Wednesday, September 5, 2012

WELL, IT SEEMS LIKE I CAN'T SAY NOTHIN' TO CHANGE Y'ALL MINDS:  When you see an episode like The Wire's "Middle Ground," and realize how much it took to build to those dramatic moments ... I mean, what can I say?

The episode is centered around a series of conversations between familiar pairings (Avon-Stringer, McNulty-D'Agostino, Stringer-Levy) and unusual ones -- Omar-Mouzone, Stringer-Bunny (with both unable to change the game as much as they wanted), Carcetti-Bunny, and that remarkable scene (look, the whole episode is A+) in which Mayor Royce is meeting with his advisors and thinking seriously about keeping Hamsterdam alive.

I'm a bit overwhelmed down here in Charlotte right now, and I'll try to add more to say over the course of the day.  But how can you watch an episode like that and not want to talk about it, immediately?  To see Avon and Stringer on the balcony, with the audience knowing what each had set in motion for the other ... I'm speechless.


  1. Times I held my breath during this episode:
    1. Opening scene with Omar and Mouzone
    2. Barbershop scene with Mouzone and Barksdale
    3. Final scene

    And I STILL can't believe what happened in that final scene. Woah.

  2. Jordan12:12 PM

    That scene with String and Avon on the balcony is a motherfucker.  I remember waiting for the other shoe to drop ever since D, but that doesn't make the final scene any less of a gut punch.

    One thing the Wire does exceedingly well is put together people operating on different planes.  They do it throughout the series, and, while it's often tragic, sometimes it's not.  So I'd add Cutty-Avon to that list.  I love the scene where he goes asking for money.

    And something I forgot happened in this episode (I remember it, but I only remember what season thanks to Alan's review)--the cell phone interceptor just sitting there unnoticed.  Just fantastically done all around.

  3. I did want to mention the steps this episode took to make Avon more likeable, through the Cutty stuff and the assassination suggestion.  (Also: no Marlo this week.)

  4. I'm curious if anyone was able to watch this episode without immediately watching the next one? Folks have said that a lot during this Wire re-watch, but this is one I couldn't postpone!

    Since I see almost no first-run TV in real time, I've been catching up on a lot of series (Wire, FNL, WW, BG, Deadwood) on DVD or on demand services, and I have to say that I much prefer watching them contiguously rather than waiting weeks or months for the next episode. I'm almost ready to abandon watching anything until it's complete.

  5. Watts1:12 PM

    I was so stunned by Stringer's death I don't think I could have watched the next one right away. I'm happy to have a week to come to grips with that plot development.

  6. gtv20001:39 PM

    The opening scene of the next one (I think it's the opening, with Bunk and McNulty) is great.

  7. Watts1:39 PM

    I had a crazy thought when I was waking up this morning (and still in a stupor) that if there were Wire action figures/collectible figurines I would want the Brother Mouzone and Omar ones. 

    And then I started thinking about the accessories - obviously Omar and Mouzone have their guns. But I also think Mouzone has a tiny little folded copy of the Economist. McNulty has a wee bottle of whiskey; Freamon has his pipe. The foot soldiers have burner phones. And in extra pieces you can buy, you can get the orange couch or the chess set or Bubbles' shopping cart with little white t-shirts in it. Oh, and clearly the Daniels figurine has a removable shirt.

  8. Jordan2:03 PM

    You could call this guy:

  9. Andrew2:11 PM

    Of the two Emmy nominations that the Wire received, one was for writing this episode. (Pelecanos and Simon lost to David Shore for the House episode "Three Stories"). That's one of two nominations that the entire series received for all five seasons. (The other was for writing the series finale). No actors or directors were nominated. 

  10. In a "where are they now" bit of info, I saw Seth Gilliam, "Carver," on the street the other day walking his little boy to school. I wasn't sure at first if it was him, then he saw me looking at him, and gave me a big smile and a nod -- "yeah, it's me." Seemed like a nice guy with a super-cute son.

  11. And Three Stories works on its own, while this ... requires some history.

  12. Marsha2:55 PM

    I have not watched the next one yet. It was midnight when I finished last night, and I just couldn't stay up for another. Will watch tonight, despite my usual watchings on Tuesday nights.

  13. Marsha2:57 PM

    If you're going to lose to an episode of House, Three Stories is the one. And given that the voters are likely to have seen these episodes out of context, it's a reasonable loss. But if you've seen everything that led up to "Middle Ground," it's hard to find a better-written episode of TV.

  14. Marsha3:09 PM

    I got chills during that opening scene with Omar and Brother Mouzone, and I knew this one would be something special. Two men who are both so alike and so different, face to face like a Western, except niether one is wearing the white hat.

    I love that nearly everyone on this show is smart. So often you watch shows involving criminals and they're stupid. You can't imagine how they rose to be at the top of some crime syndicate when they're so dumb. Here, it's clear that everyone is playing a big ol' chess game, and they're thinking as many moves ahead as they can. Omar and Brother Mouzone are sizing each other up in that opening scene - what can I get away with, how much does he really want to kill me, what can I get out of this interaction - and you can see the wheels turning in every facial expression and every word. So, so good.

    I cannot believe that Stringer is dead, even though I knew that either Stringer or Avon was not making it out of this episode alive. (Frankly, I thought it was going to be Avon.) I find myself very, very sad about that, despite him being a cold-blooded criminal. He could have been so much more. (Most importantly, of course, I'm really sad that that's the last we'll see of Idris Elba's amazing performance.)

    Amazing camera work here too - Carcetti standing in the middle of Hamsterdam, where we hear everything going on around him but only see his face reacting to it. The whole scene on the roof. The meet up between McNulty and Teresa.

    And how is McNulty going to react when he finds out that 45 seconds after he FINALLY got a bead on Stringer it didn't matter any more.....

    Damn damn damn that's a fine episode of television.

  15. Jenn.3:16 PM

    Dammit, they killed Stringer Bell.  I knew there would be hell to pay from the time that he had Dee killed, but dammit. 

  16. I've never held a firearm outside of theatre props, but boy would I watch a show called "Gun Talk with Omar and Mouzone."

  17. EVeryone talks about the Stringer plotline, and with good reason, but I think the political maneuvering is particularly well done.  The scenes of how Hamsterdam will come down, on what timeline, and who takes the fall, are wonders of economy and character.

  18. isaac_spaceman8:47 PM

    Yeah, nearly everyone is smart, but "nearly" is an inexact term, and sometimes you get "like a forty-degree DAY!" 

  19. I still like the week to week. I like being able to talk about stuff with my friends as it happens.
    And I get really annoyed by spoiler purists that wait to watch everything but get really upset if you talk about it. I'm not a jerk about it, but once the show has aired the spoiler-free time has expired. So I feel like I "should" watch a show as close to air date if I care about it and don't want to be spoiled.

    And this episode is probably the best of the series, at worst top 3.

  20. isaac_spaceman9:59 PM

    Also, I just wanted to say: "get on with it, motherfu [interrupting sound]"

  21. Devin McCullen12:43 AM

    One thing that has always bothered me a little bit: Would Clay Davis really pull a con like that on somebody as dangerous as Stringer Bell?  I know that Avon shuts down the assassination talk really quickly, but there's no way for Davis to be sure about that.  It just seems like something that has a non-trivial chance of working out extremely poorly for the Senator.

  22. Anonymous6:33 AM

    Avon's completely right about killing a well known public official.  It's not a step you take lightly, and certainly not one you take because he cost you a week's profit (250K) and make you look stupid.  Like Avon said, killing a west Baltimore citizen, even a witness (season 1) and all you have to deal with is the regular police.  Assassinating a state senator, and you bring in local police, state police, probably Feds.  A lot more effort is going to be put into stopping you if you take that step.

    So yeah, Clay Davis is pretty protected from any kind of violent retribution.  Also based on my limited experience with long time politicians like that, those guys tend to think they are bullet proof.

  23. One of the more subtle themes of the show is about leadership and real smarts. I think we saw a lot of that in action in this episode in the different paths that Stringer and Avon take. Stringer went to school, worked hard at laundering the money and turing their wealth into something clean and "real," and all of that made him seem "smart." But Avon is the leader of this crew, not Stringer, and here we see why. Avon knew not to get all wrapped up with Clay Davis -- what he called, "playing an away game." He knew that that's not their game, and that they'd lose to people who play that game well. Avon turned out to be the smarter guy.