The Wire Watchalong: Season 5, Episodes 1 and 2

thewireseason5Welcome 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 5, Episodes 1 and 2.

S05E01

Emily: Chaos everywhere! It turns out that police officers really like when they get paid.

Sam: Yeah, for some reason that means something. The elation of seeing Carver as the new big man in charge was equal to the disappointment when he had nothing good to say to them. His position of power is not a good one to be in, now. And he knows it- when there was a fight in the parking lot, he just turns to the other in-charge-type guy and was like “As SIC, should I stop this?” and it wasn’t a question, just a reflection on how far moral has gone.

Emily: I just hope it doesn’t kill all of the growing up that he’s done over the past few seasons. I wouldn’t even blame him, it’d just be disappointing.

Sam: That’s the problem. You don’t blame him, it’s just a shitty situation. You only kind of even blame Carcetti. At least, I do. I understand why he made the decision he made to reject the funding from the governor, but it really would have helped. It did lead to a fantastic exchange with Norman, who we both learned is not actually the Chief of Staff, when Carcetti asked for his honest opinion (“Truth to power, Norman, that’s why I keep you around.”) (also, is there anyone better for actual truth to actual power? Norman’s awesome). Norman’s little smile and almost flippant “Little bit!” when Carcetti asked if he felt better now was the best.

Emily: He’s always pulled the best reaction faces, it’s just now we’re a little more on his side than Carcetti’s so we can really appreciate them. Unlike Carver and Carcetti, McNulty has kind of dug his own hole. Sure, the budget concerns and lack of progress probably aren’t helping his demeanor but Jimmy falling off the wagon after he returned to Major Crimes was practically a foregone conclusion and he convinced himself that Beadie would magically keep him from backsliding.

Sam: I don’t remember exactly- was he already back off the wagon before the unit got disbanded? Because I can see a narrow margin slipping away entirely when he’s forced back to Homicide, where all his worst habits started. Anyway, I thought it was a bold (and unfortunate) move, in the first episode of the season, to completely kill the one beautiful, shining unit of the whole show. I did love McNulty’s intro this season (such as it is)- they’re doing surveillance and whoever he’s with says he heard about him. McNulty is all McNulty-grin and shrugs it off with “Whatever you’ve heard, it’s not true.” Which is particularly great, because virtually anything you’ve heard about him probably is true.

Emily: Yes, at the very least McNulty is quippier when he’s in detective mode. I do wonder if they would have killed off the unit in the first episode of the season if they had the regular 12 or 13 episodes to work with. In 10 episodes, they need to deal with all of the ongoing budgetary and governmental issues from the previous season, the ongoing co-op stuff, introduce us to a bunch of newspaper people, and bring the show to a satisfying conclusion.

Sam: How can this show possibly have a satisfying conclusion? Every other season finale they’ve reveled in rubbing our faces in “NOTHING EVER CHANGES, REMEMBER THAT.” Anyway, only eight more episodes! How can that possibly be true? It’s that time of the week, now, where I point out the flavors of the week, since that’s my new obsession: greenhouse gas and blue tops. The greenhouse gas hawker was particularly good at mixing up the shouts. With the drugs on the streets is Marlo, and Marlo’s Marloness. As my notes read, “Marlo’s a problem child.”

Emily: That’s always been Marlo’s role. He’s the upstart that the established drug dealers have had to learn to work in after he filled the hole left by the Barksdale organization. Even when they were still around, they were operating at a diminished capacity due to Avon’s imprisonment and Stringer’s interest in transitioning to more legitimate business. Marlo’s an opportunist willing to poke away at an opening until he breaks through.

Sam: You said it. He’s an opportunist, but damn, he makes a lot of his own opportunities. He’s one determined motherfucker (see also: why I am very worried for Omar. That Omar does not survive the series is one of about three things I knew before starting the show, and of all possible comers so far, Marlo would be the one to succeed in taking him out). Anyway, the co-op is still the best. New business, market share… oh, co-op, talk nerdy to me. I love it at least as much as I love Snoop and her somewhat continual impatience. She will be brief with all y’all motherfuckers.

Emily: Snoop is fascinating to watch because she is fucking terrifying. She will find someone to kill mostly because she’s bored. It does not take much of a reason.

Sam: It’s skipping ahead to the next episode, but Chris and Snoop are like dogs let off the leash when Marlo gives them the go ahead. Chris’s grin when he describes Snoop as “somewhat eager”… Anyway, in the current episodes, Bubbles is clean. And the next one (spoilerz!) but god, I don’t know how long it will last. I want it to last. I’m so desperate for it to last. It’s so hard to watch him hurting and trying so hard. Also, his name is Reginald. Surely the writers are trolling us. They came up with the least Bubbles name they could think of.

Emily: His sister is giving him the tough love right now. I want to be mad at her for it but it’s clearly working. If he’s only there when she is, it’s a lot harder for him to steal all of her stuff to pawn for drug money.

Sam: Like with the police, you understand what’s going on, even if it’s unpleasant. I don’t blame her at all, even if I do wish she’d let him stay there when she’s on night shifts. That’s the worst for resisting slipping back into the old ways. Booo. At least he has a legit job. This show is so good with those little connections; last season Prez conveniently got a job in the schools, this season Bubbles is selling newspapers (to Nerese, even!) and then one of the reporters we just met is at the crime scene at the end of the next episode. It’s like, well, we have all these characters… someone has to sell the paper, and obviously there’d be press at a crime scene… why not slot in people we know? It tightens up the world in a great way.

Emily: After her clash with Carcetti last season about how it was supposed to be her turn to be mayor after Royce, it’s not surprising that we’re seeing Nerese again this season. Unfortunately for her, she’s managed to dig herself a big hole with the city reporters at the Baltimore Sun. It turns out that you can’t work alongside Royce for years and hope to keep your hands clean.

Sam: Weird. Who would have known? I was kind of pleased to see she’s maybe-dirty. I mean, almost definitely, but she’s no Clay Davis, at least. So reporters! We’ve met our new Institution with a capital I for the season. I like Gus, who’s clearly being set up to be the good guy.

Emily: I kind of feel bad for some of the other newspaper staffers. If they’re ever in dispute with Gus, they stand almost no chance of us being on their side because he’s clearly set up as the one we’re supposed to like.

Sam: We’ll have to see if any of them get character development in their brief time on the show. It could be worse, they could be Herc, whose transformation into slimeball is nearly complete. He’s working for whathisface, the sleazy lawyer guy (to quote directly from my notes). That guy knows what he’s talking about, though. As we recall, he was the one who knew in an instant that Stringer was being scammed (and could have warned him), and now he’s schooling Herc in the finer points of the expense account and greasing the wheels for future information gathering.

Emily: You’d think after Valchek schooled him on how to take advantage of his situation after literally catching Royce with his pants down that Herc would be better at exploiting the system he’s working in by now. And it’s not even exploitation. Herc buying one or two or five rounds of drinks on the expense account is going to yield the lawyer so many billable hours’ worth of information to work with.

Sam: Herc and Carver have been a fascinating case study within this show. I’m dying to go back and watch earlier episodes now when they were basically the same person and generic lackeys for the people who knew what they were doing. Speaking of knowing what you’re doing, man, I love the interrogation techniques used by the Baltimore PD. The most fancy lie detector I’ve ever seen! (spoiler alert: someone us might recognize it as a photocopier).

S05E02

Sam: At the risk of blowing my wad, I have to jump in first to the part that stood out way beyond just this episode. This show aired until, what, 2008, and yet there’s a part where the characters say “You can go a long way in this country killing black folk. Young males especially.” Now, 2008 is not ancient history, but still, that’s seven years ago now. It kind of hurt to hear that, because jeez, it shouldn’t still be this topical.

Emily: It shouldn’t have been topical in 2008, either. It’s so painful. He’s no longer young, but Bubbles might just get to keep his life until he’s a bona fide senior citizen. 15 months sober, especially while he’s still struggling with his inner demons, is nothing to sneeze at.

Sam: The struggle of us watching Bubbles try really hard continues. It’s so much harder to watch someone try really hard than not try at all. Our other favorite try-hard continues caring. I think we’ve made almost this exact point before, but Bunk said it for us in one line this episode. Re: McNulty “Givin’ a fuck when it ain’t your turn to give a fuck.” Also… he kind of looks weird in a suit now.

Emily: We’ve made that point before because Bunk’s made that point before in those same words. Jimmy McNulty is practically back to the same person we met back in season 1 only he’s even more jaded now. He’s willing to do almost everything to make a change happen that he thinks is necessary.

Sam: He’s willing to do everything to change other people, but not himself. Still mad about that. Maybe Bunk made the same point again now so it can underline his latest actions: messing with a crime scene is caring a lot more than he should, in possibly the wrong ways. When has that even gone well? EVER? Argh.

Emily: It’s certainly worse than butting heads with Rawls. He used to just be about fighting the administration to get his way. Now he’s making up a crime and falsifying evidence. And he’s dragging poor Bunk into it and while he may not be the most motivated of detectives, he’s always been good police and a loyal friend.

Sam: It’s a rough spot for the whole department, even before McNulty going off the deep end. As Bunk says, there ain’t no money in this policing shit. No overtime for months. It’s at least as tough a gig as “Mother of four.” I like the newspaper people riffing on archetypes you get in papers. It’s true that mother of four almost always has something bad happen. Also, I love the opportunity taken by the Wire writers to bash Bud Selig and Major League Baseball. That’s not accidental, nothing in this show is.

Emily: As someone who almost had her beloved Minnesota Twins contracted, I will always enjoy when someone takes a swing at Bud Selig. It’s so easy to do and yet so much fun.

Sam: So in Marlo’s being Marlo news: Avon Barksdale! How do you like that? He still exists! And he’s politely inserting himself into Marlo’s business, the “authority figure” he is in the prison. And he gets $100k for his troubles.

Emily: It really is nice to have him stuck in a cage yet still able to show up to explain how he sees things. It did feel like they were trolling the audience a bit by making his first line “Surprise!” Even from prison, Avon Barksdale gets to be a power player because that is how he projects himself.

Sam: This show often knows what it’s doing. It was an episode of characters doing unexpected things: McNulty crossing the line, Avon popping up out of nowhere, and then Michael, it appears, has a heart after all, and Kima is not entirely devoid of maternal instinct.

Emily: Michael’s motivation has always been protecting his little brother so his heart was there, he was just doing his best to bury it as a survival mechanism. It’s why he told Dukie that he could get paid to watch after his brother. If he’s not working the corners, then Dukie gets to remain softer. As for Kima, it’s always seemed like she would make an excellent aunt but a horrible mother. She can care for a kid, she just can’t be the primary caregiver. She can meet the bare minimum of what you can and can’t do with a child, she just can’t put in the time to be at home.

Sam: I think you’re dead on. Kima is the perfect aunt type. For Dukie, it’s just a matter of convenience that the crew wasn’t really respecting him. Totally. Whew. There’s a lot of stuff in this first two episodes. I can’t believe there are only eight left in the whole series. I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself at that point.

Emily: At least we don’t have to really think about that for another month or so. See you next week?

Sam: See you next week!

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