Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Wire: Season Four: Part One

NOTE: This covers the whole season, it's just broken into parts because there's so, so much to say.

The Wire’s first season was a masterpiece, a near flawless season of television. After watching it, I wondered, how much better could the show get? But, these past two seasons have completely annihilated the first season with a startling ambition that’s unmatched by anything else that ever aired on TV. With the Barksdale storyline wrapped up, the fourth season shifts focus to a new set of gangsters, drug kingpin Marlo Stansfield and Baltimore mayor Tommy Carcetti. It’s more of a slow build than season three, but watching the final two episodes of the season last night was an overwhelming experience, absolutely devastating in a way that feels earned and not at all manipulative. I’ll need a few more days to place the season in terms of TV history, but both this and year three rank with the best seasons of all time. You could make a very strong argument that this two season run is the strongest any show has ever done.

With so much going on this season, I’m going to break out things by character and delve in from there. Things will all overlap, but there’s seriously so much, I could go on and on and barely scratch the surface. One of the most astonishing things about the show, despite Simon’s insistence that it’s about story, not character, is that at least thirty characters have significant growth and change over the course of the season. Even people who are off to the side, like McNulty, have very significant and motivated stuff happen to them. The act of doing nothing is significant in and of itself. That’s good writing, making everything serve the show rather than just struggling to give people something to do.

The Kids

Let’s start it off with the kids, the new addition of the season, and the hinge on which everything else turns. I’d heard a lot of raves about this season before I watched the show, and knew the basic structure, that it would follow four kids over the course of a year. First, the performances are all amazing, more real and believable than almost any other child actor performance on record. The only reason these guys are getting Emmy nominations is because people just assume this is who they are, that Simon pulled them off a corner and started rolling the camera. But, it’s not like that, and that makes this all the more amazing. People rave about Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver, but even there, there’s an artifice that’s lacking from these kids. They go through so much and it almost never feels false. Even younger kids, like Kennard, sell it perfectly. The show is so realistic, you forget that these are actors, and that’s the best compliment I can give to the performances.

This season, more than the previous one, takes a bit of time to get going. It takes a few episodes to really understand who these kids are, and the world they’re living in. We’ve seen the corners, so it’s not shocking to see kids running wild on the streets. It wasn’t even shocking to see the chaos in the schools. The stabbing was extreme, but felt a bit false, so over the top, it becomes unbelievable. Maybe stuff like that happens, but it feels more like the action of one psychotic girl than a systemic problem. You expect the schools to be anarchic, and you expect Prez to struggle.

What’s not expected is what goes on with these kids at home. We’ve never really seen what it’s like once the kids leave the corner and go inside. Seeing Dukie’s brother, and his awful home life, gives you so much more appreciation for the struggles he goes through. The same is true for Michael, who is a father to his brother and his mother, the only person in the family with any sense of what needs to be done to survive. His mother is actively undermining his attempts to care for his brother, and that’s hard to watch. He has to grow up so fast, with all that to deal with, can we really expect him to try and do well in school?

But, the most shocking family was Namond’s. Seemingly the most well off, his mother is actually the biggest enabler. She has money and a comfortable, middle class house, but rather than using the wealth Wee-Bey is jailing for to give him a chance at a better life, she’s forcing him to follow in his father’s footsteps and go out on the corners to sell drugs. She is probably the best example of the warped moral universe the characters in the show exist in. For them, ‘the game’ is the only option, people who work real jobs are suckers, and never going to make any real money, and, looking at the schools, these kids are struggling to read, they’re not going to be able to go to college and escape.

This ties in with one of my favorite arcs over the course of the season, Bodie’s fall. Bodie is the everyman character on the streets, our window into the drug world for the entirety of the series. After season one, I was surprised to see him back in action, but each year, he’s been at the focal point of what’s going on. Bodie is someone who’s bought into the system, and believes that he can make a good living dealing drugs. It might be work, but it’s what he does and he’s happy to do it. That’s what he talks about when he meets with McNulty in the season finale, that he hasn’t shorted the count, he’s gone by the book and it’s gotten him nowhere. He may run a corner, but that’s still just a corner, next to people like Marlo, he is completely powerless.

What dooms Bodie is his loss of faith in the system. All the characters on the show are part of a system, and labor under the belief that they can change things. Sadly, they are almost always proven wrong, and have to come up with justifications for why they keep doing whatever they do. Carcetti can’t save Baltimore as councilman so he runs for mayor. Once he’s mayor, he decides he can’t save the city until he’s governor, so he justifies keeping things the same as they are because in the future, he’ll be able to do something.

Over the course of the season, Bodie grows increasingly frustrated with the way Marlo is running things, killing people for frivolous reasons. When he finds out that Little Kevin got killed because he was taken in by the police, even though he didn’t talk, Bodie is broken. This brings up a lot of old issues, mostly guilt over killing Wallace back in season one. What Marlo has done is a dark mirror reflecting himself. Seeing Marlo, he realizes just how brutal he was. Poot’s return from jail also reinforces the fact that nothing ever changes, you go to jail, you come back, you’re still on the corner. He no longer believes that anything will change, eventually he’ll get spit out the game and wind up either dead or in jail.

Bodie is the spiritual successor to D’Angelo. D’Angelo lost faith in the game and was ready to talk to the police, but his loyalty to his family prevented him from testifying. That’s the same thing Namond was dealing with, this false belief that loyalty to the family equals being a part of the family’s criminal enterprise. Bodie echoes to D’Angelo’s pawn speech to McNutly, now realizing that he can never make it to the end of the board and become a king. He’ll always be in the same place he is now.

I really love the way Bodie is aware of everything around him. He is able to get one over on the police after Hamsterdam because he knows how their system works, the rules that prevent them from making random arrests. The younger guys aren’t smart enough to realize that they can use the system to their advantage. Bodie seemed doomed from the moment at the end of season three when he walked alone on Marlo’s streets, hoods up, trying to stay alive.

By the fourth season, he’s eating with McNulty, recognizing that McNulty has no particular interest in busting him, he wants to take down Marlo for the same reasons that Bodie does. McNulty told D’Angleo that it’s the bodies police want, they don’t care about drugs, and D’Angelo told Bodie that. He doesn’t have that adolescent no snitching mentality that lead him to kill Wallace in the first place.

It’s hard to watch Bodie’s rage when they pull Little Kevin’s body out of the tenement building. Watching all the bodies pile up, he realizes just how awful Marlo is. These are people he knew, all dead now, and it doesn’t have to be that way. There were a number of moments where I just felt this incredible frustration, mirrored in the characters. Bodie is full of rage and takes it out on the cop car, he just needs to let it out in some way. Speaking with McNulty, he has an almost zen approach. He’ll talk to the police because it is the best thing for the health of the streets. It’s not even about moving away, like D’Angelo wanted to, it’s just about making it safe to walk the streets. This is his home and he has no desire for anything else, but Marlo has made him lose faith in what he’s devoted his entire life to.

Bodie says he feels old, the Barksdale generation is gone, the game is more fierce and it’s not for him anymore. I feel like he’s reaching the same place Cutty was at last season, where what he once just accepted feels alien and wrong. It’s not so much the morality of his actions that troubles him, it’s the fact that he knows he can’t ever be anything more than this. The American dream is the belief that with hard work, you can become something better. He’s worked hard and is all the same. He has lost faith in the system, and that’s why he’s willing to do something that so flagrantly violates the world’s code.

His death scene is not as epic as Stringer’s, but does soar above the show’s usual anchored realism. As he shoots out into the dark, he really doesn’t care if he lives or dies, he just wants to once again assert control over his domain. This is his corner, and he won’t let Marlo take it from him. I see Bodie as a mom and pop shop standing up to a giant chain. He’s doomed, but he’s not going down without a fight. It’s a stunning close for the character, and it’s so hard to watch him lying there, dead on the ground. For him, the entire season had a looming sense of doom, the feeling that his time had passed, and now in the end, it has.

This brings us back to the kids. Bodie is who they will be. If they stay on the corners, eventually they’ll realize that this is a hollow dream and won’t get them where they need to go. It may end like Bodie, dead on the corner, it may end like Stringer, screwed by an even bigger criminal, or it may end like Wee-Bey, in prison, but either way, it won’t end well. That’s what De’Londa doesn’t understand, and it’s why she may be an even worse mother than Michael’s. Michael drifts into drugs because he feels he has to, it’s the only way to gain control over his life. Namond is actively pushed by his mother to go out there on the corner, to go to prison, to do violence to others, and yelled at when he won’t.

Namond in some ways is the most childlike of the kids. Michael and Dukie had to grow up fast and take care of themselves, Randy is innocent, but a bit more self sufficient. Namond reminds me of kids I knew in middle school and high school, acting out and calling attention in that same way. Bunny takes him into the ‘corner kids’ group because he acts out the most, but he doesn’t have the soul for it in the way that Michael does. Namond is more reminiscent of the showy Barksdale generation while Michael is the new generation, committed to quiet violence. I couldn’t see Namond killing someone without going through some radically life changing experiences. If he hadn’t been taken in by Bunny, then maybe he would have reached that place, but the person we saw over the course of the season doesn’t have it in him.

That’s what’s made clear as the season progresses, primarily by contrasting him with Michael. Michael is strong, but so internalized, unwilling to let anyone in. During the early episodes, I was really hoping that they wouldn’t make Cutty into a sexual predator, I liked the character too much and the vibe with him and Michael was hard to watch. In retrospect, it’s clear that Michael is too scarred to accept any sort of affection from authority figures. He can’t go to press and he can’t go to Cutty, they both want to help him because he clearly has so much potential, but he won’t let them in.

There are two critical scenes for Michael, one is when he almost tells Prez about his stepfather’s return. He’s thinking about it, moments away from confiding, but ultimately decides not to. The sad thing is that, in light of how things go over the course of the season, the choice he made will probably work out better, at least in the short term. The system consistently fails these kids, what can Prez do to help him, send in social services? They will put him in a group home, take him away from his brother. That’s the fear that stops him from acting in a potentially better way, the risk of losing what little security he has.

The other critical moment is when Cutty goes after him on the street. We want Cutty to save him, instead he’s shot. Once Cutty gets shot, Michael recognizes how much this guy wants to help him. But, Cutty sends him away, I’m guessing he didn’t want Michael to get put in the system, to have to explain why he was hanging around and what happened that led to Cutty getting shot. He’s trying to protect him, but in pushing Michael away, he leaves him with no one to turn to but Marlo. Cutty tries his best, but ultimately he doesn’t know what the line is between bothering the kid and helping him. Maybe one more push and he could have gotten through to Michael, but as it was, he gave up and just let things go.

One of the most powerful scenes in the entire season was Chris’s assault on Michael’s stepfather. This is the one killing that he becomes emotionally involved in, it’s not business, it’s a chance to get back at whoever it was who abused him years ago. He and Michael have this unspoken connection, Michael never needs to actually say that this guy abused him, Chris knows, even as Snoop remains hilariously clueless. Chris is the only older male figure around who Michael can actually identify with, and he’s the one who ultimately wins his allegiance.

The change in Michael becomes evident when Namond’s out running his ‘crew’ on the street. Namond’s lieutenant is Kenard, a kid who looks about ten years old. He has to have such a young kid as lieutenant because he can’t get the respect of people his own age, he doesn’t have the gravity of a leader. Kenard winds up selling out the stash, presumably because he knows Namond isn’t going to do anything about it. Namond’s heart isn’t in the fight, but Michael’s is. Michael understands the game, and becomes a soldier because it seems like his only option. He gets his own apartment, he can watch over his brother and be self sufficient. He has everything he always wanted, and the saddest thing is that he’ll never have more. Having his own home, something that he should have gotten from his parents, cost him his soul, and from now on he’ll become more and more like Chris, enmeshed in the violent world until he’s eventually destroyed by it.

While Michael has the strong mentality of a soldier, Namond just isn’t cut out for it. His mother was able to give him luxuries and protect him from the worst things in the world. This very protection is what makes it so hard for him to go out on the corner. What ultimately saves Namond is that he’s been shown an authority figure he can have faith in. Arguably the show’s most noble character is Colvin, who consistently tries to alter the system, even at his own expense. The fall of Hamsterdam at the end of season three was excruciating because we had seen Bunny pour all his life’s work into this one creation, watched it start to work, and then had to watch it get torn down around him.

This season, he invests in a different kind of program, trying to save people before they get out on the streets. What Colvin does that the system won’t is engage with these people on their own level, working with the reality of their situation, not with unrealistic expectations. The people in the system would say that the people should just stop using drugs, or that these kids should just do the work, they don’t understand that the system keeps them down and locks them in these roles. They have no role models outside the world on the streets. The trip to the restaurant is a really effective scene because it shows just show skewed their view of reality is, they’ve never been to a place like this and have no concept of that world. It’s notable that the questions on the state test are about how much to leave for a tip, while Bunny has to work just to show these kids how to order at a restaurant.

Colvin is positioned as a midpoint between the conservative, immobile institutions and idealistic liberal academics. Neither group completely understands how things work, but Colvin is able to come up with something that can work in practice. The class he runs isn’t perfect, but it does help these kids. In his class, they learn how to learn. They learn the manners and rules that they never got from their parents, and are given strong authority figures who won’t back down when confronted with even the most extreme behavior.

Looking at the issue of tracking is interesting. I went to school in the suburbs, a world away from what we see here. There, the smarter kids were tracked up, I had virtually every class with the same fifteen or so people for the last three years of high school, and it was a lot like this. We were taught what we needed to know for the AP tests, to get the results the school wanted. They did not care if we really learned the material or engaged with it, the entire year was about learning what would be on the test and practicing for that. Not learning European history isn’t the same as not learning basic reading and writing, but I experienced that same focus on test results at the expense of all else.

Talk about juking stats, on our eighth grade New York State Regents tests, the teacher went around and ‘checked over’ our answer sheets, tipping people off about wrong answers. In ninth grade, two people taking the test asked the teacher to come over and check their work because they got different answers to a question. That’s one thing that wasn’t even brought up here, I’m sure the teachers are being encouraged to cheat, everyone looks good if you get higher scores, the administrators like it, the parents like it, the kids like it, but at what cost? Do you want to teach kids that it’s ok to cheat, that getting a good test score is more important than knowing the material? I’d hope not, but that’s the message we got.

I never really liked school until high school. I always did well, but it came pretty easy, and didn’t engage me. In high school, I had two English teachers who let us write essays on pretty much whatever we wanted. This was part of preparing for the AP and regents tests, but what it did was engage me with writing in a way I had never been before. I was really surprised when I went to ninth grade and was told I could write an essay about any character I wanted, not just ones from the books we had read in class. I wrote about Luke Skywalker and had a lot of fun doing it. As the very existence of this post shows, I love to write about stuff, but I like to write about what I like to write about, not necessarily the stuff we read in class. I just have a sort of adverse reaction to what most authority figures in school tell me to do. I find there’s a lot of arrogance in the academic world, be it in high school or college, but there were a few teachers along the way who taught me a lot and really made an impact.

But, throughout it was engaging on my level that made me interested. If I could write about movies and the stuff I liked, I’d put more effort into it, and learn more. And that brings us back to Bunny, who recognizes that it’s all about engaging the kids on their level, and getting them to talk about what they know. People always want to feel like the experts, he makes it so that the kids are teaching him about their lives, and in the process he’s able to understand what they need to know. Because he lets them express themselves, they have enough respect for him to listen to what he’s saying and actually engage with what’s going on in the class.

I do think some of those class scenes bordered on sociological lecture and were less dramatically engaging, but there were enough good moments that it worked on the whole. It’s a huge testament to what Bunny did when Namond calls him after he gets busted by the police. Colvin has made himself into a benevolent, but tough authority figure and earned the respect of Namond. When things go bad at the end of the season, Colvin returns to help him again.

Namond’s breakdown in the gym is a really tough moment to watch. He’s been rejected by his mother, with nowhere left to turn, and the weight of that overwhelms him. Namond basically disappears after that as we watch Colvin bargain for his soul with Wee-Bey. That scene, much like the McNulty/Bodie scene is a really fantastic piece of work. For someone like Marlo, just getting captured by the police is reason to murder someone. He’s brash and young, like the guys who attack Randy for being a snitch. As people age, they recognize that police or dealer, you’re part of a system and just doing your job. Colvin and Wee-Bey can engage with each other because they’re from the same streets and understand the world in the same way. They also both know that there’s no future on the streets, and time in prison has forced Wee-Bey to reassess his view of the world.

That fantastic scene is echoed in Wee-Bey’s verbal smackdown on De’Londa. De’Londa still wholeheartedly believes in the game, and it takes Wee-Bey to make her consider that maybe it isn’t the best idea for her son to be a soldier. The line that lingers for me is Wee-Bey asking why Namond should be a solider when he could be anything else. I don’t think any of these kids really believe that they could be whoever they want to be, they don’t hold on to that piece of the American dream. They’re going to be on the corners, that’s the only option. Wee-Bey recognizes that if Namond can get a way out, he should take it.

Also notable in this scene is De’Londa feeling like Wee-Bey will stop caring about her if Namond leaves. This explains some of her behavior earlier in the season. She thinks that Wee-Bey would want his son to be like him, and if she raises a weak son, it’ll disappoint her husband. Her role in the game is to give him kids, and without a kid, what role is left? That’s how warped her worldview is, and it’s only in that last scene that she’s forced to question her belief in the game.

Anyway, Namond gets probably the only happy ending in the entire season. He’s got a family that cares about him, and gives him a home life and structure that encourages him to do well in school and advance in life. Colvin is an expert at knowing the right people to get things done. Where all the other characters fail to protect their kids, he saves Namond from the street. The implication of the last scene is that Namond may miss the street, in the same way that Wee-Bey and Colvin nostalgically look back on their younger days, but he knows that he’s in a better place now.

You can’t say the same for the other kids. Both Randy and Dukie have just awful troubles at the end of the season. Dukie’s is a bit less overtly awful. Things are looking up in the last episode. He’s living with Michael, and even though Michael is very different from the kid we saw at the beginning of the year, he’s still loyal to his crew. That loyalty never slips, even when Randy’s called a snitch, Michael still fights for him. And, when Dukie comes to him in need, Michael helps him out.

In a twist only The Wire could pull off, Dukie’s success in the system sends him up to high school and away from his friends and everyone who made him successful. In the eighth grade, people had his back, now there’s no one there to help him, and the thought of going through school without his crew is too much. He gives Prez a present for helping him, but lavishness of the gift, and Dukie’s unconvincing explanation for why he’s not at school tells him everything we need to know.

One of the single most devastating images of the series happens during the season ending montage, when Prez sees Dukie on the corner, dealing drugs. This scene is a wonderful example of the show’s restraint. Prez has just been told that there’ll be another Dukie next year, he can’t save all the kids. Prez from the start of the year would have been out to talk to Dukie and try to save him. Now, he has become a part of the system. He’s still a good teacher, but he recognizes that he can’t do everything for these kids. He has to drive away and let Dukie be, I’m sure it kills him inside, but what can he do?

For Dukie, a life on the corner seemed inevitable. The sad thing is that he clearly had so much potential. We see that in all these kids, through the eyes of their adult mentors, the person they could be. But, those adult authority figures can only do so much. Michael’s the one looking out for Dukie, he gives him a house, and he gives him a job. They were part of a crew early in the season, they are part of a crew now, it’s just a different kind of crew.

I’m really curious to see what happens to Dukie and Michael next season. Michael seemed exhausted during the montage, the weight of his first murder weighing heavy on his conscience. But, when Chris speaks to him, he seems to perk up. My guess is that Michael is gone, he’s a part of Marlo’s crew. He’s not someone like Bodie. Bodie was a drug 9 to 5er, it as a job for him, for Michael, it’s a life. I think he buys into Marlo’s crew as an extended family, and Chris is the brother watching out for him. For the first time, he has that security of someone caring for him, and it’s a relief. That moment in the car is the first time we see him really relax, in that moment he feels safe.

But, where can he go from here? Will he and Dukie be peripheral characters in the background, or will their allegiance to the street be called into question. While I’d love to see someone try to help Dukie, the view of the show, and of reality, is that once you’re on the corner, it’s not easy to get off it. Everyone who’s thought about leaving has wound up dead. I can’t say for sure, but I think Dukie’s going to be a guy like Poot or Bodie, never a leader, he’ll just do his thing and play things by the book. It’s sad, but that’s what fate has given him.

That brings us at last to our final kid, Randy. Much like Namond, the presence of an adult authority figure in his life makes it easier for him to be a kid. But, things quickly go bad when he encounters institutional authority figures. Much like the police do, Donnelly forces him to ‘testify’ against someone in order to save himself from punishment. Things don’t get really bad until he encounters Herc.

Herc this season is a force of awfulness, leaving broken people in his wake as he cuts corners and abuses his unearned authority. Randy is one of his major victims, his testimony first ignored then repeated to Little Kevin to try to sting him. Herc is the one who dooms this kid because he’s bad police. He thinks only of himself. It’s interesting to look at the stolen camera storyline, which starts out as a goofy comedy plot, but eventually destroys two of the series’ most vulnerable people.

The real drama of Randy’s story comes in the last two episodes. Carver is trying to look out for him, but there’s only so much he can do. The people working under him abandon their detail and let Randy’s house get attacked. It’s a really sad moment, and Carver’s guilt only mounts as he tries to look out for the kid. He promised he would save him and there’s nothing he can do. One of the most haunting moments of the season is Carver walking down the long white hallway of the hospital as Randy asks him what he’s going to do to save him.

The sad thing is Carver is one of the most noble cops on the show, someone who’s grown up so much over the course of the series. In season one, he and Herc are an essentially comic duo, who are also potentially dangerous. However, after working under Colvin on the Hamsterdam project, he sees the capacity of police to actually make a difference in peoples’ lives. At the beginning of the season, we see him dealing the kids in a way that the ‘rip and run’ crews could only imagine.

But, along with a belief that one can make a difference comes disappointment when he fails to do so. He believed in Hamsterdam and it was tough to see him watch it destroyed. Here, he sees the chance to do something good for this kid, and just can’t cut through the layers of bureaucracy. At points in the last episode, we’re led to believe that all these kids might get adopted and get a good home. Carver finally steps up and offers to care for Randy, but the system once again shuts him down. The three month waiting period was made with good intentions, but in this case, it winds up dooming Randy to an awful life in a group home.

A central tenet of the series is that bureaucratic systems prevent people from doing good, and exist only to sustain themselves. Attempts to change things are dismissed for a variety of reasons, and it’s the individuals who suffer. Systems don’t allow for exceptions, but in real life, there are so many unforeseen circumstances, flexibility is needed. Hamsterdam is a perfect example of something that was working, a total reimagining of what the ‘drug war’ could be, but it looked wrong to people used to having things a certain way so it was quickly shut down. People don’t care if something works, they can’t support ‘legalizing drugs.’ It’s the same kind of broken thinking that enmeshes us in Iraq, we can’t admit to ‘losing’ this war when the reality is the war itself was completely misguided from the beginning. You can’t win a war on drugs and you can’t win a war on terror with violence. Those wars are only won by creating support structures that remove the desire to do violence in the first place, and that’s a near impossible task. But, the quickest way to win the war on illegal drugs is to legalize them. Why can’t anyone see that?

Anyway, Carver brings Randy to the group home. The saddest thing about this scene is that Randy isn’t even mad, he thanks Carver for trying so hard. This is a kid who’s so used to things being fucked that he’s thankful that someone just tried, the same someone who instigated all these problems in the first place by turning Randy over to Herc. I think that makes Carver even sadder than he would have been if Randy had yelled at him because it shows what a good heart this kid has. However, that good heart will quickly be broken down as he struggles to defned himself against the kids at the group home. In the montage, we see him throw the first punch. It certainly won’t be his last.

But, Carver is left there to think about what he could have done to save this kid, and the frustration just pours out during his attack on the car. It’s a scene that would feel over the top out of context, but in that moment, I wanted him to just pound that fucking car. Much like Bodie at Little Kevin’s death site, the rage at what’s happening pours over and you need some catharsis from the character. Carver has tried so hard and been unable to save this kid. The system is so flawed, he can’t do anything. But, at least he’s trying.

The nature of the system is illuminated again in Colvin’s meeting with the ‘mayor.’ Colvin has once again tried to change the system, and come up with something that’s not perfect but is better than what was. However, it’s promptly rejected because it’s tracking, and doesn’t fit with No Child Left Behind. An entire season’s work is gone in that one moment, because parents might complain, and we can’t endanger the reputation of Mayor Tommy Carcetti. It’s interesting to watch Colvin’s inability to connect with people in this world. With Wee-Bey, he was able to smooth talk his way to anything, but at the mayoral mansion, he just can’t do it. In his own way, Colvin is just as removed from ‘polite society’ as the kids he’s teaching were.

Leaving the mayor’s office, Colvin wonders when this is going to change, the question pretty much everyone on the show is wondering. Things are spiraling and getting worse, every good idea rejected in favor of business as usual. Parenti says that at least they’ll have some good research and get attention for his paper. I think this is the moment when Colvin realizes that maybe the best difference he can make is not systemic, the institutions are so broken he can’t do anything to change them. However, if he takes in Namond, he can at least save one kid, and that’s a start.

Assuming this is it for Colvin on the show, he’s chosen a similar way out as McNulty last season. He’s given up on trying to save the world and conceded that the system has won. But, he can still be happy, and maybe that’s enough. I loved the character over these past two seasons, and I hope he at least shows up for a cameo in season five. While Hamsterdam will be his biggest legacy to me, this season also had some fantastic stuff for him.

I think this is already the longest post I’ve ever written for the blog, so we’ll take a break and return tomorrow with part two, which will include, among other things, the total bastardization of Carcetti, the sad tale of Bubbles, the crazy exploits of Chris and Snoop, Omar’s surveillance ops, Marlo and Prop Joe’s delicate dance and, oh yeah, isn’t this a cop show or something, so some stuff on the old MCU. Stay tuned.


MJ said...

Nice Bodhi breakdown/tribute. Even when I saw it coming, I was heartbroken when it happened. His death was the end of the old crew and the rise of Marlo's new style of running the streets.

One of my favorite parts of the show has been how the cops and the street adapt to each other and new technologies. I'm eager to see how McNulty & Co. cope next season.

Rottin' in Denmark said...

Nice, epic post. It's nice to see someone actually engaging with the pointed critiques of modern life that The Wire brings up. It's funny how little this show appears to have sparked discussion about the way we actually do things in America. Have we simply passed the point where fiction can make a difference in society, or shine a light on an issue that isn't being addressed? I left America two years ago, and it's been dawning on me more and more just how broken the schools, justice system, media and health care have become. When do people start to get pissed off about this?

Patrick said...

That's precisely the point Simon set out to address in season five. The quote I saw was something like "If we're right about any of this stuff, why is it no one's doing anything about it?" I don't think the fifth season is quite as precise as season four, but it's the sensationalism and focus on scandal and controversy that distracts us from the issues that go on forever. These are old problems and it is the 'news' business.

And, the show might make a bigger difference if more people saw it. I feel like everyone online is talking about the show, but it's still not that popular out in 'the real world.'