The Wire Watchalong: Season 5, Episodes 9 and 10

thewireseason5

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 9 and 10.

S05E09

Sam: Whoa, the end! We’ve gotten there! I can kind of hardly believe it. It’s been an interesting experience, living with these people for the last almost-year. I think I’m glad I didn’t have to do it in real time, though, the wait between the seasons would have been terrible. Also, full disclosure, I/we watched these episodes a while ago now, but have only just now come to terms with writing about them. At least, that’s the case for me. Also scheduling. But also not wanting to let go yet…

Emily: I’m specifically glad we didn’t have to wait as long as people watching in real time had to wait between seasons 4 and 5. This wasn’t my favorite season but I think I would have received it much more poorly if I’d had to wait a long time for it.

Sam: Agree wholeheartedly. There was too much time to build up too much buzz for what it ended up being. Some things definitely lived up to the hype (Omar, Stringer Bell, McNulty). Some things didn’t have hype, like one Mr. Marlo Stanfield, for good reason, and I still don’t like him or want to talk about him even now having seen it. I’ll say this though: he does run a tighter ship than the police do.

Emily: That’s the problem with Marlo. He runs a tight ship but he has no flair. Stringer Bell had flair.

Sam: So much flair! Although, not unlike the end of season 3, I just knew when they took down Marlo and co. so early in the episode that it wasn’t going to stick. You could just see it coming.

Emily: I think I would have doubted that it would stick no matter when they took him down in this episode. It left them with a whole episode for it to fall apart. That it took place so early in this episode just made it glaringly obvious that Marlo would get to go home to his pigeons.

Sam: Pigeon weirdo. I really loved when they had the whole crew lined up on their knees in cuffs, though. Screw the famous McNulty-Bunk scene from Season 1 where they only use the word “fuck,” Marlo and Freamon have an entire conversation without either one of them saying a damn word. The Wire at its best.

Emily: Just holding up that damned clock said everything. So much more than Marlo bragging about how he outlived everyone in booking. Yeah, yeah. You’re tough, we get it.

Sam: He’s annoying, but at least you can’t say he doesn’t a) have principles and b) stick to them. He got all mad that Omar was dragging his name through the mud (RIP Omar), and said the most Marlo thing: “My name is my name!” And his soldiers believe him; no one else’s word means more, at least not now. Michael wants to know why so-and-so is on the docket to be killed, Snoop says, “Marlo say he got to get got, so it is what it is.”

Emily: Marlo’s soldiers follow him no matter what. It really is why Michael was never meant to be one of Marlo’s soldiers.

Sam: Even if he was cut out, toughness-wise. I’m sorry Snoop had to get got, to use her parlance, but I do kind of think Michael was a good one to do it. At least it wasn’t execution by Marlo for some perceived slight or in some kind of unpleasant battle. I liked her, consistently.

Emily: She was great even when she was about to die. It was the most two people could show respect for one another while knowing that one of them had to kill the other. There was no way that both could stay alive.

Sam: And they both knew it. No illusions. Okay, so, this is the most tangential of tangents, but I was just thinking about Snoop and that nailgun she loved so much, and it reminded me of a crackpot theory I had. So the Barksdales, after they get kicked out of the club, run their shop out of a funeral home. If Marlo had run his place through a funeral home, or at least known someone in the business, he could have hid his bodies in other peoples’ caskets. They literally never would have found them. I mean, okay, okay, I know that it makes for a much neater and tidier show to put them in the vacants and have that hanging over everything for a season of television, but… how much of a coup would that have been? Marlo would have run everything forever.

Emily: Even better would be if it was a funeral home with its own crematorium. No risk that one of the coffins you put an extra body in would have to be exhumed for any reason. All of your bodies just go up in smoke. Even the more successful method of body disposal makes Marlo boring. Prop Joe was right. People have to actually find the bodies for your kills to give you power. Street people disappear all of the time.

Sam: Oh man. Crematorium. Brb, writing all the The Wire fanfic. Marlo’s tidiness still largely paid off; everyone knew it was him even when the bodies disappeared. Then you have the option of leaving them out or not, but it’s not what you’re stuck with by default. Anyway! In things that actually happened this episode, it turns out that you ought not trust a politician. Just, ever, basically. Systemic changes are for campaign promises only.

Emily: And once you start a new campaign, you have a whole new set of systemic changes to propose. I really was holding out hope that Carcetti was still mostly motivated by the right things but all of his enthusiastic Mayoring was just too beautiful to last.

Sam: Although we know that he has a remarkable amount of actual caring and heart to him, so there’s reason to believe he will have done something as Governor. You know, until that Senate seat starts looking appealing… In opposite politician news, Clay Davis was bragging about fleecing Stringer. Oh, it burns….

Emily: Ugh. It is true that Clay Davis will always be around to make me feel better about most of the other politicians. That man is the worst.

Sam: I did enjoy him calling Lester Freamon “nothing but a shakedown artist,” though. Clay Davis is the purest, most concentrated form of ludicrous.

Emily: There’s still a little bit of hope in this world, though. The Baltimore Public School system isn’t there to provide everything Namond needs but Bunny Colvin and his wife are. He just needed an advocate and a safe place to lay his head at night. Now he gets to use his gift for quick talking to be in a debate club-type thing. It was nice to see him and for Colvin to get one last dig in at Carcetti.

Sam: Which is still kind of sad, because I don’t think Carcetti was ever against Hamsterdam in actual principle, it was only ever a politics thing and he had to be dead against it because, you know, actual laws and public perception and stuff. It was nice to see Namond having gotten out of it, though, even if he’s about the last one we actually cared about seeing saved.

Emily: I think Colvin’s bitterness towards Carcetti was at least as much motivated by how little he’s done for the school system as it was over his forced resignation. He’s a father again and he had a program canceled that could have made a difference.

Sam: You know, I legitimately already forgot about that. This show! It has too much in it! Geez. While we’re talking about characters who have grown up to be better and more real people than we anticipated, quick shoutout to Carver, because he’s a Real Person. He was definitely not at the beginning, and he took the right path, even if it took some prodding. I like him.

Emily: Carver has turned out to be so solid. I’m glad Kima sees it too since she was usually the one pushing him and Herc to be better. She trusts him so she was able to talk to him about the fake serial killer.

Sam: Which is about to come tumbling down aaaaaany minute now. In the meantime, one last thread from this episode, which I can summarize in two words: “Awwwww, Bubbles!” He made me cry this episode. I love him. I think he’s in the running (with Omar) for best character in the series. Also, he has the most remarkable hair. It’s better when it’s less kempt, I think.

Emily: It is but its general unkemptness made it really easy for them to convey that he’s on the right path now in this episode. Sure, him getting his anniversary chip and being able to talk about himself so much also says a lot but seeing him obviously cleaned up also helped.

Sam: Trufax. Also, I don’t know if I noticed it as much before, but there’s some excellent casting at work with his sister. They do look like they’re related. I liked when the reporter called him Reginald in front of Walon and he was just like wait what? “I’m his fucking sponsor and I don’t believe I ever got a Christian name out of him!”

Emily: That reporter really did his job and then some. He never would have gotten him to talk so much about himself if he hadn’t been willing to put the time in. He’s the anti-Scott.

S05S10

Sam: Speaking of Scott, that lying asshole, his terrified face is very rewarding, as a viewer.

Emily: Yet the asshole still got a fucking Pulitzer while the amazing Alma got booted to a way worse beat. Asshole.

Sam: I know I’m really going out on a limb here, but it almost feels as though David Simon, longtime crime reporter, feels some resentment about the kinds of pieces that are rewarded in journalism. Almost.

Emily: While McNulty and Freamon fabricating a serial killer to get more resources and a warrant for a wiretap was wrong, at least they had good motivations. Scott’s motivation was selfish. He was a lazy reporter who wanted to cover himself in glory. McNulty and Freamon were legitimately trying to take down an murderous drug gang. Unfortunately for them, there are a lot of laws about illegal search and seizure. It’s in the constitution and everything.

Sam: I found it interesting/revealing that the way this broke was very similar to Hamsterdam; it was a good result (well, mostly, except for those actual people dying) with improper methods, and when the politicians find out, they try to hush it up first while they figure out how to spin it/bury it/get rid of it. I don’t remember if this was about that or not, but for the record, speaking of politicians, I love Norman laughing. They got so much good mileage out of his small side character.

Emily: He plays well off of pretty much everyone but especially Carcetti. I kind of want him to show up on Game of Thrones now to tell some truth to Aidan GIllen’s smug character on there. I think it’s pretty clear that they just liked writing for the character/actor and found a reason for him to stick around after the campaign was over.

Sam: I have no complaints. They were great at keeping interesting characters around, especially when you didn’t realize they were interesting in the beginning. It was so great to see Prez in this episode, all bearded up, and a Real Teacher Person now. It was sad, of course, to see his interaction with Dukie and where Dukie’s ended up, but at least Prez has respect amongst the students.

Emily: Prez is learning the scope of how much he can care about his students. He can do his best by them when they’re his students but then he has to let them go into the world and hope that other teachers and adults are there to pick up where he left off. I did love how the vice principal had to sort of look him up and down before she remembered him. Part of that was that she already has the attitude of students not being her concern once they’re out of her school but it also seemed like a nod to how much taller Duquan is now than he was in season 4.

Sam: They got the kids right at the right time for season 4 to see them change drastically by the end of the series. I’m sure that was mostly inadvertent, but very successful.

Emily: Almost certainly inadvertent since they probably didn’t know there would be an abnormally-long break between shooting the last two seasons but it does help that boys tend to go through a more dramatic growth spurt than girls and it was the boys we continued to follow.

Sam: Indeed. And now Prez is about to have two more colleagues on the outside, so to speak. This show is better than any other I’ve ever seen at letting something go one not just one beat too long so you start to believe it, but an extra, like, two and a half, so you really start to doubt yourself before they reveal that they were just joking after all. I really didn’t think Jimmy McNulty would suddenly be dead, but they did make me think it. Also, it’s true, you don’t crowd a man at his own wake, even if he is laying there talking to you.

Emily: It was nice that it got them to a third police wake shown in the series. There really is something to things that happen in threes.

Sam: I liked that Kima showed up and was welcomed after all, and that there were no hard feelings. As one of them says to her: “Detective, if you thought it needed doing, I guess it did.”

Emily: Freamon got the chance to go back to real police work after years of being stuck in the pawn unit and McNulty knows that his personal life is almost certainly better if he’s not chasing after major cases. Someone was going to poke a hole in the case eventually and Kima actually helped it happen in a way that caused the least amount of damage. It just fell apart behind the scenes instead of exploding in everyone’s faces and taking down every person involved.

Sam: Agree, so even some of the glossier stuff went untouched, like Daniels (who did such good work on whatever that was, as Carcetti’s pumping him up for the media) getting the Police Commissioner position, albeit temporarily. He told them the stats would be clean, and that’s what… did he even deliver any? He would have, at least, if he’d been in the position more than 35 seconds.

Emily: I assume he was around long enough for at least one COMSTAT meeting but it wasn’t long enough for us to see it. We did get to see him giving Carver a well-deserved promotion, though, and that was beautiful.

Sam: Yay for the good guys! Bridging the gap a little from the Good Guys to Definitely Not, working out what to actually do with the Marlo case now that they have no real evidence to use (or, rather evidence that would crumble if Levy looked at it askew) is another matter entirely. Ronnie had a great kind of mini-showdown with Levy. Lay it all out on the table, everyone acknowledges they’re doing something illegal, even the good guys, and you go from there. Everyone’s hands are dirty on this one.

Emily: Ronnie was consistently great throughout the series. Questionable sleeping with McNulty judgment aside, I’m glad that she came out with one of the better endings in the show.

Sam: Agree. And we’ve discussed this before, McNulty must just emit some kind of special pheromone or something. There’s clearly something else there.

Emily: But Daniels is recognizably hotter and the all-around better person so she won on that front, too. I hope they get to spend many years with her recusing herself as the judge on his cases.

Sam: Agree again! At least they both end up at more or less the height of their professions, in context, even if Daniels had to change professions a bit. He had to step down for “family reasons,” you know. As he says: “Guess I got some kids somewhere I don’t know about.” With that classic half-grin. Marlo, it turns out, is not actually “done with this gangster shit.” He sold the connect for a cool 10 million, but he wore a suit for 15 seconds and that was enough of that. Of all the endings we’ll soon discuss, I think that him beating up some random dudes and standing on a damn corner is just about the most fitting.

Emily: It’s just definitive proof that Marlo tried to be Stringer Bell and Avon Barksdale rolled into one person and he couldn’t really pull off either one. Stringer would have been in heaven getting to rub elbows with all of those important people.

Sam: And Avon would have still ended up on the corner. I like it when the show writes out its manifestos for me in actual dialogue; from when the assorted dealers are getting the money together to pay Marlo for the connect and then Slim kills Cheese: “Ain’t no nostalgia to this shit. There’s just the street, and the game, and what happened here today.” Kind of the whole show, really. Except with the nostalgia, because we’re watching it as outsiders.

Emily: Yeah. We can just shake our heads and laugh at the idea of Valchek as police commissioner but it would be awful to live in a Baltimore where someone that incompetent was in charge of the police force.

Sam: True fact: my notes read as follows “Hahahahahahahahahahaha Commissioner Valchek.” That’s so perfect and, as you say, so terrible. Just bonkers. At least there are still some police doing actual good policework. I enjoyed Bunk scolding Kima for pulling a McNulty- giving a fuck when it wasn’t her turn to give a fuck. I mean, really, “picking up the phone like a goddamn rookie.”

Emily: Most of the police, lawyer, and politician flash forwards were pleasant to watch. Everyone seemed to land in a mostly positive place. Then there were Michael and Dukie and their paths aren’t nearly as pleasant.

Sam: Well, mostly. I mean, Dukie is definitely not as pleasant. He turned into mini Bubbles, at least, Bubbles as we knew him at the start of the series. But Bubbles of the end of the series got to eat upstairs with his family and seriously turned his life around, so I will blindly decide that that’s what will happen for Dukie too. He doesn’t have the same family to fall back on, that we know of, but maybe he’s got an aunt or something. Maybe Michael’s Bug, since he has a chance to grow up normal, now? As for Michael himself… whee!!! Mini Omar! Omar is dead, long live Omar Michael!

Emily: That’s heartbreaking in its own way, though. It’s not the sad story of Dukie or Bubbles but just because Omar was entertaining to watch doesn’t mean that he lived a good life.

Sam: Shhhhhhh stop being realistic and bringing me down. Omar was awesome and Michael can also be awesome. At the very least, he’s likely to develop an Omarian level of swagger, I think.

Emily: The potential is there. If you take the Omar career path, at least respect yourself enough to have as much fun with it as Omar did.

Sam: And Omar is a legend now. He was a legend before, but now we hear all these wild stories of how he was finally taken down. There should be crazy stories about that. Omar deserves it.

Emily: He does. He’s probably the person I’ll remember the most about now that we’re done with the whole show and he wasn’t even around all that much in comparison to a lot of the other characters. Part of that was by design, I think. The faces may change but the story stays more or less the same. We may have experienced it with some particular individuals but the same thing will play out over and over again.

Sam: Which I think we saw pretty clearly even from one season to the next. Man, what a good show. I’m so pleased we tackled this as a watchalong. So, until future watchalongs… See you next time?

Emily: See you next time!

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