After watching #40 early today, I almost sent my letter of resignation in to HH headquarters. Our favored program has pushed the meter so far past totally fucking awesome that I almost don’t want to write about it. It’s fairly unfathomable how much of a leap it’s made each season, and by this point the damn thing is almost unwieldy in its jingly perfection.
To avoid the hard fall back into civilized discourse, I want to tell you all that my favorite character is Bodie. I’ve said some things on this at my verified address, and this doubtlessly informed my first HH effort. There’s a lot I find endearing about Bodie, plenty I find interesting, and even some stuff that’s informative. But what it comes down to mostly, though, is that dude’s grown up over the course of The Wire—with the show, even. An esteemed colleague of mine estimated that B-Squared must be around sixteen when Season 1 begins; now, he’s seasoned enough to hold it down on his own, but still gets given the youf treatment by certified young gun Marlo. Twenty seems like a reasonable guess at how many birthday candles he’s puffing at, meaning the boy has become a man.
(Sidebar: Am I the only person who feels that Truth be Told wrecked itself by referring to both B. and Wallace as “man-child?”)
The mesmerizing thing about Young Broadus is that he’s both the quintessential participant in the game, and yet strangely independent at key moments. He punches cops during a sweep, even though Fruit tells us all that this dance is merely the rhythm of the corner; bucks Stringer’s authority and charismatic sway on the team; and now, apparently, decides to go up against the reigning King of the West. If the “the game” is every institution of any kind in Baltimore—and by extension, The Wire itself as narrative construct—it’s key to note that Bodie’s been sucked into every major plotline on the street side, and yet somehow escapes their inevitable collapse. The entrapment bit was one, as was the fingerprint deal from Season 2, and his rise out of the D’Angelo/Wallace sorrows.
All this has, in effect, tested dude’s character like nobody’s business. And, singificantly, proved that he’s both in deep as hell and capable of registering events as more than just a mindless soldier. It’s not just that Bodie has gotten older over the course of the program; it’s the events of The Wire that have been his education. These formative experiences have turned him from cocky, sporadic kid to canny operator. Granted, his hunger and intensity were evident from the beginning, but the show’s writers could’ve just as easily turned him into a Bey-style gladiator. The Wire has been nothing less than his coming-of-age story, what happens when a juvenile with some wits makes the most of his opportunities.
If you can’t tell, I think Bodie’s a tremendously important character in the grand scheme of the show. Put simply, he’s the only one who has a real sense of history to him. Yes, backstory helps us understand Lester and Daniels; Herc and Carver are nothing without their career pitfalls; and McNulty and Stringer unfold as studies in tragic flaw. But in none of these cases have we seen a character forged from clay before our very eyes. We know the rungs of several hierarchies, and how these agree or disagree with certain kinds of personalities. Bodie, however, has been created by institutions, forced to squirm and scheme as an individual in order to play the game without being its bitch. In this respect, McNulty and Stringer were men whose strong identities were their downfall; Bodie, as befitting someone born and raised in the thick of it, has spent his whole semi-adult life adapting.
I think we’re all in agreement that the kids are what’s made Season 4 so seering; I would argue that this is exactly because they’re playing out the early chapter of Bodie’s life, making game-infused personal history the thrust of the story. When it’s recognized that development is inseparable from various institutions (school just makes it explicit), and four pre-teens are placed at the center of the plot, then it’s not a stretch to say that Bodie has become the show. I said last week that I thought this li’l gang was Pit Crew Redux; while now it’s clear that Michael has a bit of D’Angelo in him, I’m not going to back off the claim that this is essentially Bodie’s prehistory. At this juncture, though, it seems like a lot more figures into the maturation process than just gang politics and cop manuevers. Whether this means the The Wire has gotten broader in scope or we viewers have gotten more open-minded.