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 3, Episodes 11 and 12.
Sam: So! Stringer! …he got fleeced, it turns out, by Clay Davis. Poor guy. I, too, wish he’d asked the slimy lawyer sooner, since the slimy lawyer sure knew everything about it.
Emily: The slimy lawyer was so cocky about it, too. It seems like everyone’s out to take Stringer down a peg or two.
Sam: He’s not the only one stymied in this episode. I really enjoyed that Mayor Royce was really, seriously considering Hamsterdam. We knew from Day 1 that it wasn’t ever really going to succeed, but getting real consideration on its merits by the mayor himself is about as vindicated as it could get. I appreciated that.
Emily: I also love that the white academic was saying everything I was thinking. In theory, it’s a wonderful idea. Unfortunately, communism also seems like a great idea, academically speaking.
Sam: nods sadly. In the one other non-Stringer/Avon part of this episode I wanted to touch on, I really enjoyed Cutty asking Avon and Slim Charles for money. I liked both how earnest he was and how seriously he was taking it, and then Avon and Slim laughing in his face and being like “You did all that for $10k? Pssht, take $15, that’s nothing.”
Emily: It was also a little sad that he had to bring up the idea that this gym that’s going to keep him on the right side of the law could very likely be training up the next generation of enforcement types. The cycle continues.
Sam: shrug, you sell things however you have to. Or you steal them outright, like Stringer and his badminton set. Avon telling that story was fantastic, and how freaking Stringer is it to steal a badminton set when, as Avon says, they didn’t even have a yard? He’s always been looking several steps ahead, and maybe a little too aspirationally.
Emily: He’s definitely looking too many steps in front of himself all of the time. Avon, for all of the times that he seemed useless, obviously balanced that aspect of him and it was thrown off-kilter when he was in prison and they could never quite get straightened out again.
Sam: It’s a tricky business, the drug game. There’s a lot to handle, both emotionally and physically. I had a legitimate tiny thrill of OOOH! when they a) figured out that Stringer wasn’t at all on the same burner network as the rest of the crew, and b) then we saw him switching out SIM cards. You’ve got to know your shit to stay ahead of the game.
Emily: Hell, in the early 00s, not even all phones were on a SIM card-based system. You really had to know your shit to be up on that detail at that time.
Sam: Pssht, I can’t upgrade my own phone now on my own.
Emily: But at least you know what a SIM card is. How adorable was the detail when they were calling them chips?
Sam: Turns out we were on to something when we watched the first episode and said “Wait, when is this taking place? Beepers and giant clunky computers?” Technology has always been a thing. I liked the little twist on this episode when Daniels and McNulty both call in favors from the Feds to get up on Stringer’s phone, and Fitz informs them that for right then, Mr. Bell’s given name is Ahmed. Obviously.
Emily: I’m going to guess that David Simon isn’t a big fan of the Patriot Act.
Sam: No, I would say I have not gotten that impression, since you mention it. So for all Stringer’s smarts and looking ahead, sometimes when you play the game, the game comes back to bite you in the ass. Before that, though, how fantastic was the opening to this episode? An Omar-Brother Mouzone showdown in an alley, that’s starting things with a bang. Even if (or particularly because) no bullets were fired.
Emily: I appreciate that, while the two of them almost certainly don’t like one another, they clearly understand each other.
Sam: I don’t think there have ever been two more mutually understood characters ever. I particularly love them together because you know how the plot of so many dumb comedies, especially romantic comedies, can be totally resolved if two characters just sit down and talk to one another? But they don’t, so then all the wacky hijinks ensue? This is the anti-that. This is the situation in which the most possible pertinent information can be shared, and neither one will cut the other off while they’re still talking, I bet. Perfect, cold, calculated understanding.
Emily: Avon actually does not understand how reasonable they both were about the whole thing. They’re the anti-Hamsterdam. On paper, they shouldn’t work together. One is chaos and the other is order. In practice, they’re perfect together.
Sam: As Stringer and Avon both say in this episode, it’s just business. No one sees business more clearly than Omar and Brother Mouzone. But Avon and Stringer aren’t idiots, and when the New York connection is on the line, Avon makes the only choice he really has. It’s just really convenient that it happens at the same time as Stringer’s having a little chat with Colvin about Avon.
Emily: Stringer really opened up the idea that you could have someone close to you killed when business is on the line when he had Dee killed and then told Avon. Avon understood why his nephew had to die so he wasn’t going to hesitate to have his childhood best friend knocked off when it was necessary.
Sam: In his defense, he did try to buy his way out of it. But you’re right, he was shown the way and then acted on it. Not the last lesson Stringer taught him. And now… STRINGER BELL IS DEAD WAHHHHHHHHHHHH.
Emily: They didn’t even let him finish saying one last “mothafucka”.
Sam: That’s the way it is sometimes. I do think it’s pretty neat though; if you’re going to be killed in your service to the game, getting taken down by the pair of Omar and Brother Mouzone is practically an honor. I’m still mad he’s dead, though. I was mad when Wallace died, I was mad when Dee died, and I’m really mad now. This is a stupid poopyhead show and no one should ever watch it.
Emily: We kept watching, though. The aftermath of Stringer selling out Avon and then being killed was flung out all over the place in this one.
Sam: So when I was making my notes for this episode after the fact, I started with “Stuff happened in this episode?” because I felt like Stringer being killed hung over everything and I couldn’t remember anything else. Then later I also wrote “Argh, so much stuff” because wow, do they advance/tie up/move around a lot of stuff here. I mean, when Stringer got killed, after I processed it for a bit, I realized I was legitimately a little sad for McNulty. He just got him! They got everything in place, got the wiretap, had evidence he was connected to drugs, and then… bam.
Emily: Even when McNulty wins, he loses.
Sam: I really liked his line when they were rifling through Stringer’s house, saying “Who the hell have I been chasing?” It’s such a classy condo…
Emily: And that looked like it might have been a first edition of The Wealth of Nations. When it comes down to it, Stringer was an academic who just happened to grow up in a bad situation and I think this show has done a good job of showing that whatever might make sense academically isn’t going to work so cleanly in the real world, especially in the chaos of Baltimore.
Sam: It’s kind of silly to say, given that the entire thing is a fictional world, but how different would everyone’s lives in the show be if Stringer Bell were born white and middle-class? marvels.
Emily: But there would still be another big organization. It happened to be the Barksdale gang because Stringer pushed them to be bigger but without them there would still be a vacuum in the Baltimore drug world and that vacuum would be filled.
Sam: Yeah, but would Stringer be a CEO, or a Senator by now? Anyway, in actual “real” world stuff, Daniels finally got his break! He got made Major in the same shift in politics that will get his wife elected without him behind her. He gets a promotion and to see his girlfriend in public in one fell swoop. And McNulty left the detail! What more could he ask??
Emily: Everything’s coming up Daniels. And McNulty was even pretty happy about the whole situation. Daniels has to be waiting for things to fall to shit in some way. His life just doesn’t get to be that good.
Sam: Being the balanced show that it is, when some stuff goes up, others come down. The whole Barksdale organization is effectively wiped out and on their way back to jail (fortunately, in the case of poor Bernard the cell phone mule. I think we’re all glad that he’ll get some time away from his girlfriend finally). And poor Johnny died. And Hamsterdam. I thought that montage, the now-familiar song and scenes of everything going back to the way it was that seems to end every season, was extra sad this time. There were some low blows, with the images of Dee and Stringer and Donette crying, and Hamsterdam just as dead if not human, and posters for Frank Sobotka… jeez.
Emily: I wonder if we’re moving a bit away from the streets next season. We do have McNulty back out walking a beat and seeming to know the people in the neighborhood he patrols so we’ll still have him as a connection to that but it seems like we’re shifting over to focus on politics with the upcoming mayoral race.
Sam: That was one hell of a speech from Carcetti. (in related news, it wasn’t until episode 11 that I realized I’d been saying his name wrong all season. In American pronunciation rules, it should be kar-setti. In Italian, it should be kar-chetti. Nowhere does kar-ketti make sense. I refuse). Anyway, he’s one hell of a smooth talker. Great politician.
Emily: I couldn’t tell if his advisor was happy about that speech, though. It seemed like she wanted him to let Gray get out first and start splitting the black vote, leaving a gap for Carcetti to slip into. It did seem like he alienated a few people on the city council that he usually got along with. I don’t think anyone thinks that a white candidate has a chance as mayor in Baltimore. I can’t wait to see him weasel around while ultimately trying to do good next season. See you next week?
Sam: See you next week!