Watching The Wire: Episode Seven: One Arrest

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“A man must have a code.” - Bunk

Teleplay by Rafael Alvarez
Story by David Simon & Ed Burns
Directed by Joe Chappelle

Wendell Pierce (Det. William "Bunk" Moreland), Deirdre Lovejoy (Asst. States Attorney Rhonda Pearlman), 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)

Peter Gerety (Judge Daniel Phelan), Michael Salconi (Det. Michael Santangelo), Maria Broom (Marla Daniels), Tray Chaney (Malik "Poot" Carr), Delaney Williams (Sgt. Jay Landsman), Michael Kenneth Williams (Omar Little), Michael B. Jordan (Wallace), Leo Fitzpatrick (Johnny), Brandon Price (Anton "Stinkum" Artis), Clayton LeBouef (Wendell "Orlando" Blocker), Jim True-Frost (Off. Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski), Seth Gilliam (Det. Ellis Carver), Domenick Lombardozzi (Off. Thomas R. "Herc" Hauk), Clarke Peters (Det. Lester Freamon), Corey Parker Robinson (Det. Leander Sydnor), Hassan Johnson (Roland "Wee-Bey" Brice), J.D. Williams (Preston "Bodie" Broadus), Isiah Whitlock Jr (State Senator R. Clayton "Clay" Davis), Robin Skye (Madame LaRue), Lizan Mitchell (Shooting Witness), Jimmie Jelani Manners (Kevin Johnston), Donnell Rawlings (Damien Lavelle "Day-Day" Price), Steve Earle (Walon), and Fredro Starr (Marquis "Bird" Hilton)

The Summary:
Greggs, Carver, Herc and Sydnor grab the runner holding the re-up stash for the pit. Now that the cops have their stash a furious Avon questions D’Angelo about a snitch being in the pit. D’Angelo denies the allegation but Stringer tells D’Angelo and his crew to use pay phones a block away now, and not to use the same phone twice. Afterwards, they snatch out the existing pit pay phones. This, of course, disconnects the detective’s wiretap.

Read about catching the early bird, psychic solutions and ripping handsets beyond the link...

The Recap:
In the basement Prez, McNulty, Herc, Carver and Freamon are listening to a phone conversation that has them slightly confused. Herc is able to translate, if you don’t mind getting some completely fabricated nonsense for humour value. Prez and Freamon on the other hand have been listening to these conversations long enough and break it down for the other detectives. The low-rise pit is nearly out of drugs but there is a new package arriving noon tomorrow, four G-packs handled by Stinkum. Prez and Freamon reveal they’ve cracked another beeper code to get this information in full. Carver is a little incredulous that the two men would spend so much time on this kind of stuff, but as Prez himself admits “It’s kind of fun figuring shit out.” Hit the credits.

In homicide Santangelo is talking with Rawls about his low clearance rate combined with his absence since he was assigned to the detail. Rawls is pissed that McNulty and the detail are still out there and that they got his murder charges put on hold for a while. So he offers Santangelo an ultimatum, solve a murder or hand over McNulty on a platter.

In the basement Kima, Herc, Carver and Freamon are discussing how things are going to break down. The plan is to pull over Stinkum with the re-up, catch the runner who will flee with the stash but let Stinkum go. They don’t take Stinkum because they’ll already have a charge on him whenever they want to press it and waiting will mean they don’t have to reveal that they’re using a wiretap.

Rhonda and McNulty are in Phelan’s office, giving the judge the low down on the case’s progress. They fill him in on some of the assets available from seizures; Phelan fills him in on a little grammatical correctness (due to errors in McNulty’s report) and uses it to put McNulty in his place a little. He feels there’s more than enough evidence of progress here to justify a continuance on the wiretap. Phelan then hits on Rhonda and suggests that one day she might make it as a judge.

On the street Kima, Sydnor, Herc and Carver spot Stink and attempt to pull him over. Stink bolts and the runner bails, fleeing into the Pit where Bodie gets in Herc’s way as he pursues the lad. The more observant viewer will have noticed that this boy is wearing an eye patch, but do you recall the significance of this? Bodies interference has giving the lad enough of a lead to evade Herc but he runs straight into Kima and is cut off from escape by Carver and Sydnor. All Bodie, Poot and Dee can do is watch as their re-up is now in the hands of the police.

McNulty is still in Phelan’s office and the two men are chatting. Phelan wants to know the lay of the landscape in the department and McNulty is happy to fill him in. Rawls is trying to get the entire thing closed down, Daniels has stepped up (to their amazement) and kept the wiretap, but Phelan wants to know why McNulty didn’t come to him – McNulty explains, he doesn’t trust him anymore after the leak to the papers about Gant’s witness link. McNulty then explains he has a week before he’s back in the homicide rotation and if he isn’t there Rawls will strip his skin from his flesh. Phelan suggests that McNulty has friends in the court house; McNulty expresses his concern about how little he feels he can trust his so-called-friends.

Stink rolls up to a (tapped) pay phone and pages Stringer, Freamon intercepts this and tells Kima, they need someone with an eye on this to be able to log the call. Without a watcher it’s inadmissible. Sydnor makes the run, getting there just as it rings – but the conversation is very short Stink’s “We lost four to 5-0” is cut off by Stringer who reminds him that they should never talk about this kind of stuff on the phones.

In homicide Santangelo is trying to make a homicide case for Rawls, he’s not allowed to do jack until it’s cleared, but it’s old and cold. Landsman has no sympathy for him, and brings over a card for a psychic, selling one Madame LaRue to Santangelo for kicks.

Bunk and McNulty are looking at the scene where William Gant was shot, they realise that there should be plenty of witnesses and attempt to turn one by helping a middle aged woman struggling with her shopping cart. She clocks them as Police and invites them in.

In the court house Johnny is facing charges for possession of cocaine after he was caught in the previous episode. Bubbs turns up to support him with Kima in tow, she pulls out Johnny as long as he pleads and agrees to undergo treatment in probation. She lays the land out to Johnny and he agrees.

The woman talks to Bunk and McNulty about the shooting, now she saw what happened but she can’t ID the shooter. They don’t push her because McNulty already has Omar for the ID and apparently Bird will still have the gun. Bunk is happy.

In the basement Herc and Carver are processing the runner when Prez walks in; he stares intently at Prez who double-takes before realising just who this kid is. While the rest of the detail missed this link Prez fills in Daniels on the situation. While Freamon has never seen the lad before and Daniels is in his office so he didn’t get a look at him clearly Herc and Carver should’ve known as they were present. The boy is Kevin Johnson, the lad who was blinded in one eye when he was pistol whipped by Prez at the end of ‘The Buys’. Daniels talks to him and offers him a way out of this charge, Kevin isn’t interested.

Santangelo is meeting with Madame LaRue about his cold case, he’s told to bury a statue of Saint Anthony by the victim’s grave for an hour and then hold it to his ear before going to sleep.

Later that evening Bunk and McNulty are drinking, as usual, this time it’s Bunk’s choice of venue and he’s enjoying the scenery. Elsewhere Daniels is out socialising and schmoozing at a party with his wife Marla when he catches Burrell’s eye and the two of them talk. They chat a little about the politicians before Burrell points out one Senator Clay Davis (39th District), using Daniels’s lack of knowledge to highlight what it takes to get places.

Bubbs and Johnny are at a rehabilitation program, they have to stay for the meeting to get Johnny’s slip signed. Bubbs notes that there are a lot of familiar faces here, ones he hasn’t seen for a long time. One addict called Waylon steps up and talks about his difficulties and his life, how far he fell, how he’s climbed back up and how hard it is for him to struggle every day against the need. Waylon’s speech gets to Bubbs and makes him think. Then key chains are handed out to people who’ve managed to stay clean for periods of time, there are no takers for nine or six months, but there is one for three and then even more for one month. When the room is asked if anyone has twenty four hours or a sincere desire to live Bubbs is compelled to stand up and get one. Johnny doesn’t understand why he needed one as they used in the morning.

Daniels heads into the kitchen where several others men are watching the game, he chats a little a man named Damien Price (Day-Day) who’s bragging about how he’d hit the house their at and sell on the goods. Daniels reveals that he’s a police lieutenant before Marla comes in and takes him away to meet someone.

In the bar McNulty and Bunk are both enjoying the mountainous "scenery" while chatting about Gant and Diedre, Bunk tells McNulty that he needs to get both the Gant and Diedre case into solid charges and hand them over to Rawls. It’s the only way he’ll get out of the mire he’s in with the Major. McNulty expresses his thanks for the gentle way he’s handled him over the years.

In Orlando’s the following morning Dee arrives to talk with Stringer, Avon, Wee-bey and Stink. Orlando tells him that he has something he’d like to talk about later. Inside the office tempers are frayed, the Barksdales have taken a major hit with this arrest and they’re convinced someone is snitching to the police. Dee disagrees, but he’s told to shut the Pit down until Stringer comes down and runs them through all the changes in operating procedures. After Dee leaves Stringer and the boys speculate why the police didn’t pick up Stink. They smell something bad, and they’d be right.

In the basement Santangelo asks McNulty to cover for him, McNulty is less than pleased about this, not realising that the reason Santangelo is running about and not helping in the detail is because he’s covering McNulty’s back by running the case instead of turning him in. Freamon calls Herc and Carver over to listen to a phone conversation about them, they’re pleased with being called ‘Batman and Robin’.

While Bubbs and Johnny shoot up Bunk and McNulty are in the basement talking to Daniels and Kima about the Bird murders. As soon as they find Bird they have him bang to rights. Santangelo sits for an hour in a cemetery while McNulty and Kima take Omar out to try and clock an ID for Bird. Omar explains that no-one on the street will be packing steel, so they can’t roll Bird up for the gun easily. They need to locate his crib. Omar suggests that they could go looking for Bird elsewhere, as the man might be out scoring elsewhere in the city for some drugs. Avon doesn’t let anyone get high on the stuff they sell “Don’t get high on your own supply.”

In the Pit Bodie and Poot are talking about Wallace, he’s been ‘in the wind’ for a while now since Brandon was killed and dumped outside his house. The boy’s death really disturbed Wallace, a lot. Orlando walks up to them looking for Dee and Poot sends him over to the coach. Orlando has a proposition for Dee, he has a connect from DC that can help supply gear. Orlando wants to make a little something on the side selling without letting Avon and Stringer in, as he mentioned earlier in the series Orlando is fed up with just getting straight pay.

The detail are scoping out a store with Freamon and Sydnor on the street and the rest in cars, Bubbs is also present selling hats and he drops a red hat on one man as he comes out of the target house, signifying that he is the target. It all runs smoothly and they have Bird.

In the Pit Stringer and Wee-bey roll up to chat with Dee, Poot and Bodie about the problems the Pit has been having lately. They run through potential leaks and Bodie notes that there are no phones here, just the pagers and the pay phones. Stringer tells them to tear out all the pay phones and tells them they are now to walk a couple of blocks before phoning and never use the same pay phone more than once a day. In the basement Freamon observes the first tearing down with a ‘Service Interrupt’ warning arriving on the computer.

Bird is in interrogation, Landsman first photographs him (evidence that he wasn’t brutalised in interrogation) and then Kima presses him. Bird isn’t willing to cooperate and Daniels asks McNulty to head in and help, not because Kima needs the help, but because she’s likely to hurt Bird if he carries on. At the same time Bunk chats with Omar about his witnessing of Bird’s shooting. Omar recognises Bunk from school, there’s not much between the two men age wise, Omar is the younger of the two and remembers Bunk because he played Lacrosse.

In the interview room the forensic report arrives and the gun is a match for the one that shot Gant. But Bird isn’t the least bit interested in playing ball, so Daniels tears up the Polaroid and they lay into him.

Omar hands over a murder to Bunk; one Denise Redding and Bunk reaches for the phone. Waking Santangelo up as it was his case. Santangelo has no idea who Denise Redding is but he comes into homicide and is handed over a completed case from McNulty and Bunk. Santangelo is thrilled that he got a case and thanks Landsman for the gypsy, Landsman sets him straight and tells him he should thank McNulty and Bunk. Santangelo tells McNulty they need to talk about Rawls.

McNulty turns up at Rhonda’s house very later at night; she assumes he’s drunk and looking for a quickie. But the truth is he’s terrified because Rawls wants his badge and he admits to Ronnie just how important this job is to him…

The Themes:

There’s just the one important theme to look at in this episode and it’s based from Bunk’s titular comment as uttered to Omar.

“A man’s got to have a code” – This is a layered theme that holds two things, Bunk is overtly referencing that to live correctly one needs to have a code of rules they live by; lines they won’t’ cross and rules they won’t break. One of the important things that happens in the Wire is people who break their own code suffer the consequences.

The second, lighter reference in this theme runs directly to the Barksdales, who use codes for almost everything they do. In short, to operate for as long as they have without drawing too much attention on them they have to use codes.

The Catchphrases:
No Catchphrases this episode, but there was the presence of a man who’s going to start uttering one later on. That’s all you’re getting on this front right now.

The Review:

‘One Arrest’ gives the B.P.D. their first pair of big wins against the Barksdales; not only have they managed to get some charges on Stink but they’ve also managed to bring in Bird for Gant’s shooting. Things are beginning to come together for them, but also there are events moving that will provide bigger setbacks. The Department has members within its walls who are not so interested in the case; Rawls in particular has begun to take everything that happens personally. This isn’t really surprising because from his perspective he’s offered McNulty an olive branch and a way out only to have the man turn around and defecate all over him. McNulty consistently manages to rub people the wrong way, despite doing the right thing here. The long game plan is better than the short win for the city.

Catching Bird has also answered Dee’s question to Avon about Gant. He wanted to know if Gant was shot for testifying, we now know the answer.

Also, in picking up the 4G re-up the detail has played their hand somewhat, while they’ve attempted to be very careful about revealing anything to the Barksdales they’ve said volumes not just with their actions but also with their inactions. Not picking up Stink, or even really attempting to chase him so has caused alarm bells to ring in the heads of the Barksdales heads. Once again the police have underestimated just how smart the men at the top of the drug organisation are. It’s a little surprising that they’d make this mistake because they’ve had tonnes of evidence that reveals just how clever this crew is. Avon is so far divorced from the street that all they have on him is an ancient picture from his boxing days and some second hand talk from a now deceased girlfriend. All they have on Stringer is a pager number and some vague conversations. So really the detail should have played the pick up a little smarter, providing a chase for Stink to evade instead of just letting him go unfettered.

This means that the Barksdales are now aware something is up and they’ve begun to act. Ripping the Pit pay phones out sends a message back, they could have just stopped using them but actually removing them not only disables the wiretaps on them but it also lets the detail know that they’re now useless. Of course, it would have been a better move to leave the pay phones up and just switch to using different ones. But you can’t expect Stringer and Avon to know exactly how a wiretap works.

One Arrest is a great little episode that just holds such brilliance in its scripting, there’s so much said with expressions and little moments that it’s almost impossible to get everything that’s happening in it first try. But, hopefully by this stage in watching the show the average viewer left will have clicked with the style of story telling and detail involved in this show. You’re not going to be spoon fed the answers by the show (hopefully my recap helps the odd moment where things aren’t clear) but I personally think that’s a good thing, treating viewers as intelligent human beings who understand without having explained repeatedly through exposition is something more shows should consider trying. You can say a lot more with actions and expressions in a far shorter time than you could ever manage with words.


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