The Wire: "Clarifications"
A

The Wire: "Clarifications"

There’s so much going on in The Wire every week that I determined early on that I couldn’t cover everything in a given episode, or else these recaps would grow more long-winded than they already are. But I clearly erred last week in not discussing Omar’s headshot on Savino at greater length, because it set the table for tonight’s devastating episode. As many of you discussed in the comments section, Omar broke his “no more bodies” promise to Bunk when he decided to kill Savino for being the sort of fellow who wouldn’t have intervened to stop Butchie’s torture and murder. This is obviously a violation of Omar’s vaunted “code,” but at the time, I guess I felt that his decision to come back to Baltimore for retribution was the violation; killing Savino in cold blood was just one of many bodies he intended to leave in his wake.

A couple weeks ago, I had predicted (wrongly) that Omar’s mythological presence would perhaps assure his survival, since he exists as a symbolic reminder that “the game” doesn’t last long and that he’s lurking out there in the shadows to cut down the hubristic thugs who think they’re bulletproof. But he’d been looking all-too-human this season: Even his super-heroic dive off a third-floor balcony, which would seem to add to the legend, had some mortal consequences. When Kenard—fucking Kenard!—catches his first glimpse of Omar, he just doesn’t see what the big deal is. The guy was hobbling around on makeshift crutch, and he isn’t subject to the strange voodoo that has the other hoppers scrambling when Omar comes around.

So of course it makes sense that Kenard is the one that offs Omar as he’s buying Newports in a craphole convenience store. Kenard is like Marlo, Jr., a cold and unfeeling little snot who’s both fearless and incapable of compassion; he and Marlo reminded me a little of Javier Bardem’s character in No Country For Old Men—an evil force without the vulnerability that usually comes with being part of the human race. As for Omar, he dies the most inglorious death imaginable: Shot in the back of the head, with no famous last words, no bloody last stand, and a hit list with all the names still left on it. He didn’t find any justice for his friend Butchie, he’s got no one around to mourn for him, and in the devastating final shot, he’s just another body.

(It’s here that I note that Omar’s death was spoiled in the comments by a couple of trolls who wouldn’t go away, no matter how often I deleted them. I hate to reward their juvenile assholery by mentioning them here, but I do want to warn the rest of you that the comments are not necessarily a safe space for this show. With episodes airing on OnDemand, and various leaks on BitTorrent sites and web boards, people know more information in advance about The Wire than other shows we cover in TV Club. As the show reaches its conclusion, I and other staffers will continue to be vigilant in deleting spoilers for future episodes, but my advice is to tread carefully.)

In other, equally sad news, the wheels are starting to fall off of McNulty’s homeless murders scheme. From that opening briefing in front of the mayor and police brass, it’s clear that McNulty has gotten more attention than he bargained for out of it. When Rawls says, “The bad news, gentlemen, is that we’re going to have to catch this motherfucker,” you can feel the poor guy’s stomach roll. McNulty succeeded in turning on the tap, but he never seemed to have a solid plan for turning it off. Now that he’s got the attention and the resources of a major city at his disposal, he’s going to have to be held accountable for how the investigation proceeds and how it ultimately wraps up. He seemed to be under the impression that the serial killer case would be a passing concern, much like the 22 bodies in the vacants; once the trail grows cold and the media has moved onto other stories, then the case will pass quietly into obscurity. After all, “this ain’t Aruba, bitch”: We’re still talking about homeless guys, not middle-class white girls on vacation, so it seems reasonable to believe that people wouldn’t care after awhile.

Nice assumption, but the heat won’t be off this case soon enough for McNulty to get off the hook. Though he’s still distributing resources and finessing the paperwork, there are a lot of holes in the boat: Some people, like Kima and Beadie, are suitably horrified and not on board with his shenanigans, and another detective blackmails him into rubber-stamping a Hilton Head golf trip. Someday soon, McNulty is going to have to show progress in the investigation and evidence that he’s properly using all the manpower at his disposal, and the jig will be up. It’s inevitable that the homeless murders scheme will crumble; how it falls apart is where the suspense is at this point.

Ironically—and this season has been nothing if not teeming with irony—McNulty and Lester, even with all of the manpower and equipment they could possible desire, are still racing with little ‘old Bunk to see who will nab Marlo and his crew first. Though Bunk took advantage of McNulty’s scheme—irony again—to get the labwork done on Michael’s stepfather’s murder, and the results are a solid arrest warrant on Chris Partlow. A great catch, but not the whole magilla, since Chris’ arrest could only make Marlo and the others more cautious and hard to nab. But now that Lester and company have figured out the map coordinate system, what can they do with that information? It’s an illegal wire tap, after all, right? And it would seem that every piece of evidence attained as a result of that wire would be tainted. Am I wrong about this? What do you commenters think Lester and McNulty need to find in order to bring Marlo in?

The net is also closing in on Templeton, who in yet another irony has fabricated on the one story that seemed totally legitimate. Gus has the confirmation he needs that his reporter is untrustworthy, but will anyone listen? When Templeton goes crying to the managing editor about an unattributed lead paragraph that Gus refuses to run, he appears to get the backing he needs; the homeless murders, and Templeton’s central role in the story, has given a struggling paper the heat it desperately needs and the powers-that-be are inclined to back the reporter responsible. Right now, the tension between writer and editor reminds me of the dynamic between Peter Sarsgaard’s Chuck Lane and Hayden Christensen’s Stephen Glass in Shattered Glass—a professional having to scold his underling like the misbehaving child he is. But Lane was eventually respected by his bosses and staff for his handling of the matter; I have a feeling that Gus may not be so lucky.

But then, predicting a sour fate for beloved Wire characters doesn’t make anybody Kreskin.

Grade: A

Stray Observations:

•  I haven’t written about him all season, but the writers have done a wonderful job differentiating Chris Partlow from Marlo and Snoop. He’s a lot more like an older version of Michael, and we could see that when he went medieval on Michael’s abusive stepdad. Chris does have a wife and family, and he also doesn’t seem approving of Marlo’s reckless bloodlust, particularly with regard to Omar. At the same time, he may get less joy out of life than Marlo; the whole Atlantic City celebration idea doesn’t get much excitement out of him at all.

• Great scene with the FBI profilers. It may be obvious to link the serial killer to McNulty himself, but the details are excruciatingly funny.

• Love the angle with the black reporter trying to tell Bubbles’ story. I’m sure I’ll be commenting on it more at length in the last two write-ups, but the season (and the show) needs a silver lining desperately, and this would appear to be it.

• “Where’s Poot?” There’s Poot, selling shoes. No doubt a steep drop in salary for him, but on the plus side, he could become manager one day. And also, you know, not be dead.

• “I’m all for a little kinky shit now and then, but chewin’ on a homeless fellow?”

• What do you make of Lester approaching Clay Davis with threats about a possible federal case? We know that it’s just a grand bluff, since federal prosecutors have no intention of taking it on. So then what is Lester looking to squeeze out of Clay? (And again, on questions like this one, speculation is fine. Actual spoilers are off limits.)

More TV Club