Wednesday, June 6, 2012

DETECTIVE, MY OFFICE:  Welcome back to Baltimore. We've got a bit of catching up to do:

  • Obviously, the headline is that not only will this investigation not yield murder charges on the girls in the container, but Ziggy's impulsive decision and the Greeks' quick response means that most of the smuggling evidence will be gone before McNulty hits CTRL-P, and Vondas and the Greek will have long skipped town.
  • Oh, poor Ziggy and his overdone Bal'mer accent. But as one of Alan's commenters highlights, consider the contrast between prison-as-a-rite-of-passage for the Barksdale crew, versus prison-as-family-tragedy for the Sobotkas.
  • (Still, how ironic is that for Landsman gets to clear a double-murder without doing any work for it?)
  • Brother Mouzone. Okay, now I understand his DFL seeding in the Simmons tournament; he seems like a cartoon character (yet introduced like Pulp Fiction's The Wolf) in this otherwise realistic universe. Where's my Harper's?  Come on.
  • Agent Koutras.  Yeah, that's a nice friend to have on the inside.
  • It's amazing how well the police team works together now, and Prez's moment of wow as he surveys the cleaned-up boards is well-deserved. We know know what Good Police can accomplish ... even if Valchek doesn't care.
  • McNulty. Sober-er, smart (the GPS ploy with the text messages), and generally well-behaved - except for the prostitutes, but, hey, he was outnumbered.
Two more to go.


  1. Tosy and Cosh10:13 AM

    I am struck again on a rewatch how Valchek may be the character that I hate the most. Which given some of the evil we have seen/will see is saying something. That scene with all of the great work being laid out, the real chance at catching some real bad guys, and then . . . "What about Frank Sobotka? I'm not hearing that name." Still angry.

  2. Marsha10:52 AM

    It took a lot of willpower not to just watch the rest of the season once I saw all that coke going down the drain last night. (I'll likely finish tonight.)

    This season has not captivated me in the same way season 1 did - at least, until these last two episodes. I didn't connect with the Sobotka's story much but Ziggy and Nick really brought it in these two episodes. There's an interesting debate in Alan's comments section about whether Ziggy changing the word to "begged" is because he needs to seem like the big, bad guy and Double G like the weak man begging for his life, or whether Ziggy is doing it to show his remorse, to show how awful the whole thing is. I initially read it as the latter - Ziggy is broken at this point, and he wants it all laid out there in its full, horrid reality. But maybe I'm wrong. I no longer know.

    I'm withholding judgement on Brother Mouzone for now. I'm enjoying the performance, but it is over the top. But Omar was over the top too, and he certainly works for me now. We shall see.

    Kima and Beadie's conversations are very interesting and very realistic. Kima loves her work, and Beadie is clearly excited to get to be a part of this new world, but when kids are involved, everything gets exponentially more complicated. It's interesting that they're showing us this conflict for Kima as someone who is in a relationship with a woman - this is not the traditional conflict of a career-driven woman and a man who wants her to stay at home and cook his dinner. It's a much more interesting portrayal of what happens to a woman who loves her job and loves her spouse and wants a family but can't figure out how it's all going to work.

    The last hour particularly has done a great job of building the suspense. What is going to be left when this warrant is done? Will all their work come to nothing? It's also one of the things that sets The Wire apart from other shows. Smart police, smart criminals. The cops didn't screw up here - they didn't tip their hand, they didn't do shoddy police work. The crooks have a critical guy on the inside. The criminals have an unfair advantage in the game of cat and mouse, as they so often do. It's brilliantly put together, and a pleasure to watch.

  3. Well, they may have screwed up, insofar as Landsman didn't connect his Sobotka with any of the other Sobotkas, that gave the Greeks a head start in cleaning up.  He just thought it was an ordinary murder, right?  ("Ordinary murder".  That doesn't sound right.)

    I completely thought "begged" was about Ziggy's remorse.

  4. It's likely Landsman never even heard of Sobotka. He's the shift sergeant of a homicide squad in the downtown office, and the Sobotka investigation is being run in an offsite building in southeast Baltimore.  His only connection is that 2 of his detectives are currently unavailable because they are on that detail (working the seemingly unrelated 13 murders from the dock).

    And yes, Mouzone is easily the least realistic character the show ever did.

  5. Marsha11:36 AM

    Landsman appears to be so dazed by the idea that this guy is just confessing straight up that he doesn't know which end is up. Yes, that's a screwup, though I didn't think of it that way until just now.

    Carver and Herc, of course, screw up too, in not seeing the boss's departure. Not sure that would have changed anything, though. Can someone tell me why Daniels would keep pairing these two up?

  6. isaac_spaceman11:45 AM

    Never thought about the contrast between what prison means for Barksdales vs. Sobotkas.  Now that you mention it, it goes back to the conversation Frank had with the lawyer, when the lawyer talked about how his (grand?)father pulled a sharpening stone in a cart up the street, and Frank retorts that, in his family, stevedores beget stevedores.  But what's left out of the conversation is that it's even worse in the projects.  For a certain generation and milieu of immigrants, generational ascendance is a realistic aspiration.  For another, it's an unrealistic aspiration; one has to fight even for the status quo for the kids.  And for another -- the one left out of that conversation -- even that failing middle class is the best case scenario.  In other words, until Ziggy went to jail, Sobotka didn't know how bad he didn't have it.  But it really is Frank's fault.  In the Baltimore that the Wire constructed, the Barksdales and their crew (the Wallaces, Poots, and Bodies who eventually become or don't become the Stringers, Avons, and Wee-Bays) don't really have much of a choice.  Sobotka had a choice, though, and whether in good intention or otherwise, by criminalizing his docks (which is to say by becoming a Barksdale-by-analogy) he traded his stevedorean atavism for a Barksdalian one. 

  7. 1)  Those two are the muscle, not the brains

    2)  Daniels perhaps still doesn't trust Carver fully after the leaks of S1?

    3)  He really doesn't think about them, too much?

  8. The same thing happens a little in season one, where the name Barksdale is everywhere in a certain part of the police world, and unknown elsewhere.  Makes sense given the bureaucracy the show has shown us thus far.

    And Brother Mouzone, I agree.  But there's something about a character who holds to himself and doesn't mold to everyone else in the game.  Or perhaps I'm just looking back from the POV of the entire series and trying not to spoil.

    Yes, that ending shot of drugs going down the drain is riveting.  I want to go back and rewatch this half-season right now.  Thank you, HBO Go, I don't even need to pull out the DVDs.

  9. Is there really a choice for Frank?  Aren't his options criminalize or wither and die?  The only way to revive the world of the stevedores is to play the politics game, and that takes money.

  10. Jenn.2:01 PM

    Sure he has a choice.  Encourage his kid (who is wildly unsuitable to either life on the docks or life in jail) to go to college and learn computer programming, and then watch him find a place in this world where he actually makes sense. 

  11. Frank definitely has/had a choice; I think that was the point of the conversation with the lawyer. The lawyer's grandfather was dirt poor, a couple of generations later, the progeny is a (crooked) lawyer; the crooked lawyer talks about how his son is off to Princeton. Frank could have worked for Ziggy in a similar way, perhaps a generation or 2 behind the lawyer. As for the project kids, I think there is the potential for social mobility, just within that separate, very dangerous world. Avon and his sister discussed their family's criminal past at one point in season 1, and Avon is at the apex now. They were grooming DeAngelo for a similar future. Bodie sees a future in all of this. Stringer is using the outside world to get ahead within this "other" culture.

  12. isaac_spaceman6:32 PM

    I am not going to spoil anything, but the question of whether and under what circumstances social mobility is possible for that stratum of Baltimore is something the show is going to revisit. 

  13. Anonymous7:22 PM

    This is why I wish there was a prequel about the rise of Stringer and Avon. Butch Stamford's (Avon's Dad) is mentioned maybe three times but both the police and the drug dealers know it and recognize that it means something. We've seen that hard work and loyalty can and sometimes is rewarded, and the idea that the Barksdale Organization should be meritocratic is as old as the "checkers on a chessboard scene, but I can't help wondering if Avon's not running the show, at least, in part, because he's the son of his infamous father. As kingpin, he's at home plate, talking like he hit a triple, but I get the feeling he might have been born on third base. Even in this "other world" family has a lot to do with the role one plays in society. There's no way a kid as ill-suited to the Game as D'Angelo, rises as high as he did if he's not the boss' nephew.

  14. To the discussion of choice above:  both worlds are deeply ingrained, though, aren't they?  All adults can make a choice.  But there are always constraints (financial, emotional, what have you), history, and family in the mix.  Frank feels like he's trapped by history, and that he's responsible for this dying way of life, not just for his immediate family, but for all of the people who work with him on the docks.  I don't agree with his choices, but I don't see what he does as any more of a failure or cop out than any of the actions made by the characters in the other worlds of the show.  I see a lot of pride and a lot desperation all around, for good or ill. 

    I've always loved this season just as much as the others.  Maybe it's because I grew up in a disintegrating manufacturing town, or maybe it's just that I found it so ballsy to radically depart from the first season and tell an entirely different story, and was impressed they did it so well.