Wednesday, January 11, 2012

NO, OFFICER PRYZBYLEWSKI, HE DID NOT "PISS YOU OFF." HE MADE YOU FEAR FOR YOUR SAFETY AND THAT OF YOUR FELLOW OFFICERS: The remarkable thing to me about episode two of our Wire Wednesday recaps, "The Detail," is just how less-than-awesome these police officers are. Yes, we've got our team together, but on the whole what an unimpressive bunch of rejects and knuckleheads. So when Herk, Prez and Carter make their way to the high rises at night for no reason I can discern, bad things inevitably happen.

The other thing, of course, is that we have a meeting between McNulty (and Bunk) with D'Angelo Barksdale, far earlier than I would have expected in the series. There's no lengthy stalking-and-avoiding, just a casual sitdown in the middle of the low-rises where they sit, talk ("Why can't you sell the shit and walk the fuck away? Everything else in this country gets sold without shooting people behind it"), and arrest just for the hell of it, where some elementary-level interrogation deception (with the picture and the false story about Gant) almost leads somewhere with the letter ... and then it doesn't. D'Angelo may think he's playing a smart game with the police, but sometimes you need to lawyer up.

Other topics of note for the comments: Chicken McNuggets; the awesomeness of the red hats. Yes, the smartest thing done on the police side this week was a scheme by their junkie informant. Welcome to Baltimore.


  1. Paul Tabachneck8:45 AM

    I loved the Chicken McNuggets thing -- it was like someone wanted a little Kevin Smith in their gritty drug drama (the conversation follows a cadence that reminds me of the Death Star conversation in Clerks).  

    I wish I could remember what director's commentary I heard it in, but somebody once said that for the first bit of your story, you want your hero to labor under the delusion that today is just another day at work, so simple routine moves come first -- I think that's what's happening here, with the letter-to-the-family-trap tactic.  They had to realize that the same old tricks weren't going to get them very far before they could really knuckle down.

    We're gonna talk a lot about this Department of Misfit Toys that we have here, and I feel like I'm going to spoil something if I talk about how this episode made me feel on the rewatch, so I'll hold off for now.  But oh, man, Prez.  Dude. Don't do it! Oh, right, he can't hear me.  

  2. Agree about Prez, but...must not's an example of how events play out through the season (and indeed, the series) with unexpected results, not all of them negative.

    Interesting how the theme of "why can't we do this with less violence" comes up over and over again, from all sides. 

    Other thoughts on my last rewatch:  every time, I am more impressed with Larry Gilliard's performance as D'Angelo.  And, my love for Bubbles is such that I'd watch a series built around him anytime.

  3. Saray9:16 AM

    I found McNulty's conversation with Kima really interesting in light of what happened later.  He tells her how the only other good female cop he's ever worked with was also a lesbian, but then she goes and joins in on the police brutality at the bust in which he refuses to participate.  If that's what makes someone a good cop, well, G-d, Jed, I don't even want to know you.

  4. Cecilia9:20 AM

    I am so enjoying watching the series for the second time.  I forgot how awesome the Chicken McNuggets scene was.  It's a great example of how this show takes time for the little things, but also how all the pieces matter.  That scene wasn't gratuitous.  It wasn't just some comic relief or just a chance of mood from the Gant murder and the violence with Prez, Carver, and Herc.  It also adds to the understanding of how those kids end up on that orange couch selling drugs.  I think a lesser show would have just shown the bleakness of their surroundings and left it at, "what else could they do?" But that scene takes the time to show that if Bodie and Wallace's view is that no matter what you do, you're just the guy in the basement of McDonald's, then all of your other choices are influenced by that worldview.

  5. The red hat thing was amazing and also made me want to see more of Bubbles. I also appreciated McNulty's reaction to finding out Kima had been at the low-rise "You were there? Where was she?" and the red had ingenuity so that we don't suffer through multiple episodes of the overdone homicide cop thinks he's better than a cop from another department especially a female one.

  6. "You cannot lose if you do not play" has become one of my most-quoted lines at work.

  7. Bunk is one of my all-time-favorite cop characters, and the Bunk-McNulty relationship is probably my all-time-favorite copbuddy duo. 

    It's a little early to draw out exactly why, but the threads to pull on here are (1) the wide variety of knuckleheads on the BPD force and (2) the temptations that all cops face to take shortcuts, game systems, abuse power, or otherise do the wrong thing.  There is a dynamism to the Bunk/McNulty relationship that is built around the challenge of simultaneously being a good person in one's own eyes and "good police" in the eyes of one's fellows on the force.  I love watching the two of them wax and wane, support and frustrate one another, and rain endlessly quotable gallows humor down on all the pathos around and within them while they are doing it.

  8. Alyssa11:47 AM

    Ditto!  Don't think I will comment much, though this show is easily my favorite of all time.  Really glad you guys are doing this - it makes me happy that more people are enjoying the show.

  9. With Randy and Alyssa: I'm wary of commenting because I don't want to accidentialy spoil anything, but I'll be here in 48 weeks for the post-series discussion. This is really fun to read, even as a spectator.

  10. Becca1:01 PM

    A couple things I noticed in this ep: I think it's sad that Kima doesn't bother teaching her fellow cops, but then, maybe she knows they're just too stupid to learn. The whole scene up on the roof was remarkable in so many ways.

    Daniels has a very nice home life. Is that his wife's money?

    Interesting that the cops at the highest levels are not interested in stopping a major dealing syndicate that might put a stop to a large chunk of crime in the city, just because they didn't know about it first. Or is it because it's better to stick with the devil you know? Or do they just have so little respect for a cop trying to give a fuck?

    I'm glad to see McNulty appear to accept Kima as a fellow competent cop. He doesn't need to be a misogynist asshole to complete the character.

  11. Jenn.1:23 PM

    The fiance and I, being the models of self-control that we are, started episode 1 of season 2 last night.  I feel that I have achieved a great moral victory by limiting us to no more than two episodes a night.

    Consistent with Alan's post, we were also impressed with Bubbs' hat routine; with the fact that they went that dark, that quickly with the police brutality; and with the complexity that they showed with Daniels here.  Based on the first episode, I would have thought that Daniels was too upright to coach someone as to what to say about a police beating.

  12. Watts1:41 PM

    Paul, I keep a Google Doc open to take notes during each episode and I wrote "Chicken McNuggets - Tarantino-esque" because it made me think of the "Royale with Cheese" from Pulp Fiction or the "Like a Virgin" discussion from Reservoir Dogs.  But I think your Smith/Death Star parallel is more on target.

  13. Watts1:51 PM

    I can't help but notice music in movies/TV and after reading this in Sepinwall's review of Episode 2:
    "One of the stylistic choices that Simon and Robert Colesberry insisted for this show was -- with one yearly exception, for the montage near the end of each season finale -- to eschew the use of any music that didn't come from a practical background source. No score, no songs that appear as if from nowhere. If the song doesn't originate from the sound system at a club, or somebody's car stereo (as in this episode's use of "American Woman" during the terrible trio's middle of the night arrival at the high-rises), it can't be used. Eventually, the producers would find ways to bend their own rules -- there's a montage midway through season two that's scored to Johnny Cash's "Walk the Line," but it's justified because the character who appears at the beginning and end is listening to it on a portable stereo -- but for the most part, the lack of musical cues helps the show's aura of realism, as well as Simon's desire not to hold the audience's hand and tell them how to feel at any given moment."
    I'm even more astonished that McNulty has a scene featuring Sylvia and Mickey on his car radio.  Is it the Oldies station or does McNulty just keep the Dirty Dancing soundtrack in his cassette deck/CD player?

  14. Anonymous2:01 PM

    The scene on the rooftop is great, because it reveals a bit about the characters -- Herc is not the sharpest tool in the shed, who is on the force to go out and crack skulls. Carver also doesn't know what Kima's plan is, but when she hands him the camera and gives him instructions, he seems to figure out it (while Herc is still complaining about the glass.)

    The highest levels in the department aren't interested in doing anything that makes waves, that affects their stats or indicates that they've missed something that's been under their nose for whoever knows how long. The Wire is all about institutional inertia. Very few of the characters are purely evil or purely good, but as much about their roles in the organizations. 

    And the other great introduction to character here is with Daniels. I love that last scene where he is both chewing out Prez, Herc and Carv at the same time that he's instructing them on how to get through the review. 

  15. Andrew2:30 PM

    Oops -- I was that guest. 

  16. isaac_spaceman4:04 PM

    McNulty is a self-destructive (and also otherwise-destructive) asshole, but if there is anything that he respects, it is the concept of "natural police."  Without spoiling reveals about who has it and who doesn't, they've already established that Kima has it (though she's still green) and that McNulty knows it.  To McNulty, if you're Natural Police, the other stuff -- race, religion, sex, sexual preference -- is just trivia. 

  17. Becca4:52 PM

    Yeah, I was a bit disappointed to get the info about his personal life being such a mess. That's such a cop show trope, though I presume it's not that simplistic.

  18. isaac_spaceman9:22 PM

    McNulty is probably not in my top 30 favorite characters from this show. Still, you can't have a show about crime and catching criminals without some of those tropes. 

  19. When isaac says top 30, he's not kidding.  I'm sure I could think of about 50 or 60 characters who, throughout the course of the series, have a significant role.  Some of these only appear in a small handful of episodes but make a towering impression (someone like Brianna Barksdale).  And, yeah, McNulty's likely in the bottom half of those.  (He does have his moments, though -- without spoiling anything, there's a bit with McNulty doing a British accent that is high comedy.) 

    I've got my own list of favorite characters, but I don't want to even say the name of my favorite character in the series, because it might be considered a spoiler.  But I'll be able to say that name in a couple of weeks.

  20. spacewoman11:02 PM

    I'm pretty sure your favorite character is also my favorite character.  And let's face it, everybody's.

  21. Deanna11:33 PM

    I loved the verbing of "nugget" in that scene. 

  22. Hmm... probably not.  I'm pretty sure I know who you're referring to, and while THAT character is in my top 5, my favorite character is... well, what's the vaguest way to put this?  "... And four months."  That'll do.  (Aw crap, what was I saying about NOT COMMENTING so I don't spoil anything?!?!?!)

  23. Indeed, here's a 3-minute YouTube video entitled "The Wire Top 50 Greatest Characters."  (Probably shouldn't watch if you're new to the show.)

  24. 47?  47?!?!?  47 is ridiculously low for that character.  (My #1 is their #5, if my clue was too vague...)

  25. janet9:39 AM

    Everything Randy just said...

  26. spacewoman10:05 AM

    I stand corrected!  Although I think your #1 might also be isaac's #1.  My #1 is the same as the video's #1, which I guess makes me unoriginal, but I also take issue with 90% of their choices -- it's like they just listed characters in random order.  Seriously, 47??

  27. So far, Randy's favorite is my favorite, but obviously, I still have a lot of "The Wire" to watch.  Things could change.

  28. Marsha10:27 AM

    To be fair, she joins in (and escalates) the beat down because the guy attacked a cop. I don't condone police brutality, of course, but to Kima (and the rest of them) there's a big gulf between what she does in a normal situation and what she does when a fellow cop (even a crappy one she has no respect for) is threatened. I suspect that her instincts in that area are part of why she's earned the respect of the other cops.

  29. Marsha10:36 AM

    I, too, loved the Chicken McNugget scene and the bit with the red hat. I don't have that much to say here beyond what's been said, in part because I still feel like things are just revving up and it's hard to comment beyond to say that I'm really impressed.

    I'll risk being totally obnoxious with this comment, however - I understand that there are a lot of people here who have not only watched this show, but watched it repeatedly and/or obsessively. I've seen three episodes so far (I have to return one of my DVDs on Tuesday, so I'm going a bit ahead) and I'm already finding it hard to read these comments because even if you veterans aren't providing plot spoilers, you're telling us an awful lot about character development, relationships, and themes that I really don't want to know. I'm trying to watch this thing and enjoy the discovery and development of it for myself, and I'm finding that I may have to stop reading these comments in order to do that. Given that the point was for the newbies to watch together and discuss, that's disappointing to me. I obviously have no right to tell anyone to comment or to not, but perhaps that should be given a little thought.

  30. isaac_spaceman11:40 AM

    SPOILERS:  They left out way too many characters.  Cheese, Spider, the guy with the sideways hat who becomes one of Cutty's boxers, Fruit, Deacon, Dozerman, Templeton (somebody has to be in last place), Donut, Santangelo, White Mike, Johnny Fifty, Horseface, Lamar (the idiot bodyguard for Mouzone), the FBI guy, Landsman (don't remember if he was in the list), the guy played by the real Jay Landsman, Colicchio, Walker (the cop who's always ripping off the kids), Sherrod, Major Foerster, Waylon, Johnny.  I get the idea of cutting it down to 50, but I really can't see the list without at least Cheese, Donut, Sanny, and Johnny.  Donut may not be all that important, but for pure concentrated laughter, that guy was the best. 

    Also, Bunny Colvin is top-5. 

  31. Craig1:44 PM

    I loved the McNugget scene so much I actually had them for dinner. (Someone please remind me I can't eat like that anymore.) Also in agreement on the red hat, Bubbles, assessment of Kima, Daniels' home life, the chewing-out/advice, and take on "upper management."

    All that being said, I get the impression that on the law enforcement side, they're definitely showing an environment waiting for the right catalyst. Something to make people deal with it, whether they want to or need to. I assume that's coming soon enough or five seasons don't make a whole lot of sense. But, I do like the reality of a series of cops who aren't all "the best lawmen ever" who solve the day using impossible investigative and forensic techniques. Here, you have the incompetent, the lazy, the self-destructive, and the political all blended together. Undermaned, no upper-level support, and in a basement with no desks, no equipment, and no funding. Not your run of the mill TV.

    Had a thought about the potential dichotomy between the cops and our theoretical antagonists here, but it never quite gelled. Something about hair-triggers vs. the ingenuity of chicken nuggets. It's also possible (likely) I've stopped making sense (assuming I made sense to start with).

  32. I thought I had made this clear, but I wasn't in any way endorsing the list.  I tried to emphasize that by writing that it was a list "entitled" X, not a list "of" X.  But in any case:  The point was merely to confirm how many characters there are. 

  33. I've been wondering about this.  We vets really do want to play, but it's hard to keep it to the basics.  Would it be annoying/obnoxious to do a version of what Alan does, and have two posts a week:  One for the newbies (and for the most anodyne non-spoilery comments of others) and one for those of us who are rewatching or just reliving our excitement?

  34. Watts2:53 PM

    Yeah, gotta back Marsha up on this - the vets have been pretty good, but it's like watching someone's favorite movie with them for the first time, "Oh, pay attention to this part!" or "That guy - make sure you notice him, he's important later."  Not really spoilers, but kind of spins me out of being able to watch the narrative unfold on its own just for me as I'm viewing it the first time.

  35. Marsha3:02 PM

    Russ, I think that would be great. You guys go ahead and talk all you want about it in a veterans post - I promise I won't read it until the whole series is over. And maybe we can all come together at the end of each season and discuss the season.

    I don't want to prevent anyone from talking about it with the newbies, but I will stop reading the comments if there are going to be actual spoilers in them (which there are in this post - labeled accordingly only sometimes) and may not even read them if there are going to be lots of the "this will be important later" stuff. It reminds me of Joey and Rachel trying to talk around each other about Little Women and The Shining. You can't help but reveal stuff even if you're trying not to, and even if you don't reveal any actual plot points, you still change the way we're watching it.

    I'm saying this badly because I'm trying not to be rude. This is not my house, and I don't make the rules. I totally get why the veterans want to play too, and if it's a small minority who feels as I do, then forget I said anything.

  36. Cecilia3:33 PM

    As a vet, I do not take offense to what you're saying and completely agree.  I usually think of spoilers specifically in terms of plot points.  But you're absolutely right to include character development and things of that nature, especially about a show like this when so much of it is about character development.  I'm really excited to see what the newbies think about each episode this week, so I really don't want you guys to have to hide from the comments.

  37. spacewoman6:50 PM

    I'm totally with you, Marsha -- I felt guilty writing anything at all here.  And I FEEL like a newbie because I only finished watching it all a few weeks ago.  I do have to give props to isaac for re-watching all 5 seasons with me and not saying a single word, not even the dreaded "oooh, pay attention to this, wink wink," not even when I kept falling asleep right before particularly good parts.

  38. I agree with Marsha than even vague things like "Oh, pay attention to this" are spoilers and agree with Russ that it would be cool to have a place for the veterans to hang out and not ruin it. You're both winners in my book!

    Marsha/Watts, please keep commenting on these. We'll be quiet.

  39. Well stated, Marsha.  I love this series so much, and a lot of it was that I got to watch it unfold as it was first broadcast.  I will hang back and read the newbie comments; they are wonderful so far.

  40. #4, #5, and #24 for me.  And of course Bunk.

  41. I finally caught up and got ahead for tomorrow.  Yeah.

    I'm so weirdly fascinated, but mostly because my real life dips into all of this.  I work for a city.  I deal with cops, DAs and the projects often.  I have my own run-ins with cops regularly. So, none of this is new to me.  It's well-written, but not surprising or overly fascinating to me. 

    All that being said, I'm definitely enjoying it....

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