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 5, Episodes 3 and 4.
Sam: Ugh. So, to start with, I hated this episode. I didn’t like the next one much either, but this might be the worst episode of the series. So many things wrong, and nothing redeeming. Front and center among the things that are wrong is, naturally McNulty. What that fuck, McNulty?
Emily: At least we have Bunk to be our voice. He doesn’t even know what to say because everything about this whole fake serial killer bullshit is unbelievable and Jimmy just keeps digging himself a deeper hole.
Sam: When he started actually actively falsifying evidence (really early in this episode, mind you), I made a note that the “deep end” is so far behind McNulty he can’t see it in his rearview mirror. He is so far gone it’s… I mean, appalling isn’t strong enough. Something beyond appalling.
Emily: It was bad enough that he’s messing with his own cases but then he’s going back and messing with others and going out of his way to draw attention to it. I know that’s his whole point, to draw attention to the fake serial killer in order to reopen the investigation on Marlo, but he’s so unsubtle about it that someone has to catch on to it eventually.
Sam: You’d think. Not yet, though. In the meantime, he’s drawing other people into his web of lies. Good people! I was more disappointed in Freamon than I’ve been in any character since Bubbles relapsed in season 1, and that’s a sad kind of thing where this was confusion and anger. Freamon’s the supremely rational one! What’s he doing, egging McNulty on??
Emily: They’re horribly blinded by anything that the major crimes unit ever touched. Bunk obviously counted on Freamon setting Jimmy straight before it was too late but apparently he’s been bitten by the same crazy bug. It didn’t even take him long to fully understand and be on board with what McNulty was doing. The fact that he could follow the logic that easily is either because they’ve got the same blinders on or because the writers needed the plot to move quickly since they only had 10 episodes for this season instead of only 12 or 13.
Sam: I think the logic itself isn’t that hard to follow–attract attention, get more money–but that he jumped right in instead of being, you know, bothered by it was frustrating. This show is so good at faking you out; I wasn’t expecting it to fake me out this direction. Freamon leads with “Shit like this actually goes through your fucking brain,” and you think we’re good. And then he turns and joins up anyway. Argh. Quick grr McNulty point: how classy is it to fuck a girl from a bar on the hood of your car, in the wide outdoors? Argh. So annoying.
Emily: Hey, I suppose it’s fine as long as you can flash your badge to get out of it. And if you’re not cheating on the awesome lady you live with who deserves better. Even though it’s totally messed up, when it comes to police work, McNulty’s motivations are still mostly on the side of good so I get it to a point. I certainly don’t hate him as much as I hate Marlo. He’s mostly made of evil and he’s not even that much fun to watch. He’s a bit too efficient.
Sam: Amen, sister. That should go on Marlo’s internet tombstone, “He’s mostly made of evil.” That’s it. And he’s the annoying kind; he’s so stoic and slightly smug all the time. The Barksdales were almost like cartoon villains compared to him; they’d definitely tell you their whole plan as you were suspended over a tank of sharks or whatever. Marlo is the silent killer, literally, and I just am not engaged. I don’t care, and yet he keeps doing all this shit to hurt people I like, so I’m forced to engage with him anyway.
Emily: We’ve come a long way from just not understanding him and his stupid pigeons. He’s the worst but he’s good at being a criminal. We’re going to have to keep dealing with him until the end of the series and I don’t like it.
Sam: At the rate he’s going, (mild spoilers for the episode later in this very post), he’s going to run all of Baltimore’s drug trade, and I’m still not going to care. It’s kind of like, well, good the fuck for him. I guess. I know it’s a business you don’t go far in trusting everything everyone says, but Jesus Christ, he flew to the Antilles just to check his bank account. He’s all asking Prop Joe, “But how do I know it’s there?” and when Prop Joe tells him he can check online, it’s this baffling thing. In what world is it easier to fly to the Antilles than to check an account balance online? I get it, in the context of his life, but whoa.
Emily: If I had the problem of having too much illegal money to the point where I had to go stash it on an island somewhere, I’d be totally cool believing the online balance. Granted, I say this as a law-abiding white woman with more student loan debt than money in 2015 but I still think Marlo is a bit ridiculous. At least he’s managed to keep his nose officially clean so foreign travel isn’t a problem for him.
Sam: Which kind of also just serves to illustrate how little progress Freamon and co. were ever able to make. Tangentially related to Marlo, I liked the bit where someone, I think it was Carcetti, said “No one lives forever,” and the next scene was Snoop walking in to the bar. I thought that as a delightfully cheeky little bit of editing, given her habit of ending lives.
Emily: Oh, Butchie. He was always one of my favorite Omar cohorts. He didn’t deserve to end that way.
Sam: No, that was particularly rough, especially because he wasn’t really in the game, and he was never anything but nice and helpful, that we saw. You could kind of see it coming; maybe not that violent, but I had in my notes from mid-way through the episode that I was hoping nothing happened to him. I was right to be worried. Poor guy.
Emily: They went after him precisely because he wasn’t really in the game. He was an easy target who just happened to be close to Omar.
Sam: Remind me never to be an easy target who happens to be close to Omar. Speaking of Omar, la la, whatever, their little idyllic hideaway place, whatever, but when they got back to the house with the groceries, there were three candles burning on the table. It is not safe to leave burning candles unattended. There is your irrational safety lecture for an episode that aired many years ago.
Emily: I appreciate the tip. Even though this episode aired many years ago, the newspaper industry was already dying and since David Simon used to be a newspaper man, we get to spend the season being all nostalgic about it. It’s a good thing that I actually like Gus and Alma or I would be pretty annoyed at having to spend so much time with new people. I already liked Gus from the beginning and Alma had me as soon as she so swiftly and efficiently pushed back at McNulty for flirting with her.
Sam: It’s refreshing to have another almost Kima-type who isn’t swayed by him and his apparent charms. Spending the whole damn season being nostalgic is right; they were laying it on with a paintbrush in this episode. While there were characteristic connections you didn’t expect (like that Norman of course used to work with Gus, which is delightful), there was also some uncharacteristically unsubtle writing. The newspaper people said that they were just going to have to do more with less, which is exactly what the police said in the first two episodes of this season. It feels clunky for this show; I’m used to it telling me the same thing in two ways and letting me say ah ha, those are the same, not just telling me the same thing twice.
Emily: And I would have gotten the point just from Twigg leaving. Obviously it’s harder to do more with less when the people who remain are going to have to replace the working knowledge base that he has of the major players in the BPD. He spat out Daniels’s entire bio, including things that aren’t exactly official record.
Sam: That he did. And in other sub-par writing news, there was that bit where Michael and Dukie took Bug to Six Flags for the day. There’s nothing particularly wrong with it, but I kept waiting for there to be something unique to this show. I’ve seen people take a day off and come back and get in trouble for it. Nothing felt fresh or different about it. Which isn’t to say it won’t end up being significant later, cause that would be a super Wire-y thing to do, but it didn’t in the next episode so far. It was just… a thing.
Emily: Other shows have filler shit like that, The Wire doesn’t. If it doesn’t become something in the six episodes that we have left then it’s just going to seem like they wasted their time getting permits and doing a location shoot. They could have used that time to make it seem like the other necessary scenes weren’t dropping so many anvils on us.
Sam: At least the next episode isn’t so bad…
Sam: Because… well, I don’t know. I just didn’t hate it as much as I hated episode 3. For one, there’s more Carcetti, and he’s getting to do mayoring that isn’t just eating other peoples’ shit.
Emily: Or directly campaigning for governor so he can leave when his term is half over. Sure, his positioning Daniels to be the next police commissioner is super political and all about improving his image statewide but Daniels is also more on his page as far as caring more about solving actual crimes that happen than just doing whatever he has to to make the numbers look clean.
Sam: I’m suspicious about Nerese and her easing Burrell out. She’s got a great smoke screen because it does make sense to move him out quietly and easily, but she hasn’t done a damn thing yet that wasn’t in her own self interest. Is the goal to bury Daniels herself once he gets appointed, to make Carcetti look bad?
Emily: I suppose it’s too much to hope that she’s really hoping that Carcetti runs for governor and wins so she can just take over as mayor herself. That’s way too clean to hope for. Still, Burrell is out, Rawls is the new acting commissioner, and Daniels is Deputy Ops. He’s in the same position Burrell was in back in season 1.
Sam: Whoa, that was a long time ago. I couldn’t have told you what Burrell’s position was back then. Although I did enjoy Prop Joe noting that Burrell was in the Glee Club in high school. On the sports tip, I enjoyed that there was a Ray Lewis namecheck. It’s not like it’s hard to incorporate culturally/regionally appropriate names into shows, but actually doing it still gets you more points. In co-op news, Marlo is sick of their shit, or so he says in exactly those words. In turn, I am tired of Marlo.
Emily: He’s only sick of the co-op because they won’t let him do every little thing that he wants to do. He also hates that he needs them so he just decides to get out of them what they can, including hooking up with the skeevy lawyer that they all use.
Sam: I liked Prop Joe’s (unheeded) advice, that he needed to “focus more on what can be gained from working with people.” Oh, Prop Joe. At the beginning of the episode he’s ready to take off because of Omar, which is always a wise move (“Out of respect for that man’s skill set”…I do love a lot of the writing on this show). Turns out Omar wasn’t what he needed to fear.
Emily: I loved that line about Omar so much. It’s a lesson that Marlo hasn’t learned yet. Even if it’s not Omar, it’s going to be someone else. Someone is going to bring some chaos into Marlo’s world and now he won’t even have Prop Joe around to tell him how to navigate it. Because he had him killed. I just assumed that Prop Joe was a cockroach who could survive anything but it turns out that he can’t survive a stoic man with a petulant child inside.
Sam: It’s one I really, legitimately did not see coming. Prop Joe’s the craftiest one among them, for all the tight situations he’d navigated out of before. Turns out you can’t navigate around Marlo, and he wasn’t the first person to learn that. Sigh. We’ve got more mourning to do coming up, so… See you next week, she asked grimly?
Emily: See you next week.