DVDs in Review #86: Two Pints of Lager & A Packet of Crisps: Series 1 & 2

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Boasting to contain "The Beers and Tears of Twenty-Something Life" Two Pints of Lager & A Packet of Crisps has been running for so long that I can barely recall a time without it on the screen. In actual fact it's only been around since 2001, but this particular Brit-com can be considered to be an institution of the BBC - it's due two specials this year and a ninth series in 2010. (Wow, doesn't 2010 sound incredibly futuristic? Where's our flying cars?) But by reaching all the way back to 2001 we can find the first two series - which remain as entertaining and funny as when they were first released.

Two Pints is a fairly low brow comedy which derives a lot of it's humour from the low social state of it's characters, stereotypical reactions (especially the male ones) and their tendency to drink for recreation. It's part of the slight minority in British comedy due to it's working class feel, many other British sitcoms like , My Family, , and so forth tend to feel more middle class (even when they're actually about working class people - Only Fools and Horses is a great example of this). I don't know exactly what it is which causes this, perhaps in Britain the vast majority of writers have parents who are Teachers, Doctors or Bureaucrats.

Whatever it is which does cause this distinctive feel to the comedy it's something which makes Two Pints an endearing and exceptionally British show; it's as British as the pub, chip shops and headbutts. And exceptionally funny to boot.

The first two series hold together as one story set over twelve episodes; I always appreciate sitcoms which have a sense of on going events and the passage of time. It's one of the reasons I love so much, and it's something I do like about Two Pints. The following episode will normally build on or continue the storyline from the preceding one, which makes things feel more seamless and also causes 'just one more' syndrome when watching on DVD - it's an exceptionally hard show to put aside.

Over the twelve episodes which make up the first and second series we're introduced to Jonny (Ralf Little), his girlfriend Janet (Sheridan Smith), his best mate Gaz (Will Mellor), Janet's best mate Donna (Natalie Casey) and the resident oddball Louise (Kathryn Drysdale) who embodies all things detestable about students, especially middle class female ones. The episodes themselves deal with a wide range of subjects, from strained bollocks and pregnancy through dogs and marriage all the way to infidelity and S&M with plenty of references to farting and drink along the way. Sophisticated Frasier type humour this is not, but it's still dead funny.

Performances across the board are fantastic; Ralph Little is superb as Jonny effortlessly playing a slightly bewildered man-child who barely manages to handle life at times. Will's performance as Gaz is so good I've almost forgiven him for appearing in not just Casualty but also Hollyoaks, and I've completely forgiven Natalie Casey for her stint in Hollyoaks as she's so lovely in this. Kathryn is wonderfully annoying as Louise - but I still can't forget the fact that she appeared in Love & Monsters (the worst Doctor Who Episode of all time). Finally there's Sheridan Smith, who's just so amazingly fantastic as Janet - she clicks perfectly together with Ralph Little, but that's not surprising as they played boyfriend and girlfriend on The Royale Family as well (A comedy show I've never gotten along with).

If I had one criticism it would be that both Ralph and Gaz are a lot less rounded than Donna and Janet (Louise is essentially a walking single punch-line), they often react in very stereotypical ways, especially from the point of view of a woman. But this series is written by Susan Nickson, so the slightly shallower moments can be forgiven - the fact that they're often funny as well helps.

Still, Two Pints is a show which remains laugh out loud funny even though these two series airred at the start of the decade, perhaps things haven't changed enough in our society as the vast majority of the jokes remain relevant and fresh even to this day. I do know it's one of the few shows I can watch alone and still laugh at, which makes it unusual because I normally only laugh when watching something with company. And that's a ringing endorsment for a great show.
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Film Fridays: Alien

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"In space no one can hear you scream."

I've chosen to write about Ridley Scott's classic horror/sci-fi movie Alien in the first part of the new Film Friday series for a few reasons. Alien is a film which has influenced or at least been involved in a lot of my life, back when it was first released in the UK my parents went to go and see it (or at least my father dragged my mother along to watch it). But, as my mother is also prone to reminding me, I also went along to the cinematic showing of this film as she was pregnant with me at the time. I can only imagine how being pregnant would have influenced her experience of the film, it's certainly resulted in her consistently mentioning that same anecdote just about every time the movie Alien is mentioned. I'm not sure how I should take this and sometimes I wonder if I'm being compared (by her) to the Alien in the movie.

Fast forward about a dozen or so years and one of the more vivid memories from my childhood is my father proudly sitting me down before bedtime and showing me the opening scenes from Alien. The scenes with the lights coming on inside the Nostromo and the stasis pods opening up remain branded into my consciousness even to this day. Mostly because after showing a few of the opening scenes my father stopped the film and said "The rest of the film is horrible and scary so I won't show you it." and then sent me to bed. I didn't sleep well for quite a few nights after that, there's nothing quite like an active imagination to keep one from falling asleep without disturbing dreams...

It is worth saying that Alien was not actually the first movie in the franchise I watched in full, that prize goes to it's action packed sequel Aliens (which I'll probably touch on in a later issue of Film Friday), but it is definitely the one which left the biggest mark on me thanks to the actions of my parents. And there is no doubt that it's an iconic and brilliant film which holds up alongside and even shames many modern films (especially some of it's own later sequels).

It's hard to write anything original about Alien as it's such a critically acclaimed, influential and iconic movie, as has been noted numerous times before the structure of the movie is very simple - it's a haunted house/slasher movie in space, but the execution of the movie is something which turns the whole thing into much, much more than that.

The start of the film builds very slowly; establishing the setting, the technology and the characters with an almost leisurely pace. From the reflection of the computer screen on the empty space suit helmet onwards the show almost effortlessly crafts a world which feels real with it's low-tech approach to science fiction. The Nostromo is a brutish, ugly construct and the interior scenes continue the functional style of the exterior. There are no elegant, swooping curves or doors that go 'swoosh, beep' on this ship. Instead there are broken pipes and crew members complaining about their cut in the shares.

Which brings me smoothly onto the characters, the slow build of Alien gives us a chance to get to know these people - the engineers Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) and Parker (a pre-Homicide Yaphet Kotto), their amusing cliquishness towards Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and complaining about money. Ripley herself is also far more interesting here than in later movies and Weaver gives a great performance as the sole survivor while Tom Skerritt is on top form as the bearded and pragmatic Dallas. It's only Lambert (Veronica Cartwright) who is somewhat forgettable in this. But the most memorable performances (aside from the barely glimpsed xenomorph) lay with Ian Holm as the semi-villainous artificial human 'simulant' Ash and of course there is John Hurt who was described as "The Man" in Coupling because of the power and disturbing nature of that famous dining scene. Embodying all the male fears about pregnancy in the space of a few moments it's a scene which has been homaged, referenced and parodied more times than I'd care to count. It's a scene for all ages it's the most memorable of all the deaths in the movie (the other two which I always recall are Ash's - because of the sheer brutality and crudeness of it and Dallas' for the tension and sudden release at the end).

The final two characters in the film are the computer Mother (voiced by Helen Horton) and the titular alien itself, who was played by the 7' 2" tall Bolaji Badejo. It's pretty much his only time in the world of film, but he gives an exceptional physical performance, greatly enhanced and aided by the adage "less is more". Unlike some of the more modern horror movies Alien avoided showing too much of it's antagonistic monster/killer, partially because it was quite literally a man in a rubber suit (and would have looked almost comedic) and partially because the human imagination of things unseen is far more potent than anything actually seen. Keeping the alien in the shadows and just providing partial glimpses or sudden visions of it - a method I appreciate far more than the ultra detailed horror which has moved into vogue right now. There's nothing more frightening than the unknown.

These days it's difficult to watch the movie without considering all of the baggage which the franchise has gathered. While the movie Aliens (which I'll certainly write about later) is a worthy, if different, successor - the later movies are a series of let downs and by the time the franchise rolls into the Predator one things are stinking to high heaven (On a side note the computer game series for Aliens vs. Predator is a far superior creation, the story for AvP2 in particular is amazing and it's a real shame it wasn't adapted when the AvP movies were announced.) Alien itself is a superb example of science-fiction and horror at it's finest, and not amount of obviously dated computers present in the movie can detract from the experience. It's certainly a contender for the best movie of 1979 and one I am able to watch and re watch time and time again.
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DVDs in Review #85: Lead Balloon: Series Two

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Rick Spleen is back and continuing to go down like a lead balloon. I reviewed the first series earlier this year and concluded that while the show was in essence a low rent British Curb Your Enthusiasm, it also had many features which made it worthy in it's own right.

The second series gives us another eight episodes of Rick's life; an almost endless torrent of mistakes, petty acts, misery and at times stupidity from a man who is his own worst enemy. Jack Dee remains wonderfully on form as Rick, mostly because he's playing a character who is close in style to his stand up. That might sound a little derogatory, but it's not, sticking to your strengths when you come from a non-acting background is a wise move and it pays off here. He's a beautifully pathetic, petty, whinging piece of work who is just delightful to watch on screen; especially during his (inevitable) comeuppance.

Sean Power remains sterling as Rick's long suffering writing partner Marty, providing a mix of wry comments and "I told you so"'s to add insult to Rick's (self inflicted) injuries. Likewise Tony Gardner is just superb as the oddball cafe owner Michael, and it's these three who propel many of the more interesting events. Sam (Antonia Campbell-Hughes) and Ben (Rasmus Hardiker) remain the same one note joke as before, which I'm sure is funny for some - myself I found them tiresome from the start, but fortunately they're not on screen for too long if you don't enjoy their uming, ahing and mooching off Rick.

Magda (Anna Crilly) remains the series' best low-key joke with her morose performance, tendency to wear green (which really doesn't suit her), "generic" eastern European background and love of potatoes. But for myself it's the lovely Raquel Cassidy as Mel who lights up the screen the most, providing the voice of reason as well as the long suffering partner, she's just as fantastic here as she is in Moving Wallpaper. She's fast becoming a favourite comic actor of mine, especially if she keeps up the level of quality in her performances.

Over the second series Rick struggles with his inability to send e-mails correctly, Magda quitting after an off-hand comment, his comedy causing the collapse of a pharmaceutical giant, points on his driving license, Marty leaving for bigger and brighter things and many, many other things (often self inflicted) which drive him to higher and higher plateaus of misery.

It's a fun and enjoyable piece of exceptionally British humour, the phrase 'it brings a little ray of sunshine into your life' might not be accurate. But it does leave you feeling better, because it reminds you that out there, somewhere, there's almost certainly someone more miserable than you. Someone who's so quintessentially British that all they do is sit about, moan and make their own life more miserable. And if not being that person doesn't cheer you up, maybe complaing about my use of a double negative will instead.

Commentary for three episodes: Hero, Rita and Idiot
Interview with Jack Dee
Deleted Scenes

Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Soundtrack: English
Rating: 15
Region: 2 + 4 PAL
Subtitles: English HOH
Run time: 231 mins
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Guild Season 3 Trailer is Up!

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Over time I've become an unashamed watcher of The Guild. It's grown from something I kind of found funny on occasion into a very special show that I've been eagerly awaiting the return of.

The trailer is up, warning it does contain mild spoilers for the season:

<a href="http://videoguide.msn.com/play/?g=7d9ab599-724c-413d-8afe-5999b05caec1" target="_new" title="The Guild Season 3 - Trailer">Video: The Guild Season 3 - Trailer</a>


Episode one is available for download on xbox live if you're a gold member, so I'll see you guys later. I've got some TV to watch!
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10 Items or Less: The Second Season Verdict

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John Lehr as Leslie Poole
Bob Clendenin as Carl
Greg Davis Jr. as Buck
Chris Payne Gilbert as Todd
Kirsten Gronfield as Ingrid
Christopher Liam Moore as Richard
Roberta Valderrama as Yolanda
Jennifer Elise Cox as Amy Anderson

Last week I wrote about the first season of 10 Items or Less, which was a five episode bonanza of fast paced, likable and witty semi-improvised comedy which had echoes of Arrested Development, Curb Your Enthusiasm and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Well on the weekend I had a chance to watch the eight episodes which make up the second season and I'm back to let you know if the show continues to deliver on the fun and laughs.

If you're in a hurry, the answer is yes. If you've got a little time, I can expand on that somewhat.

The second season shows considerable improvement in the production quality of the show, while it's still got that quirky, slightly run down, "real" feel to things - which keeps the place looking like a cheap and cheerful, small grocery store. It's brighter, bolder and there is now a short (and funny) opening credit sequence. Everything looks a little better and it still has the charm of the original season.

The cast has remained the same, but the load has been spread out a little more, so every character gets their own story this season, and while the majority of the work is still performed by John Lehr we are seeing more scenes involving the other characters interacting with each other. Over the eight episodes the cast deal with a wide range of situations; including losing your virginity, inheritances, Star Wars, slaughtering cattle in store, illegal immigrants, Renaissance fairs and a whole host of things only loosely related to working in a grocers.

The laughs continue thick and fast and the performances from the cast are stronger than the first season, everyone has found the core of their character and really nailed it. While the first season did feature great performances this is a cast with many people who are not that experienced on television, so it's great to see how good they all are and how they've already grown. I'm especially fond of Chris's performance as Todd, but Christopher as Richard has also grown on me now they've given him more material to work with.

10 Items or Less is a fantastic sitcom and worthy of your attention, especially because of it's relatively short season lengths, the first two seasons combined have an approximate run time of a little over four and a half hours. So it's something which doesn't require a huge commitment to try out. Also as the episodes are available to watch online on the official site (here) there's really no excuse not to at least give a few episodes a go.

Go check it out now!
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Top Television Villains

While shows normally centre around heroes, individuals who go out there and do what must be done, it's often the villains who propel the story and provide the most memorable moments. Who can forget Alan Rickman's amazing performance in Die Hard (or Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves), Gary Oldman in Leon, Kevin Spacey in the Usual Suspects, Darth Vader and so on. Villains are just as important (if not more so) as the heroes in stories. Without someone to stand up against and constrast with our favourite heroes would be a shadow of their former self.

Lets face it, everyone loves a good bad guy, it gives you someone to either root for or rail against, and television is no exception to this. There have been some exceptional villains on screen over the years and here is a selection of my favourites.

Number One/John Cavil
From Battlestar Galactica. Portrayed by Dean Stockwell.

More than any other cylon in the show it's Cavil who stands out as the primary antagonist and most dangerous threat to humanity. A Machiavellian individual who not only threatens the humans, but also stands opposed to any cylons who attempted to get in his way. Lacking any kind of mercy he was responsible for the fates of the final five cylons, tormented Ellen Tigh terribly on New Caprica and constantly called for the culling of humans wherever possible.

He provided a face, voice and name for the threat the Cylons posed, while also turning out to be mostly responsible for the conflict between humanity and the Cylons as well.

Lieutenant Jon Kavanaugh
From The Shield. Portrayed by Forest Whitaker.

Strictly speaking Kavanaugh is not a villain as such, but because of the unusual perspective of The Shield he is cast as one. Sent to investigate allegations of corruption amongst Farmington's Strike Team he is diametrically opposed to the series' anti-hero/protagonist Vic Mackey and his team. Kavanaugh is powerfully portrayed by Forest and charts a fall from grace as he becomes increasingly more and more desperate to find evidence that Vic Mackey is corrupt. His tactics become more agressive and gradually he is drawn into breaking the law in order to try and do what he feels is right.

It's this 'the ends justify the means' attitude combined with the powerful and intense performance from Forest which makes Kavanaugh a gripping villain and a worthy foil for Vic Mackey.

Maurice Levy
From The Wire. Portrayed by Michael Kostroff

Maurice Levy originally surfaces in The Wire as the lawyer responsible for D'Angelo Barksdale's case, it's his defense (combined with intimidation from the Barksdale organisation) which results in D'Angelo being released. But this rather innocuous initial appearance conceals someone who is far deeper into the world of crime than anyone would or even could suspect. As time passes it becomes clear that he's a major source of advice to the criminal world, assisting Avon Barksdale, Stringer Bell and even Marlo Stanfeld as time passes.

It's this corrupt and unscrupulous attitude combined with his 'light touch' which makes Maurice such an interesting villain, he's like the proverbial slippery eel. It's clear he's involved in crime, but because he has such a complete grasp of the law he's very difficult to pin down. He's dirty and almost untouchable...

From Millennium ("The Mikado"). Portrayed by unknown.

Avatar is unusual when compared to the vast majority of villains in this list as he only made a single appearance in the second season of Millennium. Modelled around the Zodiac Killer, Avatar also communicated with the police using cryptic messages and was a dormant serial killer who had just resurfaced with a new modus operandi - killing his victims according to the number of hits his webcam site received. People who were visiting the site to see what was happening were quite literally facilitating the death of the victim on camera. Eventually the series of clues Avatar left for Frank lead into two traps, one of which took the life of a police officer and the other which nearly resulted in Frank shooting an innocent woman.

Little more is known about Avatar as he was not caught by Frank and the police force (like the Zodiac Killer) and as the show never revisited him he remains at large. Which is a big part of what makes him so interesting, he's still out there, on the loose, waiting to strike again.

The Greek & Spiros "Vondas" Vondopoulos
From The Wire. Portrayed by Bill Raymond and Paul Ben-Victor

The second villain(s) from The Wire on this list, The Greek and Vondas first make their appearance in The Wire's second season as the men behind the smuggling which Frank Sobotka was facilitating through his docks. Vondas is initially revealed as the head of the organisation through meetings which occur in a small diner. But a little while later on it becomes clear that the innocuous old man who is seen dining there all the time is in the true head of the organisation - The Greek.

The pair are the personification of prudent and cautious criminals, for them it's about "Business, always business." They are willing to deal with whomever has the cash to purchase the product and they are efficient in their role as drug wholesalers, human traffickers and large scale thieves. In fact there are few pies they don't have their hands in.

Of the two it's Vondas who is the softer, he forms quite an attachment with Frank and especially Nicky Sobotka. But if there is any killing to take place it is Vondas who will do the deed. The Greek on the other hand tends to keep his hands away from anything dirty, but is ruthless when it comes to taking care of business. If The Greek feels you've become a threat to himself and his operation then you won't last much longer.

Davros and the Daleks.
From Doctor Who. Portrayed by Various.

Quintessential Doctor Who villains the Daleks and their creator just have to be present on any list mentioning top villains. The murderous salt and pepper pots have menaced the Doctor (and countless children positioned behind the sofa) for longer than any other villain on this list.

There's something just so iconic and incredible about them, considering that they are little more than slow moving condiments with a plunger, a whisk and bunny ear lights on their heads. Their attitude and catchphrase of "Exterminate" moves them away from the comical and into the frightening. Daleks represent the purest form of racism, so far gone that they seek to destroy everything which is different to themselves. They are the equivalent of a man sized virus or plague; so virulent that not even the Doctor's repeated attempts to stop them has ever had any long term effect. They keep coming back and they will continue to do so as long as the series runs.

Nina Meyers
From 24. Portrayed by Sarah Clarke

You can draw a direct link between the quality of 24 and the presence of Nina Meyers. The first season was just fantastic and the gradual realisation that Nina was a double agent is a huge part of that, her shooting of Jack's wife is amongst the best ends to a season ever. But then in season three Jack encounters her again and shoots her dead - while it's an understandable action it also signals the start of the reduction in quality the show has. I didn't even manage to watch all of the rest of season three and every attempt I made to watch each season following resulted in failure.

The lack of Nina probably isn't responsible for the downward plummet 24 has taken, but the show would have been a lot more interesting if she was still around in some fashion. It feels like the pay off of Jack killing Nina would have made for an excellent show finale. But it was not to be like that, which in some ways is realistic, but in others clearly bad for the show's performance.

Old Yellow Eyes/The Yellow Eyed Demon
From Supernatural. Portrayed by Fredric Lehne

As the primary antagonist for the first two seasons of Supernatural the Yellow Eyed Demon (Azazeal) was responsible for the vast majority of the sorrow and torment the Winchester family suffered over the years. Both the boys mother and Sam's girlfriend were slain by Yellow Eyes. Almost unkillable, vicious, evil and ancient beyond measure he was a terrible opponent for the Winchesters. Even after the Winchesters defeated him his presence and plans continue to make themselves known and felt. While he didn't count on being slain, as demons are supposed to be immortal, dying hasn't stopped the wheels he set in motion.

He also had a dark and amusing sense of humour about everything, often taunting the Winchesters and even willing to banter and converse with them. Fredric Lehne brought a lot of presence and 'cool' to the character and made him much, much more than just "the enemy".

Honorable mentions:
Shane Vandrell (The Shield) who didn't make the cut because a) he's not a villain the entire time he appears in the series and b) I'd already picked one character from The Shield.

Antwon Mitchell was cut from the list for a similar reason.

Ben Linus from Lost also has a similar bent in that he's not strictly speaking a villain, as time passes he becomes more of a protagonist with his own agenda.

The Master from Doctor Who, again excluded because the Daleks had already taken a spot.

Sylar didn't make the top list because it feels like Heroes has done it's uttermost best to reduce the impact of this character by sucking hard. Zachary Quinto's performance as Sylar is one of the two best parts of the show, but he is stuck on a sinking ship now.

Captain Hammer from Doctor Horrible's Sing Along Blog also didn't make the cut. Strictly speaking he's a hero. But he is the villain of the piece, regardless I do hope he makes a return appearance in the next Doctor Horrible.

Spike from Buffy and Angel. Who lost out because he becomes somewhat redeemed and shifts into the position of anti-hero as time passed on. His wiry observations remain amongst some of the most entertaining in the shows.

So that's my list, but I'm sure there are many, many more who could and should have made these lists. Who are your favourite television villains and why?

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Watching The Wire: Season Two

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A New Case Ends...

With this we close out the second season of Watching The Wire, a season focused on the loss and decay of the American blue collar industry and the death of it's ports. It's also a season which introduces many new characters, including one of The Wire's most complex and interesting ones.

Episode links:

Season Two: Introduction
Episode One: "Ebb Tide"
Episode Two: "Collateral Damage"
Episode Three: "Hot Shots"
Episode Four: "Hard Cases"
Episode Five: "Undertow"
Episode Six: "All Prologue"
Episode Seven: "Backwash"
Episode Eight: "Duck and Cover"
Episode Nine: "Stray Rounds"
Episode Ten: "Storm Warnings"
Episode Eleven: "Bad Dreams"
Episode Twelve: "Port in a Storm"

The rest of this post - which will be placed behind a cut to avoid spoilers - will look at the season overall and what's happened to the characters over this season.

Read on...

First up will be the individual characters, then a look at the season in it's entirety.

Frank Sobotka:

You can sit and talk about how the main characters of the show are individuals like McNulty, Cedric Daniels and so forth. But the second season's main character is Frank Sobotka, the second season is all about Frank and his union. Frank is, without a doubt, the deepest and most complex individual in the entire show. Across all seasons he is the one with the strongest characterisation, the most intriguing motivations and the finest story. There is no doubt for me that Frank Sobotka is one of my favourite characters, which is incredible if you think about it, he's present in just the one season; he makes no appearance before this season and he dies before the end of it. But he is still a well rounded and realised individual who has a great story in the Shakespearean tradition.

While the script and story writing is the backbone of Frank's appeal, it's Chris Bauer's performance which sells the whole package. He gives a wonderful, low key and realistic performance which brings home one of the core messages of The Wire. How institutions dictate the actions of the individuals involved in them and how they can corrupt essentially good individuals. Frank is at his core a good man, the money he makes from the various illegal shipments isn't used for personal gain. That's part of what made it so hard for the Detail to nail him, he's not a traditional criminal out for wealth. He's doing all this for the people who work under him, people who rely on him. People like the stevedores, the union, his family.

For them he was able to turn a blind eye to the Greeks and their operation, while he knew stolen goods and drugs were being moved through his port he justified that the end was worth this. Saving his dying work place, his responsibility, was worth the risk and the price. He could bend his ethics that far, but as shown by his reaction when he found out about the dead girls, that was as far as he could go. While he was implicitly involved in their deaths, he wasn't responsible, at no time was he asked if human trafficking would be an issue. Now yes, he did turn a blind eye to what was in the canisters - assumed a don't ask policy - and it was foolish for him to trust the Greeks not to push and expand their shipping business once they had a foothold. But he's not a criminal type, he probably didn't even think that anyone would actually transport women in a canister - let alone murder them and dump them on his dock.

Ultimately the bottom line is that for all his efforts Frank failed, because he got into bed with terrible people and then went and upset Valchek, his pride was a little too high there. If he'd thought about it at all he would have realised that Valchek is a petty and mean individual who can't take a single slight without dispensing revenge. If you're in the business of crime, you don't want to put yourself on the radar of a police office. But Frank was naive about things like that, and unfortunately he didn't live to learn the lesson.

There is so much more which can be written about Frank, he's one of the best realised characters in fiction, full stop. There's so much you can draw from him and learn, I'm honestly surprised that schools don't have people watching and analysing the second season of The Wire as they do Shakespeare, he's a character on that level of depth.

Nicky Sobotka:

Nicky is another character I'm really fond of, he's a smaller and more reckless mirror of Frank. While Frank was careful enough not to get fully involved in The Greek's operations Nicky was too eager, too desperate and too naive to realise the path he was headed down. It took Frank's death to wake him up and show him the truth.

For Nicky it was about emulating Frank (who is clearly more of a father figure to him than Nicky's real dad Louis) while protecting/providing for his family and weak willed cousin Ziggy. Nicky actually had a lot of business sense and the skills required to deal, given time and the right circumstances he probably would have become a part of the Greek's organisation. Especially as his desire for a strong father figure resulted in a pseudo-father/son bond forming with Vondas - the man who would eventually kill Frank.

At the end Frank's insistence that Nicky stay behind saved him and opened Nicky's eye to the truth of what he'd been doing. There's no doubt that Vondas would have murdered Nicky as well if he's come along with Frank.


Ziggy is a character who provokes a lot of negative reactions from people who watch the show, which is hardly surprising because that's what he's there for. Ziggy is a deeply troubled individual suffering from arrested development and a lack of a strong father figure. While Ziggy is the one of the pair who is Frank's son it's clear that Nicky is actually the favourite "son".

There's also the case of when Ziggy talks to Frank about how their blood doesn't run the same. The HBO site now says that it's because Ziggy was adopted. But I'm sure that's not the original intent of the writers, it's a misinterpretation of the words. Ziggy was talking about how little they are alike, but Frank's response assures Ziggy they are alike. It seems that Frank was probably immature like Ziggy for a long time as well.

Of course, Ziggy is now in prison and will be there for a long time. For someone like Ziggy it's going to completely change who he is, it's possible he might come out of it straighter and stronger, more like Frank. But he could also be completely broken from the experience, Ziggy isn't really a hardened criminal, he's just a fool, and prison could either make or break him.

The Police:

As this story is less about the police force and more about the Stevedores, it's easier to write about them collectively. For the most part things haven't changed too much, and in fact many of them receive a bit of a reset back to their status at the start of the first season. Kima goes from being at a desk back to working cases, McNulty recovers (despite himself) and goes from being stuck on a boat back to working cases. And Daniels pulls himself out of evidence control and into heading his own Major Crimes Unit and Beadie grows up from a clock puncher into a capable and skilled detective - she's fantastic when shadowing Vondas. For the police the fall of Frank and the stevedores is contrasted by their own rising fortunes. While they do have a tough time, and the case ends with several failures - most notable are the mistakes involving Ziggy's shooting (Landsman screwing up again), letting Frank out on his own recognisance and most things involving the Greeks; individually they all win out - apart from Daniels' marriage and Kima's relationship, which are both looking very rocky now..

The only exception would be Herc and Carver, who spend their entire time feeling like they're being dumped on, in the end they move on to other places. Hoping they'll be appreciated for their talents. But the truth is, unless they grow up and start taking their job seriously they'll always be something of a joke.

Stringer Bell, Avon and the Barksdales:

Somewhat sidelined this season, there's also not so much to write about when you get to the Barksdales. Their story tends to simmer in the background while building up towards the third season. The one exception to this is D'Angelo, who I will write about separately below.

On the whole the story of the Barksdales echoes the one of the police, while they do have various setbacks along the way they do recover. By the end of the season they have strong product, Avon is close to wangling a way out of prison early (after setting up the hot shots) and ultimately the only one of them who's made poor decisions is Stringer.

Stringer often makes poor decisions when dealing with 'the game', he's great at handling the product and acknowledging when compromises must be made. But he's not so great when dealing with problems, the way he handled D'Angelo and Brother Mouzone in particular are things which could come and bite him at a later date.

In the end Stringer's actions bring Kima's attention back onto him, Stringer got away from the Detail last time, but now they are the Major Crimes Unit and he's back on their radar (along with Prop Joe). Which sets things up for the third season.


Each season of The Wire tends to chart the fall of at least one character, the first season had Avon and D'Angelo fall hard. But the second season went one further, dropping D'Angelo and Frank Sobotka all the way to the bottom. There's a lot of parallels between Dee and Frank's stories, both were ultimately killed by people they worked for to silence them. They both suffered fates much like The Great Gatsby (the story Dee was talking about in book club before he was murdered).

There's not a lot more I can write about Dee here, except to say that his murder was quite shocking the first time I watched it, Dee was a character I'd come to like, the gangster with a heart looking to turn himself around is always a great story (and one The Wire will revisit) and Larry Gillard Jr. gave a fantastic performance as Dee.

Omar Little and Brother Mouzone:

These are the two characters who are larger than life in The Wire, they operate in a different plane of reality to the rest of the show. Both of them are big characters who seem to have strolled right off the pages of a different story and inserted themselves into The Wire. But I do have to say I'm exceptionally thankful for them, at times The Wire is so harsh, so hard and so bleak that characters like these are great because they give us some relief from it all.


The second season relegates Bubs to little more than a guest star, while Andre Royo's name remains on the opening credits Bubs himself isn't as focused on as he was in the first season. So there's not a lot to write about here. Then again, it's a natural thing if you consider; most of the action takes place in the dock area, which isn't a normal hang out for Bubs, so we would see less of him. As such he's not a lot of help as an informant for Kima. But rest assured, with the focus of the third season swinging back to the corners Bubs will become more important again.

The Greeks:

Last, but certainly not least, we have The Greek, Vondas and their organisation. They're one of the groups in the show I like most of all, while they are ruthless criminals who won't hesitate to kill anyone who threatens them they are also compelling characters with a dark attraction to them. In part it's the mystery, Vondos uses an assumed name and The Greek is only known by his alias. They're a secretive and well organised group who are so careful and well entrenched that they're almost beyond the scope of the Baltimore Police Department.

But having said that, ironically it's the involvement of the FBI which actually alerts The Greek to the situation. If the FBI hadn't been called then Koutris would never have gotten involved and The Greeks would have been caught. Instead they managed to get clear, losing Sergei/Boris, Eton, GG and Ivana - but keeping their core intact. Vondos and The Greek escaped, assumed new identities and remain at large to continue their business. And if I'm honest, I like that.

The Second Season:

The more I watch, think and write about the second season, the more it grows on me. It's an amazing piece of work which is filled with triumphs and failures, some huge and some small. It really gives the feeling of real life, there are few simple characters in it - most are very deep and realistic, as are their lives. We (the viewers) are buoyed up into their world and left to experience an incredible sensation - we watch the big and small events as they unfold - and as Cool Lester Smooth reminds us "All the pieces matter". It's all the little things which Frank, Ziggy, Nicky and the stevedores do which makes it all feel so much more real. Many drama shows skip out on the mundane and just deal with the pertinent facts for the story, normally storytelling is stripped down to the essentials to move the plot on fast.

But The Wire dwells on the details, it lingers around Dolores's bar and hangs about down at the water front. It takes it's time to savour the lives and characters. Giving us fun moments like Ziggy and Maui ragging on each other, or Boadie reflecting on the situation at the towers, it has time for characters like D'Angelo to make a statement about life even moments before snatching it away from them. It looks at not just the careers of the characters, but their personal lives as well. Showing how Daniels and Kima choose their job over their relationship and how McNulty just can't function without something to chase - to prove how smart he is.

It also revisits the first season, building on events and mythos set there, Freamon and Shardene are together. Boadie and Poot have learnt the lessons Dee attempted to teach them. Omar is still chasing for revenge over Brandon, and his van remains burnt out in street after Stringer had it burnt. It's attention to details like this which bring everything to life, what's happened before isn't forgotten about, the lessons of history might be doomed to be repeated in the cyclic nature of The Wire, but they aren't forgotten.

The second season is a masterpiece of modern storytelling and an exceptional piece of media. It's a triumph which is only overshadowed by the seasons which follow it. The third and fourth seasons of The Wire are even better than this one was. Be prepared...

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Updating schedule update

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As I'm now settled into the my new job and I have a fair idea how it's going to work out I can now provide a decent idea of how often I'll update here. I'm going to do the vast majority of my writing over the weekend and then just use the evenings in the week to polish things up a smidgen or write about the odd bit of interesting news which has caught my eye. This means there should be an update most days of the week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday at a minimum.

As for the weekends, I'm devoting that to writing about other things (i.e. not TV, so not on this blog). So unless 'Watching the Wire' is running (which it will be tomorrow for the final post Season 2: The Overview), then there will only be posts on the weekend if I have spare time and a desire to write something up. This is because I don't really have time to watch TV during the week now, I have a two to three hour commute each day and I'm out of the house for about twelve hours, so time at home is limited and precious during the week days.

As for the kind of posts you'll see. DVDs in Review will continue as I've still got a backlog of about a hundred or so DVDs. Why You Should Watch will also make the occasional appearance, depending on my mood - it's nice to write about a show in it's entirety instead of writing about the individual DVD seasons and Film Fridays will start next week.. Other things will turn up as well and as we move into September/October I'll review a few shows which are airing as well.

So hopefully that should give you an idea of what's ahead - I do wish I could devote more time to writing, but I'm not a professional journalist/critic. I'm just an enthusiast who writes fiction and reviews stuff on the side, and as such I've got to do something else to pay the bills.
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Film Fridays: An Introduction

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Starting from next week I'll be filling in Fridays (way-hay!) with a series of reviews and retrospects on various films I've watched and enjoyed over the years. Where I own the actual film I'll review the DVD set as well at the same time. Up until now I've mostly concentrated on television shows as I do prefer long running stories where I can get to grips with the characters and experience their lives, their losses and their gains. Films do offer the same experience, but on a shorter time frame - so while they are not my first love, they are something I am going to dabble with.

Sorry this isn't longer, I went out for the evening instead of coming home and writing. I wish I could devote more time to the written word, but at the moment it's not possible - one has to earn a living!
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Why You Should Watch... Supernatural

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Supernatural fully arrived on my radar around this time last year when I discovered the first two seasons were available for very reasonable prices and that I was able to get my hands on an advance copy of the third season. For a long time it was a show I was hesitant about watching due to the exceptionally photogenic duo who star in this, Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles. I was concerned that the show would be shallow and filled with eye candy moments for the ladies (and the more discerning gentlemen), or be little more than 'Buffy with blokes'.

But I dug around a little more and noticed one name in particular, Ben Edlund was involved with the project. The same Ben Edlund who gave us The Tick (or The Tick) and also worked on The Venture Bros., Angel and Firefly. This is class as a "good thing" and when combined with the low price tag it was enough to tip the balance across into 'worth a try'.

Upfront disclosure, I really like Supernatural (as evidenced in this short 3rd season DVD review). It's a show which genuinely surprised me in many directions. While the lads are very pretty and an obvious draw in themselves they are also very likable, down to earth and just fun. In fact the entire show is fun, it effortlessly mixes traditional horror along with schlock and B-Movie. Simultaneously parodying and honouring the genre at the same time while also providing an exciting ongoing story to follow.

Sam and Dean Winchester are monster hunters, their father John is also a monster hunter. When they were young their mother was killed by a demon; Dean embraced the life of hunting, Sam attempted to flee from it and until the pilot episode he succeeded. In the world of Supernatural demons, vampires, zombies, werewolves and much, much more are all very real. They lurk in the shadows and prey on the unsuspecting. Only the hunters know the truth, only the hunters know how to deal with them.

Supernatural runs with a mix of one off episodes combined with an on going storyline which grows from season to season and often provides huge almost unthinkable moments at the end of each. It's a show which grips the viewer with the constant danger these boys live in, but lightens the mood with a wry, knowing comment or an episode which pastiches another classic horror story.

The show has homaged a variety of other films, books and even TV shows in it's existance, and it's some of these which really raise the bar. Just about all of my favourite episodes come from this category and they've referenced things like Most Haunted, Evil Dead, Ghost Busters and even in my favourite episode Groundhog Day. Last season they also ran an episode which was rendered entirely in black and white and homaged the old classic hammer horror style films of the past. It's called "Monster Movie" and it's sheer genius.

In many ways Supernatural is the ideal show to watch for people who are fans of either horror movies or Josh Whedon's Buffy/Angel series. It's similar in tone but different enough to warrant watching and the humour in the show is so sharp and at times black that it really takes the experience of watching the show to another level. It's well performed, action packed, witty and just plain old cool.

And that's enough to make it worth watching...
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DVDs in Review #84: Family Guy: Season One

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Yes, that's right. This Wednesday we again dip back into the reaches of time for another DVD review, this time it's focused on the first season of Family Guy. I don't really need to go into describing the show in much detail here, Family Guy has had massive saturation across many countries with it's mix of crude, broad humour and offbeat non-sequitur style... um... humour. It features the Griffin Family, a 2.4 unit which (dys)functions it's way through life. It's been compared to The Simpsons and even South Park have parodied it in one show.

Peter, Lois, Chris, Stewie, Brian and the other one are pretty popular in the circles I move near, but the general consensus seems to be "The first three seasons are better than the later ones". Which made me curious enough to go back and see if this really is the case, in order to do so I have to start at the beginning - I've got to have something to compare against in order to decide if this is really the case or if it's rose tinted spectacle syndrome ("Things were better when I was a lad, we used to climb in a tin bath, sail down a river and kill rats with a stick.")

The first season features fourteen episodes; Death has a Shadow, I Never Met the Dead Man, Mind over Murder, Chitty Chitty Death Bang, A Hero Sits Next Door, The Son Also Draws, Brian: Portrait of a Dog, Peter Peter Caviar Eater, Running Mates, Holy Crap, If I'm Dyin' I'm Lyin', Love Thy Trophy, Death is a Bitch and The King is Dead.

On the whole they're actually a bit of a mixed bunch, The Son Also Draws is probably the first genuinely good episode in the mix; and of rest it's Peter Peter Caviar Eater, Holy Crap, Death is a Bitch and The King is Dead which are the good ones. Not bad for a show which was just finding it's legs, but it's not a season filled with memorable classics - it's more one which was trying to find it's feet and really nail it's own particular voice. This is especially noticable in Peter's fantasy/non-sequitur/sketch sequences, some of them are hilarious, but others are either exceptionally steeped in American Pop culture or just a little flat.

Likewise the animation is also crude and lacking refinement, but that's the case with most cartoons that employ a new style, it takes time for the animators to smooth out the kinks, as such the first season doesn't look as slick as some of the later seasons, especially the ones which were created after the hiatus.

Also of considerable note is the character of Meg, Lacey Chabert provided the voice in the first season and while there are some vocal similarities between herself and Mila Kunis who took over in the second season onwards, the character is more sympathetic and less a target for the entire family to dump on. It's definitely fair to say that Mila is a better fit for the direction they decided to take Meg in, but there's also the possibility that Meg became more and more a target of ridicule because of Mila's performance. She is the queen of shrill, whiney young women for sure. Irregardless, first season Meg is a far more rounded character than her later incarnation, and Lacey is to thank for that.

So, is the first season great? The answer is 'Umm, sort of', it's filled with comedy and laugh out loud skits, but the first half of the season is middling to average and it's only towards the end of the season that things really come to life. I'd actually go as far as to say that the later seasons are an improvement over this one.

That all said, the first season of Family Guy is still a great product to own, one which holds up to repeated viewing and is comparable in standard to the first season of The Simpsons. It's an enjoyable beginning which lays the groundwork for some fantastic later seasons.

My version features an "Interactive Menu" and "Scene Access". Wow! Someone better stop the presses. It's possible later versions have better extras, but mine dates from during the 'cancelled years'.

Audio: 2.0 Stereo
Aspect Ratio: 4:3
Rating: 15
Region: 2
Run time: 312 mins
Soundtrack: English
Subtitles: English HOH
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10 Items Or Less: The First Season Verdict

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Just recently, while perusing the FXUK listings a comedy show named 10 Items or Less caught my eye and interest. It's a remarkably low profile show, currently lacking enough ratings on the IMDB to even garner a score and just a meager 8 people have voted for it on TV.com (9.2 atm, but 8 people is hardly a decent sample size). So I set to pulling a little research about the show, wikipedia, the official site and a few reviews here and there; and I liked enough of what I read to decide that giving the first season a try would be prudent.

10 Items or Less is an off-beat comedy show about Greens & Grains, a small grocery store/supermarket which is owned by Leslie Poole John Lehr, who inherited it after his father passed away. The business and it's small number of staff exist under the shadow of the far larger chain Super Value Mart, which is run by Amy Anderson (Jennifer Elise Cox). Leslie's staff are small in number; there is Todd the Butcher and ladies man (Chris Payne Gilbert), Ingrid (Kirsten Gronfield) who's enamoured with Todd, Yolanda (Roberta Valderrama) who is a curvy and outspoken latino mother, checkout/bagging team Richard (Christopher Liam Moore) and Buck (Greg Davis Jr.) and last but not least a familiar face to comedy Bob Clendenin as Carl.

The first season, which runs for just five episodes is a punchy and fast paced comedy show which is mostly improvised. Much like Curb Your Enthusiasm the show is scripted in broad sweeps and then the actual dialog is improvised by the actors. John Lehr has compared the style to that of Spinal Tap and it gives the comedy a spontaneous and somewhat natural feel to it. It's a very energetic show with a low tech appearance much like It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and at times it even brings the feel of The Office and Arrested Development to the screen. It's comedy in a similar vein to these shows and it holds up reasonably well when compared to them.

The entire cast give strong and fun performances, Bob in particular does well - he's normally cast as a more ditsy and 'lost' type of person, but here he's a little more down to earth. Chris as Todd is also great, bringing a lot of charisma to the screen. But it's John Lehr's performance as Leslie which is the lynch pin of the show. He brings a huge amount of energy to the character, making him feel a lot like Michael Bluthe (hence the comparison to Arrested Development) which is no bad thing, because Michael is an incredibly likable and fun character. Likewise Leslie is also fun, he's a bit more of a heel than Michael though, he's desperate to keep his business afloat and that results in him making unethical decisions at times. But he has good intentions at heart (remind you of someone else from the world of comedy?) It's important to any comedy show that the central character clicks with the viewer, and he does.

Over the first five episodes the gang deal with a range of subjects; including - but not limited to - buy outs, religious stains, speed bagging, bison membership and health insurance. The earlier episodes are a little rough, but the show finds it's feet rapidly and by the fifth episode it's grown into something with real promise and is quite often laugh out loud funny.

I'm certainly going to be checking out (groan) the second season as soon as possible and I'd recommend you give it a try yourself.

Full episodes are available to watch over at the official TBS site: http://www.tbs.com/shows/10items.jsp and you can check out Greens & Grains Grocers' website here. It also airs on FXUK, so keep an eye on your schedule for it.
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DVDs in Review #83 - Flight of the Conchords: Season Two

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Flight of the Conchords' first season was a quirky mix of comedy, songs and just general fun tomfoolery on the small screen. It was very well received all round and I enjoyed watching it myself, it felt like a less wacky - but still offbeat - and funny Mighty Boosh. The second season brings us another ten episodes of
"Formerly New Zealand's fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo" and continues their quest for fame, fortune and recognition in the Big Apple.

Just like the previous series this takes place in tight episodes which chart the misery, discomfort and humiliation which represents Jermaine and Bret's lives. The pair are still broke, desperate and managed by the ever optimistic Murray. Attendance at their gigs is low and it looks like things couldn't get worse, or could they?

The second season raises the stakes somewhat in the guest star roster, present this season is a wide range of fantastic actors and actresses. Including Greg Proops (Who's line is it anyway?), Alan Dale (24, Neighbours, Ugly Betty), the fantastic Sarah Wynter (Who I've rated since watching her in The Dead Zone), Kristen Wiig (SNL), the brilliant Patton Oswalt (King of Queens), Lucy Lawless and even Michael Potts (Brother Mouzone - The Wire). It seems the second season has been kind to the guys.

As for the main cast; both Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie continue to be great as their hapless fictional counterparts, but it's Rhys Darby as Murray who really steals the show repeatedly with his misguided attempts to manage the boys. Kristen Schaal remains fantastically annoying and creepy as Mel and Arj Barker doesn't skip a beat with his performance as man's man Dave. All in all the cast remain as good as ever.

The songs on the other hand vary a lot in quality, the first season had nothing but pure dynamite in the tune department. But the second season is a bit more of a mixed bag, some of the songs are marvelous to listen to and have hilarious lyrics, but some of the others fall a little flat. It's a bit of a shame that the show is let down in this department.

Ultimately the second season of Flight of the Conchords is very watchable and funny. But it's not as good as the first season was, the cracks are beginning to show a little and as such it falls down at times. When it's funny, it's incredibly funny, but when it's not - it's really off the mark. Fortunately Rhys' performance as Murray is always on target, but he can't carry everything by himself. Jermaine and Bret on the other hand are a little uneven, and some of the stories are as well. Oh and Mel really begins to grate on my nerves after a while, I realise she's meant to be annoying, but when you find yourself wishing a character in a sitcom would get killed off in a horrible fashion, maybe they've gone a little too far with her.

It's fun to watch and a pleasant way to spend a few evenings, but not an instant classic comedy.

Flight of the Conchords on Air Documentary Feature
Dave's Pawn Shop Commercials
New Zealand Consulate Meetings with Murray and Greg
Deleted Scenes

Audio: 5.1 Dolby Digital
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Full Frame
Run time: 269 Mins Approx
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish
Rating: 15
Region: 2
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Watching The Wire: Season Two: Episode Twelve: "Port in a Storm"

"Business, Always business."
– The Greek

Teleplay by David Simon
Directed by Robert F. Colesbury

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, 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, James Ransone as Ziggy Sobotka, Pablo Schreiber as Nick Sobotka, Melanie Nicholls-King as Cheryl, Michael Potts as Brother Mouzone, Bill Raymond as The Greek, Michael K. Williams as Omar Little, Maria Broom as Marla Daniels, Al Brown as Major Stanislaus Valchek, Robert F. Chew as Proposition Joe, Kristin Proctor as Aimee, Tray Chaney as Malik "Poot" Carr, Robert Hogan as Louis Sobotka, Charley Scalies as Thomas "Horseface" Pakusa, Delaney Williams as Sergeant Jay Landsman, Chris Ashworth as Sergei "Serge" Malatov, Richard Burton as Shamrock, Leo Fitzpatrick as Johnny, Jeffrey Fugitt as Officer Claude Diggins, S. Robert Morgan as Butchie, Luray Cooper as Nat Coxson, Kelvin Davis as La La, Bus Howard as Ott, Lance Irwin as Maui, Jeffrey Pratt Gordon as Johnny "Fifty" Spamanto, Benay Berger as FBI Supervisor Amanda Reese, Tommy Hahn as FBI Special Agent Salmond, Kevin McKelvy as FBI Agent, Doug Olear as FBI Special Agent Terrance "Fitz" Fitzhugh, William L. Thomas as FBI Agent, Isiah Whitlock, Jr. as Senator Clay Davis, Brian Anthony Wilson as Detective Vernon Holley, Michael Willis as Andy Krawczyk, Lev Gorn as Eton Ben-Eleazer, Brook Yeaton as "White" Mike McArdle, Gary "D-Reign" as Frog, De'Rodd Hearns as Puddin, DeAndre McCullough as Lamar, Richard Pelzman as Little Big Roy, Doug Lory as Big Roy, J. Valenteen Gregg as Chess, Jon Garcia as Ringo, Paul Majors as Officer MacGraul, Schuster Vance as Walt Stokes and Michael Salconi as Officer Santangelo

The Summary:

Read about leaks, walls and ocean fishing beyond the link...

The Recap:

The day opens with sunny skies and music, down in the docks things are quiet at the Santa Ray has been delayed. Nick calls at his uncle’s house and knocks the door. Out on the water a patrol boat is fishing something out. The stevedores gather to watch. Nick arrives at the meet point where Frank headed to last night and finds his uncle’s car abandoned. The patrol boat arrives at the dock; the stevedores rush up towards it as Nicky arrives to check Frank’s office. He sees the commotion at the dock and runs there, a body is lifted from the water and lowered down while everyone watches. The cover is pulled back, it’s Frank, his throat has been cut. Nicky stands there as homicide is called in. Silence reigns…

Cue the credits…

At the Detail’s office Freamon, Kima and Daniels are going over the end game situation. Vondras has gone to ground, Stephen Rados seems to be little more than a driver’s licence. Freamon receives a phone call from Landsman

In homicide thirteen headless and handless bodies have turned up in the mid-Atlantic region, the speculation is four dozen of these in total. Freamon tells him to pass these to south east. Looks like the Greeks are taking care of business.

Stringer is in hospital, he’s checking up on Mouzone who’s recovering nicely thanks to the clean passage of the bullet and Omar calling the emergency services. Stringer assures Mouzone that he’ll find who did this. Mouzone tells Stringer that there’s no need, and also asks him to inform Avon that the incident is considered absolved. Mouzone is going to handle this. He will handle ‘them’ himself. Stringer asks Mouzone who came at him; Mouzone doesn’t answer and dismisses Stringer. Its clear Mouzone knows exactly what happened and why.

Nicky rages in Franks office over the death of his uncle, he’s restrained by the other stevedores and then mollified by the arrival of his father Louis, who just tells him “lets go”. Nicky does so.

Elsewhere in Baltimore Bubbles and Johnny are spectators for a street side overdose; apparently ‘the bomb is the bomb’. They walk away. Nearby Santangelo directs traffic, if you recall he was busted down by Rawls at the end of the last season over his involvement in the Detail’s case, or more importantly his refusal to snitch on the Detail. No good deed goes unpunished. Bubs raids the back of the ambulance while Johnny keeps an eye out. As he departs he’s caught by Santangelo, Johnny failed as lookout.

The Detail arrive at the docks, homicide is already there. Landsman remembered to call Daniels this time and he tells the lieutenant the details, it seems Frank didn’t go peacefully; he tried to defend himself but was overwhelmed. Bea starts to cry at the site of Frank’s body. She feels guilty over this as she was involved with everything from the start. She’s not responsible, but that doesn’t stop her feeling bad.

Herc and Carver are still waiting for Nicky, Herc is feeling hard done by and wasted here. Carver is ‘starting to sound like McNulty;. Herc plans to move back to narcotics and go elsewhere, Carver on the other hand is considering sticking behind Daniels.

In Valchek’s office Daniels is giving the Polish captain the skinny. Valchek is not too bothered about this. But Daniels is happy as well, the case has resulted in the creation of the major crimes unit with him at the head. It’s a winner for Daniels. They then talk about Prez’s indiscrete punch, Daniels angles to have the charges dropped. Daniels lays it out and points out that FBI will write it exactly as it happened and that’ll make Valchek look back. Valchek finally agrees to drop the charges if Prez apologizes, grovels and spends two months on the midnight shift. Looks like Daniels gets to keep Prez as a part of the newly formed Major Crimes Unit (MCU).

At the front desk of the BPD Nicky is trying to turn himself in, but the officer on the front desk isn’t interested. Fortunately Freamon is down there at the same time, collecting some papers and he hears the entire thing while looking at pictures.

Kima and McNulty meet with Bubs about the stolen morphine.

Vondras knocks on a hotel door; he’s come to talk with The Greek about Sobotka’s body resurfacing. The problem now is Nicky, they tried to get him, but the police are looking as well. The Greek is quite philosophical about this “What he says, he says,” and Vondras agrees. They’re pretty safe as they use aliases all the time. So the plan is to finish up their business, there’s a can of 150kgs on the docks which Vondras thinks should be collected. The Greek disagrees; he feels the police are getting to close. The Greeks will be shutting down business completely and moving on.

Burrell and Rawls meet with the FBI, Ronnie and Daniels over the final situation. Everything is looking tidy, apart from Rawls’s fourteen bodies. The phone rings for Daniels, it’s Freamon. Nicky’s talking.

McNulty and Kima are looking for some information from Bubs in exchange to avoid jail. He doesn’t have much for them and is worried. But Johnny goes on to mention Cheese being shot. He tells the story of how Mouzone shot Cheese with the rat shot. He goes on to tell the cops how it looks like they are now sharing.

Nicky meets with the Detail at the office, he’s willing to co-operate entirely because they killed his uncle. He admits he knows the Greeks did it because he told them about the meeting. He tells them about what happened at the end of the last episode, the deal the Greeks offered to Frank. Nicky realises how close it came to him being killed as well, only Frank’s refusal to let him come with him. Nicky then goes on to explain about the deal they had with the Greeks; about the cans, the girls, the drugs. The Detail then let Nicky know that Ziggy was going down regardless. But they are willing to honour Frank’s original deal. Nicky explains about Vondras and the organisation - Eton ran drugs, GG stolen goods, Sergei was the muscle and the mule. He also tells them that the guy who stove in the air pipe on the girl’s can was also dead.

Freamon goes on to show Nicky the picture of Vondras, Stephen and (as we know) The Greek. Nicky doesn’t recognise him at all. Bunk tells Nicky that they know there was a man above Vondras. Nicky knows of him as The Greek. They try to refocus on the picture, confirm that the man in the blue suit isn’t The Greek. Nicky frowns, looks at the picture and points to the man lighting the cigarette “That’s The Greek right there.”

Kima and McNulty look over the details on Cheese, poor Santangelo is out the collar, once again shafted for no reason other than being there. Bubs and Johnny look thrilled as they are released. As they leave Kima asks about the product in the towers, Bubs confirms that it’s great.

At the office Fitz is able to confirm that Stephen the Blue suit is a lawyer. But he also has details of the can arriving. Nicky is going into witness protection, Freamon tells him to keep it as quiet as possible, they’ve already lost one co-operator today. Freamon phones Daniels and the pair talk about Nicky’s witness protection. It seems Daniels and his wife are sleeping in separate rooms now.

Fitz picks up a fax and then gets on the phone. He phones to ask after one Agent Koutris, but it seems that Koutris has been called up to counterterrorism and has been there for a year. Fitz looks disturbed, he’s realised where the leak was and now it’s gone.

Herc is still raging over being stuck in the car, he and Carver march out and bang on Nicky’s door. Louis answers and Carver rants at him. Once he’s finished Louis tells Carver his son has handed himself in already, he shows Carver Freamon’s card. The dynamic duo are not impressed.

Aimee, Nicky and his daughter are moved into a motel. They finally have a place together.

The Detail look at the photos Freamon collected earlier, they’re a series of headless, handless bodies. Freamon asks if they kept some photos from the Atlantic Light. Bunk and Bea head out to the Philly office. Herc and Carver storm in, what are they upset about?

Omar is in Butchie’s bar, talking about what went down between himself and Mouzone. Butchie confirms that Mouzone normally works elsewhere and also is so determined and through that if Mouzone had been contracted to kill Omar then they would have met up and one of them would be dead. Butchie blames himself for this; Omar tells Butchie that he’s going after Stringer. A reckoning will be coming for this.

In Daniels’s office, the dynamic duo complaining about the treatment they’ve been suffering now. Carver stands up, he’s planning to switch to Major Colvin’s district, a place where his sergeant stripes will be respected.

Kima and McNulty are taking photos.

Bunk and Bea arrive in Philadelphia; they want to know about something unusual. The security guard is helpful, in a not very helpful manner. Just as they’re about to leave the guard mentions the video tapes.

Kima is with Cheryl, shopping for a stroller. Kima looks less than thrilled; Cheryl on the other hand is ecstatic over all this baby stuff. Needless to say, the two clash over this briefly.

In the motel room Nicky is watching TV with his daughter; Aimee asks him what’s going to happen now. He doesn’t answer.

At the docks the hot can is dumped by the stevedores.

At the office, Kima talks to Freamon about Prop Joe’s ordering from the Greeks. He’s doubled his re-ups recently. Freamon and Fitz continue to watch the cans, nothing’s happening.

Vondras meets with Prop Joe on a bench about the situation. Vondras tells him that there will be new people in a week. Joe’s stash is low and he’s concerned, but the last shipment is ‘lost’ as the police might be on it. Joe is happy to follow this, Vondras leaves without telling him anything more.

At the docks the Detail come to conclude that the Greeks are gone in the wind. Daniels mutters about how ‘if the Greeks hadn’t got wind that they were after them it would have been one hell of a case’. Fitz looks embarrassed and walks away.

In county Stringer and Avon are talking about events involving Mouzone. He’s gone. Avon’s not happy about this, but there is nothing he can do. He’s stuck inside. They talk about how business is down right now, Avon agrees to cut a deal with Prop Joe – at least until Avon’s back outside.

The tape from Philly is multiplex, the Detail see the scene unfold as the guy from the Atlantic Light is caught, beaten and abducted.

Stringer meets with Prop Joe about the re-up; they’re going to have to wait a week. But Avon is now on board. The meet is photographed by Kima, her instincts were good.

Ott and the Stevedores meet together about the situation now Frank is desceased. They are interrupted by the FBI. They’re here to tell them that the Union needs to clean up and elect new officers or be shut down. Ott stands up, pulls his name off the board and leaves Frank’s up there. As he says himself ‘One man, one vote.’ Re-elect Frank Sobotka.

Sergei sits in the interview room with Freamon and Bunk. They replay Sergei’s phone conversation with White Mike about the hands and faces, then they show him the photos of the bodies fished out of the water. Then they go one better and show him a photo of the guy before he was decapitated, the tattoos and DNA match. Sergei/Borish claims innocent. They play the tape and enhance the image. Pulling up Maryland tags on the car, the rental records lead directly to Sergei. He’s facing the death penalty. Sergei admits to being there, but not doing the deed. He tells them Vondras did it, the penalty for using the women and then killing them.

A happy Bunk exits, all fourteen girls are down, plus another one as a bonus. Daniels heads back in and shows Sergei the photo, asking for The Greek’s name. Sergei gives them a hotel and tells them he’ll show them.

The police burst into the hotel room. It’s empty. The Greeks have fled. Leaving only a bottle of Ouzo and cigarettes on the table.

The Greek checks in at the airport. He realises he’s forgotten something. Daniels finds The Greek’s beads in the hotel room.

At the bar the Detail are all present and drinking, the case is at a wall. That’s it, The Greek and Vondras are gone. All they can do is sit now. But Kima has some good news, McNulty shows Daniels a little holiday snap of Stringer and Prop Joe. Looks like the MCU has their first big case. McNulty heads over to talk with Ronnie, Bea watches. Fitz talks with Daniels, he admits that the leak came from the FBI FedCom software. The case failed because the FBI became involved. Freamon offers to buy a round, no-one bites.

At the motel Nicky pulls on his jacket and shoes. Aimee asks him where he’s going, Nicky answers “Work.”

Valchek receives another letter, the surveillance van has made it to Australia, Valchek sounds almost regretful as he half chuckles over Frank’s stunt with the van.

Nicky is dropped off for work by the federal agent. He walks into the stevedore cafeteria, there’s not much work going on. (Re-elect Frank Sobotka!) So he leaves and walks down the road, followed by the agent in his car. He hangs off from the fence.

Closing montague! With "I Feel Alright" by Steve Earle (Waylon in The Wire) over the top of it.

The I.B.S. is shut down by the feds.
Johnny 50 urinates on a can then flips the bird at the port police.
Horse is brought up on charges in court.
Landsman and Rawls look thrilled as the bodies on the board all go black.
Ziggy walks in prison, orange jumpsuit a flashing.
The Grain Pier condominium is opened by Clay Davies.
Bea returns to patrolling the docks.
Freamon takes down the detail’s photos, leaving The Greek’s photo up there alone.
Life goes on in Baltimore, Frog continues to deal.
As does Poot.
The stevedores drink.
Prop Joe checks the new product. It’s good.
New girls are found in the back of a can and moved out be the police.
Life goes on.
Nicky stares through the link fence.
The rain pours.
He walks on…

The Review:

Another chapter in The Wire's story closes and we're nearly halfway through the entire run of the show (25 out of 60). There are going to be additional thoughts on the season as a complete entity up next Sunday, so right now I'm just going to focus on the events of this episode alone. This is of course the first episode in the season which doesn't have Chris Bauer shouldering a massive amount of the plot and scenes, instead Pablo Schreiber has to take over the Sobotka on screen legacy - but he does excellent work, Nicky has been an interesting reflection of Frank all season and Pablo is fantastic in this final episode.

The closing montague brings home the message of entire season as well the scenes of industrial decay are spiced with scenes that show 'life goes on'. The message of The Wire's second season is clear, America's industry is in decline but the people who work with it are not, they'll go to any port in order to try and survive. That's why Frank turned to the Greeks in the first place, to try and facilitate survival for his kid, his nephew and the men in his union. Ultimately all his hard work was brought down, and all because of one idiot sailor with a hammer and one stained glass window in a church.

The episode also sets up the storyline for the third season towards the end, Kima finds the first case for the Major Crime Unit and it's a familiar one. Stringer and Prop Joe look like the likely targets, something I'm sure McNulty will love to get his teeth into as Stringer got away from him.

Next week I'll write up the chapter header for the second season, which will include links to each episode review. It will also look at each major character and what's happened with them over the season, while also looking at the season as an entire entity.

But Port in a Storm was a fantastic finale for the season. Re-elect Frank Sobotka!

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Watching The Wire: Season Two: Episode Eleven: "Bad Dreams"

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"I need to get clean"
-- Sobotka

Teleplay by George P. Pelecanos
Directed by Ernest Dickenson

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, 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, 2. Domenick Lombardozzi as Detective Thomas "Herc" Hauk, James Ransone as Ziggy Sobotka, Pablo Schreiber as Nick Sobotka, Michael Potts as Brother Mouzone, Michael K. Williams as Omar Little, Chris Ashworth as Sergei "Serge" Malatov, Al Brown as Major Stanislaus Valchek, Bill Raymond as The Greek, Delaney Williams as Sergeant Jay Landsman, Luray Cooper as Nat Coxson, Robert Hogan as Louis Sobotka, Bus Howard as Ott, Doug Lory as Big Roy, Richard Pelzman as Little Big Roy, Benay Berger as FBI Supervisor Amanda Reese, Toni Lewis as Assistant United States Attorney Nadiva Bryant, Kevin McKelvy as FBI Agent, Doug Olear as FBI Agent Terrance "Fitz" Fitzhugh, William L. Thomas as FBI Agent, Kelli R. Brown as Kimmy, Edwina Findley as Tosha Mitchell, Tom Mardirosian as Agent Koutris, Gordana Rashovich as Ilona Petrovich, Brook Yeaton as "White" Mike McArdle, Keith Flippen as Bruce DiBiago, Aphrodite Georgelakos as Unknown,. Clifton Gross as stevedore, Steve Lukiewski as stevedore, Jackie Sawiris as Unknown, Paul G. Sepczynski as stevedore, Derren M. Fuentes as QRT Leader Torret, Tommy Hahn as FBI Special Agent Salmond, Merritt Wever as Prissy, Lev Gorens as Eton Ben-Eleazer, Charley Scalies as Thomas "Horseface" Pakusa, Jeffrey Pratt Gordon as Johnny "Fifty" Spamanato, Elisabeth Noone as Joan Sobotka, DeAndre McCullough as Lamar and David Simon as David Simon - Reporter

The Summary:

Nick is asleep, at 6am his parents house is opened with a traditional Baltimore alarm clock – the door being busted down and officers in protective gear bursting in while yelling ‘Freeze’. At Pyramid Inc. the Detail go to work, while Bunk and Freamon head up the team which busts into GG’s place. The search of Pyramid is fruitless, it’s been cleaned out and the only hint of any wrong doing left is some heroin powder near the drain (which featured at the end of the last episode if you recall). GG’s place is likewise cleaned out and Freamon looks exasperated. Bunk points to the blood stain on the floor.

The homes of the various ‘persons of interest’ are hit. Carver and Herc find Nick’s stash of cash and his vials. They present this to Nick’s father, mother and Aimee, but Nick is not present – he’s with another woman (after his night of drinking over Ziggy) and as such he’s escaped the BPD. For now.

Cue the credits…

Frank walks out of his home, oblivious to the events which are going on elsewhere, he picks up his papers and notes that Ziggy’s shooting is featured on one of them. As he walks off down the street the feebees note ‘that target 27 is on the move.’ Valchek is in the back with them.

Back at the office Daniels is explaining to Bea why they haven’t picked up Spiros, the message which triggered this flurry of activity (“Shut down”) indicates to them that Spiros is not the boss man, they were mistaken, so they’re leaving him out on the streets in the hope it leads to the real boss, a man we know is called The Greek, but the Detail have never even seen. Bunk and Freamon come in to reveal that Double G is going to dodge his warrant thanks to the actions of one Chester Karol Sobotka, that’s Ziggy to you, me and everyone else on the docks. It seems the homicide department failed to pass on the information, naughty Landsman. Bea adds a note to GG’s photo – deceased.

Outside an angry Daniels walks past Herc, Carver and McNulty – he ignores them as he gets into the car. McNulty brings the duo (and us) back up to speed, Eton, Sergei/Boris and the madam are caught and the feds are waiting on Sobotka.

Sobotka himself is in the office, attempting to sort out a criminal lawyer for Ziggy. The FBI hit the dock workers offices, a puffed up Valchek strutting in front of them. Frank and Horse are handcuffed, the feebees look out of the windows, waiting.

Nick arrives back home, his mother is too upset to talk, downstairs his father is putting things back in order after the search, also almost unable to talk – “It’s gone, and the money too…” Nick is then told to go to the police with his father.

Sobotka is finally taken out by Valchek, to a horde of reporters and photographers, David Simon is amongst them – he’s the one asking “Is it just you, or is it the whole union.”

Daniels tears (justifiably) into Landsman over the GG debacle, he asks what Landsman took from the scene, Landsman realises that all the other evidence, all the files, they are gone and he had a chance to call the Detail and ensure that the all that ended up as evidence. It’s gone now. Daniels is mollified somewhat by Landsman’s shamed expression and they talk about Ziggy.

In the various interview rooms Herc and Carver (our dynamic duo) interview Eton, Bea and Kima handle the madam and Fitz and McNulty deal with Sergei/Boris. For the most part they’re getting nowhere, but McNulty’s decision to call Sergei “Boris” gets some small reaction from him.

Frank is also being interviewed, but he’s also being offered a deal – if he comes clean he can help himself and his union. The mention of the union is enough to get a reaction from Frank, one of derision about said ‘help’. White Mike is interviewed by Kima and McNulty, featuring the ‘no hands, no face’ conversation. White Mike tries to play dumb, but Kima nails him with the evidence. He sits there quietly.

Frank is with his lawyer, talking about his bail healing.

White Mike has broken somewhat, he’s willing to pass on information, at least the details of Sergei and Eton. Kima is sent out for some food.

Omar arrives for a meet with Stringer; he’s brought friends, big friends. But Stringer isn’t here to cause trouble – directly. Stringer goes as far as to say as much, but Omar makes it clear that he’s still hurting over Brandon. Stringer admits that he put out the hit, but didn’t do the deed. Stringer claims that another man did all the torture, a man seeking to build his rep, a man after Omar. Stringer puts Brother Mauzone into Omar’s sights, claiming that Mouzone is responsible for all the torture which happened to Brandon. Omar agrees to this.

Frank heads out of the lobby, he wants to ‘get clean’ and see his son.

White Mike continues to spill the beans on what he knows, how Mau Mau Willis was killed. Kima wants to know who Eton and Sergei report to, but White Mike doesn’t know and never did want to know.

Frank meets with Ziggy who looks beaten. Frank rails against what the cops did to him, assuming that the police beat Ziggy, but Ziggy coolly admits that it isn’t the cops, indicating with a flick of his head that it’s the other inmates who are responsible. Frank asks Siggy what happened, and Ziggy admits he was tired of being seen as a clown. How Frank didn’t pay much attention to him. Frank tells Ziggy how he worked all for Ziggy. Frank tells him he’s a Sobotka, Ziggy tells him he’s ‘fucked’ and leaves, walking back into the detention area while Frank watches.

Later that evening the Detail talk about the progress, only White Mike is talking and he doesn’t have much. The case peters out when they head towards Spiros, the plan is to stay on him, Daniels asks if Fitz can help out on surveillance, but Fitz admits that the Feds are done with this case now they have what they want – which was the Union. So it’s up to the Detail to do the work.

Frank and his brother sit down to talk about what’s happened, they’ve both got sons who’ve broken the law severely, Frank attempts to brush things off but Louis is more concerned, he has a receipt which indicates heroin. Frank is a little thrown by this, admits he knew that Ziggy and Nick were stealing, but nothing more, needless to say Louis is angry about this, he sees that Frank let them wander down that road by giving them the first step. Louis leaves the room.

At a motel, Lemar is waiting outside Mouzone’s room; he knocks the door and heads inside. Mouzone wants his Harpers, and Lemar heads out to get it. Omar watches this from the shadows.

The next day Frank arrives in his car, walking past the union as he enters the offices, he’s greeted with silence. He takes Little Big Roy’s card from him, he plans to work the ships for Roy, allowing the man to sit on a bar stool but still get paid. After checking in he leaves.

Bunk and McNulty are on Vondras, the man has dressed up in a suit but still wears his flat cap. McNulty speculates on the suit, but he’s wrong, Bunk corrects him as the Bunk man knows his suits. Vondras is on the move and they follow.

Frank works the dock, unloading a container.

Meanwhile. Vondras pulls up into a car park, still tailed by Bunk and McNulty. McNulty struggles with the camera film, inside Vondras gets out of his car with Bea and Kima nearby. Bea is going to be following Vondras, Kima tells her to use reflections and the like to keep an eye on Vondras rather than watching him directly. She begins to tail, using reflections and the like to keep her distance.

Eventually Vondras heads into a hotel and takes the lift, Beadie hesitates before heading in and riding the lift with him. She pretends to search through her purse until Vondras gets off at the fifth floor; heading in the opposite direction for a while then doubling back and watching Vondras enter a hotel room. Room 520 to be precise.

Frank continues to unload containers.

Vondras leaves with a man in a blue suit, McNulty snaps a picture of this, catching another man in the picture, a elderly man in a hat lighting a cigarette who then walks on. Bunk and McNulty assume that the man in the blue suit is the important one and pay no attention to the unassuming gentleman who departs.

Vondras returns to the car park, and leaves with the blue suited man in a different car. No-one sees them leave. Kima drives out of the car park as The Greek walks past her. She doesn’t even look in his direction.

Frank continues to work out on the docks.

Back at the Detail’s offices Ronnie, Bunk, Bea, McNulty and Kima talk about what they found out. The room was registered to a Stephen Rados from northwest DC. The plan is to now run up the paper trail. White Mike is going to be offered witness protection and a long probation, Frank is out with no charges on him apparently. Bea wants to know what happens if she comes at Frank straight and talks with him.

Frank meets with Bruce, it turns out the Grain Pier is dead thanks to Frank’s profile in the papers. They’re all pulling out because they can’t afford to be caught about the money they’ve taken. Frank tells Bruce something as he’s leaving, that the problem with America is that they used to build thinks, make things, but now they just take from others instead, which is the overriding theme of the second season, the collapse of the American blue collar way of life.

Vondras is with The Greek at a restaurant, he is troubled and worried, unable to eat. But The Greek is quite calm. The Greek tells him that there’s only one thing to do now, silence Frank and his nephew permanently – as apart from Eton, the madam and Sergei – they are the only people who can identify The Greek and Vondras. Vondras mentions that Ziggy is the lever which can be used to move these two, if the witness happens to change his statement and refuse to testify then Ziggy walks. Vondras likes both Nicky and Frank you see, especially Nicky – as The Greek notes here.

The dynamic duo are camping outside Nicky’s place, Nicky still hasn’t returned and they’re getting tired of waiting.

At Mouzone’s motel a car arrives with Tasha and Kimmy all dolled up. They walk up to Lemar and distract him before he’s hit from behind by Omar who then knocks Mouzone’s door with the safe code. Mouzone opens the door and is shot in the gut by Omar. Omar stands over him and the two men talk, Omar tells Mouzone why he shot him and why he’s going to kill him in a moment. Omar talks about Brandon and what happened to the boy last year, Mouzone tells him that he’s wrong and then tells him to ‘do what he will’. After a moment Omar un-cocks his gun, he’s decided not to shoot him. The two talk a little shop about the bullet before Omar calls in the shooting and leaves. Mouzone will live.

Frank is in his office when the door knocks, in comes Bea. Frank feels betrayed by her; she wants him to talk with him. They talk about why Frank did what he did, why he let this happen. Bea tells him to come in and come clean, the pair both get emotional – they have a long friendship. She leaves him a card and walks out, telling him he’s better than this.

At Vondras’s place Bunk and McNulty conclude Vondras may have ditched the Benz.

Nicky meets with Vondras, Vondras is here to make things right for Nicky and Ziggy. Vondras explains, handing him a passport with Vondras on it under a new name. Nicky asks what can be done, Vondras tells him ‘We ask for only loyalty.” Then they talk about hockey.

Frank has headed into the Detail’s office, he’s looking to protect Ziggy and Nicky. A decent prison for Ziggy and probation for Nicky is offered. Frank then tells them he’s willing to give them everything, the girls, The Greek, everything except the Union. Ronnie then tells him that they need a Lawyer before they go any further.

Before he leaves Freamon asks why Frank stopped using the phone, Frank tells them he knew it was flagged.


The Greek, Blue Suit and Vondras at the restaurant. Horse at the Office. Frank on the Phone with Nicky. Vondras tears up his passport. The Greek hands him a new one. Nicky smokes. Fitz faxes the details of Frank’s deal. Frank meets with Nicky.

Nicky tells Frank that the Greeks want to talk with him under the bridge. Frank rages at Nicky over the heroin. But he blames himself for all this. Blames himself for the loss of the Grain Pier, Frank refuses to meet with the Greeks, he tells them he’ll talk to the police instead. But then Nicky tells Frank that the Greeks can make Ziggy’s charges fall through - in exchange for loyalty. Frank kicks the fence in frustration before agreeing to this. Frank tells Nicky to stay, that he’ll talk to the Greeks himself, alone.

The Greeks arrive for the meeting. The fax travels in the FBI office. Sobotka heads towards the meet. The fax arrives with a clerk and is entered onto the system as Frank arrives. An email of the details is sent, Agent Koutris sees it, especially the name “The Greek” and picks up the phone. As Frank walks up to the Greeks, The Greek’s phone rings and then the man says to Vondras “Your way, it won’t work”…

The Review:

Bad Dreams is just an amazing episode, like the previous season's penultimate episode "Cleaning Up" a huge amount happens in this episode, events for the storyline and emotional moments abound. In particular it's the way the episode builds up towards a climax which is both surprising and inevitable, a lot of the acting weight lands heavily on Chris Bauer's performance as Frank and he's more than equal to the task. I'm often surprised I don't see Chris in more things as his portayal of Frank over this season endeared me to his character immensely, Frank is one of my favourite characters in the show and probably my favourite one in season two.

It's also great to see all the pieces fall in place for the various plot elements, especially Koutris who has a some what sudden appearance which takes time to pay off. He was introduced to show how large and deep the Greek organisation runs and also to show why they're so well informed. If they've got people willing to pass on information where haven't they? A few favours here and there and in return they get information. I'm sure to Koutris it doesn't feel like he's doing that much wrong, he probably looks on the relationship like one with a C.I. but the consequences are massive. Then again, considering the scale of things it's also possible that Koutris is exceptionally corrupt or The Greek has something else over his head which caused the original corruption. "We don't talk about this, and in exchange you give us a little information." It's hard to tell from what little information we have.

Naturally I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to say that Frank is heading into a bad meeting now, if only the FBI hadn't been involved. But that's one of the things which I've noticed about The Wire, the FBI are not a great organisation in it, they're like a bunch of cowboy builders - swooping in to complete the job as fast as possible and leaving problems behind when they go. The FBI may have great resources, but if they hadn't been brought into this case by Valchek then the Greek and all of his people wouldn't have been tipped off and bailed out. One small pebble, one huge outcome - the butterfly effect in action!

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