Watching The Wire: Episode Four: Old Cases

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“It’s a thin line ‘tween heaven and here.” - Bubbles

Teleplay by David Simon
Story by David Simon and Ed Burns
Directed by Clement Virgo


Starring:
Wendell Pierce (Det. William "Bunk" Moreland), Wood Harris (Avon Barksdale), John Doman (Maj. William A. Rawls), Lance Reddick (Lt. Cedric Daniels), Andre Royo (Bubbles), Idris Elba (Russell "Stringer" Bell), Frankie Faison (Deputy Comm. Ervin H. Burrell), Larry Gilliard Jr. (D'Angelo Barksdale), Dominic West (Det. James "Jimmy" McNulty) and Sonja Sohn (Det. Shakima "Kima" Greggs)

With:
Callie Thorne (Elena McNulty), Michael Kenneth Williams (Omar Little), J.D. Williams (Preston "Bodie" Broadus), Seth Gilliam (Det. Ellis Carver), Domenick Lombardozzi (Off. Thomas R. "Herc" Hauk), Clarke Peters (Det. Lester Freamon), Jim True-Frost (Off. Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski), Hassan Johnson (Roland "Wee-Bey" Brice), Corey Parker Robinson (Det. Leander Sydnor), Michael B. Jordan (Wallace), Delaney Williams (Sgt. Jay Landsman), Melanie Nicholls-King (Cheryl), Michael Salconi (Det. Michael Santangelo), Tray Chaney (Malik "Poot" Carr), Antonio Cordova (Sean McNulty), Peter Gerety (Judge Daniel Phelan), Nat Benchley (Det. Augustus "Augie" Polk), Brandon Price (Anton "Stinkum" Artis), Caroline G. Pleasant (Bodie's Grandmother), Tom Quinn (Det. Patrick Mahone), Michael Kevin Darnall (Brandon Wright), Lance Williams (John Bailey) and Jeorge Watson (Marvin Browning)

The Summary:

Bodie manages to slip through security and escape from lockup. Meanwhile, Herc and Carver continue their renegade ways by travelling to Marlboro to find Bodie and beat him into giving up information on the case. Once they get there, Herc has a change of attitude after meeting Bodie’s grandmother. Furious at being robbed of his product during the “re-up,” Avon Barksdale instructs Stinkum, Wee-Bey and Stringer to double the existing reward for anyone who eliminates Omar and his crew.

Read about cloning, CSI and a hump who's not a hump beyond the link...


The Recap:

In the basement Herc and Carver are attempting to move a desk with Sydnor’s help. Daniels arrives and assists them as well while Freamon watches the whole thing and notices that half of them are pushing while the other half are also pushing from the opposite direction. Once Herc reveals that he’s trying to get the desk in, everyone leaves in disgust with the desk jammed halfway through the door. While also providing a lighter moment of comedy to open the episode it’s also a statement on how the B.P.D. and the detail have been progressing.

After the credits have rolled we’re back in court as McNulty arrives for the case against Marvin Browning. The DA notes that the case is a little weak, but Kima can’t help that and just asks for the best with what’s available before talking to McNulty. Marvin is held on charges of possessing a single vial of heroin and a gel cap of cocaine, pretty weak stuff but he does have priors. But the DA pushes for the maximum penalty of five years which is enough to make Marvin start a little.

Daniels arrives at the hospital to talk with Mahone who was pushed by Bodie during the arrest. Mahone and Polk are both celebrating because this injury means Mahone will be able to retire. Daniels attempts to convince him not to take the early retirement but Mahone is at best a hump and not interested in the police work anymore, he just wants out. He’s going to go into business with his brother-in-law selling videos. It’s honestly not that much of a loss for Daniels and the detail, but it does get Polk considering a way out when Mahone suggests that he should deliberately throw himself down the basement stairs.

In court Marvin is steaming about being hit so hard for a very minor offence, but as far as everyone is concerned it’s Marvin’s turn, unless he wants to offer up someone else with some stories. Any stories about someone from the Barksdale organisation, Marvin decides to take the years instead of rolling up on them.

Bodie is woken up in bed still pained from the beating he took after swinging at Mahone, he’s alone here, there’s no-one else from Westside in here. But he spots an opportunity to get out of there posing as a janitor, the guard is busy chatting to a pretty young thing and so Bodie makes it out free.

At the same time Herc and Carver are on the way to put the sweats onto Bodie, Herc’s a little concerned it’s a waste of his time but Carver expounds out just how much fun it’ll be and the potential for a big win if they turn him. It’s an overoptimistic viewpoint, Carver is kidding himself if he thinks that Bodie knows enough to roll anyone serious up and it’s even more unlikely he will. Of course, just as they arrive and turn in they miss Bodie who’s already out, on the road and hitching.

In the Homicide department Bunk and McNulty are talking while reviewing files, looking for a link to someone they rolled up. Landsman arrives with a case about one Deidre Kresson, a young college girl who was shot dead in north east. A witness has her with a Dee the night she was killed. McNulty is reluctant to accept this but Landsman points out that so far they have very few cases from McNulty’s homicide squad – it’s good for any squad to get some clearances and McNulty owes for being missing. McNulty agrees to take the case on as a possible, Bunk suggests moving the case onto Santangelo but McNulty notes that he’s almost impossible to find so they’re stuck with it, and it turns out to be a bit of a doozy. There’s almost no information in the file, the case was dogged by Keeley and all there is to chase up is a call back number. So Bunk calls and finds the number is disconnected and starts chasing up a fresh one.

Kima and Bubbs are talking out in her car as they drive around the streets; the subject of discussion is the van that knocked over the stash the night before the police arrived. Omar’s van to be specific, as the number plate Bubbs noted was stolen from a car in this area. Bubbs tells Kima about Omar, he’s a legend around the streets, brother to No-Heart Anthony, someone else who Kima has also never heard of before. Kima realises she’s late for her class and has to get someone else in to cover, McNulty obliges.

Omar and his boys are busy sitting out counting up the takings from their raid, Omar isn’t worried about his name being outed, he’s been a wanted man for a long time now, but he’s concerned about his boy Brandon, who placed himself into the crossfires when he drew attention to himself talking to Omar at the stash raid. The third member of his stick up crew - John - heads off to lay low and see his mom for a while. Meanwhile, McNulty meets up with Kima to take Bubbs and she asks him about No-Heart Anthony, McNulty has heard of him before, knows his surname, he knows where he lives and what crime he’s down for right now.

Elsewhere in Baltimore Avon, Stringer, Wee-Bey and Stinkum are having a meeting about Omar. Avon wants the three stick up men and offers a thousand for and plus four for Omar, six if he’s brought in alive. Wee-Bey and Stinkum roll out leaving Avon and Stringer to discuss the possible situation down the Pit, Stringer is a little concerned about the stash getting hit then the Five-O turning up the following day.

McNulty arrives to watch his sons playing football, his ex-wife Eleanor is not that pleased to meet Bubbs and then McNulty discusses with her about the situation regarding the kids. He wants more time, but as far as she’s concerned he’s already getting his fair share, tough luck if the job screws with that. By the time he arrives back downtown to drop Bubbs off the sun has gone down and before leaving the car Bubbs notes just how little separates the worlds they live in, physically, spiritually and geographically. It’s another piece of Bubbs wisdom that belies his appearance and status.

The following day Dee, Poot and Wallace are sat on the old orange sofa discussing Omar’s hit on the stash. There’s some concern that there might be a snitch, but as Dee observes, it’s not hard to see where the stash is if you’re looking for it. Just then Bodie arrives back, having escaped and stolen a car to get back. Bodie brags a little and pushes Dee until he gets reminded that Dee’s actually been in jail and boasts about a familiar sounding shooting. A young girl who was dating Avon until she got angry that Avon was seeing more than her. She started mouthing off and threatening to call the police, so Dee was sent out to silence her. He shoots her as she’s looking out of the window to see what the noise is.

Downtown Burrell and Phelan are discussing the loss of evidence due to failed equipment, Phelan offers to try and help out before pushing about the Barksdales. Burrell has the evidence of their arrests of a few mid level players, but that’s not good enough for Phelan, he wants Barksdale or Bell. Burrell isn’t going to get the easy open and shut case he was hoping for. Phelan wants something big.

Herc and Carver head over to Bodie’s grandmother’s house, bursting in half cocked and searching for him. His grandmother isn’t even the least bit phased by this, Carver warns her that they’re looking for him but Herc stops to talk to her for a bit. Herc apologies for his language and she offers him a seat. She goes on to talk a little about Bodie while Carver waits outside and Herc offers her his card before leaving.

In the basement Prez and McNulty are sitting about when the Phelan rings for McNulty. Upstairs Landsman heads in to talk to Rawls, it turns out that McNulty is ruining Landsman’s ‘personal’ time and as such Landsman has been thinking about him and his problems. Landsman has realised that McNulty thinks too much of himself and his point is that McNulty can’t help the way he is – he’s an ass, but he’s also a good policeman. Rawls considers this and offers an olive branch to McNulty. Two weeks to wrap up the detail and then he returns with a clean slate.

McNulty on the other hand is continuing to do what he does best; he’s on the pay phone talking with Phelan about the meeting with Burrell. From the sounds of the conversation Phelan went into the meeting after being briefed by McNulty, he’s trying to play everything to keep the case open until he gets what he wants. Kima on the other hand is at home doing a little work when she has a realisation after looking at some phone records.

Daniels meets with Burrell about the case, Daniels is willing to play ball no matter what Burrell wants. He also hints that he wouldn’t mind getting out of the case as it’s going nowhere right now. McNulty wants a wire; Daniels agrees that at least something must be done.

Down in the pit Dee and Bodie are busy throwing stones at a surveillance camera while Freamon watches them. He uses his phone to page Dee who heads off to a payphone and calls. Freamon hangs up on the call and smiles.

Speaking of pagers, Kima and McNulty are walking down the streets of central Baltimore discussing cloning a pager. Kima mentions how she noticed that phone bills list incoming calls and McNulty figures they could follow up if they get their hands on Barksdale’s pager number. They then talk about No-Heart Anthony; he got his name from an attempted suicide with a .44 straight to the heart after a botched robbery. They move on to talking about Omar, if he’s hitting the Barksdale stash then he’s not only tooled up but he’s also clued in. A simple charge might lead to a wealth of information.

In the basement Polk is standing at the top of the stairs planning to throw him down when McNulty and Kima disturb him. Santangelo is still missing while Daniels briefs everyone on the next step. Kima suggests that following up the pagers and see where that heads. Herc asks why they use pagers instead of cells and Freamon explains that you can’t bug a pager, but he then reveals that they are using pay phones in the low-rises. With the failed arrests, no flips and a lack of anything other than a street level informant they’ve exhausted their options and all that’s left is to prove that following them doesn’t work, which they know it won’t. All they need is a pager number, which Freamon is able to supply. He found it on the stash house wall in the previous episode and has just tried it out in the Pits. It’s the first major indication anyone else has had that Freamon is more than he appears.

McNulty and Bunk then head over to Keeley’s old case in one of The Wire’s iconic scenes. Now I could go into detail about this one, but I’m not going to. Instead I’m going to let you watch the YouTube video of it and just admire its brilliance, but first a little history. David Simon came up with the idea after a detective was commenting on the poetry of swearing in the police department, he said roughly that “soon detectives would be able to communicate using just one word - f**k” and David Simon thought “I could write that”. In the end Ed Burns wrote the scene and between his writing, Clement’s directing and Dominic & Wendell’s acting the scene is just gold. Watch it now (NSFW obviously).



Genius.

Kima is out briefing Herc, Carver and Sydnor about how they’re going to follow Dee with the intent of losing him. Herc’s a little confused about the point of following someone to lose them but he agrees to follow.

In the basement McNulty heads in to chat with Freamon; he knows that Freamon is natural, honest to goodness talented police, but he doesn’t understand why he acts the way he does or has even been sent as a hump. Freamon was assigned to the pawn shop for thirteen years, and four months after p**sing in the wrong case. They head off to a bar to chat about it and this is the first time we get a proper insight into Freamon’s history. He caught a case where the fence involved was related to someone important, so the Deputy asks Freamon to make the case work without including said fence. He doesn’t, much like McNulty is acting now and Freamon ends up going where he doesn’t want to go. The Pawnshop unit, stuck in an office until they forgot about him. Freamon gives McNulty a piece of advice, when they ask him where he wants to go he should keep his mouth shut.

A drunken McNulty then rolls around Kima’s house, to ask about how the tailing went and thank her. He’s lonely, needs the company and she realises this, but she has her own life to live.

The Themes:

“Keep your mouth shut” – In a place like the B.P.D. stray words can come back to bite you, Lester Freamon exemplifies this, having spent between a quarter and a fifth of his life in the last place he wanted to be. But keeping quiet doesn’t just apply to McNulty, Marvin also chooses to keep quiet and take his time rather than roll on the Barksdales.

“You’re being watched” - There are still plenty of examples of the ever present nature of surveillance, ranging from the opening shot in the courtroom scene to the more obvious one where Bodie and Dee take out the surveillance camera in the Pit just in case it’s the source of any potential leaks.

The Catchphrase Count:
“You happy now, b***h?” x 3

The Review:

While the previous three episodes so far have had some memorable conversational scenes, the McNugget and chess conversations in the Pit, Rawls dressing down McNulty “These fingers are for you…” and Prez shooting the wall for example. And it’s also had a very strong visual scene with the circumstances surrounding the tower riot. This is the episode that contains the first of the truly iconic Wire scenes. The f**k crime scene is one of the big ones the show provides and it’s not just the language used that makes it so memorable. The entire scene demonstrates just how strong human action is, how much is conveyed without the use of words by humans. It’s a scene that really rewards people who’ve watched the first three episodes and shows the poety of language that lives and breathes throughout this show.

The truth of the matter is this scene could have done with occurring a little earlier in the show. It’s an absolute gem that’s simultaneously funny and serious, highbrow and crude. There’s something for everyone in this scene, except the children that is, but they shouldn’t be watching this show anyway – and if it had been written into in earlier then more people would be accessing The Wire and understanding it’s sheer brilliance. But on the other hand, placing it here is much like a reward for those people who’ve either doggedly persevered with the show or those people who’ve realised the different structure the show is built around.

But it’s easy to get distracted by something that only lasts around five minutes, the rest of the episode is just as strong, we have some great scripting that continues to build the pressure. Some of the weaker members of the detail are being weeded out while others are revealing their strengths. Bodie is personified a little more for us with both his actions in escaping from lock up and the short scene with his grandmother. A scene which allows Herc a moment to reveal a little humanity, before this he was essentially a goof and a potential problem case.

Likewise there’s the scene between Landsman and Rawls, while it’s funny and crude – It also shows us a close relationship between the two men and the fact that Landsman ‘gets’ McNulty, he understands why McNulty acts up and although the guy is a giant a***hole he’s also a tremendously good homicide detective for the same reasons that make him an unpleasant human being.

Old Cases is an episode that doesn’t allow the story to break yet, it continues to build up more momentum and establish the characters further. A few minor steps are taken along the road as the detail begins to pull together and although there is still no sign of a wire tap we’re getting a snifter of one. It’s a great episode with an amazing scene in it, a scene that’s so good it becomes hard to assess the rest of the episode due to its dominance. But this episode represents the second moment where I recall sitting up and thinking – there’s something really special here – the first one was the tower riot scene and the second is the f**k crime scene. Amazing stuff and the show has only just started rolling…

 

1 comment so far.

  1. Sonia 7 May 2009 at 12:37
    I want to Watch The Wire online and I found this blog while searching this show. Its really an good job. Thanks for sharing this info with us...

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