Wednesday, February 1, 2012

HOW COMPLEX CAN A CODE BE IF THESE KNUCKLEHEADS ARE USIN' IT?  Welcome back to the chessboard that is Baltimore, as in "The Pager" The Wire again shows us competence and intelligence coming from all sides -- Prez solving the beeper cipher; Avon and Stringer on taking over markets; Omar handling his confrontation with the police to his advantage, and knowing exactly where rats run when chased.  Oh, also: crumb sweepers are classy.

In the meantime, a whole lot of pawns are being sacrificed, and D'Angelo's not acting with anywhere near the caution that his uncle would recommend.

This was a strong, solid episode; our universe keeps expanding (Bird, Dierde's informative friend Tywanda) and I still don't know all the regulars' names, but I don't at all feel lost. Instead, the details are being filled in, especially in terms of just how an operation like Avon Barksdale's works. And I'm fascinated.


  1. I'm a little bit ahead of the blog in my viewing (finished season 1 last night), and it's already become hard to remember what happened in which episode - so it's hard to comment without knowing where the spoilers are.

    But I will say that it took me a while to get hooked, and this is the episode where I finally started to get really interested.  (It took a couple more to get really hooked, but now I'm in.)  And I think what did it was Prez solving the beeper code.  The show really knows how to take our expectations of a character and not necessarily turn it on its head, but... shade it so that there's no black and white.  Prez started out as a an easy-to-peg character: the dumbass who gets the breaks because of family connections, the hot tempered guy who can't be trusted in the field.  And here he doesn't necessarily negate those ideas, but his smarts with the codes - and his real interest in playing with them and pride in solving them - add a lot to what we know of Prez. And I find that so far, this show does that over and over with lots of characters, and that's what's fascinating about it.

  2. I saw the show in its original run, but was trying to view along with this blog as a rewatch.  But I flew through the first season in about 3 weeks.  It's so hard to just watch 1 at a time, especially knowing what's coming up next.

  3. If it wouldn't take forever, I feel I owe a note of apology to every single person who has been telling me to watch The Wire for the last few years for not getting to it until now. Obsessed = me.

    And I'm with Sue on how the taking our expectations and changing them when it comes to characters is probably what I love most. A few episodes ago we were led to believe Prez had zero to offer the team, and then, out of the blue, he gives them something essential. But more importantly, while it surprised me, it didn't seem unrealistic -- this isn't Glee where Quinn is all of a sudden a student that Yale would accept early decision. This is a show where all of the characters are very real, with depth and layers and it takes time for those layers to become exposed, and it doesn't mind taking the time to get to those layers. I cannot wait to see what happens next.

  4. Andrew11:40 AM

    In some ways Prez is one of the most interesting characters on the detail, because he's both an idiot who lacks the street smarts to be good police, but he's one of the smarter ones as far as working with the codes and figuring out the beeper. He's a character that's not all good or all bad. 

  5. Dan Suitor1:31 PM

    It'd be pretty hard for any episode to follow "Old Cases", but "The Pager" does a pretty good job of it. After the semi-wandering nature of the first three episodes, the next two have put in a lot of plot work, to great effect, without having to sacrifice the character study aspects of The Wire. Seeing Avon's cautiousness and paranoia in the cold open was a really good window into how he's managed to be multiple steps ahead of the task force, as well as an indicator that he still has some vices to indulge.

    The scene where the judge administers the oath, in their dingy basement office, was another highlight for me. It's short, quick, and dirty, with no glitz or pomp. The anti-climax of it, finally getting this wiretap that they think will make their case, is a great counterpoint to how it might have been played on a network procedural.

    Omar ripping off the two street-level dealers was fun, in that we were in on the action and sort of on his side. Michael K. Williams walking down the street with a double-barrelled shotgun was mighty fulfilling, as was his parley with McNulty and Kima.

    D'Angelo's pensiveness and soul-searching really work for me. Maybe murdering that girl, and his experiences in jail, have given him pause to reflect and wonder what it really is he's doing. Thinking about race and class issues might be above the paygrade of a lot of gangsters of D's station, but he's much more interesting this way. Also, his jacket over turtleneck ensemble, along with his girlfriend's hair, was your temporally-jarring late-'90s/early-'00s throwback of the week.

    My two big laugh-out-loud moments of the week: Bodie yelling "You're supposed to be the good cop!" after he goads Carver into attacking him, and McNulty failing to put together the bedframe. Drunk IKEA Furniture Assembly with Jimmy McNulty is a show I would watch 60 minutes of every single week.

  6. isaac_spaceman1:36 PM

    Yale accepted Quinn?  God, our standards have dropped.

  7. Jenn.1:37 PM

    I actually called the thing with Prez before it happened (figuring that they wouldn't have him so obviously playing word games and such for no reason), but I did love it, because it was another example of the show playing with expectations.  Like how we saw Lester and maybe thought, Daniels got stuck with a loser from the pawn shop detail, only to find out that he was "real police."  And how D'Angelo turned out to have layers, and lots of thoughts about the Game, when we first met him as a drug dealer who got off of a clear murder rap due to witness intimidation.  The fiance and I have now started season five (why, yes, we lack willpower), so I'm not willing to say that every character has nuances.  But ultimately, many of them do.

  8. Another aspect of the show that I really enjoy (on top of the ones mentioned above) is that we get to see a lot of different management styles, good and bad, at lots of different levels and in different contexts. Avon is running a large organization, and doing so very effectively. A lot of what we see of the BPD "upstairs" is ineffective managment, and it's unusual when good police work somehow happens despite it. The group management of our little unit, however, often sees very good managment; I thought McNulty's excitement when Prez explained the code was totally genuine, and you could see how much Prez enjoyed the approbation from his team captain.

  9. Glee is still on the air?

  10. The one thing I will say is that the Wire is a lot less violent/gory/bloody than I expected.

  11. Jenn.4:52 PM

    True.  I turned to the fiance right around this episode and said that I had doubts about the police's ability to take down anyone in the Barksdale organization, which seemed so much more organized and success-oriented than did the BPD.

  12. Anonymous6:12 PM

    So far...

  13. Craig6:14 PM

    Not sure I have too much to add that hasn't already been said (Drunk Ikea was my specific highlight followed by photcopying a phone). The show's just starting to feel comfortable for me and the pacing always keeps me wanting to see what's up next while simultaneously feeling almost slow. It's simply the kind of show you can create when you're not limited by networks, primetime rules, and the need to cut everything down to digestiable 42-minute-plus-commercial chunks.

    Though, I will admit that if weren't doing this, I probably would never have watched it. And I'd have missed out.

  14. Cecilia6:40 PM

    I'm on my second viewing of the series, and I'm really enjoying it because (1) you all are bringing up great points I missed the first time around; and (2) I sped through the series the last time, and the pace of one episode per week (which I'm sticking to so that I don't come here and accidentally spoil something) is also helping things really sink in for me.  For example, on my first watch, I went into it having heard not a single thing about any of the characters.  Omar scared the hell out of me originally, and he still gave me chills in this episode.  And because it was pointed out here that the show only uses music that the characters can hear (which I had never noticed before), I better appreciate what an incredible job the show and Michael K. Williams did in this episode.  It's dead silent, everyone starts running away, and you just hear that whistle of the Farmer in the Dell.  So freaking effective.  That scene paired with the parley (so casually showing he knows that the police have an informant and that it's Bubbles) really captured my interest for this character.