Wednesday, June 13, 2012

EVEN FOR A SUPREMELY FUCKED-UP POLICE DEPARTMENT, THIS TAKES THE PRIZE:  As we learn in The Wire's season two penultimate episode, "Bad Dreams," one fax can make the difference between life and death. But why was Frank Sobotka there in the first place?  Why would he trust the Greeks over the authorities, or even weigh two competing offers?  Did he really believe that the Greeks could do anything for Ziggy? That he was so willing to open up to Beadie (who gets the Real Police star of the week, though it would have been even better without our seeing someone tell her "look at the mirrors/use the city", and just show) and then everyone else, but he still ... oh, god, it hurts.

Help my union? For 25 years we've been dyin' slow down there. Dry dock's rustin', piers standin' empty. My friends and their kids like we got the cancer. No life-line got thrown all that time, nothin' from nobody, and now you wanna help us? Help me?

And from the other side, the police were so close. Landsman couldn't connect the dots, and he realizes it. The Greek walks right past Kima. The police has Sobotka ready to confess, but Ronnie sends him home until his lawyer can show up.

Which makes the Omar-Stringer-Brother Mouzone story the minor part of the episode, and it's so weird seeing Omar being outplayed so easily for once. I imagine there will be consequences.

At this moment, I don't get why folks see this as a "lesser" season of The Wire ... it must speak volumes about what's left in 3, 4, and 5.


  1. <span>This is one of the 5 best episodes the show ever did.  
    Season 2 is considered a "lesser" season because of the dramatic departure it takes from the familiar world of Season 1.  I think on first viewing, it kind of throws every one off.  
    FWIW, if I had to rank the seasons I'd go 4 (clearly the best), 3, 2, 1 (but all very close), and 5 clearly at the back.</span>

  2. Marsha10:58 AM

    Oh, Frank. (I am hoping we have a Kima-esque fake-out here, and that Frank will be alive and well in the next episode, but it that wasn't a death march, I don't know what is.) What a wonderfully drawn, wonderfully played, tragic character.

    I feel like I have less of a handle on the investigation this season than last - I guess I didn't "learn how to watch" this season as well as I did S1. But these last few episodes have really engaged me - I loved watchign Beadie come into her own on the tail, loved the interaction of various parts of the detail, loved seeing the dominoes start to fall. As Alan says in his review, it's very satisfying to watch a show where the writers trust their own ability to tell a compelling story without resorting to playing hide the ball. We've known all the information that the police has been trying to get for a long time (I suppose we don't really know much about the Greek, but otherwise, we're pretty omnicient) and the fun is in watching it play out and seeing if they'll actually be able to get anything done in the end. The little visuals as we watch that fax make its way to the dirty fed are just as compelling as watching the detail try to execute that warrant while we watch the drugs go down the drain. We all know how it goes, we just don't know what the consequences for any specific person or piece of the story will be when all is said and done.

    As for your question, Adam, Sobotka may or may not think the Greek can help Ziggy, but he's desperate. He knows that all the choices he's made have led to Ziggy being exactly where he is - it's his fault, and Nick was right to call him on that. The point from last week still holds - to the Barksdale crew, spending time in jail is an expected part of the job, and it is worked into everything from how the operation functions to the compensation system. Frank Sobotka never expected his family to end up in this situation, and never expected Ziggy to be the one to pay the price. There is no machine working on his behalf to make his sentence lighter or his time inside easier. Working with the detail makes life better for him, and maybe for Nick, and it gives him revenge, but it doesn't help his son. If the Greek offers the slightest chance that things could be better for Ziggy, Frank is going to "hear them out" - he'd trade all the revenge and all that the detail can do for him and Nick for a chance that things could be better for Ziggy. The beauty of it is, the writers earned that decision this season. They put everything in place to make that make sense.

    What I don't think they earned is Ronnie letting Sobotka out of her sight. They already knew they had leaks, and they hadn't contained them. They knew that these were people plenty comfortable with solving their problems with a gun. So why in the world would she not protect him? That one bothered me.

  3. For me, the problem with the second season is that it took a while to get going, and to hook me into the story.  That was not a flaw in other seasons (especially not 1, 3, and 4), so while the payoff in season 2 is strong, the overall season had issues that the other ones did not, in my mind.

    I agree that letting Sobotka go without making sure he is safe is pretty crazy. 

  4. Alan Sepinwall12:13 PM

    In terms of 2 as a "lesser" season, a lot of people were very attached to Stringer, Avon and company and weren't happy to see them minimized in favor of these white guys down at the port. It was a huge culture shock. And even among those people, I doubt you'd find many who would rank season 5 ahead of 2.

  5. Agreed.  I went in to seeing The Wire knowing that each season had a different focus.  I was prepared for the focus to shift to the docks in season 2, so I really enjoyed the season.  But if you watched it as it aired, and expected more of what you saw in season 1 in season 2 only to be hit with all of these new characters, I imagine you might be disappointed.  But I really liked this whole different angle on the drug business in Baltimore, and the more conflicted motivations of Sobotka.

    I just finished season 4 (which I would rank as my favorite at this point as well), and can't really comment without worrying that I'm giving something away, so I'll just say that the whole Frank/Nick/Ziggy Sobotka story really affected me and I enjoyed the season as a whole.

  6. Andrew1:48 PM

    There's a point in Season 2 (I don't remember specifically which episode, because I've fallen behind on this as a rewatch) where we learn that Prop Joe is buying his product from the Greek and that this is all connected. When I first watched this season, it was like moving outward by a power of 10 to see the bigger picture and that this is the same story as Season 1, just from a different angle. 

  7. Jordan3:10 PM

    <span>I imagine there will be consequences.</span>

    That could fit right in with anything at the start of an episode as the motto of this series.

  8. I remember the first time I watched Frank's walk at the end of the episode -- one of the few times I wanted to yell at a character through the TV screen to stop.  And yes, I know it's fiction.  And I didn't care.

  9. I think people expected more of the flashy violence of the Barksdale world, and instead they got these pudgy white guys with money problems.  Culture shock indeed.

    I love season 2.  It's not a lesser season, just one that sneaks up on you.  In fact, I had always underrated season 3, until I watched it again last year.

  10. Watts3:25 PM

    I'm finally caught up - and the only thing I'd written down in my notes that isn't something that's already been mentioned is the use of the music in the Frank/Nicky scene - Simon is usually so meticulous about using the "in scene" music and this was not only not that, but sounded so jarringly different from most of the oldies that have been throughout Season 1 and 2. (Which, BTW, I would never change my dial from that station if it existed.)

  11. Benner3:40 PM

    I think Season 2 did a really good job of opening up the show to all of Baltimore.  It was necessary, and the characters were well drawn, but it does stand apart from the rest of the series.  However, one of the greatest scenes in the whole show was Bubbles showing McNutty how to tie the knot.

  12. Marsha5:06 PM

    Tina, did you read Sepinwall's review of this episode?

  13. Marsha -- yes, just went back and reread it, to see I'd posted the same thing (in the veterans thread) almost three years ago!  Funny how the powerful stuff stays with you.

    And I'm reminded that I have a Pelecanos book on my Kindle that I need to read, soon.

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