Watching The Wire: Episode Twelve: Cleaning Up

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“This is me, yo, right here” -- Wallace

Teleplay by George P. Pelecanos
Story by David Simon & Ed Burns
Directed by Clement Virgo


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)

Tony D. Head (Maj. Bobby Reed), Seth Gilliam (Det. Ellis Carver), Isiah Whitlock Jr (State Senator R. Clayton "Clay" Davis), Michael Salconi (Det. Michael Santangelo), J.D. Williams (Preston "Bodie" Broadus), Wendy Grantham (Shardene Innes), Corey Parker Robinson (Det. Leander Sydnor), Michael B. Jordan (Wallace), Jim True-Frost (Off. Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski), Clarke Peters (Det. Lester Freamon), Domenick Lombardozzi (Det. Thomas R. "Herc" Hauk), Tray Chaney (Malik "Poot" Carr), Michael Kostroff (Maurice "Maury" Levy), Michael Hyatt (Brianna Barksdale), LaTonya Borsay (Orlando's Dancer), Giselle Watts (Darcia Wallace), Joe Gerrety (State Trooper), Justin Hinnant (Neighborhood Kid), Doug Roberts (State's Attorney Steven Demper), Jarvis George (Ronnie Mo), Ingrid Cornell (Nakeesha Lyles) and Marcis Turner (Police Officer)

The Summary:

After the Barksdale's supply gets confiscated in another bust, Stringer gives more new rules to the crew. Avon and Stringer meet with Levy to discuss the next steps, which include the elimination of any and all persons that can connect Barksdale to the drugs. Wallace goes back to the pit and asks to be let back in but Stringer has another plan for Wallace. Stringer then asks Bodie to take Wallace's old job.

Read about development, cleaning house and the paper trail beyond the link...

The Recap:

Daniels walks out of the hospital ward and meets with McNulty, he tells McNulty to pay his respect to Kima and then get his head back in the game. McNulty confesses he’s lost enthusiasm with the job and goes on to admit the entire thing was just an exercise in “show(ing) everyone how smart I was and how f**ked up the department was”. This entire thing, the trigger for it was entirely McNulty and he’s finally willing to admit this egotism out loud. Daniels responds in the same direct manner he always uses, he tells McNulty he already knew this and he doesn’t care. The results will happen no matter what caused it. McNulty is willing to give up on this entire case now but in a role reversal it’s now Daniels who’s determined to push the case no matter what. They’ve changed positions and the only thing which has changed is Kima’s situation, McNulty feels guilty because it was his selfish instincts which eventually lead to the shooting. Daniels on the other hand is no longer reluctant about this case and wants to see it to the bitter end.

Cue credits…

Dee and Bodie are talking about their situation, the stash is low and they’re missing a re-up. Stringer arrives and confiscates their pagers, Poot complains and Stringer tells him to clear off. He then hands over cell phones to Bodie and Dee and explains that they’re not to use the mobiles for anything other than arranging a meet. They’re given three numbers to call for the various situations. The Barksdales are switching everything up in response to the hit on their main stash. Before leaving Dee asks for a re-up and Stringer tells him there isn’t going to be one before leaving.

In the basement Freamon is sorting out Shardene with some contacts so she can see clearly when McNulty arrives and notices no-ones watching the pager clones. Freamon joins him and confirms his suspicions; the Barksdales are cutting out all their potential leaks and the Detail has even lost Prez who’s been assigned elsewhere now.
He then introduces McNulty to Shardene and explains how she’s been helping out. Shardene is scared about this but Freamon sooths her, Sydnor offers to get her a cup of coffee but Freamon heads him off at the pass by doing it himself. You have to admire the man’s moves.

Avon is talking with Levy and Stringer about his situation, he’s angry about what’s happened but Levy explains that he needs to cut out the dead wood and clean up anything which might hurt him further. As I said in an earlier episode review when he hit Dee around the head after the lad almost cracked in the interview room, Levy is more heavily involved in this entire thing than surface appearances would seem. While he might not directly get his hands dirty, the Barksdales wouldn’t have operated so cleanly and quietly for as long as they did (until McNulty got a snifter of them) without the Po-lice finding out about them. Stringer and Avon might be smart but Levy is a past master of this game as he reveals throughout this entire scene.

He tells them to walk away from the club, Stringer then (correctly) assumes that this all started when Dee’s court trial over the initial shooting occurred and they talk about Nakeisha Lyles. Levy makes it clear that she needs to “disappear” and leaves. Stringer talk about their men, Bird is already in, Wee-Bey is unbreakable and Savinio is just taking three years, which is nothing for a man like that. Orlando is dead, likewise Little Man.

In Burrell’s office Daniels wants to push for the full ninety days, but Burrell is determined to scale back the operation. He allows Daniels to keep Freamon and Prez, taking back Sydnor and Santangelo; then he tells him that every move has to be briefed. He then goes on to let Daniels know there’s a potential promotion space for him coming up.

Ronnie is meets with Patrick and States Attorney Demper and about the Barksdale case. It seems that people have noticed about the following of the money trail and they are not happy. While the information is in public reports and Ronnie was not aware she is still handed some returned cheques in order to avoid any problems. Ronnie attempts to deflect the blame away from her and she’s told to make sure he’s kept in the clear from any investigations. It’s pretty clear he’s been taking contributions from less than reputable sources and turning a blind eye but he’s now covering his arse from any potential fallout.

Dee is called into Orlando’s office to meet with Stringer and Avon about Wallace. Wallace is the lad who called in Brandon to Dee and stayed look out while the snatch happened. Dee tells them they don’t have to worry because Wallace has left and even if he hadn’t he would be solid. Dee knows nothing good can happen to Wallace if Stringer and Avon get to him, he asks them to leave him be and then leaves the office. Shardene watches as he walks out.

It turns out she’s fiddling with her wire and Freamon is listening at the other end while Sydnor and Herc talk about hot dogs. They’re causing no end of disruption to Freamon’s concentration and he lets them know it clearly.

Back outside the office some more members of the Barksdales have arrived and are mouthing off a little. Avon tells them to clam up and get inside the office.

Meanwhile two uniformed officers have found a body, it’s Nakeisha – she’s been silenced forever.

Shardene leaves the dressing room and Freamon notes that it’s going to be hard to get anything useful because no-one talks about anything major outside of the office and Shardene can’t go in there easily. Shardene arrives as the van a little freaked out, Freamon soothes her again and lets her know she won’t have to wear a wire anymore. She just needs to do one more thing.

The following day in the Pit Wallace has returned. Bodie and Poot are pretty pleased to see them back while Dee is more concerned. Wallace wants to get back in the game, but Bodie tells him he has to start back as lookout. Dee disagrees and tells them both Wallace is back on the money if he wants it. The lads joke a little more and head off, happy.

In the basement, McNulty, Freamon and Daniels are being told about Nakeisha by Bunk. They immediately understand that Avon’s pulling a major bout of house cleaning. Bunk immediately asks about Wallace and Daniels panics, he phones to find out about Wallace, asking the local police to check if Wallace is still there. Daniels also asks about Shardene, asking for protection for her. Freamon is just so slick here, immediately mentioning that he’d have no problem offering her a place around his. Daniels reminds him of his duty and Freamon indicates he understands.

Dee is explaining the situation to Wallace. Wallace wants to come back full time and Dee lays it straight up for him, telling him he needs to keep quiet and play it straight. Dee’s mother arrives with some food for him and after thanking her he returns to Wallace.

Daniels arrives in a meeting room and is greeted with the faces of Burrell and Senator Clay Davies. Clay wanted to have a face to face meeting with Daniels in order to cover his backside. As you can see all of the Baltimore politicians are closing up various sphincters in an attempt to distance themselves from any dirty money. Clay in particular needs to do this because it was one of his aides who was picked up earlier with money direct from the towers. The conversation naturally takes a turn towards Damien Price; Clay claims that Damien had the money before he even went to the towers. Daniels already understands what’s happening here, he’s being snowballed by the two men. He’s unwilling to completely bend towards them, but Burrell and Clay want him to completely shut it down. Clay goes as far as admitting he takes dirty money as he can and at this Daniels leaves. Clay then moves on to tell Burrell he needs to make Daniels see reason.

In the basement Herc is celebrating his pass at the sergeant’s exam and he can’t wait to rub Carver’s face in it (Carver is away for training at the moment). Daniels congratulates him while Freamon muses on this promotion. The phone rings and Daniels is informed that Wallace has been missing from his grandmother’s for two days.

Bodie is down at the towers asking about the chance of a re-up. There’s nothing going on, he sees Stringer pull up and heads over to talk to him. After getting in the car they talk a little about Wallace. Bodie explains Wallace isn’t really cut out for the game, but he is. Stringer asks him if he’s ready to step up and use a gun.

McNulty and Daniels head in with some uniforms into the vacant house Wallace used to use. There’s no sign of life there because Wallace is heading up to a different place where he’s moved with the kids he and Poot look after. They’re having Chinese.

In the Basement the Detail talk about their difficulties locating Wallace, he then tells Santangelo that he’s free to return. McNulty warns him to watch out for Rawls, Santangelo shrugs and asks, what’s the worst he can do? Santangelo provided the clearances he was asked for. He did his job.

After he leaves they talk about switching things up where Orlando’s is concerned, they have access to the building adjacent and plan to put in some fibre optics similar to the ones used by the FBI earlier in the season (remember the scene with the four guys cutting powder around a table on CCTV?) Freamon then asks Herc to get some string and a ruler.

Poot and Bodie are speculating about why Wallace returned, they’re also talking in a vague manner about Stringer’s talk with Bodie.

Ronnie then meets with Daniels to talk about the returned cheques, she also wants to know what they’re doing which has her boss so worried. She wants to know why they didn’t say anything and then leaves. On the way out she passes Shardene who’s pacing about with a piece of string tied around her ankles.

Bodie and Poot meet with Wallace and talk in the diner with him a little. The three of them finish up and head out to have some fun.

Shardene returns from the club to the van later this evening. She provides the distance walked around inside the club so they have exact measurements, the building next door is vacant on the third floor as well, this means they don’t even need a warrant for what they’re planning next.

Wallace, Bodie and Poot arrive in a taxi, refusing to pay as they leave.

Inside the vacant next door to Orlando’s Herc is drilling a hole in the wall for the fibre optics while Freamon and Daniels watch. McNulty arrives with an address for Wallace’s mother and Daniels leaves with him.

Inside the building Wallace is using as a home now he arrives calling out to ask about the kids, they’re not around. It’s just Bodie, Poot and Wallace here, Bodie and Poot exchange glances while heading up the stairs. Wallace continues to search for everyone, heading into the bedroom and picking up a player. As he picks it up and turns around Bodie pulls out his gun and cocks it. Bodie tells him he should have stayed away, Wallace begs. Bodie initially can’t pull the trigger on Wallace, but Poot shouts at him and he fires a round into the boy before taking the gun off him and finishing the job with another two rounds. They then leave.

Daniels and McNulty arrive outside his mother’s and enquire about his whereabouts, Wallace’s mother is a clear user. They hand a card over to her and leave.

Avon and his boys arrive the following morning in Orlando’s, this time they’re being watched by the Detail. Who are forced to sit there while Avon takes everything out and packs up.

Poot gets his girl to call on the payphone and tell the emergency services that there’s a hurt animal in the house where Wallace is.

Avon meets with Dee in the office and talks with him about the situation. Dee is going to be making a pick up for some drugs, but this time the BPD know all about it.

Bunk arrives at the scene of the reported hurt animal and finds Wallace’s body.

While Sydnor sets up a tracking device onto the car Dee will be using Daniels receives a call about Wallace. It only takes a single word from McNulty and they both know the situation.

Next door to Orlando’s Prez finishes eating and dumps the rubbish along with a newspaper into the bin by Freamon, he notices the headline and a major piece of the puzzle falls into place. There’s a huge planned redevelopment scheme that’s going to be occurring around the properties Avon’s been buying up. He stood to make millions in legitimate cash from it.

Daniels and McNulty talk about Wallace while they wait for Dee to head out. Dee arrives and starts up the car.

A short while later Dee is pulled over by a pair of uniforms, they want to know why he was in New York for less than half an hour. As they search him Daniels and McNulty arrive, you can see from the look in his eyes that he realises the situation he’s now in.

And sure enough he’s back in the interview room, he immediately asks for a lawyer. Dee’s considerably tougher than he was the previous time he was here. They let him know exactly where he is, and what situation he is in. Dee refuses to talk until Levy arrives. As McNulty and Daniels leave they drop a bombshell on him, letting him know in an almost off-hand manner about Wallace’s shooting. Dee doesn’t believe them.

Dee’s mother Brianna is less than please with what’s happened to him and she’s letting Avon know. Avon tells her that if she wants to keep what she loves, Dee’s going to have to stand tall and take the hit. Brianna changes her tact at this and tells Avon will have nothing to worry about. She might care about Dee, but not enough to give up her life and luxuries as they stand.

Dee is talking with Levy and Stringer about his arrest. He wants to know who’s going to take the weight of the hit and more importantly he wants to know where’s Wallace. He pushes repeatedly only to get no response. He tells them to leave at this, knowing that clearly now McNulty wasn’t lying, Wallace is dead.

Daniels meanwhile is meeting with Burrell, Burrell is unhappy about the bug being planted in Avon’s office. This is one of the few things he’s been unaware of, so that should be enough information to work out just who the leak in the Detail is. Daniels tries to push and see what he can get, but Burrell wants this shut down. He’d be happy with just the shooters, but Burrell isn’t going to cooperate now the Detail has gone after the money trail. Burrell throws some FBI field reports onto the table and reveals that he knows about the money Daniels came into and he is willing to do him. Daniels stands up to him and calls him on this, he tells him that he isn’t afraid of this, there are plenty of other dirty stories out there and he’ll keep doing his job until the time on the wiretap is up.

A strike team is sent into Orlando’s while Avon and Stringer watch on the CCTV. They failed to get the safe out in time. Avon has Stringer open up the safe in order to avoid the police blowing it open and ruining it.

Outside, McNulty and Daniels are watching the SWAT move into position. They get fed up of waiting and decide to both go in together. They stroll past the SWAT Officer and tell them there’s no need to come in, after knocking they’re let in by the bouncer. Upstairs they meet with Avon and Stringer, McNulty searches through the desk and then checks the now open safe, removing the money while Daniels cuff’s Avon. They don’t pick up Stringer and McNulty tells String “Catch you later” before exiting the office. On the stairs out he hesitates for a moment before leaving the building.

In the basement Freamon connects the final pieces of the puzzle on the board for Prez, Sydnor and himself to look at. Sydnor tells them they have Avon, but no Little Man or Wee-Bey. Sydnor talks about how this is the best case he ever did, but it’s not enough, it feels unfinished. Prez stares at the board before walking out of shot.

In the Pit, the orange couch sits empty…

The Review:
It’s no spoiler to say that The Wire’s first season pay off comes in this episode. This episode is filled with some major events. The most dramatic of which are of course around poor Wallace, if the boy hadn't returned then he'd be still alive at this point. But instead he's been shot, which is a major hit for not just the investigation but for D'Angelo personally. It's hard to say which of the two scenes is stronger, the one where Wallace is killed or the later one where Dee repeatedly shouts "Where's Wallace?" Two words that would sound almost funny in any other context (Where's Waldo/Wally?) are here reduced to their components and made to speak volumes.

So much has brought us up to this point and it seems incredible that there's an episode left. There are such heavy punches pulled throughout this episode that even now, on my third or fourth watching of the episode I'm still left somewhat dumb struck by it and everything that's been building towards this. I genuinely feel sorry for Wallace and Dee, they've both been left out with their arses hanging in the wind by the rest of the Barksdales. The very organisation they trusted betrays them both from the inside one way or another.

The entire episode is epochal, it reveals just how sophisticated a game Avon, Levy and Stringer were playing with the property purchases and political donations. It also shows that the corruption from the streets runs anywhere and everywhere, it even runs all the way up to the senator and as a consequence runs down into the police department itself in the form of influence and political power.

While the Detail have Avon and Dee, they don't have Wee-Bey or Stringer. At this point I'd also like to note just how well done Avon's arrest scene is done. We're given the stereotypical SWAT team line up ready to burst in and kick ass, but the entire thing is thrown aside. There's no big action based confrontation, instead Daniels and McNulty knock on the door, walk in and arrest Avon without any violence or resistance. How many other shows would be able to resist such a moment, abandoning the big explosive pay off for a quieter one that's ultimately far more satisfying in it's nature?

That's the beauty of The Wire, it doesn't give you many of these big exciting moments, it doesn't give you one dimensional villains who are EVIL. It presents you with people, both good and bad, flawed insitutions and half finished cases. Much like real life, there isn't always a solid resolution to a situation , everything isn't always wrapped up in a nice pink bow and parcelled out to the viewer as a 'happy ending'. Just as Sydnor said "it feels unfinished".

Next week will be the final episode of this season, see you then.


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