Watching The Wire: Season Two: Episode Six: "All Prologue"

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“It don’t matter that some fool say he different…” – D’Angelo

Teleplay by David Simon Directed by Steve Shill

Dominic West as Officer Jimmy McNulty, Lance Reddick as Lieutenant Cedric Daniels, Sonja Sohn as Kima Greggs, Deirdre Lovejoy as assistant state's attorney Rhonda Pearlman, Wood Harris as Avon Barksdale, Larry Gilliard, Jr. as D'Angelo Barksdale, Andre Royo as Bubbles, John Doman as Colonel William Rawls, Frankie Faison as Acting Commissioner Ervin Burrell, Clarke Peters as Cool Lester Smooth Freamon, Amy Ryan as Beadie "Bea/Beadie" Russell and Chris Bauer as Frank Sobotka.

Seth Gilliam as Detective Ellis Carver, Domenick Lombardozzi as Detective Thomas "Herc" Hauk, Jim True-Frost as Detective Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski, James Ransone as Ziggy Sobotka, Pablo Schreiber as Nick Sobotka, Melanie Nicholls-King as Cheryl, 7. Callie Thorne as Elena McNulty, Michael K. Williams as Omar Little, Michael Hyatt as Brianna Barksdale, Michael Kostroff as Maurice Levy, Susan Rome as ASA Ilene Nathan, Robert F. Chew as Proposition Joe, Wendy Grantham as Shardene Innes, Lev Gorens as Eton Ben-Eleazer, Charley Scalies as Thomas "Horseface" Pakusa, Fredro Starr as Marquis "Bird" Hilton, Chris Ashworth as Sergei "Serge" Malatov, Luray Cooper as Nat Coxson, Erik Todd Dellums as ME Randall Frazier, Jeffrey Fugitt as Officer Claude Diggins, Richard Price as book group leader, Peter Gerety as Judge Phelan, Harold L. Able, Sr. as Moonshot, J. Valenteen Gregg as Chess, Doug Lory as Little Big Roy, Bus Howard as Vernon "Ott" Mottley, Jeffrey Pratt Gordon as Johnny "Fifty" Spamanato, Dakota Anderson as Mugs, Jacques Derosena as Prisoner in Library and Toni Hunter as Stripper

The Summary:

Read about belts, drugs and expensive cigar lighters beyond the link...

The Recap:

Omar is sat dressed in a red and black track suit waiting to take the stand, he’s with a single guard who’s struggling to answer a question on the crossword, the clue is “Greek god of war” and the guard asks Omar if it’s Mars. Omar doesn’t even hesitate with the answer, which is of course Ares (Mars being the Roman god of war). The guard looks a little surprised as the word fits; Omar goes on to explain just how much he loved the myths in middle school. The door opens and a second guard calls “You’re up”, Omar pulls out a white patterned silk tie and puts it on. The guard nods and tries to contain his amusement.

In the trial room Omar is called to the stand, he waves to Stringer and his boys and waggles his tie at the DA while walking past. If you recall she wanted him to dress smart last week, but McNulty left Omar to make his own choice about the outfit. And Omar being Omar he’s plumped for mocking authority in his own fashion. The DA does not look amused, but she pushes ahead with questioning him. Omar is very frank and honest about this, much to Judge Phelan’s discomfort – he admits that he robs drug dealers for a living. Taking it a day at a time…

Cue the credits…

The Sobotka Detail are sitting in the office talking about Sobotka and the Union, it’s clear that both Frank and the Stevedore’s Union are financially strapped. The number of due paying members of the Union has dwindled over the years and the Union is seriously hurting. But the real question is in the money which has been paid to various PACs and Democratic organisations over recent times, something in the region of seventy thousand dollars over the last eight months and it was all kept off record. So far DNRs haven’t revealed anything; the Union doesn’t operate the same way that the Barksdales did before, but given what we know about them that’s not surprising – because it’s just a small number of people who are actually involved in the Greek’s trafficking. It’s natural for The Detail to assume the Union would operate in the same manner as the Barksdales; but it was an incorrect assumption.

Hand-to-Hands have also failed to illuminate anything, there’s plenty of pick ups from various white boys, but little to indicate a serious port connection. Beadie suggests that maybe it’s the checkers who are involved – they monitor what comes in and out of the port, so they might either be bringing things in or ignoring them. They certainly managed to avoid having the can of the dead girls on their computer records. Daniels tells Prez and Kima to start looking at girls, something Kima is happy to crack wise about. Lester will stick with the paper trail, Herc and Carver will continue with hand-to-hands, Beadie and Bunk will be running the port database. The meeting breaks up and Herc asks Beadie out for a cup of coffee – she gestures with the one in her hand and Herc gets the point. Carver leaps on this, mocking Herc’s delivery – Herc rapidly attempts to reassert his machismo while Carver looks at him incredulously.

Omar’s examination in Bird’s trial continues as McNulty walks in, taking a seat behind Stringer as he does so (if you recall he sat behind Stringer back in D’Angelo’s trial at the start of the series, he likes to sit near Stringer in order to remind him that he knows who Stringer is and what business he’s in. It’s also because Stringer bested McNulty in the previous season, the Detail wasn’t able to bring in Stringer and McNulty admitted that he started this entire thing just because he wanted to prove he could catch them and he was smarter than they were. You can think of Stringer as McNulty’s white whale if you like).

Omar indicates that he saw Bird kill William Gant and had spent time with him in lock up previously. Levy objects and walks up to talk with Phelan, during this break Stringer turns around to talk with McNulty, rumour has it that Omar wasn’t anywhere near the Gant shooting. But McNulty isn’t worried; they’re not out on the street right now they’re in a court of law. He sits back, quietly confident.

Omar’s comment about where he had previously encountered Bird is ordered to be disregarded. After Omar confirms that he’d have no problem identifying Bird he then goes on to accurately identify Bird’s gun. Omar’s testimony at this point upsets Bird to the point where he has an outburst, standing up and yelling while trying to get at Omar. At this point Stringer stands up and leaves, McNulty is amused.

At the Diner Vondras is meeting with Nicky, he introduces Nicky to Eton, a man from Israel. Nicky is willing to sort out the chemicals for them, but only if Vondras can sort out Ziggy’s problems with Cheese. Vondras offers to have Cheese killed, Nicky doesn’t want that, he just wants to square the amount owed – nothing more. He doesn’t want to have to pay extra or less, and he doesn’t want to stir up violence in case of retaliations later down the line. He asks Vondras to talk with Cheese and make it all right.

At the trial Levy has started his cross-examination of Omar, Levy works to discredit Omar as a witness; first trying to suggest that Omar gave his testimony to avoid being arrested and then attempting to discredit him because of Omar’s criminal record. Omar’s response is personable and amusing, making members of the jury laugh as well as clearly tickling Judge Phelan’s funny bone. Levy uses this record to lay out how much of a criminal Omar is and asking why anyone should believe him. Levy suggests that Omar would shoot someone like Gant himself, but Omar disagrees – he’s never drawn a gun on a citizen. Levy, sensing weakness strikes – calling Omar an amoral parasite thriving off the drug trade, but Omar doesn’t even blink before calling Levy out as being exactly the same thing. And he is, Levy is probably the worst “villain” in The Wire, he’s deeply involved in the Barksdale’s organisation and effectively a lieutenant, we’ve seen this last season when he berated D’Angelo for writing the ‘forgiveness’ letter when pressured by Bunk and McNulty. Levy is no ordinary criminal defence lawyer, he is completely corrupt on his own terms, but he’s positioned himself so deeply that it’s almost impossible to bring the law to bear on him. Levy is clearly uncomfortable with this comparison but can’t refute it.

Elena is working in her estate agency attempting to close a deal with two prospective clients while McNulty waits. He’s positioned behind the couple near the window, next to a shop dummy dressed as an estate agent. While she talks with the couple he undresses and fondles the dummy, making it difficult for her to keep a straight face and concentrate. The customers walk out past an innocent looking McNulty and a half naked shop dummy – completely unaware of what occurred behind them. Elena redresses the dummy while McNulty asks her for a date, a single date which can end however she wishes. McNulty wants another shot; she agrees to give him one. He leaves, beaming.

Stringer meets with a mysterious man, handing him a large amount of cash and telling the guy that he needs to do this without any assistance. Now the question is, what on Earth would Stringer do which he couldn’t depend on his own men. He’s promised that nothing will come back onto Stringer and a few hints about what’s ahead are dropped.

Kima meets with Shardene, who’s looking content and happy in her relationship with Lester. They talk a little about the Russian girls.

In trial is close to wrapping up, they recess for a short while before closing arguments just after Bunk’s testimony. McNulty heads up to talk with the DA about Omar’s turn on the stand. Levy’s angry closing of his briefcase speaks volumes on this.

Out on the streets in the evening a nervous Nicky watches Boris/Sergei “negotiate” with Cheese over Ziggy’s situation, negotiation involving sub-machine guns being waved in a threatening manner. The net result is this – Ziggy will get paid compensation for the burnt car instead of having to pay Cheese the fifty four hundred Cheese demanded. It turns out that the Greek’s work with Cheese’s boss. I wonder who that could be.

Kima is at home with Cheryl; she’s exceptionally upset, not just with Kima’s return to police work on the streets, but also with the fact that Kima is going to a club which will be filled with naked and semi-naked women. The end result is that Cheryl is going to be going with Kima to the club.

At the Union, Frank and his guys are talking about the results they’re beginning to see from their donations. The worry is that the Grain Peer ends up becoming condos, so everyone in the Union needs to work together and get on the horn about this. After the meeting breaks up Ott heads up to let Frank know he doesn’t believe Frank’s claim that the money has been coming from the National Office and donations. He warns Frank to watch his ass.

Bunk, Freamon and Bea show Daniels the computer and show him how the Atlantic Light was unloaded via the computer. As can be seen the can wasn’t entered by the checker and as far as the computer is concerned it disappeared for four hours. While Frank covered himself on this no-one believes his story for this particular can. Now they need to check the other cans and see if there are any similar patterns.

Prez, Kima and Cheryl are at the strip club, Prez is rather uncomfortable being here with two women. But they head out back to talk to Shardene’s friend who’s willing to tell them everything about the Russian girls. A madam is mentioned and the girl pretty much spills everything about them. The girls were treated terribly while they were there, the Russian crew was kept separate from the normal girls and held on a tight leesh.

D’Angelo is in his cell admiring the pictures of his family, he closes the door and opens up a few packages of drugs, flushing them down the toilet – intending to get clean.

Lester and Bea start the long haul of checking other ships on the computer while Kima tells Cheryl the circumstances of this case and what happened to the girls. Hoping to get Cheryl to understand why Kima’s so driven about this. Cheryl walks away.

In the trial room; Levy attempts to angle for an appeal bond to allow for Bird to be released on grounds of ‘participating in the appeal investigation’ Phelan isn’t willing to get involved with this, which isn’t surprising because if you recall Bird is one of Phelan’s personal interest cases – his arrest was directly a result of Phelan’s demanding the Detail in season one. Phelan bangs his gavel after a speech which shows just how much he enjoys this and closes events before sentencing. Bird has been found guilty and will most likely face life without parole.

Outside Bunk, the DA, McNulty and Omar celebrate, she hands Omar a “Get out of Jail Free” Card and then Bird passes by, ranting at Omar. Omar doesn’t even sweat it, telling Bird to “Think on Brandon” – Omar’s got his justice for what happened to his boyfriend in the first season. McNulty asks Omar if he really saw Bird pull the trigger and Omar asks him if he’s really asking. McNulty walks away in silence.

In the prison library Dee is taking part in a book study group – They’re talking about The Great Gatsby and Dee shows the same level of intelligence he displayed before. He’s appreciating the message the book has, how the past matters to everyone, you are what you are. The past is what it is, and eventually things caught up to him. Dee’s grown a lot since we first saw him.

Lester and Bunk are sitting watching the DNRs. McNulty is sat on the boat when Diggsy arrives, it’s time to head out on the water, but McNulty has one last thing to do before commiting himself to the water for retirement.

Finally Nicky meets Cheese’s boss, the man to whom Sergei and The Greeks supply their drugs. It’s none other than Proposition Joe, he’s keen to talk business, but Sergei reminds them that they’re here to settle Ziggy’s car. Prop Joe explains that he understands Nicky’s situation, but business is business and he can’t let people screw up a package and walk out without paying. Nicky assures him that he has every intention of paying the 2,700 – but also he wants the money for the car. Prop Joe isn’t happy about this and Cheese will be even more upset when he has to pay. Nicky accepts the money and thanks Joe, Joe makes it clear to Nicky that apart from Sergei’s influence they would be dead.

At the morgue McNulty pays his last respects to the floating Jane Doe, he did what he could but she’s now going to the autopsy table as a Jane Doe.

Brianna meets with Dee about Avon’s deal, its Dee’s chance to get out. But he’s unwilling to leave early because he knows that the hot shots were from Avon. He doesn’t want to get out early on the backs of other people’s lives. He tells her he’s willing to carry this; that it’s his burden to carry and he needs to live it his way. He wants to be left alone, no Stringer, no Avon and no Donette. Another inmate watches this entire exchange and leaves at the same time as he does.

Bunk, Freamon and Bea have made their way as far as 2002 on the computer records when Bunk cracks and leaves.

At Delores’s bar Sobotka arrives and banters with Ott and Horse. Nicky arrives and sits next to Nicky while the guys joke around. Nicky hands Ziggy the money and lets him know that there’s 2,400 for Princess. Ziggy immediately flashes his cash, buys the bar a round and lights up his cigarette with a bill. Damn Ziggy.

Lester and Bea have finally spotted a pattern, it’s late but they’ve noticed that Horseface is the checker involved in the missing cans.

Bunk and McNulty are down at the railroad tracks talking about the bodies and their situation. Bunk pulls out his gun and asks McNulty “where’s the love.” He’s stuck with fourteen bodies and unless he clears them he’s in the shit-box with Rawls. McNulty on the other hand is done, Bird’s gone down and he couldn’t find an ID on the floater. He tears up the photo and throws it away before telling Bunk that he’s going to give it another try with Elena. The pair head home.

Ziggy walks out of the bar and is confronted by Frank, he wants to know what’s going on with Ziggy and tells him to come on a walk. Frank talks about how well things seem to be working out, and then asks what the heck Ziggy was pulling lighting up a $100 bill in front of people struggling for money. Frank goes on to muse a little about where he went wrong with Ziggy. How he should have sent him to college, but Ziggy interrupts him and tells him about how great childhood was and everything he recalls about it all.

Bea passes on the information they’ve found out about the cans, there’s a definite pattern with one shipping line “Talco” and the same checker Thomas “Horseface” Pakusa. The case has its first break here, but he’s already been grand juried and didn’t even blink. Bunk struggles with his hangover throughout this, while Lester explains just how good the operation is and how it seems Sobotka is involved. Bunk suggests folding the cases together but Daniels isn’t having any of that. The next step is to clone the computer and watch in real time. Bunk continues to dry retch as they leave him.

In County Avon and Dee pass each other in the corridor, Avon calls after Dee – who turns and looks at him silently for a while before leaving.

McNulty and Elena are on their date; Elena is still bitter about McNulty’s past indiscretions and drinking. McNulty tells her how he’s basically retired, working the boats. He’s looking to push how much he’s changed on her and how much he wants another chance. Elena offers him a quick roll in the sack and we’re treated to a bit of nekkid Callie Thorne.

Nicky, Ziggy and Johnny 50 arrive with the chemicals for Vondras, they offered either cash or more than that in heroin. Ziggy’s keen to do this, but Nicky isn’t sure. Eventually he settles on half in cash, half in dope and Vondra agrees. Ziggy talks about turning the package around and Nicky tells him to stay out of it; Nicky will handle it all instead. The trio leave.

McNulty is sat downstairs in Elena’s feeling pleased, he’s convinced the fling means they’re back together. But they’re not and Elena makes him understand this.

At the prison library Dee is being watched by the same inmate who followed him around before. He pushes some books out to a back room before being followed in there. Mugs then closes the door and engages Dee in some small talk before strangling him with a belt. He then sets Dee up next to the door and makes it look like a suicide. He then locks the door and walks away, leaving Dee dead behind the door…

The Review:

In case you weren’t sure, All Prologue’s title makes it quite clear that everything we’ve seen up until this point was just the build up. This episode delivers major punches, the start of the episode being far more jovial than the end of it with Omar's star turn as a states witness. But those humourous moments are just the prologue to the loss of a major cast member.

Omar’s talking about the Greek mythology is another subtle example of how The Wire is structured after the Greek tragedy; it’s the closest the show has come to admitting outright that this is the way it’s designed, with the cyclic nature of storytelling and history that brings.

The main thing to talk about here is Dee, poor Dee - there's almost no indication of what's coming for him here. We see him move on with his life and settle himself down for the long haul in prison. He flushes the drugs and attends book club, showing the same intelligence and insight we've seen from him previously. But then there's Stringer's mysterious meeting and Mugs watching Dee, small hints at what's coming.

And when it does come, it's not a pleasant or triumphant moment. Dee is killed in a harsh and messy manner, strangulation is not a pleasant way to die (not that there really is such a thing) and The Wire doesn't shy away from one moment of it. We're forced to watch Dee's desperate struggles as he breathes his last and then, afterwards we're forced to watch Mugs set it up to look like a suicide before leaving. It's just brutal.

Dee suffers the same fate as Gatsby did in The Great Gatsby, unable to escape from the life he was in and ultimately murdered.

Elsewhere in the episode there's some progress, much of it is dominated by the Bird/Gant trial. Which ends in a favourable result for the prosecution - thanks of course to an amazing turn on the stand from Omar. Especially the moment where he called Levy out for exactly what he is, both Omar and Levy benefit from the drug trade in their own manner. It's a damning inditment of the man and one he completely deserves to receive. Especially as it's clear Levy doesn't consider himself a criminal because technically he doesn't break the law.

The Detail makes their first serious progress thanks to Lester and Bea, they've found their first link in the chain with Horseface. While he's a difficult nut to crack it is progress which is always good.

As I said last time, All Prologue is one of my favourite episodes of the season. In part because it's unrelenting in it's snatching of D'Angelo's life right before us, in part because of the progress of the case - it starts here, and in part because of Omar's performance at the trial. It mixes investigation, comedy and drama all into one wonderful whole.


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