Wednesday, December 5, 2012

MIKE AIN'T MIKE NO MORE:  Damn you, Pelecanos.

We enter "That's Got His Own" (see also Ariano) understanding that bad things are going to happen -- just as the people of Baltimore are trapped in systems which resist sweeping change and only allow for tiny nuggets of hope and progress, so too does The Wire seem trapped in a dramaturgical system in which nothing can stop cruel outcomes in the penultimate episode of a season.

I was about to say "cruel fates," but it wasn't fate. Michael had choices, even at the end of this episode when it came to staying by Cutty's side or showing allegiance to his crew. Randy, as Alan details, has had a score of bad things go badly for him, and now it's up to him to decide whether to give up on the system based on how he's been let down, his you gonna look out for me? rant every bit as devastating as Dee's where the fuck is Wallace? in season one. Dukie,with no stable home, and no more Prezbo do to his laundry? It's hard seeing hope for him, and as the assistant principal notes there are many more Dukies in Prezbo's teaching career to come next.

And then there's Namond, raised in the most stable and middle-class of environments, but with the worst values being impressed upon him by his mother. Is it because he grew up more comfortably that he resists the gangster ethic? Is it because of Bunny? Who knows? But the kid has a chance ... for what, I don't know. What happens when he's no longer in Bunny's class?

Other things happened too: Carcetti's shit-eating tour continued in Annapolis; Lester worked the politics so he can now open up the vacants; Herc took his punishment like a man (just as De'Londa said Wee-Bey did);  Omar has his most audacious heist yet (love the cameo from The Greek's crew); and Bubbs ... okay, kinda saw that coming. But damn you, Pelecanos.


  1. isaac_spaceman10:40 AM

    This episode was so devastating, and a large part of the reason that this was the best of the five seasons. A total beat-down on all of that optimism and naivete in the season opener, when the four kids (plus Donut) are just hanging around, bullshitting and pulling pranks. And Carver in the car, just losing his shit, was perfect.

  2. When Michael started wailing on the little kid - the look in his eyes was so vacant, so devoid of humanity. When Namond said later, "Mike ain't Mike anymore" I nodded.

    When Namond started crying in Cutty's gym? That poor, poor kid. Although, in a weird way, I kind of admire him for saying out loud that he doesn't want to be in the game, that he can't be like his dad. I mean, I think it's still ambiguous whether he himself views (or will view) that as a failure, but to speak it out loud is a huge step.

    And despite what the assistant principal says, I've known enough teachers that, well, yeah, you do have to learn that the kids can't all be your kids. But at the same time a lot of teachers encounter a handful of students over the years that really mean something to them. Either because they're a gifted student, or a sweet kid, or a troubled child with potential. I don't think it's wrong that Prez has taken a special paternal attitude toward Dukie and I hope he doesn't let the AP's talk keep him from doing what he knows in his heart of hearts is right.

    And, Randy, poor Randy. All the stuff that's happened with the other kids (Plus poor Bubbles) primed the pump, but Randy's face when he first looked up at Carver? Yeah, I cried. Before he even opened his mouth - just his face killed me.

    Which brings me to a rant - I know there's a lot of talk about the Emmy snubs for The Wire, but I want to know what ensemble was deemed by SAG to be better the year this aired? To get such marvelous work out of our four main kids is nothing short of award-worthy achievement. Just in this episode, Michael's face during the beatdown, Namond's face when Michael was giving the beatdown and then later when he was talking with Cutty and Carver, and then Randy in the hospital. Sure, you can get kids to say lines. But to get those kind of fully realized character portrayals out of them? WOW. Wow wow wow.

    One other thought - Cutty getting shot in this penultimate episode was semi-ironic to me, since I totally expected him to bite it in last season's penultimate episode.

    Last thought and I swear I'll shut up for a while: I haven't been spoiled for the season finale, but I'm really, really nervous that one of these kids is going to commit suicide. Most worried about Dukie (not wanting to face high school, having been evicted, losing Prez) and Namond (fear of not living up to his father, failing his mother, and thinking he's not enough of a "man"). Michael has lost his soul, I don't think he'd bother enough to take his life too. And I think Randy is going to avenge his mother, but I'm not sure if it will be by getting out of the life and going on to be away from game or by getting in on the game in a big way.

  3. Marsha1:16 PM

    Can we really say "damn you, Pelecanos" if the man gave us exactly what we had every reason to expect we'd get? If you don't steel yourself for the Pelecanos episode by now, you deserve every gut punch and every tear stained cheek. Not that I avoided those by being ready for them myself, mind you, but I've stopped blaming him for it.

    Between Watts and Adam (and Alan), most of my thoughts have been expressed already. I do actually have some hope for Namond, because he's still open to being helped, and I doubt his mother is going to get in the way. (She wants him in Baby Booking, after all.) But Michael seems totally lost to us now, as Alan lays out so beautifully, and I fear the door is closing on Randy and Dukie so quickly that he finale may just be more devastation for them. Dukie going to live with Michael is probably not a good sign.

    And as much as what happened with Bubbles and Sherrod was predictable, it was still devastating. I really want Bubbles to catch a break. Just one.

    I am sort of amazed at the hopefulness that I find in this world these days: it now shows many of the adults as actually caring. At the start of this series, so much seemed to be about a very small number of good police fighting against a humungous broken system. As the show has gone on, the People Who Care contingent has grown, and many of them have ended up in positions of power. We've traded Royce for Carcetti, moved Daniels and Freamon up their chain and Rhonda up hers (and those three have gotten there mostly through good work and sticking their necks out, not though patronage and politics, which is a huge shift). Herc is getting his due and taking it like a man, McNulty is redeemed, Prez has found a place and isn't getting eaten alive, and Carver has turned into good police away from Herc's influence. The world of the adults is sunnier than it was before - the fight for good in the face of broken systems is better than ever before.

    But the big picture doesn't end up doing one whit of good for these four kids. And that sucks.

    One more thing - not sure what to make of Lester's brief dialogue with Kima. Is he going to pass her by because she's become complacent where she is, or did her response mean something else to him that means he's going to pull her back into Major Crimes?

  4. Watts1:26 PM

    My two favorite Prez moments happened one right after the other:
    When he had to stay turned to the blackboard because he was laughing at "Tickle my nuts."
    When he told the kids they could talk about relationships and stuff until he got too embarrassed.

    The Prez who was so so so nervous at the beginning of the school year? I would never have thought he'd make it to this point.

  5. Watts1:36 PM

    Oh, and in his lines of the episode section, Sepinwall lists my favorite use of the word "unseemly" EVER.

  6. Randy2:08 PM

    Season 4 of The Wire aired in fall 2006, which means that Grey's Anatomy won the ensemble award:

    I was then, and still am now, a fan of Grey's Anatomy... but yeah. The Wire wasn't even nominated.

  7. Watts2:24 PM

    I'm a Grey's Anatomy fan too, and at least that is a show that really does work well as an ensemble a lot of the times.

    Given how many crappy kid actors there are at any given time, to see these four boys do such an outstanding job all on one show is astounding.

    I got curious about what they've been up to since The Wire:
    Dukie - Jermaine Crawford - still acting. Was in Damsels in Distress, which I HATED, but that's not his fault.

    Namond - Julito McCullum - still acting but not in anything I've seen (or even heard of.

    Michael - Tristan Wilds - apparently a regular on the CW's 90210 reboot.

    Randy - Maestro Harrell - currently a recurring guest (Malik) on "Suburgatory." He's on Twitter as @maestroharrell and if you say nice things about him he tweets you back.

  8. Marsha3:55 PM

    I laughed out loud at that. For long enough that I had to pause the DVD and rewind.

  9. The read I get on Lester-Kima is that Lester recognizes she's happier with the more stable, "suit and tie" world of homicide policing.

  10. You bring up to me what was the most amazing thing about this amazing season of television. They hit 4 home runs with the 4 kids playing these parts. Outstanding casting. It's now my third time through, and it's still great fun to watch this every week.

  11. isaac_spaceman5:51 PM

    There's really not enough hate here for Herc. Herc is responsible (as much as anybody except Pelecanos and Simon) for two of the things that happened here -- Randy and Bubbles.

  12. Adam B.5:59 PM

    Plus screwing up the Marlo surveillance, for whatever it's worth.

  13. Marsha6:03 PM

    Oh, I hate Herc. Really, really hate Herc. But even he has shown some growth on this show. Of course, some of that growth has caused some our our problems - if he's just stayed the bumbling fool, he'd never have been in a position to do all this damage. But at least they had him not take down others with him in this episode. Of course, I have no idea how much worse it's going to get...

  14. isaac_spaceman8:34 PM

    The things he did this episode didn't take down others, true. But the things he did in past episodes -- not getting Randy to Bunk (IIRC), blowing off Bubbles -- led directly to Randy getting put back into the system and led indirectly to Sherrod's death, via Bubbles looking for an alternative way to protect himself after Herc's failure to show up escalated the problem. The way that Herc ruins lives and doesn't even let it trouble him is just infuriating.

  15. isaac_spaceman9:32 PM

    Just realized I screwed up what Herc did -- it wasn't not passing Randy off; it was giving up Randy in the interview of Little Kevin

  16. I am kind of in awe of anyone who's watching week by week and isn't rushing to the finale. It's my...fourth? fifth? time through, and watching this episode I wanted nothing more than to go on to the next. And I'm glad I marathoned to catch up for today, as otherwise I might have forgotten what exactly happened when and spoiled some of next week.

    The commentaries for this season talk about the kids, and how lucky they got in casting them. What leaps of faith, and how they paid off.

  17. I had completely forgotten "unseemly" -- certainly one of my favorite Wire words, ever.

  18. That Michael/Cutty scene at the end rang for me in a way I am not sure it had before. Michael stays because he does care about Cutty and wants to make sure he's okay. Cutty sends Michael away because he cares about his ultimate welfare on the streets. Neither will really be able to reach out to the other after this moment. So so sad.

    And after fearing for Cutty for so long I was happy that his shooting wasn't more serious. So he could survive to kill walkers, you know.

  19. Kima likes the easy overtime, we've already seen. And it's a world in which detectives rarely have to draw their weapons; remember she's been shot and almost died not that long ago, so I'll give her that.

  20. Adam B.8:40 AM

    You're a week early on that Carver scene, as I learned last night. But I don't think it's a spoiler to say "Carver is disappointed in how things turn out for the kids."

  21. Oh, good. I thought I'd managed to miss an entire scene somehow.

  22. Not that I'm trying to defend Herc, but he's so stupid and so not perceptive that he probably doesn't realize either that or how much he has screwed up lives. Which just makes him that much more despicable.

  23. isaac_spaceman5:35 AM

    I cannot for the life of me find the scene with McNulty after Stringer's death where he goes to Stringer's apartment and says "who was I chasing?" So missing a scene wouldn't be unthinkable.

  24. When I think back on all five seasons of The Wire, a lot of it blends together as one story rather than individual moments. But one of the individual moments that always stands out to me is Randy ranting at Carver. It was heartbreaking, especially in its inevitability and Carver's powerlessness.

  25. Marsha5:53 PM

    It helps to not have any time to watch until late Tuesday night, and then to be so exhausted at the end of an episode that you absolutely have to go to bed. I've been itching to watch the Season 4 finale since late Tuesday night, and have not found the time to do it. (The fact that I really, really have to pay attention to The Wire and can't multitask has a lot to do with it.)