Watching The Wire: Episode Six: The Wire

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“All the pieces matter” – Lester Freamon

Teleplay by David Simon
Story by David Simon & Ed Burns
Directed by Ed Bianchi

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)

Michael B. Jordan (Wallace), J.D. Williams (Preston "Bodie" Broadus), Leo Fitzpatrick (Johnny), Jim True-Frost (Off. Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski), Clarke Peters (Det. Lester Freamon), Domenick Lombardozzi (Det. Thomas R. "Herc" Hauk), Seth Gilliam (Det. Ellis Carver), Brian Anthony Wilson (Det. Vernon Holley), Corey Parker Robinson (Det. Leander Sydnor), Michael Kenneth Williams (Omar Little), Antonio Cordova (Sean McNulty), Wendy Grantham (Shardene Innes), Delaney Williams (Sgt. Jay Landsman), Michael Salconi (Det. Michael Santangelo), Richard DeAngelis (Maj. Ray Foerster), Nat Benchley (Det. Augustus Polk), Robert F. Colesberry (Det. Ray Cole), Michael Kostroff (Maurice "Maury" Levy), Edward T. Norris (Det. Ed Norris), Tray Chaney (Malik "Poot" Carr), Erik Todd Dellums (Dr. Randall Frazier), Brandon Price (Anton "Stinkum" Artis), Eric Ryan (Michael McNulty), Caroline G. Pleasant (Bodie's Grandmother), Michael Kevin Darnall (Brandon Wright), Sheena Barksdale (Cass)

The Summary:

Brandon’s bloodied body is discovered in a lot that’s coincidentally located next to Poot and Wallace’s house. Wallace reports this to D’Angelo, and also expresses how seeing Brandon’s body has started to bother him. D’Angelo tells Wallace to simply get over it, but Wallace is still unsure. Wallace gets further unsettled after Avon rewards D’Angelo and him with extra cash for their parts in getting Brandon taken care of.

Read about hood ornaments, wiretaps and copper beyond the link...

The Recap:

The episode opens with the sight of a beaten and deceased Brandon lying on the hood of a car before panning up and following an orange wire that leads to Wallace’s room. He’s awoken by his radio alarm and sets about getting everyone else in the house up, it turns out he lives with Poot and they essentially cares for a great deal of other kids, working the street selling drugs to keep those kids out of foster care.

Outside the police have been called out to Brandon’s body and cordon it off while Wallace and Poot watch. The expression on Wallace’s face says it all, he didn’t think about the consequences and he never thought he’d end up seeing the aftermath. Fade to the title credits.

In homicide McNulty is heading to Rawls’s office with Landsman, Rawls isn’t interested in anything McNulty has to say about how the detail. He wants McNulty out of the detail and back into the rotation in a week.

Dee is at home getting dressed for a day in the pit, it’s a real contrast in comparison to Wallace and Poot’s circumstances of living, and Dee is picking up brand new clothes from his wardrobe, stuff that still has the tags on them. He’s just one step up on the organisational ladder from them right now but his relation to Avon gives him luxuries the others could only dream of. His pager beeps…and in the basement Sydnor and Freamon notice, they also noticed all the activity the night before…Dee then heads into the kitchen where Shardene is making breakfast, having spent the night with him. They chat a little and Shardene makes it clear that she understands the situation between them.

Back in the basement the wiretaps are finally going up in the low rises, Freamon explains that they can’t listen to anything that’s not monitored, there needs to be someone observing one of the targets on the phone. Needless to say Herc is less than excited with the prospect of sitting up on a rooftop watching dealers chat on payphones.

In homicide McNulty is talking with Bunk about the situation he’s in when a call comes in about Brandon’s body. He heads down to the pit and after a quick shock from a guard dog he notices Poot observing from a nearby window. The detectives who arrived on the scene have made a connection between the Kevlar vest Brandon has and the one Bailey had when he was shot down. McNulty confirms that they are connected and asks about the crime lab, they’re not at this scene because all of them have been called out to dust down the city council president’s house – his lawn furniture was stolen.

In the pit Wallace is feeling bad about what happened to Brandon and is expressing himself to Dee, but Dee sets him straight on this. Wallace has latched onto Dee’s comments about how the selling doesn’t have to involve killing – McNulty’s sentiments have transmitted themselves down the line to Wallace. But life isn’t like that. Wallace is freaked, but Dee tells him to just ‘let it go’ and heads over to the payphone.

Carver is on the rooftop and observes the interaction, Dee pages Stringer and the man calls him back a few moments later. Needless to say this is a massive moment for the detail; they’ve finally gotten a sniff of the men at the top of the Barksdale organisation. Stringer tells Dee that Bodie is being bailed out and brought back. Nearby McNulty is on the phone with Kima about Brandon, they need to get in touch with Omar.

In juvenile court Bodie is being tried for his actions, Levy is defending him, using the retaliation the Baltimore PD inflicted on him – along with the beating he received in the interview room from Herc and Carver – as evidence. Bodie ends up being placed with home monitoring with his grandmother, but in essence he’s off scott free.

McNulty leaves his card with Omar’s van while elsewhere Bubbles is working an honest day’s labour at a fruit store when Johnny and his friend Uck roll up with a scam. They’re going to hit the copper house and Bubbles is in.

In the Pit Bodie is observed using the phone by Herc who is happy to let Carver know that they’re favourite juvenile beat stick has escaped charges again. Bodie’s call is to Stinkum, he wants to know what’s happening and Stink offers to talk the following day. Prez labels the conversation as non-pertinent as there was no drug talk and it’s up to Freamon to remind him just who they’re dealing with here.

On the street Bodie is ambushed by Herc and Carver who were convinced that he walked out of juvie again, but the truth is more galling. They discover that Bodie is out and on just home monitoring. Bodie is happy to rub their faces in it and even pulls a lift home out of the pair.

Rawls is in his office with the murder files that McNulty attempted to show him when he spots something and calls in Landsman. The following morning Bunk rolls in and discovers that Rawls wants to move in on the Deirdre case immediately. Landsman isn’t happy about making him work on this, it’s a weak case that’ll screw the detail’s investigation but Rawls is the boss.

In the pit the lads meet up and Dee informs them about a switch up in the way they’ll be running things. In the basement Kima and Freamon are chatting about what they’ve learnt today. Polk rolls in half cut and Daniels calls him into his office while McNulty responds to Bunk’s page. Polk’s been skipping out on work, while the others have been covering for him but Daniels has noticed. Polk is honest about his feelings and attempts to get himself sent out of the detail and back to property, but Daniels isn’t interested in that – either Polk admits he has a drinking problem or he gets up onto the rooftops and starts watching the payphones. Polk decides to leave.

McNulty is convinced that Rawls is pushing for these cases to screw him over personally, but as it’s pointed out to him this is about stats. The cases are weak at best, but enough to provide clearances and Rawls wants more names in black on his board. Kima wants to tell Daniels but McNulty is convinced Daniels won’t fight for it and thinks it’s a waste of time. Kima explains that they should at least try.

Bubbles and Johnny are out on the street outside the copper yard, Johnny leaps in the way of the delivery van and is knocked down. This, combined with his colonoscopy bag bursting provides enough of a distraction to allow Bubbles and Uck to steal the copper pipes and run. It turns out that the bag contains nothing more than onion soup and was part of the plan.

In the basement, Daniels is talking with McNulty and Kima about Rawls action, McNulty lays it out for him – put up or shut up. Daniels seems unwilling to play ball.

Avon, Stinkum and Stringer arrive in the Pit in a rare moment with non diuretic music and slow motion walking. It’s an unusual moment in the show where the normal solid rules of the show’s reality are violated – it’s not often you’ll see The Wire play things this way and usual it’s done to make a point.

Dee meets with them at the coach and they talk about Brandon and Bailey, everyone involved is getting $500 including Wallace and Dee. They then chat about the crimping that Stringer told Dee to put on his men, no-one is flashing any cash though everyone is begging for money and looking hard done by. Avon lets Dee know if he carries on like this he’ll end up getting a percentage. On the roof Santangelo is the man observing, but at the time Avon and Co rolled up he was not paying attention at all. His lack of observation here has missed an opportunity for the detail.

Daniels meets with Rawls to try and preserve his case, he explains what will happen if Rawls pushes ahead with these prosecutions now but Rawls isn’t interested. Daniels comes just short of begging him but Rawls won’t budge.

McNulty is playing football with his boys when he’s paged by Omar who is naturally upset and wants to see Brandon. McNulty meets up with Omar (still with his kids in tow) and takes him to the morgue.

Having successfully sold the copper pipes Johnny, Uck and Bubs celebrate by getting high and Bubs proposes that they steal the copper again once it’s installed in retaliation for the poor price paid. Johnny heads out to score some more heroin but he’s pinched by the narcs.

Dee is sat on the coach when Wallace comes up to talk to him, Dee recommends Wallace uses his money to get himself a nice girl and splash out on her. Wallace wants to know why members of the crew have been cut. Dee explains it’s because they’ve been stealing from him by selling on the side, if he told Stink or Avon about what’s happened the two thieves would end up beaten and possibly dead, so instead he’s let them go. Dee also explains why he’s been holding back everyone’s wages.

McNulty leaves his kids upstairs and takes Omar down to the morgue where he breaks down and screams loudly enough to be heard up in the lobby by McNulty’s kids. This is enough to make him decide to turn snitch (which he was unwilling to do before) and the following day he heads into the basement with Kima and McNulty. While he tells them about what happens Freamon connects the dots and finally realises what that pager activity was about. Omar fingers Wee-Bay, Stinkum and Bird for Brandon’s murder while Freamon fills McNulty in on what he’s realised about the calls. McNulty lays it out to Daniels and shifts the blame onto his slow response time getting the wire up. They missed the chance to catch nearly the entire organisation in this. McNulty and Freamon head out and examine the place where Brandon was picked up, the payphone is a match.

Daniels is talking with Foerster about the case, he wants to fight for the case but Foerster isn’t interested. Rawls is not a man you cross.

Back in the basement Omar fills Kima in on the details of Barksdale’s crew, most importantly with regard to Bird, the man who shot Gant. Bird uses a .380 and won’t have dumped it. But the gun alone isn’t enough, they need an eyeball witness, and Omar claims he can ID Bird and will testify.

Rawls and Daniels are talking with Deputy Op Burrell about the situation with regards to the murders and the detail’s case. Rawls wants to charge despite the weak case; Daniels wants to protect his investigation. Burrell admits he hates the wiretap and wants to know why he shouldn’t jump on it. Daniels explains that the murders can be charged a month from now and still work just as well, but if Rawls can’t roll up a conviction on Avon Barksdale from those charges then everything falls apart and Judge Phelan is going to be really angry. A while later Rawls calls Santangelo in to try and get some leverage against McNulty.

In the basement Daniels informs McNulty that not only are the murder warrants on hold but also that Omar has handed over himself as an eyewitness for Gant’s murder. McNulty actually thanks him before leaving, but Freamon just asks Daniels if it cost him.

After they’ve both left Daniels stands and looks at the pictures of Brandon, dwelling on the fact that the boy could possibly have been saved if he’d moved faster and it’s this knowledge along with departmental backlash over his decision that will be his price.

The Themes:

“It doesn’t have to be this way” – McNulty’s exasperation over the sheer amount of bodies the dealers create was voiced to Dee back in the interview room a while ago, but the sentiment refuses to die. Dee voiced it to Bodie, Poot and Wallace later on and now Wallace echoes it back to him. These lads are not just thugs who enjoy killing, they’re people who live the only life they have and while they’re smart enough to question the way it is, they’re still stuck.

“Breaking the rules” – The Wire is not afraid to break its rules occasionally if it has a point to make. It does it twice in this episode, once with the slow motion walk to music and once when Omar sees Brandon in the morgue. Now I’m not entirely sure that these moments were needed, but the black and white cut of Brandon’s face felt very Homicide in its style. It’s possible it could have been a tribute, it’s certainly a moment that would have been punctuated by the Homicide sting if it was on that show.

The Review:

The Wire is something of a change over point between the two sides in the series. The Barksdale crew have been ascendant until this point, with the police scrabbling around scratching at half clues in the dirt. But the arrival of the wiretap has given the detail a huge leap forward, they’re beginning to see the top level of the organisation. Also Brandon’s death, which was in part caused by the delay in getting the wiretap up, provided the final piece of motivation for Daniels. He’s in all the way now and that means the investigation can push ahead. But he’s been warned that his actions will have a price.

Just as the name of the episode would suggest, The Wire signifies the real start of the story, every episode before now has been about building up momentum and characters, but now things begin to take shape. We know all the players of the game intimately, we know who the ‘bad guys’ (as much as there are bad guys in this show) are in both organisations and who the ‘good ones’ are. The pieces are in place and the game begins in ernest…


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