Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Wire: 'React Quotes' (5x05)

After the huge events last week, ‘React Quotes’ is another move the pieces into place episode, the kind of episode that just flies by when you’re watching on DVD, but is a little bit frustrating watching week to week. There’s a lot of good stuff here, but it’s hard to wait a week to get to the rest of the story. Plus, the story primarily focuses on comic and satirical bits, there’s not as much deep emotion here as there was last week.

The best part of the episode is the shootout at the end. People are knocking the scene a bit for its lack of realism, but it’s so much more exciting than the rest of the episode, I’ll let it slide. As I’ve said before, Omar is the incarnation of chaos, so I’ll let the rules of reality slide when it comes to the character. The scene works because we’re emotionally invested in every character in there. I don’t want Omar to die, but at the same time, it would be devastating to lose Michael. It’s strange to see Omar, who has always been the best warrior on the show, totally overmatched for once. Maybe one on one, he could take Snoop or Chris, but as a team, they’re too much for him.

The question we’re left with now is what happens next. I hope we see Omar next week, and find out exactly how he got off the balcony to survive. That bit was a little contrived, but the way the scene was constructed, there was really no choice. They should have made the window a little lower, like a second floor, to make the scene more realistic. What does Omar do now? He can’t beat Snoop and Chris on his own, does he get more allies, or does he try a different tact? The only evidence I’ve got for what happens is the car bomb we see in the opening credits, so it does look like Omar is back on his feet and taking the fight to Marlo.

Along with this, we get the loss of another old timer. That entire generation is dying out, which doesn’t bode well for the co-op next week. But what about Cutty? He’s back this week, working with Dukie. The scene where they talk about how to get off the streets gets to the core of what season four was about, the impossible odds these kids face. With direct mentoring from an adult, they can stay afloat, but left alone, they’re going to slide into drugs. That’s what happened to Dukie, when he got taken away from Prez, he had no real incentive to stay off the street.

But, it’s pretty clear Dukie isn’t meant for the street. No one respects him, and he’s not going to be able to carry a gun. He’s at a crossroads here, he can either totally commit to the streets, work to make himself tougher, or he can go off in a different direction. But, he doesn’t know how to get there. You’d think Cutty would actually have some good advice to offer, as someone who got out of the game and is doing well for himself, but I guess it’s hard for him to realize that. I think Michael should make use of Dukie’s smarts and give him some kind of administrative role within Marlo’s organization. But, I’m still holding out hope that he’ll run into Prez and get set on the right path somehow. Or, maybe him and Michael will see Namond again, and find out how much his life has changed. I’d really like to see Namond and Colvin again, hopefully they’ll turn up in the next couple of episodes.

This episode also brings us a lot of progress with the serial killer plotline. I understand what they’re trying to do with this storyline, and it does tie the police and newspaper storylines together nicely, but it doesn’t really do anything emotionally for me. It’s played mainly for laughs, and while it is funny, Scott is so consistently a devious character, there’s not much conflict. If they had him try to do good occasionally, it’d be one thing, but he just keeps making stuff up, in such an obvious manner, you’d think someone would catch up with him. Lester told McNulty to treat the fake serial killer like a real case, Scott isn’t treating anything like it’s real.

Now, maybe this is setting us up for the fall down the line, but right now, the story is kind of a one joke thing. It’s a funny joke, but it doesn’t have that much thematic depth. The point is, the press doesn’t focus on the real issues, it prefers sensationalism. I think we got that, and the story doesn’t have much more to offer. I think it actually works best as a rebuke to films like Zodiac, which show a detective becoming obsessed with a case, and treat this same material with total seriousness. Beattie punctures that entire worldview when she tells Bunk it’s not the case that’s destroying McNulty, that’s just an excuse. This is probably a more realistic look at what it’s like to pursue a serial killer, people don’t become obsessed with the case so much as they use it to fill a void in their personal lives.

Along those lines, the strongest scenes in the episode are about McNulty’s deteriorating personal life. The scenes with his wife and sons are jarring because those kids have grown up all of a sudden, and you get the sense that McNulty is just as shocked as the viewer to see them like that. His conversation with his wife conveys just how unhinged he’s become, and the scene with Beattie and Bunk drives it home. Bunk doesn’t tell her what’s going on, but he’s clearly tempted. McNulty’s been on a downward spiral the whole season, and that’s what’s really compelling, not the serial killer stuff. I feel like he invented the killer as much to justify his own drunkenness and screwing around as to help the police. He wants to get back to that place he was a few years back, going after Avon and drinking all the time, but this time, it’s hard to watch because we’ve seen who he can be, and how quickly any chance of returning to that place is slipping away.

Elsewhere, Clay Davis mounts a defense campaign so convincing, even I’m starting to believe him. He’s a master of his own version of ‘the game,’ and I’m still not sure that even with all this evidence, the States’ Attorney can take him down. I feel like Bond is going to gamble on a lesser charge to ensure he’s the one to take Davis down, and wind up letting him off the hook. But, we’ve seen a lot of old timers on the way out, Davis may have to take the hit as well. Nerese is looking more and more like the new Clay Davis, making a lot of backroom deals that’ll gain her power and leverage, as well as cutting some deals with criminals that would make Clay proud.

Increasingly, it looks like every character from the first season is being replaced by a younger counterpart. Avon replaced by Marlo, Burrell by Daniels, Colvin by Carver, and I’m guessing McNulty’s going to become the new Freamon. After this serial killer debacle, he could very well find himself defeated and in the pawn shop unit for a long time.

Well, this week moved some pieces into place, and it looks like next week’s going to be when stuff starts really going down. I won’t spoil it for people who didn’t watch the preview, but things are starting to converge.


Patrick C said...

I can't believe the final season has reached the half-way point. It seems like there is still so much to cover! I agree about Omar jumping out the window, it was a little out there. Omar is definitely my favorite character though, so if he goes out, I hope he takes Marlo's organization down with him.

Also, I'm really not feeling the newspaper storyline. It really has become a one-note thing, I keep feel like we're wasting valuable time on characters I don't really care about.

Patrick said...

Yeah, the newspaper isn't really doing it for me. Much like the serial killer storyline, I can understand the thematic point, but emotionally, it's not really doing it for me. It even lacks the grand tragedy of the dock storyline, it's just sort of there. But, there's so much other good stuff here, it's best not to get bogged down in the negative.