Wednesday, February 13, 2013

WELL I GUESS, MR. MAYOR, THERE'S NOTHING TO BE DONE: It is thrilling to experience a tv show which is as confident in the way it's closing up shop as The Wire is. In this penultimate episode, "Late Editions" (Sepinwall, AVClubTHND), there's a lot of plot business to be done, and my goodness does George Pelacanos' script cover it well.

I don't even know where to start, because the fact that the vise is closing around both McNulty and Templeton (even while both are experiencing the satisfaction of his scheme's bearing massive fruit) seems almost peripheral compared to the broader stories being told: give Lester enough time and resources, and he can bring down a massive drug-selling conspiracy (assuming Herc hasn't undermined the very operation he helped propel). Give Namond some adults who want to nurture him, and he will shine. Give Bubbles enough time and a support network, and day by day his recovery can continue.

And of course, given enough experience, Michael Lee can be even more cold-blooded than the assassins who trained him. You look good, girl. (And yet still selfless enough to realize that neither Bug nor Dukie could follow him the rest of the way. Devastating, and when Michael couldn't/wouldn't remember the piss balloons....)

There's some phrases from The Wire that I had absorbed in advance of our marathon, even without understanding the context -- "it's all in the game," "you come at the king, you best not miss," etc., but I had completely forgotten how many times I'd heard reference to "my name is my name" before this week's episode. And, um, again, wow. We understand why Partlow et al had to keep the Omar stuff way from Marlo, because it was the one thing which could derail his methodical leadership, and the utter flipside of how the Greeks work: "He knows my name, but my name is not my name."

There is much for us to say today. Shardene better be awake, too, because I do believe Lester Freamon is in the mood for love.


  1. isaac_spaceman10:27 AM

    Is this a good time to link back to Five Things Russ Feared Might Happen in Pixar Movies, last entry?

  2. Adam B.10:53 AM

    Here's a question: in previous seasons of The Wire, we've been given alternative views of the Failing Institution to suggest that the Police, City Hall, The Schools, The Docks, and even The Criminals might've done better, might have been able to make more of a positive impact (or at least killed fewer people) had they been run more intelligently. Where's that alternate case for the media in The Wire? If Templeton doesn't exist, and everyone listens to Gus, and the Sun just writes great features on folks like Bubbs and understands street-level crime better .... what changes? How does that make the lives of Baltimoreans any better?

  3. Richard Cobeen11:20 AM

    I think that might still be a too optimistic take on Simon's views about institutions. Any attempt to make things better or have a positive impact will ultimately be derailed by the quest for power and the inherent inefficiencies of the large institutions. Change, positive impact, can only happen at the micro level (Namond, Bubbles)

  4. isaac_spaceman11:21 AM

    I think that the positive alternative Simon is presenting is that the good reporters leave the newsroom and put together low-rated but universally beloved television series for HBO.

  5. Marsha11:28 AM

    Wow, that's a long time for me to wait to understand one of your posts. Love.

  6. Adam B.11:31 AM

    Well, sure: Simon recognizes *why* institutions don't reform, and he can be clear-eyed that no reform is perfect (esp. Hamsterdam), but at least he has a vision of what can change if talented people like Lester, Bunny, Stringer, and Prez are allowed to think outside the box and run things differently. With Gus as E-I-C, what would change meaningfully?

  7. Marsha11:42 AM

    I started crying when Bubs talked to his sister on opposite ends of the staircase (beautifully shot, that scene was) and didn't stop until the closing credits. That is just a wrenching, beautiful episode of TV.

    Pelecanos giveth, and Pelecanos taketh away. There is no way, when we started this series, that I could have imagined that Bubbles would be the character that ended the series with a hope for a better life. Or that Namond, of all of those kids, would be the one to find a way out. Or that Michael would be the coldest killer of them all. That last Michael/Dukie/Bug sequence - especially poor, wordless Bug - was so painful to watch...

    And looking back at all we've seen, it's amazing where we've landed - who'd have thought that that I would mourn Snoop and respect Chris in some weird way? That Herc would turn out not only to be the series worst villain, but a villain with the power to destroy the entire case? That Marlo isn't made of ice? (Or that Lester would still be with Shardene?)

    I'm drained. I'm not sure I'm going to survive the finale.

  8. If Herc fucks this up, I have no problem with Lester pissing in his face.

  9. Jordan12:34 PM

    A lot gets made about "my name is my name" and "my name is not my name," and rightfully so, but I want to compare that to another character. Flip the "O" and Marlo becomes Omar L. Marlo may still be going at this point, but we know life in the game is nasty, brutish and short and all you have is your name. And Omar is a legend. Look at the lyrics to the old folk song "Jesse James" (Seeger, not Guthrie):

    Well Jesse was a man/A friend to the poor/He'd never rob a mother or a child/There never was a man/With the law in his hand/That could take Jesse James when alive

    Now the people held their breath/When they heard of Jesse's death/They wondered how he'd ever come to fall/Robert Ford, well it's a fact/He shot Jesse in the back/While Jesse hung a picture on the wall

    Sound familiar? Omar may be out of the picture, but he beat Marlo.

  10. Jenn.1:06 PM

    As with some of the other institutions, I think that Simon is saying here that leadership, priorities, and allocation of resources have a big effect on institutions' ability to perform the roles that we might want them to serve. Papers can serve as a vehicle through which people learn about the important things occurring in their cities and elsewhere, and which can mobilize public opinion, maybe forcing politicians to take seriously real problems. Here, because of leadership problems (enamored of the stories that look to be Pulitzer-worthy, rather than actually useful) and budget problems, newspapers aren't playing that role.

  11. Marsha1:09 PM

    If Lester finds out, he's going to do a lot more than that.

  12. Adam B.1:25 PM

    The only person who knows that Herc leaked to Carver is Carver, right? And even if Levy finds out, I don't see how that makes it back to Lester.

  13. I think the answer to Adam's question comes in that discussion about the Pulitzer submission. The d-bag executive talks about how the Pulitzer board gives special weight to reporting that leads to changes in policy or legislation. That's where Gus's version of things could have changed things meaningfully.

  14. Watts3:04 PM

    If Lester is even half the detective I think he is, and even if Herc is only half as incompetent as I think he is, I still think Lester figures it out.

  15. Marsha7:22 PM

    Did Carver tell Lester where he got the number? I can't remember.

  16. Jordan8:15 PM

    I believe it went something like this:

    Cool Lester Smooth: Where did you get this?
    Carver: Police work, detective.