Welcome to the Inanimate Blog watchalong for The Wire. Every week 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 2, Episodes 11 and 12.
Sam: For all that happened in this episode, which was a reasonable amount, I don’t find much I feel compelled to actually comment on. I can say that I would be annoyed too if I discovered that, while I was working my case explicitly assigned to investigate a man named Sobotka, someone related to him whose name is also Sobtoka killed a guy and no one told me.
Emily: They’ve pretty well established that East Baltimore and West Baltimore don’t communicate very well and I think the murder happened in East Baltimore. Still, that’s some shoddy communication.
Sam: At least things have started to come together. The one big thing that we thought was going to come together this episode is Frank turning himself in, ish, with the intent to rat out anyone and everyone involved in smuggling. If I might reference Harry Potter here– because who doesn’t think of Harry Potter when they think of The Wire?– it reminded me of the end of the third book, when Sirius tells Harry that he can come live with him and it’ll all be peachy. As a kid, that was my first significant exposure to the plot device of “Something really good that happens with too much time left in the episode/book/movie, so you just know you’re going to have the rug pulled out from under you.”
Emily: It really was “No, don’t give him a day to get a lawyer! You let him stay in that room and call all of the lawyers that he can until he finds one and then you get his info recorded and witnessed in multiple formats. Do not let him leave the building!”
Sam: You knew it was too good to be true.
Emily: I feel like we were in a similar position of not having much to talk about in the episode where they made all of the busts in season 1, too. It’s all been leading up to this so there’s not that much to talk about. It’s about wrapping up most of the season and setting everything up for the finale.
Sam: The one thing we can’t pass up talking about, of course, is Omar. He’s so great. It’s awesome when characters (or people, I guess) have their own moral code. He incapacitated Brother Mouzone, but wasn’t going to kill him unless he actually deserved it. He even called 911 and spoke; he could have just left him or just called 911 and let them figure it out. He doesn’t have a problem killing people who need kilt, to use the vernacular, but he doesn’t leave corpses if he doesn’t have to.
Sam: Omar aside, corpses are one thing on this show that isn’t in short supply. We started the season with fishing a corpse out of the water and we end it the same way. I feel like it was as good a way as any for Frank to go. I don’t want to say “poor Frank,” because he kind of had it coming, but he was a solid character and I appreciate his contribution to the season.
Emily: He wasn’t ready for the transition from petty crime with practically no victims to a seriously violent international smuggling ring. He was in over his head almost as badly as his son and nephew and even when he tried to do the right thing his instinct to protect his son got him a worse punishment than he deserved.
Sam: On a lesser show, it would have been cheap or convenient for Lester to be standing right there when Nick goes to turn himself in. Here, it feels like the writers are throwing us a bone. I just ranted last time about how no one can ever catch a break on this show, and finally they do. Frank and Nick (and Ziggy) were all in over their heads, but at least one of them can make things right, as much as anyone can at that point.
Emily: Still, you have Nick’s dad around to remind us that even if you’ve worked really hard at your job over the years only to have your industry disappear on you before you’re ready to retire, you don’t have to turn to a life of crime. You can just suck it up and realize that the financial security that you thought you had is no longer there.
Sam: And, fascinatingly, it cuts both ways. Even if you live a life of crime, you might not have the same financial security as you did before. The Barksdale organization has really been on the rocks this season, and it sure seems like it’s going to continue to next season. Partnering with Proposition Joe is one thing, but deliberately lying to Omar seems… unwise, to say the least. And to have both Omar pissed and Brother Mouzone suspicious…
Emily: Stringer better hope that Avon gets out of prison soon. He’s going to need more of the violent enforcer side of the organization and less of his own businessman way of running things.
Sam: We’ve had a lot less Avon this season, which I can’t say I’m heartbroken about, but in focusing less directly on the drug trade, we’ve also had less Bubbles, and that’s hardly fair. Bubbles is awesome, and we need more of him in this show, dammit.
Emily: I just want to watch Kima and McNulty try to get information out of Bubbles for hours only to realize that he’s kind of an investigative savant right when they’re ready to give up on getting anything useful out of him.
Sam: I would watch the heck out of a Kima and McNulty buddy cop show. Our current buddy cops seem to be on the verge of being no more- I will admit I laughed, but I do feel bad for Herc and Carver sitting in the car waiting for Nick for forever, even after he turned himself in. Seems like they’re both shipping out next season, which is probably better for the characters, if worse for us as viewers.
Emily: I like how Carver tried to be all “I’m better than this. I have stripes!” about the whole situation, though. Dude, pretty much everyone in that room knows how you got those stripes, or at least suspects. Of course, the BPD seems to have a proud tradition of promoting people who may not have earned it. With all of his pettiness, Valchek seems like a prime example of somebody failing upwards. Get him into administration and away from people as much as possible.
Sam: I think the perfect encapsulation of everything Valchek is is his demand that in addition to Prez doing night duty, he has to write a letter to everyone who witnessed the punch apologizing and explaining that it was a cheap shot. That’s so comically tone-deaf and ridiculous. Only the kind of person who would actually say that wouldn’t understand how contradictory and self-defeating it is. At least someone’s keeping his feet to the flame, as Wikipedia says, from “beyond the grave.” That van in the shipping container is truly the gift that keeps on giving.
Emily: I think the travelling van is the thing that I’m going to miss the most from this season. I was so happy to see it show up one last time.
Sam: I enjoyed so much of this episode. After quite a bit of bleakness, as I mentioned before, good things finally happen to good people. I particularly appreciated the lovely bit of writing where what was a great line a couple episodes ago (“Did they have hands? Faces? Then it wasn’t us!”) comes back to be incredibly significant later. It’s even important in multiple ways- it tips them off for what to look for in victims, and gets Sergei (or Boris) to eventually roll. So well paid off for what we didn’t even realize was set up at the time.
Emily: Also, if you’re automatically removing the hands and heads of corpses to decrease the likelihood of identification, then maybe you should also remove the knees with the super distinctive tattoos. I love when criminals are stupid.
Sam: It’s certainly a thought. So we’ve reached the end of this episode, and the end of this season. I thought it was interesting that both of the first two seasons end the same way, with a montage that shows to some extent how the more things change, the more they stay the same. The same things happen, just with different people involved. But I did find this ending to be a lot more upbeat than season 1. At the end of season 1, I was traumatized from Wallace getting killed and Bubbles relapsing and all this, besides the Barksdale gang getting off with a slap on the wrist, cumulatively. This season, the murders got resolved, Nick is back on the right path, Ziggy’s capacity to make dumb mistakes is curtailed, temporarily, and life rolls on for the detail. I thought it was convenient how they get to be a unit for next season already- I guess that’s what happens when you know you get to keep making your show.
Emily: And maybe now the unit will know that the feds can always fuck up your case in the end. Sure, this time they think it’s because The Greek is an informant for the FBI anti-terrorism unit but that’s just because the Greek anti-terrorism special agent was able to use that as an excuse for why they weren’t going to pursue The Greek or Spiros. No one would find out that he had been leaking even more information to them than would be strictly kosher for an agent to an informant. Either way, don’t trust people in higher government even if your own local government is more overtly corrupt. I think that that’s actually the lesson here.
Sam: What? A government official, corrupt? The devil you say. I wonder if we possibly see any more of that in season 3?
Emily: Maybe David Simon doesn’t trust the goverment? Nah. See you next week?
Sam: See you next week!