lot more.

Emily: There’s the motive of looking out for himself first that has to be deeply bred into all of those kids which is probably why we see him going back and forth. He likes to hope that there’s a way out for him but if there isn’t then he needs to be as tight with his uncle and Stringer as he possibly can.

Sam: This episode has a really interesting bit with McNulty following Stringer and discovering that drug kingpins can have secret lives where they… go to community college. So that’s a really interesting twist- even at the top, you can still be looking to get out. And if not get out, strictly speaking, then at least blend your legal and illegal businesses in a more professional way.

Emily: I did wonder about that when he was at the copy shop. Of course you want your legit businesses to look as legit as possible to keep scrutiny off of you but there’s also the fact that those legit businesses could sustain you should you actually find a way out of the illegal drug trade.

Sam: I found that sequence uncharacteristically heavy-handed, in that he’s using the words he just learned in class in what seems to be an overly obvious way, but because the writers have proven themselves to be way more clever than that, it instead comes across as painfully earnest on the part of Stringer. He’s really, honestly trying this stuff and applying it.

Emily: It might not have come off as heavy handed if we hadn’t also had the Orlando stuff in this episode. That was a much more subtle example of keeping your legit businesses legit.

Sam: I really think it’s intentional, that we’re meant to see it as how Stringer’s really trying in a way we haven’t seen him before. I might be wrong- is this the first time we see him actually develop any interests of his own? He’s the chess queen to Avon’s king–the get shit done piece–but mostly he’s been an advisor and Avon’s right-hand man until this episode. We see him on his own at the market and then in class. There’s more to him than we really had a chance to see before now.

Emily: He’s always been the most businesslike of all of the Barksdale inner circle so it was a natural extension of his character that we’ve seen before. This is certainly the most independent that we’ve seen him.

Sam: This is unrelated, but I have to go on a brief tangent about some of these gang names. There are some fine ones- Stringer, Wee Bey (I particularly like Wee Bey, it has a great ring to it), but what do you have to do to get stuck with Stinkum as your name forever? Or Poot? Heavens.

Emily: Well, Stinkum isn’t really stuck with his name anymore.

Sam: Hahaha, that’s true. My favorite line in this episode was when they bring Omar in after he takes out Stinkum and half of Wee Bey and McNulty says that they have “a certain admiration for your do it yourself nature…” but tell him he really ought not to have killed that particular one.

Emily: I think this episode is the most I’ve ever liked McNulty. Sure, he lost his kids when he had them do police work for him, but the look that he shot Bunk at the bar alone was so great. It was weighted with everything we know about him and his relationship with his ex. You could just see him trying to will Bunk into not fucking up because he knows what the cost is yet not being able to say anything because he has no ground to stand on.

Sam: It was a great bit of acting. And I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: father of the year, that one. Sigh. My favorite bit of this whole episode, of course, is the aftermath of Bunk going home with the woman. When it became clear that he had tried to burn his clothes–very badly–to destroy the evidence, I think I laughed for about five minutes straight.

Emily: Wendell Pierce is a really great comic actor. And I say this as someone who struggled through a few episodes of the mostly bland The Michael J. Fox Show. He was easily the best part of it. The other great McNulty bit about this episode was that by helping Santangelo out by getting him a solve, he also got the details on just how hard the assistant major is going after him. He wants his badge. The ticking clock on the task force is moving even faster than they thought it was.

Sam: It was a pretty great moment when the judge told the deputy commissioner to go fuck himself and forced the task force to remain operational throughout the length of the court-supported titular wire, but it sure seems like it’s going to fold like a house of cards when that order is up. I wonder, just wonder, if that might coincide with the end of the next four episodes?

Emily: Considering that each season focuses on a different institution? Highly probable. I guess we’ll find out more in the next episode. See you next week?

Sam: See you next week!

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